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Students Become Certified HIV/AIDS Educators

Nearly 50 Mills women became certified HIV/AIDS educators last weekend, in an event sponsored by the Mills Pre-Med Club.

Being the first big event for the small undergraduate club formed last fall, organizers were delighted with the high turnout. The training included information on HIV and AIDS risk factors and available treatments; effective methods of counseling; and role-playing hotline call-in scenarios. Certified students can now complete secondary trainings on needle-exchange or sexually-transmitted infections.

The all-day session, run by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, usually costs $1,000, but the foundation agreed to do it for free “after months of hounding” by club president Esther Lucero. One presenter was diagnosed HIV-positive in the late ‘80s, and shared his experiences living with the virus. Many of the attendees said that they were impressed with all of the trainers, but hearing his story in particular was “amazing.”

“They tried to make you know what it would feel like as much as possible,” said sophomore Katie Donnell, “but presented it in really fun ways.” One example was candy bars offered during a snack break, and students learning afterward that what candy they chose represented different percentages of those affected by HIV and AIDS.

“I was impressed with the humanistic approach,” said junior Blake Saffitz. She said she was struck by their focus on people rather than “patients” or “disease,” and said it evoked a need to volunteer, something she said she wants to start doing in the near future.

While the majority of students who attended are not pre-med, “all were still very interested,” Lucero said, and many said the 8-hour day flew by.

Lucero, a junior, said that they’d been hoping for 25 students, so when 45 arrived, they were thrilled. “We were so pleased with the turnout,” she said, “and it demonstrated the fact that we need an undergraduate pre-med presence here at Mills.”

Majoring in Native American studies, the 32-year-old Lucero left a $100K a year retail job to become a doctor, and is hoping to work in health services on tribal reservations.

“Not that we don’t appreciate the post-bacs, of course,” Lucero said, “but undergrads have to round off their education in a much better way.” She said she was incredibly proud of all the women who represented Mills, and said the presenters told her that students were much more engaged than most other schools they’ve visited.

She said the club is hoping to sponsor a second-level training in the future, dependent upon funding.