Thursday, December 08, 2005

Loyola hosts AIDS Day events

Loyola Phoenix - Chicago,IL,USA... She shared her personal experiences struggling to treat AIDS patients and eventually resorting to holistic medicine in attempt to curb the rampant effects. ...

In the week following a school break dedicated to giving thanks, the Loyola community paused to study an epidemic leaving its afflicted thankful for every day they have alive. On Thursday, Dec. 1, in honor of World AIDS Day, the College of Arts and Sciences sponsored a variety of events on both Loyola campuses. Events kicked off Nov. 30 on the Lake Shore campus with the AIDS Community Resource Fair in Centennial Forum Student Union. A variety of local businesses and organizations came to promote awareness to students and provide information about AIDS.Among the day's events, the Wellness Center offered free HIV testing to students and held a "Living with AIDS" panel. Students heard firsthand accounts of how the disease affects one's life and the truth about how it can be contracted.On Dec. 1, events hosted at the Water Tower campus included several workshops in the Rubloff Auditorium and Reception Room at the 25 E. Pearson Building.That afternoon, professors Kathleen Harrison and Karen Egenes, from the School of Nursing, discussed the effect of AIDS on women in Africa.Harrison discussed the risks of the disease's prevalence among the female population in Africa."Fifty-eight percent of HIV patients in Africa are female," Harrison said. "Which means HIV not only spreads horizontally, but vertically as well." The term 'horizontal spread' refers to the transmission of the disease from partner to partner, while vertical spread refers to the transmission from mother to child. Harrison also discussed how husbands pass the virus to their wives and then mothers pass it on to their children. Because many Africans are living in extreme poverty, mothers with AIDS cannot afford to feed their children formula and must breastfeed them to keep them alive. These children succumb to AIDS as infants, as the transmission results from their continual contact with fluid from the mother. Harrison shared her experiences in an African orphanage for HIV-positive children, which was founded by Angelo D'Agostino, S.J.

The orphanage, Nyumbani, acts as a refuge for many of the children who are abandoned or orphaned as a result of AIDS by providing basic care for the children.Egenes was part of a select group of Loyola faculty and staff that journeyed to east Africa last school year to work with the women and children affected by AIDS. She spoke of the significant obstacles Africans deal with when confronting AIDS as well as the stigma often associated with it. "Life expectancy at birth has dropped to below age 40 in nine African countries," Egenes said. "Huge economic burden, healthcare costs, culture, ignorance, poverty, war, politics, religion and the low status of women and kids all affect the spread of the disease." Egenes also discussed how 36 young women to every 10 young men are infected with the AIDS virus. Many attendees thought the presentation was a great opportunity to educate the community on a vital issue facing the world today. "It's important for Americans to be educated about [an issue] so global," graduate student Stephanie Lambert said.Between presentations, visitors were able to view powerful images from Africa of the slums in which many children orphaned by AIDS are forced to live. The photographs were taken by documentary photographer Sally Christenson and will be on display at the 25 E. Pearson Building through Dec. 12.A panel discussion on the impact of AIDS followed later Thursday afternoon. Speakers discussed a variety of issues pertaining to the AIDS epidemic. Ayana Karanja, director of the Black World Studies program, moderated the discussion.David Munar, policy director for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, began by discussing the problems with federal policy concerning HIV and AIDS."Federal funding has not kept pace with the epidemic," Munar said. "It is underfunded by at least $300 million. Current programs don't prepare people to take precautions once they become sexually active."

Dan Lunney, executive director for the National Catholic AIDS Network, spoke about the importance of the Catholic Church's role in helping victims of AIDS receive "non-judgmental" treatment, which means AIDS patients are not looked down upon as if they've done something wrong.Art Lugio, associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, presented another aspect of the AIDS epidemic when he discussed the effects of HIV in the prison system. "Three percent of federal and state inmates are known to have [HIV]," Lugio said. "Illinois ranked second in known cases in Midwestern states." According to Lugio, needle sharing for tattoos and drugs are the most common forms of transmission in prisons. He stressed the importance of making all community members aware of the risks.Ann Varghese of the American anti-poverty group ONE Campaign/Bread for the World, brought up the lack of government concern for the victims of AIDS. "We have technology and resources, but we are lacking political will," Varghese said. Working toward a cure for AIDS seems to get tied up in a lot of red tape, Varghese said, and the epidemic is not necessarily an interest of the government right now.Dr. Elaine Ferguson, author of "Healing and Transformation," concluded the panel. Ferguson recalled first hearing about the disease when it became widespread in the 1980s. She shared her personal experiences struggling to treat AIDS patients and eventually resorting to holistic medicine in attempt to curb the rampant effects.The event was co-sponsored by many organizations, including Advocate, Beta Rho Honor Society, the Wellness Center and the Center for Global Media and Documentary Studies.

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