Guest Opinion | IC RED promotes conversation and events to focus on the HIV/AIDs epidemic

The president of IC RED writes on the importance of awareness and education of sexual health and safety to help defeat HIV/AIDs.

Names+of+people+who+have+died+from+the+AIDS+virus+are+read+aloud+outside+the+Old+Capital+building+by+a+volunteer+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+20%2C+2019+as+part+of+the+University+of+Iowas+seventh+annuad+RED+Week+hosted+by+the+UI+student+organization+IC+RED.+The+event+lasted+from+dawn+to+dusk+with+readers+taking+five-minute+shifts.+It+is+estimated+that+nearly+681%2C000+people+in+the+U.S.+have+died+of+AIDS+since+1981.

Emily Wangen

Names of people who have died from the AIDS virus are read aloud outside the Old Capital building by a volunteer on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 as part of the University of Iowa’s seventh annuad RED Week hosted by the UI student organization IC RED. The event lasted from dawn to dusk with readers taking five-minute shifts. It is estimated that nearly 681,000 people in the U.S. have died of AIDS since 1981.


When I joined IC RED — a University of Iowa student organization dedicated to raising awareness, erasing stigmas, and defeating HIV/AIDS — in 2019, I knew I had joined the right organization where I could use my voice to make a big impact. As a Global Health Studies major, I was exposed to the gravity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its tragic history on humanity.

Now, I am honored to lead IC RED to initiate conversations about HIV/AIDS that strive to improve education, identify resources, and promote prevention through sexual health and safety.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it seemed like every health care-related issue was overshadowed, including the existing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

However, as the world begins to open up and life resumes to normalcy, it is important now more than ever to return the focus back to HIV/AIDS.

Despite COVID-19, the HIV/AIDS pandemic rages on with more than 1.5 million new HIV infections and 680,000 AIDS-related deaths across the globe in 2020 alone, according to UNAIDS.

UNAIDS also reports that, as of 2020, approximately 36.7 million people lived with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the U.S., an estimated 1.3 million people are infected, with about 13 percent of people unaware of their status because they are going undiagnosed due to a lack of access to testing services, and the five-year asymptomatic period of HIV.

In Iowa, there are more than 3,000 people currently living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.  And the 2015 outbreak in Scott County, Indiana — with a population of just 24,000 — is a devastating reminder that this is still a public health emergency.

While there still is no cure for HIV/AIDS, global infection rates have dropped dramatically thanks to increased knowledge about the illness and education.

This progress encourages us to continue with two of our principal goals: raising awareness and erasing stigmas. The more open and honest conversation occurs about the problem, the more progress is made.

All people, no matter if you are an “at-risk” population, have the right to be aware of preventative, diagnostic, and treatment resources.

On the 33rd anniversary of the first World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, IC RED is dedicated to refocusing attention on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Starting on Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, IC RED is hosting RED Week, a week of events in commemoration of World AIDS Day.

Community members are encouraged to participate in the range of events during this week. A full schedule can be found on our Facebook page.

Research is funded when there’s a push for a cure. Awareness and education are essential for this issue to gain attention and improve health outcomes.

As progress continues, we move toward our third and final goal as an organization: to defeat HIV/AIDS. I encourage you to start talking, keep talking, know your status, and join us in IC RED Week in our fight to defeat HIV and AIDS.

 -Sarah Luke, IC RED 2020-2021 President

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