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Event to shed light on HIV/AIDS epidemic

Being affected by a disease is something some might not like to talk about, especially if it is sexually transmitted. The Pay It Forward Committee is breaking the silence with the Red Party in hopes of shedding light on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ohio Union’s Great Hall Meeting Rooms 1 and 2.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic is very prevalent and a significant issue,” said Melissa Rotblatt, third-year in social work and a Red Party committee member. “We want to educate people because every little bit helps.”

Tyler TerMeer, speaker for this year’s Red Party and director of Ohio AIDS Coalition, said his passion for educating the masses about HIV/AIDS began when he was diagnosed HIV-positive when he was 21.

“I made a decision early on in my diagnosis to live my life openly as an HIV-positive gay man,” TerMeer said in an email

TerMeer said events like the Red Party are beneficial in order to help bring understanding to young people on university campuses. He also said he feels fortunate to be living in a time where his diagnosis was not given to him as a death sentence.

“It is a new reality and a new responsibility to manage the HIV virus in my life,” TerMeer said in the email.

TerMeer said awareness is the first step toward eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with disease. He said he feels there is a great need to assist people living with HIV in order to advance their understanding of the standard of care, to self-assess the care they are receiving and develop their capacity to self-advocate.

“This is a pivotal moment with the domestic HIV epidemic,” TerMeer said in the email.

TerMeer said the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, an initiative the Obama administration implemented to reduce HIV incidence, the Affordable Care Act and scientific evidence in 2011 that proved treatment is preventable have shown promise that the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in sight.

To provide a comfortable and friendly environment that will appeal to everyone, organizers said the Red Party will be a causal event.

“In the past it has been more of a formal gala,” said Meghan Morris, Pay It Forward’s director of annual events and third-year in psychology.

Morris said committee members are aiming to raise awareness to a broader audience and want attendees to dress in red to the event this year.

“We just want people to know that their peers are currently dealing with this virus and are affected by this issue,” she said.

The event will also provide a service fair with student organizations and community agencies, as well as a one-mile run-walk.

“We are now in a place where we can reverse the tide of epidemic and bring an end to HIV/AIDS,” TerMeer said.

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