Dean Renee White talks about importance of World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is observed each year on December 1 as a way to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. There are several events planned at Simmons and throughout the Boston area aimed at educating the public on ways to help stop the epidemic.
Simmons College of Arts and Sciences Dean Renee White is the author of numerous monographs, journal articles, and book chapters focusing on issues of HIV/AIDS in the United States, girls' and women's health, and women's leadership, race, and inequality. She says the AIDS pandemic is a global issue and tells us why it's important to continue to raise awareness.
- What is biggest misconception about the disease?
- People are not aware that while an HIV-infected person can live with the virus, there is no cure. We have to always remain vigilant and provide information about prevention and also provide the tools necessary for people to engage in effective prevention.
- How does AIDS/HIV impact communities differently?
- Within the U.S., blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. Latinos are 16% of the population and accounted for 20% of new infections. Also, about 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV and they have the shortest lifespan following progression to AIDS. This has been the case for many years, yet for some reason near World AIDS Day there is usually some news story "uncovering" this shocking fact. What is shocking is that we have to keep reminding people about this.
- What are the biggest concerns related to the spread of the disease?
- People need to consider HIV/AIDS within a broader set of health related issues. For example, HIV transmission among heterosexual women is linked with sexual transmission and injection drug use. Therefore, reducing risk for them must involve addressing injection drug use more generally and also discussing how women engage in sexual negotiations with their partners. For young men who have sex with men (MSM), since recent trends indicate that Black MSMs are the one group with the most significant increase in HIV-infection, we might need to think about how they perceive of themselves as sexual beings, whether they are being effectively targeted by educational and prevention campaigns.
- Why is AIDS still an important disease to eradicate?
- I see this in a global context. Management and reduction of a disease that is relatively easily transmissible--especially via injection drug use and certain kinds of sexual activity--as meriting continued coordinated, international attention.
We do not live in vaccumes so we are not disconnected from one another; we travel, meet and have sex with people from different parts of the world, and so on. For that reason, managing the disease here matters because we should want to ensure a high level quality of life for all citizens and because as citizens of the world we should see the value in either importing or exporting effective public health strategies in order to improve health world wide.
Want to get involved with World AIDS Day? Vist the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts website or attend one of the following events being held on campus:
- AIDS Quilt Display, December 1, 11:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. and December 2, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Linda K. Paresky Conference Center
- Screening of the Documentary "We Were Here", December 1, 5:30 p.m., Kotzen Room