In preparation for World AIDS Day, Roosevelt University campus organizations came together in the fight against HIV.
While the peak of the global AIDS crisis has passed, 37 million people worldwide are still living with HIV. Many lack access to prevention or treatment.
“So much progress has been made, but there are still three people infected every minute with a preventable virus,” said Roosevelt professor La Vonne Downey, chair of the Roosevelt ONE chapter and UNA. “Where you are born still determines how you live, what diseases you get and if you get access to life-saving medicines.”
At Roosevelt, local and global organizations are redoubling their efforts to eradicate the disease.
Ending preventable disease
In the run-up to World AIDS Day, Roosevelt faculty and students joined the fight against HIV on an international front. The United Nations Association and Roosevelt ONE chapter collected 290 letters urging government officials to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The letters will be delivered to Illinois senators in the weeks to come.
The Global Fund invests in programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. In 2018, Global Fund–supported countries brought treatment to 18.9 million people living with HIV. The United States has long supported the international organization — it was the first to contribute to the Global Fund and remains its largest single donor. But the White House’s initial 2020 budget proposal included a major funding cut: $1 billion over the next three years.
ONE volunteers across the country campaigned for a pledge to maintain the U.S.’s one-third commitment to the Global Fund. During last year’s World AIDS Day celebration, students wrote 320 letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, advocating for the Global Fund. Roosevelt students added to a deluge of thousands of letters, tweets, emails and local newspaper articles from ONE volunteers.
Thanks to their collective effort, over half of Congress — including both Illinois senators — came out publicly in support of the Global Fund. After Roosevelt delivered letters to Congressman Danny Davis, written on American Dream Service Day, Davis co-sponsored the resolution to boost funding by 15.6%.
UNA and ONE will host tabling events throughout the winter and spring to write letters in support of the Gavi Fund, a global organization that improves access to vaccines in the world’s poorest countries. To get involved, contact La Vonne Downey.
Safe-sex kits for a healthier Chicago
Volunteers and student workers assembled over 1,000 safe-sex kits to protect people in need. The kits will be distributed around campus, at locations including the Office of Multicultural Student Support Services and the Counseling Center. The supplies will also be distributed throughout the city to other Chicagoans that need protection.
“Practicing safe sex is not only good for you to do but also for the person that you’re with,” said psychology major Cassandra Pagliaruli. “Providing that access to students in particular is really important to make sure that if they’re engaging in those activities, they have what they need to be responsible and safe at the same time.”
Young people with HIV are the most likely to be undiagnosed. Experts estimate that among people ages 13–24 with HIV, more than half don’t know they have it. With treatment, people living with HIV can reduce the risk of transmission to almost zero.
“If you don’t have access to condoms or STI testing because you can’t afford them, you’re really putting your health at risk,” said Elizabeth Grant, a master’s student in clinical and mental health counseling. “Particularly for populations such as African Americans, Latino Americans, women and people with substance abuse issues, it’s very important that we give them the means to protect themselves.”
Both Grant and Pagliaruli work at the Counseling Center, which offers free, professional counseling to all current students. The University also partnered with Howard Brown Health Center to offer free, confidential testing on campus.