Speaker Discusses the Facts and Fiction of HIV

Photo by Andrew Leight

In recognition of World AIDS Day on Tuesday, a portion of the national AIDS quilt was brought to Friends Hall, a tapestry that features decorations and designs to honor those who have died from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Ramapo described the quilt in a press release as “a 54-ton tapestry that includes more than 45,000 panels dedicated to more than 88,000 individuals. The first 40 panels of the quilt were displayed at San Francisco City Hall in 1987. In addition to national displays, most notably in Washington, D.C., there have been tens of thousands of smaller displays across the country.”

Dawn Breedon, a motivational speaker and activist for HIV awareness, spoke to a group of students gathered in Friends Hall standing opposite from the AIDS quilt.

“Almost one out of every eight people [who] are infected [don’t know they are infected],” Breedon began, “So if you haven’t been tested, you are a victim of the stigma. A lot of people go, ‘Oh, not me!’”

Breedon shared with the group that HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, is spread through four fluids: breast milk, semen, vaginal fluid and blood. She also went on to explain how the rips and tears that can occur during sex spread HIV.

Breedon also spoke of a time when HIV diagnoses were hidden, even between children and parents.

“I had a friend of mine named Lolita, and Lolita found out she was infected when she was 18, after she had relations with her first boyfriend,” said Breedon. “She went to get tested, and found out she was infected and that the medicine she had been taking since she was a little girl was actually HIV medication. So she was unable to tell her boyfriend because she didn’t know because her mother had a hard time acknowledging that she was infected.”  

Breedon’s experience with HIV didn’t end with second-hand stories, however. She herself is HIV positive.

“I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, 100 percent, that I was going to be negative, because I wasn’t sleeping around, I wasn’t doing drugs, I was doing what society said was acceptable. I was loving my man, and notice I didn’t say my ‘men’, so I knew without a shadow of a doubt I was going to be negative … I didn’t fit into the high risk ground,” Breedon told. “I tested positive.”

After her speech, Breedon took questions and encouraged the crowd to ask real questions, asserting that a serious topic like HIV and the way it is spread warrant real and direct answers. The student reaction to Breedon’s speech was overall positive.

“I feel it was very informative. I think it’s good for people to know about the subject, and break down the stigma,” said junior Lisa French. “I think the stigma is everywhere, and no place is immune to that mentality. There’s always room for improvement, but Ramapo is generally good with the Women’s Center.”