AIDS awareness week educates

As part of Amnesty International’s AIDS Awareness Week, a discussion about the AIDS crisis in Africa was held Monday evening in Ritter Hall.

The event, attended by approximately 30 students, was led by Emmanuel Uwalaka, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Saint Louis University. Uwalaka, a native Nigerian,who spoke of the numerous reasons that AIDS has become such a problem in sub-Saharan Africa.

Uwalaka, who surveyed students at Saint Louis University in 1998, said he was surprised about the misconceptions that students had about how the disease is transmitted and not satisfied at all with their education level. Only 46 percent could identify the primary transmission methods, and many students thought it could also be spread through casual contacts, such as sharing drinks.

The role of the Church in educating Africans is something Uwalaka is interested in, especially since spirituality is such a major part of life in Africa.

“Which institution can the masses turn toward (for guidance)?” Uwalaka asked. “The Church could use the power of the pulpit to be frank about sex.”

He focused on his own experiences in the seminary, where speaking about sex was very “hush-hush.” One of his stories referred to a friend in the seminary who was punished for sending a letter to a woman.

There is a “conflict between morality and science,” Uwalaka said. The Catholic Church is adamantly against using condoms, even though they could be used to reduce the spread of AIDS. He would like to explore and interact with local churches who provide AIDS ministries to see the effects faith can have.

Uwalaka also focused on gender inequality and political issues as reasons for the AIDS crisis in Africa. “Given failing economic conditions (in Africa), everybody is looking for money,” he said. Therefore, no money is going toward the AIDS problem.

One student asked a question following the speech, about the level of sex education that is reaching the rural areas of Africa. Uwalaka responded by explaining that sex education rarely takes place at the urban level, once again bringing up his experiences in the seminary.

After the speech, the documentary “Coming to Say Goodbye: Stories of AIDS in Africa” was presented.

Freshman Andrea Brinkmann attended the event because she did not know the magnitude of the AIDS crisis in Africa.

“I didn’t know it was that big a problem,” Brinkmann said. “The people are in such poverty. Over here there are people who help.”

Amnesty International also held an HIV/AIDS vigil at the Clock Tower last night at 8 p.m. to remember the victims of the virus.