Some members of the Ohio State and Central Ohio communities are coming together to raise awareness for World Aids Day.
Dec. 1 is annually recognized as World Aids Day. It is observed as a day of remembrance for those who have died from HIV/AIDS and an opportunity for others to come together to raise awareness and celebrate those who are living with the disease.
Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center and the Multicultural Center have partnered with Columbus Public Health and other community partners to host events during the first week of December, said Blake Marble, an assistant director at the Student Wellness Center.
A World Aids Day Commemoration Ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday at Columbus Public Health, located at 240 Parsons Ave. Guest speakers are set to include Ohio Sen. Charleta B. Tavares, Ohio Rep. Michael Stinziano and Dr. Teresa Long.
At the ceremony, there will be a reading of the names of those in Franklin County who have died from HIV/AIDS since the 1980s. Tywan Grandiose — the winner of a youth essay contest where participants had to answer the question, “How is HIV/AIDS impacting you as a youth?” — is also set to speak at the event.
The theme of the evening is how HIV/AIDS is impacting a new generation, said Adrian Neil-Hobson, disease intervention specialist at Columbus Public Health. Neil-Hobson is the chairperson for this year’s World Aids Day in Columbus. It was his responsibility to create the vision for this year’s activities and see them through, he said.
This is a far cry from what a commemoration ceremony might have been in the past, Neil-Honson said.
“Candlelight visions are great, but it’s not necessarily about death anymore,” he said. “It’s more about stigma and HIV criminalization laws.”
“A Night of Artistic Performances” will be held 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium in the Michael E. Moritz College of Law.
“A lot of people in the arts world passed due to a lack of treatment because they couldn’t afford it,” Neil-Hobson said. “So I wanted to do something that was centered around the arts.”
The event will include local dancers, singers, poets and spoken word artists. There will also be free HIV testing that will take place in the Multicultural Center near the auditorium. The Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center will administer the testing. According to its website, GCMC is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded program of the AIDS Resource Center in Ohio.
OSU regularly offers free and confidential testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections on Tuesdays at the Multicultural Center and on Thursdays at the Student Wellness Center, Marble said.
The Student Wellness Center offers other services including a condom club, which offers a discounted rate on condoms. After viewing a short educational video and passing a five-question quiz, students are able to purchase up to 25 condoms per day for $5 with their BuckID.
There is a menu of condoms that features an assortment of flavors, styles, brands and textures, Marble said.
Not far from campus, Out of the Closet — a pharmacy and thrift store located at 1230 N. High St. — offers free HIV/STI testing.
“Some people may be embarrassed to face the stigma of being tested and facing a positive result — that’s the reason we are created the way that we are,” said Ashley Wright, HIV Test counselor at Out of the Closet. “No one knows if you’re shopping or going to the pharmacy for medication, so you can kind of have that anonymous feel.”
Out of the Closet is one of the only places in Ohio that offers a test called the INSTI, a blood stick that has the results within a minute, Wright said.
“Even five to 10 years ago, people were getting a blood draw and didn’t know the results for up to two weeks,” Wright said.
Out of the Closet is also celebrating World Aids Day on Monday. Every person who gets tested receives free food from Mikey’s Late Night Slice.
“It’s just important that everyone get tested no matter age, race, sexual orientation,” Wright said. “It’s important that everyone knows their status for the health of themselves, their partners and anyone else around them.”
Wright recommends getting tested every three to six months.
OSU offers an oral mouth swab test. According to the Student Wellness Center’s website, the results are ready between 20 to 40 minutes. Test results can remain confidential or anonymous.
“I think it is important for any individual who is sexually active to be tested on a regular basis,” Marble said.
Marble could not give statistics regarding infections of HIV/AIDS as it relates to OSU students. According to Columbus Public Health’s website, there are more than 3,000 people in Franklin County living with HIV/AIDS.
“HIV/AIDS is not only the fight of those who are living with it, but the fight of everyone. It is going to take a community in order to continue to find a cure, and defeat the stigma,” Neil-Hobson said. “Those who are living with it can not do it on their own.”