There are 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV, and only one in five are aware of their infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On December 1, people all over the world will unite to support those who are HIV positive. Where will you be?
“It’s so important for college students to come exposed to knowledge about HIV. This is the one time in your life you’ll be around such a diverse group of people and ideas because you live in a place where everyone comes from a different background,” said Mathew Rodriguez, 23, the Editorial Project Manager of TheBody.com.
Rodriguez knew he wanted to be involved in HIV/AIDS awareness from a young age.
“I always firmly believed that you should use your talents to follow your passion,” said Rodriguez, who graduated from Fordham University with a degree in journalism. “My father was infected with HIV and he passed away last year. I wanted to dedicate my work as a writer to the HIV community.”
Rodriguez now works for TheBody.com, an HIV/AIDS source on the web that features blogs, videos and information about the disease.
“We work with activists, people who are HIV positive and medical professionals. We serve anyone who wants to know more about HIV,” said Rodriguez.
The website includes an “ask the expert” section, where people can come learn more about HIV from a doctor.
“We host content for people in any part of the spectrum on HIV knowledge,” said Rodriguez.
This month The Body is focused on World Aids Day, a day dedicated to remember those who have lost their battle with HIV and to get educated on how to help.
“I love that it’s at the end of the year because it’s a day to reflect on what our community has done through this year,” said Rodriguez. “We look at who we have lost, as well as what strives we have made in science and socially.”
Want to be part of World Aids Day? Rodriguez said it’s as simple as a click.
“People can get involved simply by using social media. Anyone can be an activist by tweeting and educating yourself. That’s the first step,” he said. “This day should energize you to want to do something about HIV.”
Rodriguez also suggested writing to a legislator about the stigma of HIV or searching for candlelight vigils in your area. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero.” The Body and several other organizations are working to strive for zero new infections and zero stigma about the disease.
College is a time for experimenting both inside and outside of the classroom. If you are sexually active, Rodriguez sais it’s extremely important to get educated about HIV.
“People think HIV is a punishment but once you understand ways to protect yourself and your partner knowledge can be your security blanket,” he said. “It can affect anyone. Making it a cross community discussion is really important. It’s not the LGBT campus clubs’ responsibility.”
This World’s AIDS Day, Rodriguez said everyone should take some time to learn more about the HIV community.
“You don’t know if someone is positive. They may not be open about it. One of the best ways is to educate yourself about it to reduce your own stigma.”