Speaker focuses on local, global impact of AIDS

Tim Magaw

Dianne Kerr, associate professor and award-winning AIDS researcher, spoke to students about HIV and AIDS on a global, national, and local level last night in the Kiva. The speech, sponsored by University Health Services, was part of World AIDS Week. LESLI

Credit: John Proppe

Walking through the rain on her way to the Kiva last night, Dianne Kerr thought the weather was appropriate because today is World AIDS Day, a day filled with sadness.

Kerr, an associate professor and award-winning AIDS researcher, opened her speech about HIV/AIDS on local, national and global levels with a song.

“The windows of the world are covered with rain,” she sang to an audience of about 200 students. “There must be something we can do.”

Some of the things Kerr said students can do are educating their friends about AIDS, taking a class on AIDS or participating in tonight’s AIDS walk.

Since 1981, 21 million people have died of AIDS, Kerr said. One of the continents most affected by HIV is Africa. She showed segments of the film A Closer Walk, which showed the plight of the African people’s struggle with the AIDS virus.

One of the girls featured in the video was Olivia Nantongo. Her father died of AIDS when she young, and her mother died in her arms when she was just 12 years old. Nantongo was left alone in the world, and she died of AIDS when she was 21 years old.

Kerr said the lack of anti-retroviral treatment is one of the leading causes of the high rate of HIV-related deaths in Africa. She said there is a 72 percent unmet need for the ARV drugs. Because many African people make only about a dollar a day, they have to look elsewhere for the treatment.

“They rely on compassion by other people in the world,” Kerr said.

The speech changed focus to the use of condoms as way to prevent the spread of HIV on a local level. Kerr said non-lubricated latex condoms should be worn during sex, and women must insist that they be worn.

There are many types of condoms, but she said to stay away from the novelty condoms, such as those that glow in the dark.

“If they say novelty on them, they’re not to be used for safe sex,” Kerr said.

Captain Condom was at the door of the Kiva to greet students offering them safe-sex kits, which included a condom, a mint and instructions on how to make a dental dam. Dental dams prevent the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases through oral sex, Kerr said.

Freshman nursing major Randal Kobetitsch said she attended the speech to satisfy her university orientation health issue requirement. She said she enjoyed the program because it was realistic and not meant to scare people.

“I thought it was very informative,” she said, “because there was information about (HIV/AIDS) and ways to prevent it.”

Sarah Hallsky, coordinator of World AIDS Week, said this event was one of the more formal events of the week while Wednesday night’s Sex Show was one of the more informal events. The event was sponsored by University Health Services.

“This is a topic that can reach everybody,” she said, “and everybody should be aware.”

Starbucks is sponsoring an AIDS walk tonight for World AIDS Day, which will start in Risman Plaza at 5:30 p.m. Kerr said everyone participating will get a free cup of coffee.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].