Friday, May 16, 1997

Campus Events Heighten AIDS Awareness

Campus Events Heighten AIDS Awareness
Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea
Student Activities Correspondent

HIV and AIDS Awareness week is taking place May 11-May 17 at the University of Chicago. Various campus lectures, student plays and movies are all being presented in order to educate the University community about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a serious and terminal illness.

The week is sponsored by HIV/AIDS Awareness Program (HAAP), a two-year-old U of C community service group.

On Sunday, May 11, a group of students went to St. Catherine’s Hospice, for a day-long volunteer project. This hospice provides free housing to people with HIV and AIDS as well as people with drug and alcohol abuse problems. St. Catherine’s, located at 65th Street and Ellis Avenue, is the only South Side-based housing area for people with HIV/AIDS.

“We provide housing, food, emotional support, and a community,” explained Maren van Drimmelen, a German Peace Organization volunteer who has worked as a counselor at St. Catherine’s Hospice for over a year.

Many of St. Catherine’s residents are African-American males aged 23-30 who usually live there on a temporary basis. Although St. Catherine’s accepts as many residents as it possibly can, it is often difficult to get full-time staff to volunteer since no benefits or insurance are offered. The hospice, which is affiliated with a Catholic parish, receives funds, food, furniture, and other amenities from private donations and contributions from local parishioners.

The film, “Mary Lou: A Reflection,” was shown at the U of C Biological Sciences Learning Center, Monday, May 12. The movie chronicles the life of a young woman who attended Northwestern University and later received her M.A. in library science.

According to Wendy Lichtenthal, founder of HAAP and a third-year student in the College, the women featured in the film was an “ordinary,” suburbanite who contracted the disease in her first sexual relationship in college.

The disease quickly progressed and Mary Lou lived for a short while with a zero-level T-Cell count, which, for a person afflicted with AIDS, essentially means that he has no resistance to fight any illnesses to which the body might be exposed. Mary Lou died in 1994 at age 29.

Other movies and documentaries that deal with HIV and AIDS were shown throughout the week.

Tuesday, May 13, a panel discussion was held at Max Pavelsky Theatre in Ida Noyes Hall. The noted speakers were Michael Heflin, deputy director of Amnesty International USA; Michelle Mascaro of the AIDS Foundation, Chicago; and Heather Sawyer, AIDS Project State Attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. The speakers, who came to speak gratis, discussed the legal and social issues that effect AIDS victims.

“In Chicago, 6,500 people have full-blown AIDS. For all of Illinois, there are about 40,000 people who are living with HIV,” said Mascaro. She went on to add that it is difficult to approximate percentages regarding people living with the virus. Therefore, these statistics, Mascaro said, are a “conservative estimate.”

People in the 18-24 age group, regardless of sexual preference, are contracting the disease at the highest rate of all age groups. This is particularly apparent in the black community.

According to Mascaro, there are more than one million people in the United States who have HIV/AIDS.

The speakers discussed the amount of discrimination that still exists towards HIV/AIDS-infected individuals, especially in the employment field, insurance policies, the penal system, and the immigration system which bars HIV-positive people from [e]mmigrating to the U.S.

Heflin provided an international perspective to the discussion. Many individuals in foreign countries are arrested, jailed, tortured, and even killed if they are suspected to be HIV-positive or providing their local communities with HIV education and prevention. Amnesty International legally lobbies to represent people who are persecuted in this way.

The HIV virus is mainly transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. Other means of transmission include sharing needles with infected people or passing of the virus from mother to child during the nine-month gestation process. All blood to be used in blood transfusions in U.S. hospitals is tested for HIV to protect against the contraction of the disease.

HAAP will provide free anonymous HIV testing at a designated U of C testing site, which will be on a date to be advertised around the University area. The testing will be available to anyone in the community. The free HIV testing includes short, informational counseling sessions, both of which will be delivered by qualified AIDS Project-trained employees.

Other events include a Thursday study break with condom demonstrations and a Saturday Dance-a-thon Fundraiser for AIDSSCARE. HAAP also currently has informational tables on the main Quadrangle and in the Reynolds Club with HIV/AIDS literature.

HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, co-sponsored by Student Government, had less than $300 dollars to sponsor all the activities for the event. In years to come, Lichtenthal hopes to expand the number of people who can receive free, anonymous testing and provide the University with interesting, “informative” speakers.

For more information on HIV/AIDS Awareness week or HIV/AIDS, visit the HAAP webpage: or contact Wendy Lichtenthal at

Originally published May 16, 1997