AIDS Awareness Week informs and educates

By Stephanie Shewchuk

AIDS Calgary kicked off its AIDS Awareness Week, Wed., Nov. 24 to raise public awareness and education about the disease.

Although strides have been made, AIDS remains a relatively new epidemic in which discrimination and stigma remain prevalent.

Currently an estimated 56,000 Canadians and 1,300 Calgarians live with HIV/AIDS. Basic education biggest factor in understanding the disease, constraining its spread, and reversing prejudice.

“Stigma and discrimination really fuel the epidemic,” says Le-Ann Dolan, Community Developer at AIDS Calgary. “University students in particular have an important role to play in raising awareness. Diverse education stops stigma and discrimination, which in turn, will help to control the disease.”

AIDS Awareness Week offered a variety of presentations, including “Grief and Loss” and “Women and HIV/AIDS” workshops that aimed to provide a greater understanding of the issue.

Dolan acknowledges that AIDS is a disease without borders, touching many people in the global community.

“What’s happening locally is happening globally,” said Dolan. “Discrimination may occur in different forms in other countries but the problem remains the same. Our programming and knowledge [in Calgary] is applicable to other countries and efforts made here can help to reduce the problem elsewhere.”

As AIDS Awareness Week wraps up, it is important to acknowledge that many opportunities exist to get involved beyond participation in the current activities. “Students are often very busy, but people can get involved on all levels,” added Dolan. “Volunteering and fund-raising are definitely helpful in raising awareness. However, educating themselves and those around them is really the most important thing students can do.”

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