Many college students tend to have free spirits and a carefree attitude when it comes to having sex. With an attitude like this, students rarely keep in mind that if not careful, an associate’s degree may not be the only thing they leave TJC with. According to CDC. gov, In the U.S., more than 18,000 people die of AIDS each year. Conscious of this fact, awareness week was created, giving TJC students a wake up call.
“This is our first year doing it and we plan to make it an annual event. The idea came from statistics that I studied about HIV and how it was becoming one of the leading causes of death,” said Zarrick Cannon, founder of the Black Student Association. “The message that we wanted to send out to the students is that if you’re going to have sex, be educated about the risk and practice safe sex. I came up with the Idea along with Kathryn Young who is the vice president of scholarships in Phi Theta Kappa. We allowed many on-campus organizations to help us with it including Phi Theta Kappa, Black Student Association, Apache Chiefs, Student Senate, Anointed Vessels and Voices of Worship.”
AIDS awareness week kicked off on Sept. 13. Students were given the opportunity to take a free confidential AIDS test in the Apache Rooms and received a discounted price for the dance that would be held later that week.
Only three students were permitted in the Apache Rooms to be tested at a time, leaving students in a single file line waiting outside. Students stood fidgeting with uneasy expressions on their faces. A couple of eyebrows could be found with sweat over them.
“While standing in line waiting to be tested, I went into a deep train of thought. I started to think of the first person I’ve been with to the last person I’ve been with and who they’ve been with,” said Bahir Green, a TJC student. “Even though I know in my heart that I didn’t have it, I began to second guess myself.”
Inside the Apache Rooms three booths were set up and behind each booth sat a certified HIV testing specialist. They spoke to students about how to be more precautious when engaging in sexual activity, showed images of several sexually transmitted diseases and offered to discuss some of the sexual risks before students took the AIDS test.
The test consisted of the individual’s finger being pricked with a small needle. Blood was drawn from the wound and released into a tiny tube. The tube of blood was placed on a test, which took literally five to seven minutes to retrieve results of positive or negative.
“When given the results, younger adults are the ones who are more relaxed about the situation,” said
Tiffany Mack, risk reduction specialist, who was one of the individuals giving the HIV/AIDS test. “If positive, they’re like OK I have it, what can I do to get rid of it? A lot of college students that we’ve tested have had large numbers of sexual partners. Their condom usage is almost little to never. It’s this ‘I’m invincible’ attitude that a lot of them do have. They trust the person they’re having sex with based on looks.”
If positive, students were offered financial medical assistance, counseling and support.
A free barbeque cookout was later held in front of Rogers Student Center for students to come together in honor of AIDS week. Keynote speaker Hasani Pettord, author of “Why We Hate Black Women,” came later that day and spoke to the students about safe sex and healthy relationships.
Later that night, students released the tension from the touchy topic by letting loose at the Stop Light party held in the Apache Rooms with a $2 admission fee.
The day titled “Be Aware,” was the day students received red ribbons and were encouraged to wear red in honor of AIDS awareness. The campus was filled with red dots everywhere and students embraced the week, whether it was a red shirt, hat or just the red ribbon.
The last day of AIDS awareness week at TJC was Sept. 16, in which students who missed taking the HIV/AIDS test were given the opportunity to take the test. Planned Parenthood was also there.
“We had a little over 130 students tested with a one-hour waiting list. We also ran out of time and could not get as many students as we would have liked.