UTEP Rainbow Miner Initiative holds vigil for World Aids Day

Claudia Flores, Staff Reporter

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On Thursday night, the Rainbow Miner Initiative organized a vigil at Centennial Plaza to promote World Aids Day which is celebrated on December 1.

For the event, various guest speakers were invited to share information and personal stories to educate and eliminate the stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS.

“The first time I heard about HIV, I was 16 years old and I was walking into a local night club and  I came up to this bright poster in front of the door and it said ‘If you had two sex partners and your partners had two sex partners and their partners had each another two partners and on and on then it’s like if you had sex with 510 people anyone of them could’ve given you the virus,’” Izzy Mora, 49-year-old director of marketing and public relations of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37 years ago the first case of HIV was diagnosed in the United States.

“I didn’t know what HIV was, I was 16-years-old and this one man told me ‘Haven’t you heard there’s this disease and they’re calling it the Gay Cancer,’” Mora said.

There were 1.8 million new cases of HIV in 2016 worldwide, 36.7 million people living with HIV that same year and an estimated of 1 million people died from AIDS-related illness, according to CDC.

“I was at dinner with an ex-boyfriend and I started to get calls from my mom and all I did was press clear, but when I answered it was call to tell me that my brother had an accident and, in the physical, they found out he was HIV positive,” Rene Duarte, 34-year-old lifestyle ambassador at Hotel Indigo said. “It was the first-time initial feeling for all the people that have lost their kids, or friends that gone through it. I never knew the depth of their hurt until I got that phone call.”

On April 24, 1980, Ken Horne was the first person to be officially diagnosed with AIDS. Eight years later, World AIDS Day was initiated by health ministers from around the world.

“It’s important to walk together as a community to walk and support each other because is very easy to forget about the past especially about the past, and is very important for us know that we lost a whole generation that we could’ve learned from” Eder Perez, 21-year-old  UTEP Mathematics senior said, “ As a gay person is hard to find a mentor that could help you to go through life and losing such a big generation is a loss to our history and to our community.”

To complement the global World Aids Day 2017 campaign the World Health Organization will highlight all 36.7 million people living with HIV and those vulnerable and affected by the epidemic.

“For the families who are going through it is just as hard as for the person who is living it. You’re standing there watching the people that you love feel a fear factor that you can’t remove” Duarte said.

According to the CDC limiting the number of sexual partners, never share needles, using condoms every time during intercourse are ways and abstinence are some ways to prevent HIV.

“Don’t be ashamed and be an advocate to save people lives, tell your friends. If one person is affected and you helped them you already did your job because I find myself in a place right now that we have so much work to do,” Duarte said.

“Remember those who are facing a terrible disease, remember those who need to get informed  and again stick out for your fellow man, educate, donate, keep your friends aware stay protected, stay vigilant and I guess in honor of my best friend who died after a long and disturbing battle with HIV I say ‘I remember,’” Mora said.

 

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