Campus recognizes World AIDS Day

Story by Thom Fountain

UW-Eau Claire recognized World AIDS Day on Tuesday, with many campus organizations contributing toward efforts to educate students about the deadly disease.

The Women’s and Gender Equality organization passed out red ribbons, the symbol of solidarity for those living with and fighting against HIV/AIDS. David Gardner, the LGBTQ Program Coordinator for WAGE, said the ribbons represent hope and are used to increase awareness and be sure that students recognize World AIDS Day.

Gardner said WAGE ordered 400 ribbons to be passed out on campus mall by three volunteers, and they ran out within 15 minutes. He said he plans to step up the distribution next year and order enough to hand out to anyone who wants one.

On Wednesday, Student Senate sponsored a screening of the documentary, “House of Numbers.” Sen. Jake Johnson said producer David Syner contacted him and asked if he could bring the film to campus. Syner said the film intends to reignite the discussion on what HIV and AIDS are and what impacts they have.

“(Director Brent Leung) had brought me some raw footage, and I was pretty blown away by what I didn’t know about HIV and AIDS,” Syner said. The film is being shown at campuses nationally before its theatrical release on January 22. Syner said he wants the film to reach as many people as possible in theaters because some of the impact can be lost on a smaller screen.

The film focuses on the controversy surrounding the number of people afflicted by AIDS, on whether the HIV virus causes AIDS and on the politically driven definitions of the disease worldwide. Leung and his production team traveled to five continents to speak to experts on all sides of the debate.

“We feel (House of Numbers) could be a dialogue piece to get people involved with the conversation,” Syner said. To spark the discussion, Syner said they hold a question-and-answer segment after each showing.

Besides the film, Johnson said many were using World AIDS Day to promote a change in the American Red Cross’ policy to not accept homosexuals’ blood in blood drives, due to the theory that gay men are more susceptible to HIV and AIDS.

Gardner said a Facebook group had been established to encourage students and faculty to write to the American Red Cross to encourage change. The American Red Cross responded by saying that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration dictated the policy, and they had no power to overturn it, Gardner said.

WAGE intends to target the FDA’s policies next year in order to change the American Red Cross’ policy, Gardner said.