Students paint to eliminate HIV, AIDS stigma

Students use paint brushes, trays and easels to translate their ideas of AIDS in the world onto a canvas during the Paint for Peace awareness event Wednesday afternoon on Hayden lawn. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

Students memorialized those who have died from AIDS at Paint for Peace 2012 on the Tempe campus on Wednesday.

ASU and the Tempe community celebrated World AIDS Day with HEAL International’s fifth annual Paint for Peace event on Hayden Lawn.

HEAL International Student Club Chapter President Amanda Stadel said Paint for Peace is the largest HIV and AIDS event in the state.

She said the event started five years ago as a subtle way to bring awareness to the disease and breach AIDS-related stigma.

“Paint for Peace is a positive and peaceful way of educating and empowering people without forcing flyers at them,” Stadel said.

Students and community members get the chance to paint a canvas, promoting education and awareness for those at risk.

Each canvas must have a red ribbon on it.

Canvases that are dedicated to someone who has died of AIDS are sewn onto the National AIDS Memorial Quilt. Other canvases will be put on display or used in other project sites.

Stadel is working on getting the canvases sewn into a large ribbon in an effort to “take art and put it back in the community.”

HEAL International Event Coordinator Mia Wright, a microbiology junior, said this is the third year the event was hosted on campus.

The group aims to make students aware of how the disease can affect them personally.

“Anybody is at risk, it doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “Everyone has the power to protect themselves, and if you don’t know, you can’t protect yourself.”

Wright said about 14,000 people in Arizona have been diagnosed with HIV and there are many more who are unaware of their status.

Events like Paint for Peace are an inviting way for people to take it upon themselves to learn about sex and HIV prevention, she said.

Other ASU and community organizations assisted at the event.

ASU Health Services staff physician Jo M. Knatz said Health Services has been working with Paint for Peace to promote testing.

ASU Health Services is offering free HIV testing through Dec. 7 when students present a free testing voucher.

Knatz said most students don’t get tested because they believe they can’t contract the disease.

“Most leading new AIDS cases occur in 18- to 24-year-olds who are sexually active,” she said. “Get tested so that we can find it early and treat it. Magic Johnson is a perfect example of this.”

Terros Behavioral Health, a health services clinic in Phoenix, handed out safety barriers and had female and male condom demonstrations.

Terros Behavioral Health employee Maria Jagles said this is the company’s second year at the event.

Terros hopes to promote STI testing by having a booth at the event, she said.

“We want to make everyone more aware,” Jagles said. “Just because the disease is now manageable does not mean it has gone away.”

ASU’s student club chapter of HEAL International was started by Damien Salamone.

The club aims to promote public health, educate and bring awareness to many health issues.

Besides hosting events like Paint for Peace, HEAL International has project sites in Arizona and Tanzania.

Every year, HEAL International sends people to Tanzania to promote public health and teach children about HIV, AIDS and malaria.

Wright participated in a four-week-long trip to teach at local schools, orphanages and churches last summer.

“It was a humbling but inspiring experience,” she said. “It makes you realize how fortunate we are to live where we do.”


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