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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis students help fight AIDS epidemic

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Features

5 seconds.

Not much more than a heartbeat. Not much more than a slight turn of the head. Not much of anything. Yet within those 5 seconds, a person in a different part of the world just died. Be it a father, a mother, a son, or a daughter. Be it an Aunt or an uncle—it doesn’t matter, they were all loved ones. There’s only one thing that unites these immense tragedies; every 5 seconds, a person infected with HIV/AIDS dies.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic killed over three million people in the year 2000. That’s more than 35 times the amount of people killed by conflict, war, and disaster in the same year. Every day, it becomes clearer and clearer that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is becoming a struggle of biblical proportions. That’s why in 2005, a group of Brandeis Students teamed up to form the Brandeis chapter of SGAC: Student Global AIDS Campaign. The Student Global AIDS Campaign was founded to “Fund the Fight. Treat the People. Drop the Debt. Stop the Spread.” “Everyone knows about HIV/AIDS, but what they don’t realize is that it’s a problem that is not only increasing in size, but also in scope,” Said Samantha Greenberg ’10, who is the current co-President of Brandeis SGAC. “I feel like the Brandeis Students are in a kind of bubble, where we’re too consumed in our daily lives to realize just how much AIDS is affecting people worldwide,” added Stephen Sukumaran ’09, who also serves as co-President. Through its past events and future plans, SGAC has proven itself devoted to fighting the epidemic that is the HIV/AIDS virus.

Prior to the founding of SGAC, Brandeis Administrators did not provide the facilities or the inclination to provide HIV testing to students. Since its inception, SGAC has been committed to providing free HIV testing to Brandeis students. On a given date every year, SGAC runs an HIV testing event open to all students aged eighteen and above. SGAC operates under the rule that early detection means early treatment. With early treatment generally comes a better living condition and better psychological mindset regarding the disease. This year, SGAC will be hosting a free HIV testing event in the Inter Cultural Center on Friday, March 14. All students are encouraged to come and get tested.

The Brandeis SGAC has been involved with many other events inside and outside of the Brandeis Community. Many members actively volunteer at the Boston Living Center, which is a non-profit organization that serves the New England HIV/AIDS community. “It’s so easy to make a difference on a personal level to people who are affected by the HIV/AIDS. You’d be surprised just how many people are afflicted with the disease around here,” said Rachel Pulinthitta ‘10. The Brandeis SGAC also organized a candlelight vigil on December 1 last year during world AIDS week. “The vigil was a day of tribute for those who died of AIDS and those who are suffering due to AIDS,” said Lauren Maramara ‘09. “During moments like the vigil, it hits you just how saddening the AIDS epidemic really is.” Last year, proceeds from various fundraisers held by SGAC were donated to The Samoei Community Response for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children in Kenya.

Each member of SGAC has his or her own reason for joining the club. “I guess you could say the main reason for my joining this club was because I had a god-brother who died of AIDS,” said Stephen Sukumaran ’09. Whether it is personal experience with the disease or just simple curiosity, the Brandeis SGAC encourages all students to sit in on a meeting. “What attracted me to this club is that it is member- run. You don’t have to be a member of the E-Board to plan or start an event,” said Emily Frost ‘10. The Brandeis SGAC meets every Wednesday at 8:00 PM in the Shapiro Campus Center, room 315.

It is no secret that HIV/AIDS has become a major problem in modern society. It is organizations such as the Student Global AIDS Campaign that fight every day to make even the smallest of differences in the global fight against AIDS. Simply by raising awareness and by providing aid to nations afflicted by the disease, SGAC furthers the cause on a global scale. In the end, it comes down to simple numbers. How many lives were saved as a result of SGAC’s actions? More importantly, how many lives could be saved as a result of your actions? If it was me, just one would be worth it.