Students Support AIDS Awareness With Song
Published: Friday, December 19, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2009 02:02
An AIDS Memorial Quilt hung beside a circle of students, faculty, and staff, as each declared their support for its compelling presence.
On Dec. 4, the second floor lobby of the Student Center concluded William Paterson University's World AIDS Day with an evening Candlelight Vigil. The 32 participants showed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome awareness by wearing the globally symbolic red ribbon and engaging in music, words of hope, and education.
Organized by the Women' Center, the event began with a performance from WPU's Gospel Choir, an African, African-American, and Caribbean Studies course, led by Professor Michael Butler.
"For this occasion we drew from our repertoire," said Butler, who lost several people to this pandemic condition. "It's a pleasure for us to be apart of this and make our voice heard."
Students of the African American Caribbean Studies 209 course agreed.
"It's important for inspiration to go out to victims and families," said Devon Countee, 19, sophomore, AACS major under the History concentration. "I feel for those who have lost people and who are dealing with the disease."
"Two of my uncles died from AIDS," said Luticia Johnson, 20, who was enrolled in the choir course last semester. "I'm here to support."
After the performance, Librada Sanchez, director of the Women's Center, gathered all participants in a circle to reflect on the twentieth World AIDS Day. Each, holding flameless candles, revealed why they chose to wear their red ribbon, by reading a phrase they composed earlier that day at the Women's Center table set up in the Student Center.
"I wear my red ribbon because I believe every illness has a cure," said one student. "We just need some time."
Others referred to international suffering, stigmas, and stereotypes.
"Take from today to remind others about this horrible situation," said Francisco Diaz, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life. "Be sure to keep those affected in our prayers. They are apart of our society."
AIDS is caused by HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When contracted, either through sexual intercourse, sharing of needles, born from an infected mother, or drinking an infected mother's breast milk, the body produces antibodies, molecules that fight this virus, allowing blood tests to detect these antibodies, therefore the virus.
CD4 cells, or T-helper cells, play a vital role in our immune systems, as healthy people house 500-1,500 cells within a milliliter of blood. As the virus destroys these cells, it is weakening the immune system, so bacteria, other viruses, parasites, and fungi, that normally do not affect the body, opportunistically infect. Possessing less than 200 CD4 cells indicates an individual with AIDS.
While no cure exists, treatments can decrease immune system damage and prevent or treat opportunistic infections.
WPU hosted the quilt from the NAMES Project Foundation: Northern New Jersey (NNJ) Chapter, which consists of donated 3' by 6' panels (the size of a human grave), stitched into 12' by 12' blocks.
One panel on display was donated by WPU alumni of 1993, when the institution was termed William Paterson College, said Sanchez.
World AIDS Day, marked December 1 in 1988 by Jonathan Mann, director of the Global Program on AIDS and personal AIDS proponent of the World Health Organization, recognizes the 33 million diagnosed and 2.1 million deaths worldwide. According to Sanchez, three-year WPU employee, this community has acknowledged the day for many years and she has conducted this event twice.