Suffolk educates with documentary for World AIDS Day

When HIV/AIDS created a commotion in the late 20th century, resources for those affected were scarce. To receive a result of HIV positive was regarded as a death sentence, and strategies to prevent infection were not popular practices. Now, as regular citizens have become more aware of the dangers and precautions when dealing with sexual practices, it appears as if our culture has adapted to a mentality that to become infected is a thing of the past, when in reality the numbers and statistics of AIDS in our world prove that it is an issue that still needs to be addressed.

SU Diversity Services held an event on Dec. 3 to commemorate World HIV/AIDS Day. In Donahue 403, Suffolk students and staff gathered to watch an inspiring and personal documentary that depicts the life of four young people whose lives were affected by testing HIV positive.

Border2border Entertainment, a film company that specializes in documentaries, describes the film a “a one hour television documentary which follows four HIV+ positive youth… Vancouver, Toronto, Phoenix, New York, Victoria – straight 18-year-old First Nations woman, gay 25-year-old white urbanite, 23-year-old jet-setting entertainer, black 22-year-old man searching for work and health insurance. HIV does not discriminate. Uncensored personal stories that will forever change your idea of what it means to be HIV+.”

“I’m really thrilled to see this many people in the room,” said Jesse Beal, assistant director at diversity services. “This day is very important to me because I have lost several people in my life due to HIV. While this was a while ago, we are still dealing with this issue. It is not over, and we need to stop pretending that it is over.”

Boston GLASS, Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender Adolescent Social Services, was also present at the event and they shared information on their center to get tested and get answers about HIV. GLASS was offering free tests for students. Students may also receive HIV tests at health services here on campus.

Upon arriving, guests were asked to fill out a short survey about the last time they got tested. Over 50 percent of audience members had never been tested for HIV, and over 80 percent included those whose tests were overdue.

“These numbers are a bit terrifying to me,” Beal said. “So for all of you who signed up to get tested today, I congratulate you on the awesome step you’re making today.”

The event program said “youth make up 7 percent of the more than one million people in the U.S. living with HIV. HIV is primarily spread through unprotected sex and sharing needles.” Over 25 percent of infections occur within the ages of 13 and 24, and 60 percent of youth that are HIV positive are unaware and spreading the virus unknowingly.

The Student Government Association partnered with diversity services for this event.

“The reason why we co-sponsored is basically to educate,” SGA president Billy Cerullo said. “As the movie portrayed well, a lot of people who are affected by HIV and AIDS are young people, so accordingly it’s very much important that we educate our Suffolk community. It’s important to know what the causes are, how to get tested and why. This event was to educate the people, us, who are more affected than other demographics.”