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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    AIDS talk takes aim at ignorance

    Girl meets boy, boy has virus. They fall in love and relationship happens anyway.

    Having human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, does not mean a relationship cannot happen or will not work, Shawn Decker said last night during a World AIDS Day event.

    Decker, who is HIV positive, and his wife, Gwenn Barringer, who is HIV negative, visited the UA as part of their national tour to promote HIV awareness and prevention.

    The presentation, attended by more than 40 people in Room 350 of the Modern Languages building, was put on by the Residence Hall Association and Maricopa Residence Hall.

    Various organizations set up booths, including those for Planned Parenthood, Campus Health Service and the Women’s Resource Center.

    Decker, who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion when he was a child, has been with Barringer for eight years. The couple has been giving presentations on school campuses since 2000.

    In 2000, Decker said, students appeared to be better educated about HIV than students today, even though they continue to get information about acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, through federally funded abstinence programs.

    “”AIDS is a very serious problem and yet people tend to ignore it because it is a sexual-health issue and people don’t like to talk about sex,”” Decker said.

    People assume that if they are not tested for HIV, then they are not infected with it, Decker said.

    With one out of every 500 college students infected with HIV, there are potentially 60 students at the UA with the virus, said Cynnamon Woodberry, vice president of programming for the Residence Hall Association.

    “”Some of those 60 people might not know they’re infected and their partners might not know it, and it is a vicious cycle,”” she said.

    There needs to be more AIDS education provided on college campuses because the disease cannot be cured unless people acknowledge it, Woodberry said.

    Barringer said sexual culture in the U.S. is backwards because many people have touched a penis before a condom.

    “”Condoms are part of the deal,”” she said.

    Despite having HIV, Decker said he and Barringer are still able to have a sexual relationship as long as a condom is worm properly.

    “”It is all about keeping Gwenn safe,”” he said.

    Decker said one of the ways he has been able to survive and thrive has been his ability to laugh at himself.

    “”I think medical stuff was in my cards since the beginning, since I was born under the cancer sign and my parents gave me the initials ‘STD,'”” he said.

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