2011 marked 30 years of AIDS recognized as a national pandemic and Keene State College worked hard to bring attention to that. On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness club held events in the student center to bring awareness to the issue.
One event aimed to engage KSC members with remembrance, understanding, and compassion toward HIV and AIDS. Gay presidential candidate Fred Karger joined the college and spoke about where he stands on the issue today and talked of his personal experiences with the disease.
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“It’s just a very emotional thing for me. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about strides that are made and to teach people to promote and practice safe sex in order to stop the spread of this terrible disease,” Karger said.
He said as a presidential candidate he wanted to promote prevention and find a cure for the disease.
Karger said, “What I said at the time when I first started running was that I wanted to bring the consciousness up of HIV and AIDS and talk about it, to talk about a cure, to talk about prevention, a vaccine, and everything that goes with those two areas.”
Karger circulated around the Mabel Brown Room, where the AIDS Memorial Quilts hung, and brought awareness of the AIDS pandemic to the college. The quilts that were put together had pictures, quotes, and other art forms to honor victims of the pandemic.
Susan MacNeil, executive director of AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region, brought the quilts along with Karger to KSC to teach students about the pandemic.
“The quilt is a profound teaching tool that helps viewers understand the impact of the AIDS pandemic, which reached the 30-year landmark in 2011,” MacNeil said.
As Karger walked around room, he commented on the appreciation he had for the quilts.
“As I’m among the quilts and as I speak about HIV and AIDS, it brings up a lot of memories, but I’m also encouraged by the great progress we’ve made,” Karger said.
Along with finding a cure for the disease, Karger said as president he would want people to talk about the issue more and bring more awareness to the disease along with ways of prevention.
“Spontaneity needs to be governed by safe sex. [That is the] most important thing, particularly college students, need to be aware of that and keep that in mind,” Karger said.
MacNeil showed her support for the ideas of the presidential candidate, in regards to finding a cure for the pandemic.
“It is unbelievable to consider that after three decades, we still do not have a cure or vaccine for AIDS. We continue to see new HIV infections rise, and that stigma, discrimination, and fear have not been dispelled,” MacNeil said.
Karger said the issue needed to be talked about more in order to promote increased prevention and awareness.
“It’s a reminder. These quilt panels are so important and World AIDS Day is so important but we need this 365 days a year, not just one,” Karger said.
Holocaust and Genocide Awareness club encouraged more understanding of world issues and brought recognition to human rights, genocide, and remembering the victims of mass violence. Members of the group held a Human Rights Art Slam in the Lantern Room the same night that Karger visited the college. KSC student and member of Holocaust and Genocide Awareness, Bridget Love, said the group wanted members all over campus to come and show support of the victims around the world.
“This event was an attempt to involve other groups and students within the KSC community. Students were able to share their art, perform slam poetry, spoken work, visual, and dance,” Love said.
With competition from other events held on campus the same night, the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Art Slam did not have as great of a turnout as hoped.
MacNeil said with small turnout, she was happy that the people who did show up showed appreciation with Karger for the Quilt Memorial.
“I’d hoped more people would attend but if only one person is impacted by seeing the quilt, that’s enough,” MacNeil said.
Love said that even though they wanted more people to join the Art Slam they still had three performances and 15 people attended at the start of the event. Love said two members of the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness presented their past experiences going through Holocaust sites. She said along with the presenters a slam poet presented some of his work.
“Slam poetry is a great way for someone to present their work because it is very interactive and shows their vulnerability,” Love said.
The club planned the Art Slam for only one semester, but the group decided to put it on again in the spring. “I believe that we could put this event on again next semester during a more ideal time with more publicity and community outreach to make this event bigger,” Love said. Karger stressed the importance of continuing awareness of the worldwide issues and talking amongst others to bring more attention on it.
“We need to keep hammering that message home,” Karger said.
National AIDs Day took place on Dec. 1 and was another campus event that helped KSC members recognize the importance of bringing attention to the worldwide struggle.
Jen Richards can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.