Oberlin students commemorate World AIDS day
In honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Oberlin students dedicated an entire week to educating the community about one of the largest epidemics the human race has ever seen.
This year, programs and workshops focused on women and girls and HIV. Women are twice as likely to contract HIV or STDs during sexual activity as males. Combined with their lack of sexual empowerment in many areas of the world, women and girls find themselves extremely susceptible to the devastating disease.
College junior Igor Holas, student HIV/STI prevention program coordinator, was in charge of putting together the schedule of events. This position was created in 2001 to focus on large issues such as World AIDS Week.
“World AIDS Week started seven years ago to address and educate on the issues of HIV/AIDS,” Holas said. “The goal hasn’t really changed since then —it still is to educate.” He said that in the U.S. the disease is “linked primarily to the gay population, so this issue of women and girls and HIV will raise awareness. The UN wants to look at the third world and poor regions and power dynamics and sexism.”
Holas added, “In many parts of the world women can’t say put on a condom, get tested. They want women to be able to protect themselves without men consenting.”
College senior Michelle Weinberger, the chair of the Student Global AIDS Campaign at Oberlin, noted that the group was concentrating on raising awareness about microbicides during world AIDS week.
“Our big campaign was for microbicides because most people don’t know about them,” Weinberger said. “If they are put on the market they will hopefully slow infection rate. Women have the highest infection rates because of unequal sexual relationships.”
Hopefully, with enough funding, microbicides will be available in 2010.
“Condoms are always more effective, but are not always a choice. In other cultures, they are not accepted. Women can use microbicides without her partner knowing,” said Weinberger.
The film In Women’s Hands premiered on World AIDS Day and it provided information on microbicides. Research on microbicides began in 1992. They come in many different forms, such as gel, cream, sponges and vaginal rings. Some destroy HIV directly, some stop the disease from replicating, some stop it from entering cells and some boost the vagina’s immunity. Trials are being done with it in South Africa.
Unfortunately, the U.S., the largest funder of microbicides, only spends two percent of its HIV funding on it.
The U.S. does most of their funding for HIV through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. This plan supports 100 countries, concentrating on 15 countries in places such as Africa, the Caribbean and Asia that have been hit the hardest by the AIDS pandemic. The program hopes to use $15 billion in five years to expand treatment and prevention. Many, however, are not happy with this solution.
“PEPFAR is Bush’s own plan instead of the global fund,” said Weinberger. “Bush doesn’t like the global fund because it is multilateral and he doesn’t have complete control. In PEPFAR two-thirds of the money is earmarked for abstinence programs and in reality even more than that goes to those programs. PEPFAR also can’t be used to purchase generic drugs.”
The Global Fund was established to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by the United Nations. It hoped to receive $10 billion each year to give in grants to countries fighting these diseases. The money allows people to buy generic drugs and other treatments for the disease. It also supports countries that may be “out of favor” with the U.S. To date, it has only been able to give out $3 billion. Lack of funds, especially from the U.S., threatens to suspend funding for 2005. To carry out grants, they needed $2.5 billion, and so far they only have $1.6 million.
“This is a good excuse for Bush,” said Weinberger. “He
doesn’t want to give the Global Fund money until they can show they are
effective, but it can’t show that it is effective unless it has