Annual WGSX Colloquium Discusses Worldwide Issue of HIV/AIDS

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This year’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGSX) colloquium titled: “Going Viral: 30 Years of Living with HIV/AIDS” focused on individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and how the virus is a worldwide issue.

The colloquium, which took place from March 19 to March 23, began with a film screening of “The Other City.” The documentary provided a look at the alarmingly high rate of HIV and AIDS in Washington, D.C. and how the federal government refuses to assist those that are infected. The film explored the prejudices that other Americans project onto HIV/AIDS carriers and what the afflicted have done to save their lives and the lives of others who have contracted HIV/AIDS.

The colloquium not only allowed students to receive free HIV testing but it also featured speakers such as Dr. Marjorie Robert-Guroff, Chief of the Immune Biology of Retrivoviral Infection Section in the Vaccine Branch for the National Cancer Institute; David Román, Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; and Shanti Parikh, Associate Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Each speaker researched the HIV/AIDS epidemic independently and presented their topics during the colloquium.

“Seven thousand people every day become infected… We should figure out the answer,” said Dr. Robert-Guroff who presented her biological research on HIV and why vaccine production and creating HIV antibodies is a difficult process. She also added that the virus “doesn’t have borders anymore.” The HIV/AIDS epidemic has become a problem for everyone. Yet with her research and with other research, a lot is being done to minimize the effects of HIV and AIDS. “Day by day we make some small contributions,” explained Guroff.

The second colloquium speaker, Parikh, concentrated on HIV/AIDS in Uganda and the lengths the country has gone to in preventing the spread of the diseases. The Uganda HIV campaign, which has been in place for almost 20 years, has led to policies and programs, along with the promotion of abstinence, faithfulness, and contraceptives. However, Parikh showed how this extensive prevention process has led to anxiety among Uganda’s youth who are conflicted about sexuality. Parikh also noted that vaccination isn’t a prominent solution to HIV/AIDS in Uganda and other African countries due to the “suspicion of Western medicine.”

The final visiting speaker, Román, discussed how activists were combating AIDS in the early 1980s and how the gay community responded to HIV/AIDS. Román argued that by learning all there is to know about HIV, “we’re able to resolve the health care system.” He also found that “students are really hungry to learn about it.”

The colloquium also included a discussion from St. Mary’s own Samantha Elliott and Jeff Byrd, Professors of Biology, about the biology of AIDS and how HIV leads to AIDS. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was also exhibited during the colloquium in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center in conjunction with name reading ceremonies of HIV/AIDS victims which were read throughout the week. The colloquium closed with a roundtable discussion by the visiting speakers and an activism workshop on “Helping Independent Prostitutes Survive” (HIPS).

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