PRIDE! Kent speaker raises awareness about HIV, AIDS

Kelsie Britton

Roughly one in 10 people in the U.S. are HIV positive.

Joshua Morgan, outreach and risk reduction coordinator for Community AIDS Network Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI), spoke about that statistic and other facts about HIV/AIDS awareness at a candid discussion with PRIDE! Kent. 

During the informal presentation on Thursday, March 19, Morgan explained the history of the disease, risks of exposure, symptoms of infection, testing methods and how to discuss HIV status with a partner.

In an effort to encourage students to use protection, Morgan asked an audience member for a condom, unwrapped it and rolled it over his entire hand and wrist.

“How many of you are going to believe the guy the next time he says, ‘The condom doesn’t fit,’” Morgan asked the audience.

Students in the Student Center Governance Chamber fell silent as Morgan gave statistics on the rates of HIV infection (50,000 new cases each year in the U.S.) and the high cost of treatment medication.

“If I make $2,000 a month, and $1,800 of it goes toward my medication, that only leaves $200 for ‘Thirsty Thursday,’” Morgan said.

Common misconceptions about HIV were also dispelled, such as the likelihood of transmission through kissing.

“Not unless you digest about a gallon of their saliva,” Morgan joked.

Brandon Stephens, president of PRIDE! Kent, said he’s worked with Morgan in the past and was confident Morgan would give PRIDE! members thorough and informed advice.

“I want them to understand that HIV/AIDS is a serious problem, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for everyone,” the senior criminology and justice studies major said. “It’s something that we need to take seriously, and it’s something we need to educate ourselves on in order to properly combat the issue.”

Josh Trattner, a junior theatre studies major, said he was most shocked to learn the number of new HIV diagnoses each year.

“I was expecting it to be much lower,” Trattner said. “I hear these statistics, and they just make my heart race.”

Morgan will return to Kent’s campus in April to conduct HIV testing and said he wants students to continue to learn about and discuss HIV/AIDS beyond his presentation.

“I want them (students) to not be afraid to get tested,” Morgan said. “I want them to have the confidence to talk about status with their partners because a lot of people don’t. And I want them to be understanding and accepting of the HIV population to help eliminate that stigma.”

Free and confidential HIV testing will be held in the DeWeese Health Center on April 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact Kelsie Britton at [email protected].