AIDS Awareness offered at GSC
In July of 1981, the New York Times published an article about a rare cancer that was quickly spreading among homosexual men. Little did the readers know that this disease would change the landscape of American life forever.
The cancer that was devastating the gay populations of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles was AIDS.
Thirty years after the arrival of this epidemic, millions of Americans have died, and millions more are still in the battle for their lives.
Great achievements have been made to irradiate this disease. One such achievement has drawn thousands of Atlantans to Piedmont Park in early autumn to raise awareness and much needed funds to benefit people living with this terrible disease.
This year, Gainesville State College helped in this effort.
Professor Michallene McDaniel’s Contemporary Global Issues class raised an astounding $2,020.
“It was difficult in the beginning (to raise money.) But I was persistent and eventually raised $115,” said Jamie Curtis.
Raising money is a difficult task in this economic climate, which makes the money that GSC raised that much more extraordinary.
The AIDS Walk is a main source for funding for AID Atlanta and the 11 different organizations that collaborate with it.
Funding has drastically decreased in recent years, due to the recession. Unfortunately, in periods of economic disparity, sexually transmitted infections increase in diagnosis.
McDaniel, aware of this, decided to bring awareness to this issue.
Several years ago, McDaniel decided to begin teaching a class outlining the AIDS epidemic. The class is offered in the fall and is usually full.
McDaniel does not assign tests for this class, instead opting for service learning grades so students can participate in the lessons being taught, one such being the AIDS Walk.
“I’m glad I got to do the opportunity to do such an amazing thing benefitting so many people. (This event) has really opened my eyes to the challenges that people face every day, the constant battle that so many millions of people have to fight just to stay alive,” said Chelsea Nally.
That is one main goal for McDaniel’s class.
“People are still getting this disease, and they don’t have to,’” said McDaniel.
Another goal for the class is to end the stigma surrounding the disease.
McDaniel regularly invites guest speakers to talk with the class. One such speaker is a friend of McDaniel’s and is currently living with HIV, Jason Lee.
Lee was very open and honest, telling the class everything from how he became infected, to his self-destructive behavior after he received the positive diagnosis, to what life is like for him on a daily basis, and then offering to answer any questions the students might have for him. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” said Lee.
Students are shown several movies that address a variety of issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic.
At the beginning of the semester, McDaniel showed the HBO miniseries “And the Band Played On,” which followed the doctors and epidemiologists during the period of the outbreak, and described the government’s blatant disregard for the virus.
At the end of the semester, on World AIDS day, McDaniel’s class is planning something to inform the student body about HIV/AIDS. The details are still in the works but if it is anything like the rest of the semester, it is sure to be a complete success.