The red ribbon is a well known symbol for AIDS awareness. Photo for The Alabamian.
According to AIDs.gov, more than a million people in the United States have human immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV. One in eight people don’t even know they have it.
To raise awareness and give people in the Montevallo community the chance to get tested, Elise Hayes partnered with Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) to plan Eclipse’s Magic City AIDS Walk Party on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 10.
The idea for the event came easily to Hayes, a senior social work major, because she frequently volunteers with BAO. BAO provides free services like housing and related healthcare to people living with HIV, services for LGBTQ individuals along with free STD and HIV/AIDS testing.
“As a member of the LGBT community, many members of this population are dear to me,” Hayes said. “We wanted to throw a party to promote the AIDS walk coming up on the 27th of September so that we could include the people of Montevallo, get our name out there, and provide the option of free testing in our town.”
Hayes and Jamie Whitehurst, BAO’s development director, chose Eclipse as the location of the party for its “inclusive atmosphere”
“We called and they were happy to host the event.” Hayes said.
The tests administered were bloodless rapid HIV antibody tests where individuals swab their mouths with the given cotton swab. They’d be called with the results the next day.
“They’re really great, easy tests to do,” Whitehurst said. “No blood, it’s just a simple mouth swab.”
Providing the music for the evening was SEOUL, a local band fronted by UM students Joseph “JoJo” Markel and Matt Suddarth.
Markel, a senior mass communication major, described SEOUL’s setlist for the night as “dirty RnB”, featuring covers by The Weeknd and The Internet along with two original songs.
“It’s mostly just to have a super kick*ss fun time, not necessarily to show off all the music we write.” Markel said. “It’s not about us.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in four of all new HIV infections are among youth ages 13 to 24. Hayes hopes that this event will show the importance of getting tested and raise sex education awareness in Montevallo.
“If we don’t educate,” Hayes said, “How will people prevent it?”