Students should get involved in AIDS awareness

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    The invisible monster rears its head to ravage you from the inside out, and you are completely unaware. And, what’s that? You don’t care? This monster has killed millions and it’s only 25 years old.

    That is, the first cases of AIDS, were documented in newspapers 25 years ago. This monster stems from the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, and it’s invisible because no one seems to care anymore.

    According to The New York Times, the first wave of AIDS’ patients in the U.S. is reaching late middle-aged people. Many have survived because of the “cocktail” of drugs, some experimental, given to the patients.

    These Americans have made it. Many have health problems and permanent damage, the article stated, but they have survived.

    There are many people around the world who don’t have any medicine and don’t have the education needed to survive. We do.

    As responsible citizens in a global community, we have the responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves.

    People in Africa are suffering every day because they don’t have the medication to quell the symptoms of the disease or the knowledge to prevent it. Women are raped and also unknowingly contract HIV, which is then passed onto their children.

    It affects millions, which means most likely you know someone who has the disease or has been affected by it.

    Most college students don’t know much about the disease or how it affects people or what they can do to help. What they know is pop culture.

    In a country where students know about every element of the life of Britney Spears and little about the life of Barack Obama, it’s no surprise that what students know about AIDS is from TV.

    I bet most college students know about the musical made into the movie “Rent,” or Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s attempts to make light of the issue in “Team America World Police” and “South Park.”

    Apparently, after a couple of decades, it’s safe to make fun of something, according to the characters in South Park.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think “South Park” and “Team America World Police” are hilarious. Parker and Stone are making people laugh and, in the end, making people more comfortable talking about taboo topics, such as AIDS.

    In fact, the stigmatization of subjects concerning public health is the worst thing society can do, which is one of the major issues concerning the AIDS epidemic.

    The stigma surrounding AIDS arrives from several sources, one being homosexuality. In the early documented cases of the disease, it seemed that it affected only homosexual men.

    The religious right saw this as God’s condemnation of homosexual acts, but now the disease has spread further than that, and people still associate it with the unmentionable topic of homosexuality.

    HIV/AIDS affects mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

    If you knew and loved someone with the disease, you might be more willing to learn and help people understand it.

    However, people don’t realize they probably do know someone who is affected by the disease because no one wants to talk about it.

    Even if you can’t bring yourself to ask a friend if he or she has been affected by the disease, either because someone he or she knew or loved was infected or otherwise, there is still something you can do.

    There are ways college students can be involved in the effort to aid and educate those infected, especially in Africa.

    The Peace Corps has youth education programs in Africa about safe sex and hygiene. You can volunteer for the AIDS Resource Center or the AIDS Food Pantry. There is time to make a difference.

    Rachael Embler is a senior international communications news-editorial and history major from Dallas.