Awareness presentation breaks misconceptions about HIV/AIDS

Bruce Walton

Statistics shocked students at the health-promotion presentation “Getting to Zero,” held in the Student Center Ballroom on Monday evening. A collaboration of on- and off-campus organizations, including FACE-AIDS, Portage County Health Department and the University Health Services Office of Health Promotion, organized the presentation as part of a week-long series of events for World AIDS Day.

The presentation was given by two speakers, Dianne Kerr, associate professor in the School of Health Sciences, and Kat Holtz, health educator and HIV specialist for the Portage County Health Department.

Kerr said the presentation’s goal was to promote student awareness and prevention of the HIV/AIDS epidemic both in the U.S. and worldwide. Kerr spoke about statistics of millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS, including pregnant women and “AIDS orphans,” which Kerr said are millions of children who lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

Kerr said she and Holtz became “AIDS pioneers” during the mid-1980s and have seen a lot of change. They said they have seen amazing progress in the public knowledge of AIDS, but much more can be done to reduce the risk of contracting and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Kerr said she hopes to reach a goal of having an “AIDS-free” generation in the next few years and presented the plan to the audience.

“Worldwide, we are trying to begin to reduce mother-to-child transmission,” Kerr said. “We’re trying to get more people into treatment and get more money into treatment and circumcisions to men.”

Kerr said these three goals can help reduce the risk of contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS.

“I think continuing to do prevention education is important,” Kerr said. “I think there’s a lot of people that feel AIDS is over because we have these treatments now.”

Kerr said there is a phenomenon called “AIDS complacency” that lowers awareness just because there is better treatment now than ever before. Kerr said she wants to continue to teach young people about HIV/AIDS, so she and others can prevent students from getting it in the first place.

Holtz began the second half of the presentation with continued discussion about preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Holtz demonstrated proper condom-application procedures and uses of other safe-sex tools such as female condoms and oral-sex condoms for males and females. Holtz also explained that proper storage of condoms is in a special condom-only compartment in a container, and not in a wallet, pocket or glove compartment in the car. But Holtz said one of the biggest tools for safe sex is yourself.

“You are the only person that can protect yourself,” Holtz said. “You have to take the initiative, learn how to use protection and use it every time.”

Both speakers urged students to take initiative in helping stop the spread of HIV/AIDS across the world by joining organizations such as the One Campaign ( or the World Vision International Organization ( and to get free testing Dec. 4 at the DeWeese Health Center.

Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected].