|Dont forget HIV: Support AIDS walk Saturday
To the Editors:
I recently volunteered to work at the Community Youth Academy, an alternative
middle school and high school in Lorain, to help educate their students about HIV. As a member
of HIV Educators and an Americorps volunteer, I had been trained extensively to do such presentations
but have never had the opportunity to actually enter a classroom. Last week, I suddenly found myself
face to face with an entire classroom of young teenagers and a 50-minute presentation involving
discussion of sex, fluids, condoms and dental dams, among other phrases sure to make them all squirm
in their seats. I expected nervous laughter and embarrassment to create the mood for the class.
To my surprise and amazement, these kids, some of whom were only 12 or 13 years
old, sat and listened intently. They answered my questions with knowledge that blew me away and
played one hell of a game of HIV trivia basketball. Through this and my subsequent visits to their
classroom I came to truly appreciate the value of an open dialogue and discussion about issues
surrounding HIV and high-risk activities. I now have as much faith if not more faith in these kids
to make informed intelligent life decisions as I do in the bulk of the Oberlin College students
simply because of their willingness to learn and ask questions.
On campus we seem to forget that HIV is a serious problem that affects Lorain
county and Oberlin College students directly. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there
are currently well over 150 reported cases of HIV in Lorain County. Many of those infected are
under the age of 20. This coming Saturday the Lorain County AIDS Task Force is holding its annual
AIDS walk in Oberlin. The walk will start in the community, at First Church, (on the corner of
Lorain and Main Streets at 10:45 a.m.) and move to Tappan Square at 11 a.m. for a walk led by Oberlin
Colleges Marching Band.
This is a great opportunity for Oberlin College students, staff and faculty
to show support for those infected with and affected by HIV in the county and on this campus. I
worry that as the semester rapidly comes to an end and everyone becomes even more self-absorbed,
the larger issues will get lost. I encourage everyone to come check out the AIDS walk, raise a
couple dollars, and more importantly, show your support and even maybe learn some new information
My work in the Community Youth Academy culminated in an HIV-related art project.
The students each designed and painted large murals to be placed around Lorain County sharing what
they learned and helping to pass this information on to others. They were each so excited that
their work would be on display and that they would be helping to educate others. The continuous
spread of information and support for those with HIV is crucial to the eventual defeat of the disease.
Complacency does not help find a cure or even provide money for treatment for those who cannot
otherwise afford it. Once again, invite everyone to reopen a dialogue about HIV, come walk in the
AIDS walk, and show Lorain County that Oberlin College cares.