More than one hundred Florida A&M students gathered around the Eternal Flame for a candlelight vigil ceremony last night to acknowledge World AIDS Day.
FAMU students took the time to give their condolences to those who lost their battles to AIDS.
The purpose of the event was to acknowledge those who were diagnosed with AIDS, lost their lives to the disease or are still suffering from the illness.
With theme of “Getting to Zero,” the master and mistress of ceremony, Duane McKinley and Talisa Saddler, respectively, and the keynote speaker, Dr. Perry Brown, emphasized the importance of setting the goal of making America an AIDS-free country through awareness.
AIDS has become one of the greatest threats to human health and growth. According to the International HIV and AIDS Charity statistics for 2010, 34 million people are living with AIDS. This disease mostly affects the African-American and Hispanic community.
Kenneth Joseph, a second-year pharmacy student from Delray Beach, attended the event, not as an individual who lost a loved one to the virus but as an advocate for AIDS awareness.
“This cause is very dear to me,” said Joseph, who is a liaison for the Department of Health and volunteers on the Set on Fridays, offering counseling, brochures, pamphlets and condoms to students seeking information.
“This epidemic needs to be stopped, and the only way it can be stopped is through awareness. That is the precursor in order to save a life.”
AIDS is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. The disease can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions and hypodermic needles.
FAMU Junior Attendant Alyssa Crawford revealed to the crowd that she was born HIV-positive. The Fort Lauderdale native gave tribute to those whose lives were affected by AIDS. She encouraged her peers to share their knowledge of AIDS to others so the pursuit of being AIDS-free is more achievable.
“Embrace the possibility of a world without AIDS,” Crawford said.
Brittney Wells made sure to get tested for AIDS out of respect for her uncle, who passed away from the incurable disease, and to protect herself.
For a more in-depth look into the disease, read The Famuan’s story of Alyssa Crawford’s personal account with AIDS on Monday.