Selena Burgess stood in front of Hayden Lawn at ASU and handed out the red safe-sex packs to students on their way to class Monday.
"I like to say it’s the best party in a bag," said Burgess, a graduate student in social work.
Wo rld AIDS Day brought out students and activists such as Burgess at Arizona State University and Mesa Community College.
Their message: Don’t be complacent.
"Young people don’t think this could happen to them. They don’t believe they are at risk," said Freddy Roman, a senior health educator at ASU. "We still have an epidemic in this country."
Half of the world’s new HIV infections occur in people younger than 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
In a 2002 survey conducted by ASU health officials, half of the student participants said they didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex.
"People are still as promiscuous as they were in the ’80s," said ASU sophomore Tiffany McCracken, who stopped by to show her support and pick up a red ribbon.
Representatives of Body Positive, YouthC.A.R.E. and other organizations that support HIV/AIDS awareness offered free and confidential 20-minute HIV tests to ASU students. A record 56 signed up. Some students grabbed handfuls of free condoms on the sly, while others asked questions and picked up information packets.
The number of HIV/ AIDS infections in the United States continues to rise — 40,000 each year. The CDC also estimated that 850,000 to 950,000 Americans are HIVpositive — and a fourth of them don’t even know it.
These numbers, however, are eclipsed by global estimates. The United Nations reported that 3.1 million people worldwide succumbed to AIDS last year and 5 million more became infected with HIV. Most cases are in Africa.
Since 1981, about 8,600 people in Arizona have been diagnosed with the disease, and more than half of them have died, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Last year, 63 women and 379 men were diagnosed HIV-positive. The racial groups most at risk in the state are blacks and American Indians.
At MCC, YouthC.A.R.E. held workshops on sexually transmitted diseases besides HIV/AIDS.
"A lot of people don’t know how much of an issue it is," MCC student Chad Jewell said. "There’s a lot of ignorance out there."
Get a free and confidential 30-minute HIV test 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays and 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Body Positive, 1144 E. McDowell Road, Suite 200, Phoenix. Spanish-speaking clinicians are available Mondays. For more information, call (602) 307-5330. The Maricopa County Department of Health will also test for other sexually transmitted diseases for $20, which includes medication.