Second annual ‘Cookies and Condoms’ event raises sexual awareness today

To raise awareness and emphasize the importance of strong sexual health, members of the organization People Respecting the Identity and Diversity of Everyone will host the second annual “Free HIV testing with Cookies and Condoms,” event on Feb. 7 in the Clark Student Center as a part of activities to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day for Black History Month.

According to organizers, the aim is to target the entire student body, and not just the black community, in a way that will allow students to be comfortable and engage in casual discussion about sexual health, attain resources and still have some fun and a small treat.

“Black History Month is not just rehashing history, but also about education awareness, addressing contemporary issues and making people aware of what those issues are,” Syreeta Greene, director of Equity, Inclusion and Multicultural Affairs, said.

Greene said it will be a way to make sure the issues are highlighted as well as a way to ensure and help students practice healthy sexual relations.

Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, coordinated by the Strategic Leadership Council, promotes HIV education, testing, community involvement and treatment among black communities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV and those ever receiving a diagnosis of AIDS than other races and ethnicities.

“[Last year’s event] was received very well. We had probably a couple hundred bags of cookies and condoms and passed out all of them,” Greene said. “Some students were a little reluctant to grab a bag, but we distributed all which also contained information packets.”

According to Greene, it is important, particularly within a university context, to steer the conversation in the right direction.

“Part of the challenge that you have is that you have young people who were just at home two seconds ago, now at college and you are exploring, figuring out things and you are transitioning. But what sort of missed is the conversation of now with this new found freedom, what is it that you do with it and how do we prepare young people to have conversations about sex,” Greene said.

PRIDE members have hosted free HIV testing booths in the past with hopes of eliminating the stigma against HIV/AIDS, which include free HIV testing in honor of the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day 2017 and a 5K run/walk on World AIDS Day 2016.

Because of the ambiguity surrounding HIV and AIDS, Christopher Cruz, former PRIDE president and theater junior, said people should create an awareness month for HIV and AIDS.

“Why do we have Breast Cancer Awareness Month or pancreatic awareness? It’s the same thing. Let’s create awareness for HIV/AIDS,” Cruz said.

According to Cruz, it’s important to encourage people to care about their personal health and he is urging students to turn out in large numbers wearing the color red.

Kerdell Cuffy, finance freshman, said, “It’s a good initiative and something youth should practice, especially sexually active youth.”

Cuffy said some people don’t like relationships and just want to have sex, so it is better to be safe, and that the event promotes awareness as well as offers a sweet treat to incentivize and de-stigmatize the discussion. Although the sweets can be seen as a distraction for some.

Okan La Fleur, mechanical engineer senior, said while he is in support of the event, he fears the desire to make it a “happy” event doesn’t make it any better.

La Fleur said, “[Students] should just hold the discussion without sugar coating things with cookies.”