The Rutgers Children’s AIDS Network (CAN) is an on-campus organization that is directly affiliated with the Robert Wood Johnson AIDS Program (RWJAP) in New Brunswick to raise awareness and support on the fight against AIDS. “Paint the Town Red” Coffeehouse was held at the Red Lion Cafe on World AIDS Day, an event acknowledging one of the most recognized international health days. All proceeds were donated to the RWJAP which is committed to the advancement of care and prevention. The audience enjoyed performances by the Orphan Sporks, Shockwave, Hyphenated Dreams and various other acoustic acts.
Members of the CAN e-board, Sindhoori Nalla (CAN President), Kelvin Mei (CAN Vice President), and Ananya Patnaik (CAN Co-Events Coordinator) took the time to answer several questions about the Rutgers Children’s AIDS Network, discuss “Paint the Town Red” and how students can support the fight against AIDS.
What is CAN and why should other students want to join?
Sindhoori: CAN is an on-campus organization dedicated to supporting the fight against AIDS both on-campus and in the local community through fundraising, volunteer, and awareness events. We are affiliated with the RWJAP and work to support and meet needs of the patients, specifically pediatric, within the program. Students with a passion for community service and giving back to our surrounding area would enjoy being part of CAN. We see first-hand the differences that we can make through our hard work and efforts.
Kelvin: CAN is focused on helping children at the local hospital with their fight with AIDS, whether they are afflicted with the illness or if they have to live with the prejudices and its impact. We would like to remind others that even though HIV/AIDS is no longer a prominent concern of people or the media, a stigma is still attached to the disease.
What were your goals with this coffeehouse and how did you feel it went?
Sindhoori: Our goals were to raise awareness about World AIDS Day and the current fight against AIDS. It has been 30 years since the first case of HIV, we have come a long way since then, but there is more to be done. Another goal was to raise money for RWJAP. Patients have access to care, but are often unable to afford medication, proper nutrition, and proper hygiene. The event definitely surpassed our expectations! We were thrilled to see such a huge turnout and strong support for this cause, and the enthusiasm was definitely exciting. We’re glad so many people took the time out to support a local group as well as learn more about HIV/AIDS.
Ananya: We wanted to have a fun filled night with great performances that would create a great way to make money and help out HIV/AIDS patients. It was important to showcase this event so we could open up people’s minds to what is actually happening in the world and in our community in relation to this disease.
Kelvin: We raised $400, and though this amount may seem like a little, this is enough to afford 10,000 doses of medication (one statistic estimates that medication costs $.40 a day). This is a great feat, given the economy, and that so many students are on a tight budget. There were also many events this week related to HIV/AIDS (due to Worlds AIDS Day). We greatly appreciate the students who took the effort to come out.
What inspires you to be a part of CAN?
Sinhoori: I chose to be part of CAN early in college because I strongly felt I could make an impact through CAN. Being that the RWJAP is close by, we can stay in close contact and participate in volunteer activities, including the annual Holiday Party with the RWJAP children. We raised an incredible amount of money through our efforts, and it has truly showed me the power that we have as students and the impact we can make in our community.
Kelvin: I think the major thing that inspires me to be part of CAN are the faces of the children each year when I visit the hospital for the holiday party that we throw for them. They are always so happy and smiling, and are brave for what they do. To actually be able to see and know the people you help is definitely the greatest motivating factor. In addition, the friendships I made at CAN also further enhance the experience.
Ananya: What inspires me to be in CAN is the annual holiday parties we have at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. I love seeing the kids having fun and smiling during the party. When I see the kids having fun and being able to do what they can despite having the disease, makes me really happy that we can provide smiles on their faces, especially during the Holiday season.
How can students support the battle against AIDS?
Kelvin: The best is to educate themselves by learning more about HIV/AIDS (there is a class offered at Rutgers). If that is too demanding, another way is to get tested. Our club encourages knowing whether one is HIV/AIDS positive, especially if sexually active. Condom use is the best way to lower transmissions. Many of the transmissions in our age group are between individuals who do not know they have the disease, so by getting tested, you can protect others.
Ananya: Students can show support by protecting and educating themselves on the disease. It is important for everyone to know what their status is if you are sexually active. By getting tested, we can significantly reduce the number of cases and the chance of spreading the disease. Students can also gain knowledge through programs such as our club or the course offered at Rutgers. By protecting and educating ourselves we can help save more lives and stop the spread of this disease!
By: Melissa Mendoza