UConn student group Partners in Health Engage organized a die-in protest on Friday Dec. 1, in the center of campus to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS here in America and around the world. They decided to have it take place on World AIDS Day and it proved to be a dramatic protest, with several students lying down in front of the library pretending to be dead, representing the men and women who have lost their lives because of HIV.
Partners in Health Engage were accompanied by other students surrounding them with signs bearing facts about the disease. The event took place a few minutes after noon when classes were letting out, and the area was filled with students and faculty.
The sight of students lying on the ground in the middle of campus attracted plenty of attention, and several people stopped to take photos and talk with organizers to learn more.
“It’s important to use methods that might make people uncomfortable in order to get them talking about these taboo topics," Christian Velez, a student who participated in the event, said. "I think the die-in was the perfect example of how to elicit an interest for such an important and often neglected issue.”
Many of the signs held by students presented astonishing facts, including that one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Another sign reported that 115 people die every hour from AIDS.
Partners in Health Engage also stated that over 36 million people worldwide are still dealing with the effects of HIV and AIDS, and that nearly half of those people do not have access to treatments. The group also claimed that with the right funding AIDS could be eradicated worldwide by 2030.
“To lie on the UConn seal on Fairfield Way felt oddly powerful. A silent protest for those whose needs are not being met was a beautiful thing to be a part of,” said Eric Beltrami, who is the current trip director for the HIV/AIDS Advocacy and Awareness Alternative Break through Community Outreach and who participated in the event. “Senator Chris Murphy’s tweet on Friday evening supporting PEPFAR and increasing AIDS funding globally makes me believe this type of activism is not only effective, but the kind of activism that UConn should be demonstrating more often.”
Die-ins have been a historically effective form of protest, most notably used by famous advocacy group ACT UP in New York City. ACT UP stands for Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, and they were incredibly important during the AIDS epidemic here in America in the 1980s-1990s. They worked extensively to raise awareness about the disease in a time when many did not know the exact details of what HIV and AIDS were.
They frequently lobbied the government and staged acts of civil disobedience as the crises worsened and encouraged people to speak up and get the Federal Drug Administration to increase research on potentially life saving medications. In 1995 the FDA finally released a number of medications that had to be taken in tandem as a “drug cocktail” proved to be highly effective at making HIV undetectable in humans.
Seamus McKeever is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.