United States: College Campus Gains New Awareness of HIV, AIDS

January 23, 2007 Riverside, California, United States .... [Taashi Rowe/ANN]

In an Old Testament studies class she focused on the stigma of AIDS. In a class on social work she focused on women as the face of AIDS and the impact it has on the family. In an art class she talked about how artwork is used to inform the pubic about AIDS. She attended business that focused on social entrepreneurship and what business can do to affect the AIDS cause. 

No, she's not a teacher. She's Eugenia Giordano M.D., associate director of Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) and has spent several days as guest lecturer at La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education in Riverside, California. With each class she visited Dr. Giordano shared with students and teachers how HIV and AIDS impacts different facets of society. Dr. Giordano, along with her husband Oscar, who is also a medical doctor, oversee AAIM from Johannesburg, South Africa. 

AAIM was started in 2003 to help Seventh-day Adventists in Africa deal with the scourge of HIV and AIDS, which claims the lives of 12 church members daily. Today AAIM has put down roots in local communities with programs that provide income and that open the doors of the church to those with the disease. Heide Ford, director of the Women's Resource Center (WRC) based on campus, invited Dr. Giordano to speak at the school after hearing about the work of AAIM. 

On Jan. 23, Giordano spoke at an assembly in front of 1000 students about the global issue of AIDS and what the Adventist church is doing to combat the problem. The assembly was followed by a question-and-answer segment in which Dr. Giordano shared ways in which students can help those suffering from HIV or AIDS. 

"I had the impression students have heard about HIV and AIDS in the United States but here it is kind of controlled through medication and treatment. Many don't understand that it is a global crisis," said Dr. Giordano. "It's not just in Africa; it is everywhere." 

As for how the talk will affect La Sierra students, Ford said, "Some students will think 'it's no big deal' but for others it may plant a seed for something down the road." 

She added that she was struck by the look on one of the young women's face during the presentation. "She had such a stunned look on her face when Dr. Giordano showed a slide saying 6,000 people die every day in Africa from AIDS." 

"I was moved to tears to see the reality of the AIDS crisis especially how it affects the orphans," a student said during one of the classroom visits. "I think students need to be reminded of the AIDS crisis," another student said. 

"You're an answer to prayers," Jodi Cahill, faculty sponsor for Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), a student business group, told Dr. Giordano. 

Some SIFE students were already involved in doing humanitarian work in Africa and were looking to do more projects. They were eager to partner with Dr. Giordano on the AIDS project. 

Talking to students on college campuses often results in action on their part, Dr. Giordano said. In 2005 when she spoke to students at Loma Linda University and Medical Center, another Adventist institution, students went on a mission trip to Swaziland and raised funds to build a clinic for those affected with the disease. Giordano said many students are still involved today. 

"One of the goals of the WRC is to highlight the incredible things that women are using their gifts to do in the world at large," Ford said, explaining how Dr. Giordano was invited to speak on campus. Dr. Giordano follows in the footsteps of Alice Ouma who also spoke about AIDS last year on the La Sierra University campus. Ouma spoke about the work she and her husband James were doing to help Kenyan widows and children orphaned by AIDS. 

Ford says the response to Dr. Giordano's visit was overwhelmingly positive. She noted that many students asked how they can become involved. "Many were not even aware that our church has this ministry." 

"Our church is caring, our church has a ministry and our church is doing something," said Dr. Giordano.