The Next Steps Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Photo Credit: Kevin Moore Photography

So you took a literal stand against Pediatric HIV/AIDS. You raised $260 and learned some things that you may have not known before. You visited Cause Corner, Family Corner, and maybe got a massage too. You may have forgotten what happened or how you felt during the crazy, long 26 hours that you stayed awake, but we are now going to think about that time again. You made an impact on the lives of people you do not know. You came to the event and you can now dispel the myths associated with HIV/AIDS. You may not have heard from anyone infected or affected with HIV/AIDS before, but now you have. You should know that you have made a difference and made individuals feel loved, whether it feels like it or not. So, yeah, you did Dance Marathon. But now what?

Although Dance Marathon was just one weekend, you have the power and knowledge to spread change. You do not have to be a scientist or professional speaker in order to do so; even the smallest actions can take effect. It is important to remember that Pediatric HIV/AIDS is not only an issue leading up to Dance Marathon; it is an issue that shakes the lives of people every day, every year. The world is big (and it is okay to feel small) but here are a few ways you can stay in touch with the cause:

Know your status.

It sounds cliché, but it is truly important. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence, so knowing your status can keep yourself and others healthy. Testing is available in both clinical settings, such as laboratories, and non-clinical settings, such as at home. Find out more information here: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/testing/. There is no problem in knowing.

Get involved.

Yes, you can always get involved. However, getting involved in this cause also has the benefit of reducing stigma. You can advocate, research, volunteer, listen to others, even share your story. There is a power in numbers. Find out more information here: https://www.cdc.gov/actagainstaids/campaigns/lsht/getinvolved.html. There is no harm in acting.

Carry this knowledge with you into the future.

If there is one thing to take away from Dance Marathon, it would be that activism does not need to stop in Pauley Pavilion. No matter what field you pursue, your knowledge can be applied. For example, there are opportunities in business, law, healthcare, art, education — you name it — where you can share what you have learned. The AIDS epidemic is not over so there is no reason to stop fighting.

Find clubs and organizations that are equally as passionate.

On every university campus, there are numerous clubs involving HIV/AIDS. The club likely already has events that you can play a role in. For the same reasons that lead someone to get involved on a larger scale, you can find at a smaller scale. No opportunity is too far away.

Never forget that time that you were inspired by Dance Marathon. You left accomplished and with a new understanding of the hardships that people face. You made a difference. Do not let your efforts stop: you hold the power.

Being involved in the Pediatric AIDS Coalition was easily one of the best decisions I have made as a student at UCLA. Everything we work towards as an organization is a constant reminder of our fight against Pediatric HIV/AIDS. Pediatric HIV/AIDS is preventable, and we continue to bring awareness to the cause until our battle is over.

“When there’s a cure, we’ll dance for joy. Until then, we dance for life.”

Written by Katie Dahlerbruch