Today, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day. While 33.4 million people around the world, including 1.1 million Americans, are currently living with HIV/AIDS, this is not an issue most Notre Dame students feel they have to worry about. A recent HIV/AIDS campus survey revealed that 90 percent of the 2,000 Domers who replied do not personally know anyone with the disease, though nearly 200 students responded with stories of their family members, friends and even themselves being affected by HIV/AIDS. They shared experiences of encountering HIV/AIDS while doing service work across the world, of family members suffering from the disease, of classmates being mocked and of the challenges of being HIV positive themselves. Clearly, this is an issue that affects Notre Dame.
The issue of HIV/AIDS is not without controversy, and this was also revealed in the survey. Several respondents cited the Catholic Church’s position on the immorality of contraception, while many others flatly called for an end to abstinence-only education and advocated condom use in preventing HIV/AIDS.
One thing that we can hopefully agree on as Catholics is that each of us is called to recognize the dignity of our brothers and sisters infected with HIV/AIDS. Locally we are called to help overcome the stigma and isolation from community that HIV/AIDS often brings (six percent of survey respondents said that they would not hug or shake hands with a person who was HIV positive). Globally we are called to aid in efforts to prevent the spread of the disease through education and to increase access to the expensive anti-retroviral drugs that are widely available in wealthy countries but are scarce in areas such as sub-saharan Africa.
You can help Notre Dame commemorate World Aids Day by wearing red today, stopping by LaFortune to get a red ribbon and see a piece of the AIDS quilt along with results from the survey, and attending the 6:30 p.m. discussion and soup supper in the Geddes Hall coffeehouse. In addition, free and confidential HIV/AIDS testing will be available at St. Liam’s from 6-8:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
In addition, the Center for Social Concerns has a created a space online to respectfully discuss the issues of HIV/AIDS, Catholicism and Notre Dame. Please visit http://tiny.cc/NDAIDS to voice your opinion.
Pasquerilla East Hall