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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Pamphlets, Condoms and Bumper Stickers

Last week two guest speakers, both HIV positive, shared with a Wheatley cafeteria audience their experiences with the virus at the first annual HIV/AIDS awareness event sponsored by the Advocacy Resource for Modern Survival Center (ARMS). Listeners were encouraged to get tested, to take control of their health and to help prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The February 25 event was open to all UMass Boston students and faculty to promote knowledge and awareness of the disease. Numerous pamphlets on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, as well as condoms and bumper stickers were provided upon entering.

“I’m not sure how I was infected,” said the first speaker, Mike, who is in his late thirties, as he described his experience with HIV.

At 17 he began using cocaine and heroine, “I didn’t clean needles,” he said, and added he had overdosed many times. At the age of 20 he was homeless and later joined the military. “I found out accidentally through the military reserve. I thought I would die, so I kept using,” he said.

Mike has now been infected for over 15 years and drug free for 12. Although he is taking medication for pain, the drugs cannot cure the brain lesions that formed from years without HIV treatment and a hole in his brain caused by cocaine use. Unprotected sex resulted in a daughter, now 10, who is HIV negative, but whose mother died four years after being exposed to the virus.

The second speaker, Michelle, is in her forties. She had worked at an outreach program encouraging people to get tested when she finally took her own advice.

“When I found out, I didn’t feel worthy of being a mother,” she confessed.

She realized that she could only live with the virus if she talked about it. Both speakers were trained at the Boston Living Center Speakers Bureau and have been speaking around the state, primarily to elementary and high school students.

The fifty-plus students and staff in the audience were confident enough to ask questions of both speakers and Pat Halon, a family nurse practitioner. When asked how to act with those infected Mike answered, “Treat them how you’d want to be treated.” Michelle added, “Kids are great, they ask for hugs after I speak. I still deserve to be loved and hugged.”

The main goal of the event was to “make sure that UMB students know the facts, resources, and information on how to be safe and get help if they need it. In turn, these students can educate others and we as a nation can understand and therefore help those who need help,” explained Daphnie Armand, coordinator of the ARMS Center.

The Arms Center is a public service and support center that conducts fundraisers, educational events, and workshops on topics such as low-income families, domestic abuse and homelessness.

The event, and the lunch buffet which followed, were made possible with the help of the Black Student Center, the Asian Center, Casa Latina, the Queer Student Union, the Alcohol and Addiction Resource Center, the Veteran’s Center, and programs for low-income housing and food stamps.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays UMB Health Services offers rapid HIV tests called OraQuick-rapid HIV-1 antibody test, a finger-stick blood test which offers same day results. The cost is $25 for students and $35 for faculty and staff, and a second confirmatory test is free. Prior to the test, one half-hour of counseling is recommended and available. If interested call Health Services at (617) 287-5660. Appointments are made using only first names to ensure confidentiality. For more information on the ARMS Center, call (617) 287-7169 or e-mail [email protected].