AIDS treatment

Junior public health major Megan Dietz signs a banner Thursday morning in the West Mall as part of an organization fair for World AIDS Day. Student groups participated in the fair to bring awareness to and fundraise for topics related to HIV/AIDS.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Only 23 percent of sexually active students at UT use condoms regularly, said Guli Fager, health education coordinator for University Health Services at the fifth annual World AIDS day conference at UT.

The conference, hosted by the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the English department and student advocacy group Face AIDS, explored the current state of AIDS treatment and the policies that allow the disease to continue to spread.

Fager said she was concerned to find that of students who choose to have sex, only some regularly use condoms. She said condoms are the only way to protect from HIV without having both partners tested for the disease. Fager said her data came from 800 student respondents to a National College Health Assessment survey of UT students in 2010. She said outside research indicates students may believe testing both partners for sexually transmitted infections or using condoms is not necessary because they trust their partner.

The UT chapter of Face AIDS, a student group dedicated to combating AIDS, spent Thursday hosting free HIV testing for students and coordinating a fair of AIDS awareness booths on the West Mall, president and nursing junior Reba Carethers said. Face AIDS helps those affected by AIDS in Austin, including underrepresented groups often not taken care of by conventional programs, such as incarcerated people affected by the disease, Carethers said.

Carethers said the group also raises funds to combat HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. She said Face AIDS held a Child Back to School campaign this year to help children in Rwanda who have AIDS return to school.

“We raised $2,000 and were able to send 20 kids back to school,” Carethers said. “We found that when we place them back in school it helps a lot more with their disease. They are able to cope better with the disease and even thrive.”

Face AIDS holds fundraisers throughout the year, such as the a condom fashion show where contenders dress up in creations made entirely out of condoms and their wrappers, Carethers said. She said the group also sells beaded red-ribbon pins handcrafted in Rwanda for $4.

“The cost of one pin can stop a mother-to-child transmission,” Carethers said. “It also pays for three months of anti-viral treatment for the child. In sub-Saharan Africa, life-saving retroviral medicine for one person costs 40 cents per day. That’s nothing compared to the cost in the U.S.”

Sociology professor Matthew Flynn said the cost of comparable anti-viral treatment in the U.S. for one year ranges from $10,000 to $15,000.

“That’s due to a variety of contributing factors, but patent laws play a big part,” Flynn said.

Neville Hoad, English professor and member of the advisory committee to the Rapport Center said the mix of Face AIDS’ good work and the tolls AIDS has taken on its victims were the reasons for mixed reactions to World AIDS day.

“On one hand it’s a remembrance for those who have fallen to the illness,” Hoad said. “On the other hand it’s a celebration of the steps we’ve taken to prevent its spread.”

Printed on December 2, 2011 as: Face AIDS promotes HIV testing