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T-shirts to 'aid' campaign

Nov. 9, 2005

by LAUREN BURRIS, reporter

Members of the Baylor Student Global AIDS Campaign are trying to get 2,600 Baylor students to purchase bright orange T-shirts and wear them Dec. 1 to raise awareness for the AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe.

The T-shirts will read "HIV+ Educate Yourself" and campaign members hope 2,600 students, 20 percent of the Baylor student population, will wear the T-shirts to represent the approximate percentage of the Zimbabwe adult population infected by HIV/AIDS.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day.

The Woodlands junior and president of the group, Stephanie Howe, said the idea for the T-shirt project started last year in a meeting with Dr. Eileen Hulme, former vice president of Student Life. Howe said she looked for a country with a high percentage of HIV/AIDS and chose Zimbabwe.

According to the CIA World Factbook on Zimbabwe, nearly 40 percent of the population of Zimbabwe is under the age of 15. In addition, the life expectancy is about 40 years for men and 38 years for women.

To honor the day, the group is doing the T-shirt campaign.

"The purpose of the T-shirts is to raise awareness," Howe said. "The statistics don't mean a whole lot when it's a million people, but when you see 20 percent of your classmates (wearing T-shirts) it really helps you put it in perspective."

Irving sophomore and secretary of the organization Carmen Jimenez said students often have a stereotype in mind when they think about AIDS. She said she hopes when students see peers wearing the shirts on Dec. 1, it will help them realize the problem is closer than they think.

"I'm a person just a like a person in Zimbabwe with HIV is a person," Cabot, Ark., sophomore Jaymi Furniss said. "People are people, no matter what country they're in. Even though the people who are suffering so dramatically are a continent or two away from us, it doesn't mean it's not happening."

Furniss said the most important thing students can do to be aware of world problems is to keep up on current issues and know where one's government representatives' stances.

Members of the group will be selling the T-shirts in the Bill Daniel Student Center for the remainder of this week and will be selling the T-shirts in residence halls next week.

Furniss said the organization hasn't even sold half of the 2,600 T-shirts yet.

"I know a lot of students are afraid that they'll be somehow connected with being HIV positive," Furniss said. "But that's not the idea at all. It's to represent people. This isn't just some tiny illness we can overlook. It's real."

Howe said she hopes that on Dec. 1, everyone will see the T-shirts and hear about AIDS awareness.

Jimenez said when people pick up the T-shirts they have ordered, they will receive a card with information about AIDS awareness, so the people wearing the T-shirts will be educated about the disease themselves.

Campaign members requested money from the Student Life Fund, and it was granted Thursday at the Student Congress meeting. Members of the group requested 50 cents per T-shirt to offset the cost for students.

But Thursday the allocation was vetoed by Student Body President Mark Laymon, a Richardson junior.

"My vetoing this bill has nothing to do with the objectives of the SGAC, and I even want to wear a shirt," Laymon said. "However, I do not believe that they need money from the Student Life Fund to make this a successful campaign."

He said he thinks the Student Life Fund should be used for events students couldn't put on by themselves and not 50 cents off a T-shirt price.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Howe said. "But I still feel very strongly that we'll be able to do this without the funding."