Photo by Heather Middleton
By Mehgaan Jones
Clayton State University organizations celebrated World AIDS Day through information sessions, games, food and music, on Wednesday.
According to Gay and Straight Alliance President Lance Mealer, World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, is an international event, that seeks to educate the public, and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
"Here at Clayton State, we want to make sure students are aware of safe sex ..." said Mealer. He said afternoon events, which took place at the James M. Baker University Center on the main Campus in Morrow, consisted of passing out information about sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), and giving safe-sex kits to students.
Students were also able to play health-related games, such as "STD Roulette," in which students picked a card, spun a wheel and received information about different STD's.
Later in the day, according to senior Holly Shelton-Dixon, the school hosted a second part to the event, which included free food, music and a comedian, as well as discrete STD testing performed by the University Health Services Department.
"They let me know some interesting facts about STD's, and how to protect myself," said Evan Wetherell, a junior at the school.
Shelton-Dixon explained that students need accurate, helpful information, because many believe they won't be affected by HIV or AIDS. "[Even] with HIV rates going up so much ... so many people are [still] saying, 'Yea, I hear you, but that can't happen to me,'" she said.
Crystal Billingslea, a senior, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, agreed that World AIDS Day is important, to get across the reality to students that they are not exempt from contracting AIDS. Many people, she said, still believe that AIDS is just a "homosexual disease."
"My uncle died of AIDS, in 2001," said Billingslea. She said her uncle was not homosexual, but contracted the disease through drug use.
"Black, young, heterosexual women are among the rising cases of HIV now," said Shelton-Dixon.
Sponsors and participants in the event included: The Gay and Straight Alliance; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Tau Epsilon Chapter; University Health Services; Counseling and Psychological Services; the Department of Campus Life; the Alumni Association, and several other organizations.
The Gay and Straight Alliance showed students and faculty members a quilt from the Names Project, which included a collection of names of people who have died of AIDS. Dixon said the quilt was put together by families of AIDS victims.
"We are trying to open up a dialogue with students about being safe and not to let your fear ... take over and keep you from using your common sense," said Heather Lewis, a senior, and interim secretary of the Gay and Straight Alliance.
"It is a great way to reach out to the campus ... and to do an actual service," Lewis added.