Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DM is.... two days away???

Hey DMers! Tonight we held our kick off dinner at BU Central, where our Dancer Relations chair Jen taught us the line dance we'll be doing every hour. She also gave us some great tips on what to pack for the night of DM- don't forget extra socks and a tooth brush (brushing your teeth helps wake you up)!

After doing what we (well, at least I) do best chowing down on Cane's and Sal's pizza, the DM chairs got everything ready for the weekend. We stuffed bags with all kinds of goodies for the dancers- but I'll leave that as a surprise for you on Saturday!

We hope everyone is PUMPED for our event this weekend! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at Don't forget to get as much last-minute fundraising in as possible- we've been going up thousands every day! Remember, $15 provides one woman with the services she needs to prevent passing HIV to her unborn child.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HIV in Mexico: ADPi event

Last night, Alpha Delta Pi held an HIV education workshop with Alfredo Hernandez, one of my new favorite people. Alfredo told us his inspiring story about growing up gay in Mexico, exploring his sexuality in college and then falling in love with a student from Boston studying Spanish in Mexico. The catch? That student was a woman.

When Alfredo went back to Boston with his wife, immigration services tested him for HIV, and he found out he had the virus. Alfredo swears he knows he contracted the virus in college, as he engaged in risky behavior with no knowledge of condoms or STDs.

His wife was negative since they used condoms as their method of birth control, and his wife's family surprised him by showing solidarity and support. Alfredo soon began understanding his sexual orientation, and now, he lives with his partner, who is negative, and travels the country educating people about safe sex.

Alfredo said that awareness about HIV and practicing safe sex has only improved slightly since he was in college in the 1980s, and mostly in a few major cities. He also observed that lots of students he talks to across the country seem to get their knowledge about HIV and AIDS from each other, proliferating myths.

Instead of asking your friends, the best way to educate yourself about HIV and other STDs is by asking your doctor. You can also visit websites Alfredo recommends below:

Alfredo answered any questions we had with humor, compassion and genuine concern for our own sexual health. He now works at the Education Development Center in Newton. Thanks to ADPi for a great, educational event!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


So there's been this hashtag on Twitter lately that started around Valentine's Day, to #lovesafely. UNAIDS started the trend as part of their Prevention Revolution campaign. But what does this actually mean? Using a condom? Making sure your partner has been tested? We're hosting some more free HIV testing in the GSU this Thursday (third floor, 10 am to 2 pm). But why is this important?

Some people think HIV and AIDS aren't a problem in the United States anymore, especially at a "rich kid" private university like BU. But for those of you with the attitude that people on this campus shouldn't need to get tested, you are the reason why the stigma of HIV still exists.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the United States has been virtually eliminated. Many communities most affected by HIV in the US are yes, of low socioeconomic status. But we as leaders in Boston, in the United States and around the world should fight the stigma against those that have HIV. We should get tested proudly, because it's the smart, safe thing to do, rather than treating HIV testing as taboo. By getting tested regularly, we can make sure that we keep these infection rates low.

Some of you may say- well, using condoms is common sense. We all learned that in sex ed in high school. But did you know the porn industry in the U.S. prefers not to use condoms, because filmmakers believe fewer people will watch? This approach has caused actors to contract HIV. Condoms aren't sexy, according to porn stars.

Students at the University of South Carolina recently fought against this idea. USC hosted an event last week called Project Condom, where students and groups across campus designed dresses made entirely out of condoms. Models strutted their stuff covered in rubbers down the runway, and with heads held high, they made the most fashionable statement of all- #lovesafely.

Credit: Keri Goff, The Daily Gamecock

Pictured above is a model in the Project Condom show at USC. Read the full story here.

We at BU are lucky to have access to HIV testing and treatment, and we should take full advantage of it. You don't have to come to our event to be tested- there are tons of resources on campus and in Boston. Just check out this list by the Community Service Center. Above all, have fun this Spring Break and #lovesafely!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cutting USAID and Country of the week: Malawi

According to a recent news article in the Nyasa Times, Malawi is having a difficult time addressing a huge pediatric HIV epidemic. The article reported there are 91,000 children under 15 living with the disease in Malawi, but there are virtually no anti-retroviral (ARV) medications designed for children in the country.

These 91,000 HIV-positive children in Malawi are among 2.1 million children worldwide who are living with the disease.

There is currently legislation making its way through the Senate that would cut U.S. aid to organizations that work to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

If the Senate approves that legislation, an additional estimated 20,000 newborns would also contract the disease, according to the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

You can make a difference by signing a petition against this legislation here.

Children who are currently affected by HIV in Malawi have to break an adult ARV pill in half, which is the correct dosage but difficult for children to swallow. Only less than two-thirds of the 91,000 children affected are getting any medicine at all, and those that do find it tough to stick to strict treatment regimens.

The pediatric ARV medicine is very expensive, and some non-profits working in the area said the government has not tried to cooperate with them to secure the necessary medication. They argue the government could help establish a factory to produce the ARV medicine.

The national budget, however, has reduced the portion of the budget devoted to health from 15 to 13 percent since 2006, the article said.

Situations such as these show the importance of increasing foreign aid to nations with the epidemic. NGOs on the ground are in need of more support than ever, and the bill approved in the House of Representatives threatens the worldwide goal of producing a generation free of HIV.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Country of the week: India

Hey DMers! Thanks to everyone who came out for our two 50 Days events at BU Central and Pour House. Dance Marathon is coming up so quickly, and we are really excited for the number of dancers we have signed up so far!

To continue our exploration of AIDS around the world, we'll talk a little about the epidemic in Asia. India and China are the future of the AIDS problem. The Indian government has neither acknowledged nor provided resources for the growing number of infections, and hospitals often provide counseling but no medicine.

In India, infection of only 5 percent of the population translates to 50 million people. HIV positive women in India are deemed worthless and are kicked out of their homes. The infection, though often transmitted by a man, is always blamed on women. Social and cultural barriers to prevention in the country include the importance of having children to verify a marriage. Often, women in India will knowingly contract HIV to get pregnant rather than leaving their marriage.

One of our charities, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, has provided more than 800,000 women in India with critical prevention of mother-to-child transmission services. The Foundation continues to provide critical prevention services, along with counseling for HIV-positive and HIV-negative women in India.

Source: A Closer Walk, 2002.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Countdown to DM: Ukraine

Hey, DMers! Since we are getting SO CLOSE to Dance Marathon (our 50 Days event is next week!), I thought I'd start featuring a new country every week to show what the AIDS epidemic looks like around the world (our DM theme this year!).

When many people think of AIDS, they think of Africa. But today, the epidemic is spreading fastest in post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe. For example, Ukraine is currently experiencing an epidemic among intravenous drug users in the 20 to 39 age range.

In Ukraine, a bad economy has created a young generation of people without hope for the future. They turn to drugs, especially liquid heroin, for distraction. The liquid heroin is cheap, and users share needles to feel part of a "brotherhood." The Ukrainians are unprepared for such an epidemic. The government is poor and has no experience with something like HIV and AIDS.

The infection rate of intravenous drug users in Russia and China was 70 percent in 2002.

However, programs have sprouted up encouraging the use of clean needles and condoms. These programs also offer counseling, which is crucial in a culture where no one talks about AIDS.

Source: A Closer Walk, 2002.

Friday, January 7, 2011

More from our World AIDS Day speakers!

Laura, our Public Relations Chair, just put together another video recapping our World AIDS Day speakers from Camp Heartland! This video features Sasha, who met her husband Mark on Camp Heartland's Journey of Hope program.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolution: Get tested

Hey DMers! Hope everyone is having a fabulous winter break. Just a little update after World AIDS Day- because of limited resources and lots of interest, we had to turn away quite a few students from the free Rapid HIV Testing on the second day. However, the Community Service Center has put together this great list of free places to get tested around Boston!

Make it your New Year's Resolution to get tested! If you'd rather do it in the privacy of your own hometown, ask your physician to give you a test over break. And remember, you can always make an appointment at Student Health Services.

We at Dance Marathon are looking into hosting more Rapid Testing in the days leading up to DM in the Spring- Tweet at us/direct message us with any other suggestions! @BUDanceMarathon Have a safe, happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World AIDS Day 2

As part of World AIDS Day last week, Dance Marathon hosted two speakers from one of our charities, Sasha and Jeffro from Camp Heartland. Mark, a former Camp Heartland camper, was unable to make it to Boston University that day, but his wife, Sasha, came to share their story.

Sasha and Jeffro were both counselors at Camp Heartland, a camp for children with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Camp Heartland provides kids with a place to go to feel comfortable and have fun in a safe environment. The camp is a place where kids don't have to worry about being judged- from what Sasha and Jeffro have told us, many campers don't share their condition with their friends at home, and the stigma against HIV is still alive and strong in the United States.

Sasha told us that her husband Mark was born with hemophilia, and he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. He couldn't tell his community he was HIV positive as he was growing up, but after attending Camp Heartland and then becoming a counseler, be began to speak out against the stigma. Sasha met Mark on Camp Heartland's Journey of Hope AIDS Awareness Program, which is a bus tour around the country where campers visit schools, churches, universities and other community groups to share their stories. The Journey of Hope program aims to convey these messages:

1. AIDS is preventable
2. AIDS is not transmitted causally
3. All people with AIDS deserve compassion
4. Get tested

For more information about Journey of Hope, click here.

Jeffro shared with us a song of hope written by one camper he has worked with, and Sasha shared with us the ways her and Mark are trying to have a baby. Sasha told us about the ways she and Mark can help prevent their future child from contracting HIV, which include sperm washing (semen carries HIV, but sprem does not).

We learned so much from Sasha, Jeffro and Katie, a nurse from Boston who has worked at Camp Heartland and also came to speak with us. Thank you so much to them, and we hope everyone who attended learned as much as we did!