USF HIV Walk
Over 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV. On Saturday, USF’s Institute of Black Life held its 2nd annual HIV/AIDS march with the slogan “walking for the cure”.
This walk is not the first time USF has held an event in response to HIV. This past March they offered free HIV testing to all women in the bay area. The coordinator of both events, Clara Cobb, says there’s still a stereotype attached to HIV.
“This is a disease that people don’t want to talk about. They think there is a stigma attached to it; that it’s an ugly, dirty word. However, people are dying constantly from it, and we want to do all that we can to help kill the stigma and save lives.”
She also gave a positive message of prevention.
“So we want to tell people to take precautions, take preventative measures, and take care of yourself because we only have one life to live, and when that life is gone, you have none left.”
A breakfast of doughnuts was provided to all marchers. T-shirts, red ribbons, and fliers labeled “Walking for the Cure” were handed out to spread awareness on campus. Michelle McKinney, a USF health student, said she marched to support a good cause.
“The reason I’m here today is because it’s a good cause. You know we want to spread the word and let people know that HIV is still around. You can still be infected, as well as be affected by the disease and just to bring awareness that, you know, we need get out and get people tested so that they can know their status.”
Another marcher, who goes by the name Myles Thap, had a different perspective of HIV.
“Losing three family members to HIV and AIDS is very important to support events like this and get out and spread the word so that individuals won’t be affected and have to deal with the hurts that I have had to deal with. That’s the one thing that people forget, is that the people that are infected are not the only ones that are dealing with this, but those that are also around those that are infected. So it’s always good to go out and spread the word.”
D.W. Swain, an HIV positive advocate, struggles with the virus.
“I’m here because I have HIV. I was just speaking out. And I think that the community needs more positive youth to come out and say this is who I am now because there’s so much stigma placed on HIV and AIDS. So I just come out and hopefully, you know, it makes me embarrassed every now and then, but if I can impact someone else’s life for the better then so be it.”
Joy Winheim, the executive director of the Francis House, a day respite center for clients affected and infected with HIV and AIDS, says there is a myth surrounding HIV.
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“This event is great because we have to continue to let people know that the biggest myth around HIV is it can’t happen to me, and every single day people are saying wow I’m positive now and I thought it couldn’t happen to me. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive or how much money daddy has, if you’re practicing unsafe behaviors then it’s going to happen to you. So, just to get the awareness out is awesome.”