For many students, this week consists of digesting leftover Thanksgiving turkey, preparing for upcoming finals, and stressing over next semester’s schedule. But Nov. 26 through 30 also marks a more important global event—World AIDS Week.

Throughout the week, campus groups have came together in support of this nationally recognized week of awareness.

“This year we have a ton of great programs for World AIDS Week,” said Devon Golaszewski ’08, who is the co-president of Wesleyan’s chapter of the Student Global Aids Campaign (SGAC).

For this year’s World AIDS Week, the SGAC and student group AIDS and Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA) have paired up to raise money and spread awareness of AIDS. Both groups are sponsoring a variety of activities, kicking off with a free STD testing event on Wednesday. This was followed by a fundraising dinner featuring a talk by guest speaker Lisa Harper, the Executive Director of New York Faith and Justice.

The events will continue throughout the day today. At noon, a joint Middletown-Wesleyan World AIDS Day Vigil will be held in the Olin Lobby.

“[The vigil] is always a wonderful collaboration between local organizations and student groups that include Wes a capella [performances], brief speeches and music performed by Middletown residents,” said ASHA co-coordinator Micki Baron ’08.

The week’s events will come to a close with a speech by Peter A. Selwyn, a doctor who is also the chairman of the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He will be speaking on Saturday Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. in PAC 002.

“[Selwyn] has worked both nationally and internationally as an AIDS doctor and will provide an overview of the pandemic through a review of his own personal experiences,” said Golaszewski.

While students typically hear about SGAC and ASHA around the time of World AIDS Week each year, both groups work throughout the year to educate the University community about issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Founded in 2001 by students at Harvard University, SGAC is a national organization. It has now spread to over 85 other colleges and high schools across the country, including Wesleyan, which started its own chapter just a few years ago.

The SGAC website explains that it envisions “a world in which AIDS is no longer a death sentence, in which economics and geography do not determine access to life-saving drugs, and where every woman, man, and child has the knowledge, means, and rights to protect her- or himself from infection.”

Golaszewski underscored the importance of spreading awareness about the AIDS pandemic, as well as raising money for the cause. She explained that SGAC goes about these goals in a variety of different ways.

“In general on campus we host events to raise awareness about global AIDS, by sponsoring movies, art shows, speakers and by putting on fundraisers,” Golaszewski said. “We also do a lot of political advocacy in order to use our power as students and constituents to affect U.S. policy and action around the world.”

ASHA is another campus group that spreads AIDS awareness, and also promotes general sexual health, both on Wesleyan’s campus and in Middletown.

“ASHA is a multifaceted student group that teaches about AIDS and sexual health awareness in local high schools,” said Rashida Richardson ’08, who coordinates ASHA with Baron. “We fundraise for and work with various local community AIDS organizations, and we also do a bunch of different activities involving AIDS and sexual health awareness around [campus].”

Baron noted that sexual health awareness may not be addressed properly in high schools or may be more accessible when coming from a college-aged teacher.

“We design and teach our workshop to a variety of different schools,” she said.

ASHA currently comprises about ten volunteers who teach in the schools on a regular basis, but there is also a larger group of volunteers who help with other ASHA events around campus.

Both SGAC and ASHA say that they are excited for World AIDS Week as well as the events they have in mind for the rest of the year.

“Our events next semester will be focusing on prevention, and activities based around making sure that the major presidential candidates have a comprehensive plan on HIV/AIDS in their platform,” Golaszewski said.

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