The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus Alliance for Equality will host an HIV awareness presentation Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 11:45 a.m until 1:15 p.m. in Fleming Center Education Room 101. The event is free and open to the public, according to a USM press release
Theresa Youngblood, executive director of the South Mississippi Aids Task Force (SMATF), will lead the presentation on making students more aware of HIV/AIDS. SMATF, a nonprofit organization based in Biloxi, provides free HIV testing, transition housing, a food pantry, direct financial assistance, a 24-hour hotline and support groups. Youngblood’s lecture is part of the Alliance for Equality’s monthly meeting.
Sarah Ladner, vice president of the Student Social Work Association and on the executive council of Alliance for Equality, said regardless of sexual orientation, this is an important topic that many college campuses do not discuss enough. According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2013 HIV Surveillance Report, Jackson ranks fourth in the nation for the highest rate of new infections per capita.
Ladner said according to a Human Rights Watch 2011 publication, we are severely lacking in the states’ response to HIV/AIDS. She said some of the findings include: a failure to invest in programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, denial of comprehensive sex and HIV/AIDS information in schools, state-sponsored homophobia, the use of criminal law to address HIV/AIDS and public health practices that undermine human rights.
Alliance for Equality’s mission is to provide a supportive, safe social setting for LGBTQ+ students and straight friends and supporters on the Southern Miss Gulf Park Campus, according to a USM press release. The Alliance offers educational resources to the college and community regarding issue of gender and sexual diversity, as well as provide a vehicle of social and political action in regards to issues of gender and sexual diversity on a local, state, national, and international level.