The Power of Zero: WCU participates in World AIDS Day

Students from Western Carolina University’s Catamount Communications have partnered with The Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) to promote HIV/AIDS awareness in anticipation of World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1.

WCU students preparing to be tested for HIV on Nov. 28, 2016. Photo by Amber Degree.

WCU students preparing to be tested for HIV on Nov. 28, 2016. Photo by Amber Degree.

Kicking of the week of events, the Western North Carolina AIDS Project provided free HIV Testing on the WCU campus on Monday, Nov. 28. HIV testing is an important tactic in the fight to prevent the spread of HIV. Roughly 44 percent of youth ages 18-24 years living with HIV do not know they are HIV-positive.

“For those people who experienced the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s, it is so important to raise awareness of HIV,” says Jesse Oates Vest, Special Events Coordinator for WNCAP. “These testing events play an important role in raising awareness and reaching those populations of the world where this disease has yet to be eradicated.”

In total, 27 students used this resource and got tested in the A.K. Hinds University Center.  Catamount Communications teamed up with WCU’s Intercultural Affairs Office to help sponsor and plan the event.  WNCAP testing specialists administered the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV ½ Antibody Test. This screening tool provides results in 20 minutes, enabling people to learn their status in a single visit and allows people who have a reactive test result to be connected to care immediately.

On World AIDS Day, WNCAP will host a free event at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, NC.  Cecil Baldwin, best known for his work as the host of the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale,” will make an appearance.  Baldwin himself is HIV positive and is a well-known, outspoken advocate for LGBTQ and HIV issues.

Other events of the day include Continuing Education Unit (CEU)-accredited educational seminars on health literacy (from 10 am to 12 pm) and HIV, STDs, and Harm Reduction (from 1 pm to 2:30 pm). There will also be a screening of the documentary, “The Last One,” about the hopeful last square to be placed on the AIDS quilt, before Baldwin’s talk.

The primary aim of this event is to raise awareness of the ongoing prevalence of AIDS and to work towards a future where there are zero new AIDS cases.  WNCAP wants to let the public fully understand ‘The Power of Zero.’

WNCAP invites all members of the Asheville community and surrounding areas to attend the events whether they are seeking to remember a lost friend or loved one or to support WNCAP’s efforts to reduce HIV diagnoses worldwide.