Advocates for HIV/AIDS awareness start conversation in Baker appearance

Advocates for the prevention of HIV and AIDS opened on the Baker University Center Theatre floor to a conversation regarding stigma, honesty and emotional turmoil resulting from personal experience of the virus.

Tyler Helms was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 and spoke Tuesday about the consequences of having unprotected sex, the impact of the disease and how he coped with it.

As part of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week on the Athens Campus, addressing the ignorance surrounding the virus is an important issue, said Terry Koons, Associate Director of Campus Involvement.

“We encourage students to get tested for HIV/AIDS,” said Koons. “Students this Thursday can get either an anonymous or a confidential testing for the virus. We are trying to have safer sex options open for students on campus.”

Confidential testing means that an individual will have the diagnosis associated with his or her name and that the health care provider and insurance company might have access to the records.

Anonymous testing means that the individual will get assigned a number and once diagnosed, no one other than the individual will know the results. The individual’s name will not be associated with the results of testing.

It is the individual’s choice whether or not he or she wants to become sexually active. However, the importance of getting tested is still crucial, said Lauren Jensen, a senior studying health services administration and an intern for the Department of Health Promotion.

“It’s important to know your status,” Jensen said. “This week we have a discussion panel, and discuss methods in having protective sex.”

The stigma of HIV/AIDS resulted in both negative and positive experiences after becoming open about his diagnosis, said Helms.

“It changes perspective. If we were all more honest with each other you’ll find someone who is similar to you,” he said. “However seeing someone you cared about not able to handle the reality you’re living, and not making an effort to be a part of my life is very hurtful. That’s why it’s important to initiate a conversation.”

Helms hopes that having discussions about getting tested for HIV/AIDS in relationships will provide a more understanding environment for people to be open about being diagnosed.

Helm’s speech about HIV/AIDS was important to hear, said Kyerra Carter a senior studying sport management.

“If you avoid talking about it, then it doesn’t exist anymore,” Carter said. “I thought Tyler was honest and open and I really liked him a lot.”

As for telling a partner about HIV/AIDS there is no perfect time, said Helms.

“If you can’t talk about it, think about the relationship,” he said. “It might just be a hook up and not the intimacy you’re looking for.”


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