World AIDS Day aims to educate and inform


Photo by Olivia Madera

Several events were held on Nov. 29 to commemorate World AIDS Day including informational booths at the flagpoles, a display of quillts, and informational panel and a candlelight vigil.

Olivia Madera, Reporter

In honor of World AIDS Day, California Lutheran University’s Center for Equality and Justice held multiple events including informational tables at the flagpoles, a memorial quilt exhibit, panel presentation and a candlelight vigil to inform and educate about AIDS.

World AIDS Day is the remembrance and celebration of those lost to  Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, as well as a day to learn about the importance of sexual education and safety. 

“World AIDS Day is also a time of gratitude for health care providers as well as families and friends who are caregivers,” Director of Cal Lutheran’s Public Health Program Adina Nack said in an email interview.

The day began with informational booths at the flagpoles from Cal Lutheran’s Public Health Club, Planned Parenthood and Ventura County Public Health. Students were encouraged to pick up sexual health safety supplies and informational pamphlets on local health center locations that offer sexual health services. 

“We are giving out information that has to do with prevention like PrEP, ADAP medication and other services that we offer.” Ventura County Public Health Community Health Worker Melissa Figueroa said. 

Figueroa said that it is extremely important to get tested often, and that younger demographics should be aware of the many STDs that can be spread.

Following the flagpoles event, a memorial quilt exhibit was held in the main lobby of the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center. The quilts displayed were made by Quilt Project Gold Coast, a local volunteer nonprofit that creates and displays memorial quilts in order to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS. The nonprofit also holds speaker panels and informational booths at colleges, churches, festivals and through their very own Quilting Bees.

Neil Coffman-Grey and Keith Coffman-Grey are the cofounders of the QPGC, which was once a chapter of the National AIDS Memorial. 

“We could be called avid quilters, and have been quilting AIDS memorial quilts for over 30 years. Myself, I’ve made about 8-10 quilts for roommates and friends I’ve lost,” Neil Coffman-Grey said. 

Neil Coffman-Grey said QPGC several 12×12 quilt blocks from the National AIDS memorial this year. 

“Love and living with integrity are the vitamins that will help us live long lives,” Keith Coffman-Grey said. “People need to love those they know who have the disease, and give to nonprofits like quilt project who educate and raise awareness about the disease.”

The World AIDS Day Panel Presentation commenced in the Lundring Events Center hosted by Nack and featured several guest speakers. Nack presented on the definitions of HIV and AIDS. In her presentation, Nack also included the ways HIV can be transmitted while debunking myths on how the virus spreads. 

According to Nack, the phases of infection for HIV are acute infection, clinical latency and lastly AIDS. Nack explained the scope of HIV and AIDS both as a rapidly spreading U.S. epidemic first observed in the early 1980s to new medications in the 1990s helping treat those who have HIV and AIDS.

“In 2022, we’re over 40 years into this pandemic/epidemic, and I still regularly meet people who are not educated about the basics about this virus.” Nack said. “World AIDS Day is a time to shine the spotlight on the need to increase support for education and outreach, as well as to increase resources for medical research.”

Student Program Coordinator and Senior Rakaihya Thomas spoke about the statistics of HIV/AIDS in the African American community, the lack of sexual education and its affects on younger demographics, and  the importance of getting tested frequently.

“We go to the doctor every year to get our eyes tested and stuff like that so why not get our sexual health tested as well. It’s so important and it can save lives,” Thomas said. 

Thomas said that black women are 16 times more likely to contract HIV compared to white women, and black men are nine times more likely to contract HIV compared to white men, and marginalized communities are being affected at a higher rate. 

“These groups are definitely being affected and they definitely need the help and the money for these resources,” Thomas said. 

The conclusion of the day’s events was a candlelight vigil co-sponsored by Cal Lutheran’s Religion Department and religion professor Colleen Windham-Hughes. 

The vigil was meant to honor and commemorate those lost to HIV and AIDS through moments of silence, words of hope and the lighting of candles or incenses. 

“Vigil, related to the word vigilant, means keep awake,”  Windham-Hughes said.

Windham-Hughes said that by lighting the candles, it focuses attention and helps hold space for the AIDS community. 

“As long as AIDS is with us, it’s going to be necessary to use education and awareness to help people avoid getting the disease,” Keith Coffman-Grey said.