A student’s reflection on gaining awareness

Kihinga George, a 21 year old from Tanzania, visited Wilkes University from Oct. 6 to the 20.

His trip was sponsored by Dr. Linda Winkler, professor of anthropology at Wilkes and a private donor, Ed Meehan. After 18 months of planning and working to obtain a visa for Kihinga he was able to spend two weeks in the United States.

Along with Bishop Reverend Ralph Jones of the Northwestern Synod of the ELCA,  Winkler founded an AIDS control program in Tanzania.

Kihinga became an orphan at a very young age due to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Since 2011, Zebra Communications, Wilkes University’s student-run public relations agency has raised money to support several other orphans as well as Kihinga.

Meeting Kihinga in person, as a member of Zebra Communications, made me realize the AIDS epidemic is more important than I had originally thought.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, in 2012, 1.2 million children were orphaned by AIDs and about 1.5 million people, of all ages, in Tanzania were living with HIV.

I then decided to look at statistics in the United States about AIDS because in there are such high numbers in Tanzania. In doing so, I found on the United Nations Children’s Fund page for the United States, that there is very little information for the year 2012 when it comes to the subject.

The only information that I could find were the highest estimation and lowest estimation of people of all ages living with HIV. In 2012, the low was 920,000 people in the United States, while the high was 1.8 million – a large gap.

National HIV Testing Day in the United States is June 27. To find out where you can get tested, the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website has a link to “Find Testing Locations.”

All that is needed is the person’s city and state or ZIP code to find the locations closest to them.

People can also filter their results to find what they are looking to get tested for more specifically, as well as find out if the facility offers HIV Testing for free, Conventional HIV Oral Tests, or testing for other STDs.

According to the website for World AIDS Day, there are an estimated 34 million people, globally, living with HIV and more than 35 million people have died from HIV, making the virus one of the most destructive epidemics in history.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, which is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from the virus.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people to learn more about HIV and put their knowledge into action.

The World AIDS Day website also stated that this day is important because although there are many scientific advances in the HIV treatment, people still do not know the facts when it comes to protecting themselves and others from HIV, or the shame and discrimination that remain all too real for many people living with HIV.

To show support for people living with HIV, on World AIDS Day, people can wear the international symbol of HIV awareness and support – a red ribbon.

Also according to their website, this day reminds the public, globally, that HIV has not gone away and that there is still a need to raise money, increase the awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

You don’t have to wait until December 1st. Call Caring Communities at 570-829-2700 for a free HIV/STD testing today.

Colleen O’Callaghan is a senior communication studies student.