A ribbon shaped from red plastic cups with candles burning inside lit the steps of Memorial Church yesterday evening, and a larger ribbon of red Christmas lights shone from the front of Grays Hall. The candlelight vigil at Memorial Church, followed by the lighting of the ribbon on Grays and a discussion about gay men’s sexual health in the Brazilian immigrant community, was held as a part of the World AIDS Day celebrations, organized by Queer Students and Allies and Global Health and AIDS Coalition.
“The theme of World AIDS Day this year is Universal Access, so we wanted to reach out to the whole community,” said QSA Co-President Marco Chan ’11, who helped to organize events for students at the College while also involving the Cambridge immigrant community. As the celebrations were arranged with limited involvement from the administration, Chan said that it was all the more important to host a variety of events, with students taking the initiative to raise awareness among different circles.
Linda Ellison, a lecturer on women, gender, and sexuality, said she was impressed with the students’ organization of the event but disappointed with the administration’s failure to address the subject of AIDS at a University-wide level.
“AIDS is on the agenda of the UN and governments all over the world,” she said. “It’s a shame it’s not on the agenda of the most prominent university in the world.”
Ellison said that she was disappointed by the University’s lack of attention to World AIDS Day, particularly in light of the decision made by University Health Services last year to cancel anonymous HIV testing.
“The director claimed that the stigma about AIDS is over and only promiscuous people need to be tested,” Ellison said. “But they’re withholding a lot of information from students about what happens if testing isn’t anonymous.”
She said that job applicants with HIV tests on their medical record are often considered “at risk” by potential employers and face higher insurance premiums, and international students who test positive for HIV can be deported.
“There’s a lot that people don’t know, and events like these remind people that we still have a long way to go,” said Jia Hui Lee ’12, a member of QSA. “This is not something that’s solved yet.”