SFA’s League of United Latin American Citizens partnered with the Brown Family Health Center to administer free HIV testing to all students in hopes of breaking the stigma around HIV/AIDS and spread awareness in their first ever Let’s Talk About HIV/AIDS event on Oct. 17.
Because of their ever-growing campus involvement, the nationally recognized organization was offered funding to host this event, including resources such as T-shirts, flyers and pins.
“We were granted a scholarship by LULAC [national] and the CDC to put on an event,” Jennifer C. Lopez, LULAC officer and music major from Waco, said.
“We’re the Texas two-time winning council of the year, as well as nationally. With that comes a lot of responsibility on our part to make sure that [we] are reaching out to students,” said Juan “Andy” Lara, founding president and junior ecology evolution and astronomy major from Dallas. “With this event, it gives us power to do more on [our] campus.”
When asked why HIV/AIDS awareness was chosen to host an event for, Lopez said that it’s important to spread awareness to the Latino community due to statistics, but the awareness and overall message is there for everyone.
“It’s important for the Latino community because one in six Latino men are infected with HIV, and they have no idea because there is a cultural stigma that men don’t need to check on their health,” Lopez said. “In general, as young people, one in four people are infected with HIV and they don’t know. That’s scary, especially on a college campus.”
Many students signed up to be tested, some stating that this was not their first time.
“It’s scary because you never know, but it’s something you always hear about people having,” said Suzie, education major from Houston. “It’s kind of scary, but it’s relieving after. I know [having HIV] doesn’t change everything, but it does change your way of having relationships. It’s not that it’s embarrassing; it’s hard to talk about.”
Students also felt that by this being available to students on campus for free, it does make an impact in spreading awareness.
“We’re at this age where we’re starting to find ourselves and find what we feel comfortable with,” Tatiana, pre-vet major from Houston, said. “It’s definitely a good place to nip it right in the bud.”
“[This] is something that is so impactful, letting people know about HIV/AIDS and the effects it can have on you and your family,” Lopez said. “And having a family of your own and what you can do if you are positive. Just breaking the stigma. It’s really important to do that.”
Founded in the fall of 2017, LULAC has since sparked the founding of other Latinx organizations, such as JOLT and Texas Rising.
“Simply us being here has already promoted growth in other Hispanic organizations,” Lara said. “Just our simple presence has brought a lot more attention [and] gave people the courage to actually come out and be free to speak out about the issues they feel, about the color of their skin.”
While LULAC is a Latin American organization, they fight for the rights, well- being and safety of everyone.
“It makes a difference to know that there is a community on campus for everyone,” Lopez said. “It’s not just for Hispanic people; we accept everyone. We are fighting for everyone’s rights.”
“Background, race, color—it doesn’t matter. LULAC is here for you, we’re here to give back to you,” Lara said.