Face AIDS group raises funds with free testing

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Students at UT Austin can help fight AIDS and support those suffering globally, said a representative from Face AIDS in the Union on Wednesday.

UT’s Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice hosted UT’s fourth annual World AIDS Day Conference, which included multiple panels to discuss the AIDS pandemic in terms of policy, activism and global health. In the same building, the CARE Program and Face AIDS hosted free HIV testing.

For each person tested, the CARE Program will donate $5 to subsistence farmers in Rwanda to start sustainable businesses, said Naveen Pattisapu, president of the Austin chapter of Face AIDS and a liberal arts and natural sciences senior.

“People are learning the social and cultural issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and doing something about it, knowing their own status and empowering societies and communities abroad all in one building, right here at UT,” he said.

Sixty students came to receive testing last year, Pattisapu said, while 126 students received free HIV testing and results on Wednesday.

“This has been our biggest World AIDS Day ever,” he said. “We’re getting more people in on the cause and getting students more interested on how they can make a difference around
the world.”

Free testing will continue today in the Union.

A panel in the Union discussed representations of AIDS in the media through films such as “Yesterday.” The 2004 film is the first full-length film in the Zulu language and tells the story of an African woman who contracts the disease, said Neville Hoad, an associate English professor.

In September, Men’s Health magazine ranked the city of Austin first on a list of “Sex Happy” cities based on an analysis of condom sales, birth rates and STD rates.

Syphilis is one STD on the rise in the city of Austin, said Wright House peer educator Ruben Caceres who worked in the HIV testing results room in the Union. AIDS Services of Austin has estimated that 6,000 people are living with HIV and AIDS in Central Texas.

“If you have that kind of activity going on in the city there is going to be a higher risk to contract HIV/AIDs and other STDs,” he said. “If you’re having any kind of sexual activity or intercourse, you should be tested.”

Any kind of sexual activity can lead to AIDS, he said, and practicing safe sex to protect oneself from the disease should be a top priority.

“Whether you’re a female or a male, it depends on your own personal responsibility of having a condom each and every time you have any kind of intercourse,” Caceres said.