ASU fighting to raise aids awareness

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University is fighting to keep its students educated about sexually transmitted diseases.

Arkansas State University held its third annual AIDS conference on Wednesday. Students, faculty and staff were invited to attend a number of different events planned for the day.

Dr. Patricia Guy Wells of Arkansas State University says they created this conference years ago because they noticed a need in the community.

"We started this conference about three years ago in an effort to make the community aware of the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in our community and in surrounding communities."

Dr. Wells says the conference has grown over the years and this year they felt the need to add more.

"We're doing something a little bit different this year. We have a local speaker , Dr. Carr Abraham. And we're also doing a panel this year so that we can get students involved in asking questions and digesting some of the information that is being presented at the conference."

ASU Junior Lajoya Reed says she attended the conference because she wanted to be aware of the AIDS epidemic and what is happening.

"I've learned that AIDS and HIV has decreased since the public was first made aware of it. I was also surprised to learn that it's so high in the south rather than the north. The reason, I guess, is because in the north they're talking about sex and in the south we practice abstinence."

Dr. Walls says their speaker, Dr. Abraham presented a local study of the disease for the audience.

"Dr. Abraham has done a good job of bringing the disease home. He's talked about it from a local level, regional level, state, as well as a global level. One of the things in particular he pointed out is the rate of the disease in Craighead County. HIV and AIDS as well as sexually transmitted diseases."

Lajoya says she feels a conference like this is something everyone should get involved in, "This is something a lot of people should attend because you learn so much and the reason for those things."

Dr. Walls says the biggest contributing factor to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is silence, "It is vitally important that people attend these conferences. In the south, right now, we hold one half of the HIV and AIDS cases in the US. We're also in a rural community. People are not talking about the disease and that is one of the reasons the disease is increasing. We need to be prepared to talk to our children about safe sex if they are going to be involved in sex because that is how the disease is transmitted. And so, attending this type of conference not only equips people with information that they can take back home hopefully and talk with their children, but also to talk with other family members and other people."

For more information about this conference, log onto their website.

©2010 KAIT All rights reserved.