Erasing Ignorance

There are 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, according to the HIVaware website. On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, the UVM HIV/AIDS Task Force sought to bring awareness to the UVM community. The HIV/AIDS Task Force is an organization under the umbrella of Volunteers In Action. After being inactive for a number of years, the group was revived last year. Sophomore Jessie Groom, technical director of the Task Force, said that this year the volunteer group did not receive any funds from Student Government Association but did their best to publicize the event regardless. On Nov. 29, the Task Force held a film showing of “Rent” at the Davis Center to kick off the week. The group also tabled at the Davis Center, handing out red ribbon pins that read, “More than 2 million children worldwide are living with HIV and AIDS.” Part of what the Task Force does during their weekly Wednesday meetings is research statistics and other information from credible sources so they do not misinform people they are trying to educate. Groom said that the club’s message is to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, educate the UVM campus and banish misconceptions about the disease. “One person thought you could get it from kissing,” she said. Before joining the Task Force, Groom said she did not know much about HIV or AIDS. “It’s something I’m really passionate about. Some people are really ignorant about it though,” said sophomore Kayla Buchanan, a member of the group. “I’ve actually heard someone say you can get AIDS from a toilet seat.” Vermont has a relatively low population of affected people, so many people do not think about HIV or AIDS, Buchanan said. “Something people don’t think about when they are sleeping with someone is all the people that person has slept with and all the people those have slept with,” Buchanan said. Next semester, the Task Force plans on bringing a speaker from Vermont CARES to UVM to talk about living with HIV. The Task Force also plans on showing an educational documentary created by Vermont CARES, in which real people living with HIV tell their stories.