June 13, 2024

[Abi Auer | Banner] Marva Bonilla, senior biology major at University of California, Riverside, explores a booth discussing STD testing set up at UCR for Aids Advocacy Night.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with AIDS since the early 1980s when the epidemic first began.

With such significant numbers present throughout the world, there is very little awareness  regarding the disease. However, in recent years, steps have been taken to reverse the public’s view on the disease.

The University of California, Riverside, teamed up with activist group TruEvolution and hosted AIDS Advocacy Night Nov. 30 in celebration of World AIDS Day Dec. 1, from 5-10 p.m.

Gabriel Maldonado, CEO and founder of TruEvolution, created this event to educate the community in a way that is interactive and entertaining. Including spoken word, theater skits and dance productions, AIDS Advocacy Night was free to the public and different from the usual seminars presented on the disease.

Camille Hovsepian, sophomore political science major at UCR, said she supports the education of this disease so young people are aware of not only the dangers of contraction, but of prevention as well.

“Although AIDS is not a highly-coveted topic in the media anymore, it deserves to be recognized as a dangerous disease that has devastated millions of people worldwide,” Hovsepian said.

Last year, the event brought in more than 300 people and provided on-site testing where two visitors found out they were HIV+.

Sanisha Meador, director of advocacy at TruEvolution, said she knows the power that knowledge provides and wants to spread awareness of these diseases to surrounding communities.

“Never assume you don’t need to know about something,” Meador said. “(Knowing) empowers you to be healthy.”

With 12-14 vendors present at the event, those attending were able to seek additional information or counseling previously unknown to be available.

“Students get access to a community that they would not usually get access to,” Meador said.

California Baptist University also provides many health services on campus at the Wellness Center.

Betty Tronaas, graduate nursing student, receives training at the Wellness Center on campus and wants students to know there are plenty of ways to become infected, so students must remain aware and educated.

“(It’s important) to be educated on what diseases are out there because not all of them can be treated and go away,” Tronaas said. “It will not only affect your personal life, but your professional life as well.”

The event is not only for the education and prevention for those who are directly infected, but those who may have loved ones affected as well.

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