Students for Diversity in Education through Service will be hosting the AIDS Memorial Quilt Conference Friday.
SDES will be hosting several speakers such as Timothy Bussey, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from Kenyon College, who will be speaking about the history of AIDS activism. It will also hold workshops at the conference as well as other events and activities throughout the day.
Hannah Messer, co-president and co-founder of SDES, said the group has wanted to host this event for a long time to bring more awareness to HIV/AIDS and how it’s still affecting communities today.
“We’re going to have five quilt panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, some speakers to talk about their experiences with HIV/AIDS, free condoms, a documentary showing and archive material from the 1980s epidemic,” Messer said.
Areli Orozco Ibarra, a co-founder of SDES, said that along with the speakers and workshops, there will also be free STI testing.
SDES is sponsored by the Student Life Multicultural Center, and other groups such as Equitas Health and Mozaic will also be contributing to the event. This will be the first time Ohio State has hosted the AIDS Memorial Quilt Conference since 1994.
In 2000, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, nearly 22 million people died of AIDS-related causes since the epidemic began in the early 1980s. HIV/AIDS is still a pressing issue for many as recent as 2017, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research.
The nonprofit, also known as amfAR, said 36.9 million people were living with HIV worldwide, but annual deaths from AIDS-related causes have declined almost 48 percent over the past 10 years, from 1.8 million in 2007 to 940,000 in 2017.
Messer said that while advances in medicine have made it easier for people to live with HIV and reduced the number of fatalities since its discovery, it still affects communities, “specifically people of color and trans women of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Abby Schaffer, co-president of SDES, said, “This event is important because we did lose an entire generation of people. We lost a whole community that could’ve made a lot of strides but didn’t get an opportunity to do so, so it’s important to bring it back to remember our history and to think about the future.”
One topic SDES wants to discuss at the conference is the ideas or misconceptions that might still be surrounding the stigma of HIV/AIDS, something that has not changed as time and advances have.
“A lot of people don’t know all the methods of transmission still, and there’s still a certain amount of people who assume that only gay people can get it,” Orozco Ibarra said. “We’ll be showing the documentary, ‘Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,’ which definitely highlights how people are affected.”
The AIDS Memorial Quilt Conference will start at noon at various locations in the Ohio Union Friday. The event is free.
“I’m really proud of this organization for putting this event together because we are a relatively new organization, and we just wanted to commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS,” Orozco Ibarra said.