Speakers lecture about AIDS, facts, myths, protection

By Joel Guggenheim

At NIU’s AIDS Awareness Day Thursday, guest speakers lectured in the sparsely-filled Holmes Student Center’s Regency Room about the facts, myths and proper precautions to take concerning AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

The awareness program, sponsored by Health Enhancement Services, the Gay-Lesbian Union and the Student Association Welfare and Minority Relations advisers, also included informative films, pamphlets and free condoms.

The main point stressed through the program was that anyone, not just homosexuals and intravenous drug users, can get AIDS. Currently, five people in DeKalb County are infected with the AIDS virus.

Topics covered by speakers Thursday included AIDS prevention, condom issues, treatment of AIDS victims and religious issues.

AIDS cannot be spread through casual contact, such as hugging or sharing food, clothes or bathroom facilities. The disease can only infect a body through the sharing of body fluids, such as the blood or semen of an infected person, through the sharing of IV drug needles or sexual activity.

Lux said the best way to prevent AIDS is through celibacy, but since that is not a realistic option with some people, condoms always should be used.

Early last year, condoms were sold at the university health center pharmacy at a cost of four for $1. Last spring, however, the health center increased distribution, and 8,000 condoms were given out for free in 43 days.

“We’re expecting 30,000 (condoms) to be distributed this year,” Lux said.

The condoms the health center distributes contain the spermicide, Nonoxynol-9, which kills the AIDS virus on contact. All condoms should contain this spermicide before being used in sexual activity.

Lux emphasized that sexual activity does not only include intercourse, and condoms also should be used when engaging in oral sex. A latex sheath, called a rubber dam, can be used to protect the body from direct, oral contact.

“The condom program has not gone without complaint,” Lux said. “Some students have called (the health center) complaining that they didn’t want their fees spent on free condoms. Some also have complained that the condoms are cheaply made and they break.”

He said, however, that all condoms must reach government standards before they are made available to the public.

Lux also addressed the issue of the future acquisition of about 30 condom vending machines for heavy-traffic areas on campus, such as the library basement, on a trial basis.

Since it is assumed that machines dispensing only condoms “would not go over very well in public places,” there is the option to install health product machines in school building hallways with only one column devoted to condom sales. Condom companies would pay NIU a 30 percent commission for permission to sell their products, 50 cents each, on campus. Many universities nationwide already have adopted this policy.

NIU Health Educator Joanna Deuth said, “Since researchers do not expect to find a cure in the next five to ten years, the thing that will save us is prevention.” Deuth continued to say that the best, preventative measures are long-term monogomy or condom use, and the worst thing a person can do is be inconsistent with prevention or be ignorant of the facts.

NIU student Gary Stittgen, whose brother died of AIDS last year, spoke on a more personal level concerning his experiences in dealing with a close family member falling victim to AIDS.

“AIDS is a problem that students should be very much aware of,” Stittgen said. “They can make a difference, not only by protecting themselves, but they can also help AIDS victims by just being there and dealing with the realness.”