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Talk Discusses Effects of HIV on Friendships

By Zareena Hussain
Associate News Editor

Last night, new members of residential fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups attended "Friendship in the Age of AIDS," a program designed to expose students to the reality of the HIVvirus.

Fraternity alumni Joel Goldman and T. J. Sullivan shared with students their personal experience in dealing with the fact that one had tested positive for HIV.

FSILGmembers, full of energy as they began one of the first events confirming their membership in the IFC, received roses constructed of condoms from Alpha Chi Omega sisters, and viewed rock videos from the 1980s that played on the screen in front of the auditorium, soon calmed as the video changed to sobering images of the AIDS quilt being unfolded in front of the Washington monument.

With a touch of humor and no preaching, the two friends admonished students not to mix sex with alcohol and never to think that AIDS couldn't happen to them.

Goldman, who graduated from Indiana University in 1985, who was president of his fraternity and involved in various student activities, was diagnosed with HIV in the summer of 1991. At the talk, he shared his own college experience and the decisions to which he attributed his contraction of the virus.

At college, Goldman's first time away from home, he found it easier to socialize if under the influence of alcohol, he said.

"One drink, I could talk to someone I was attracted to; two drinks, I could ask them to dance; three drinks, I thought I actually could dance," Goldman said. "I learned how to mix sex with alcohol."

But that lesson proved detrimental. "When Iwould drink alcohol, I would rationalize anything," Goldman said. While one may know about safe sex, under the influence of alcohol, the rules one follows in the age of AIDS become less clear, he said.

Friendship and HIV discussed

The idea of friendship was also heavily stressed and is the reason for which the two credit the program with reaching students in ways other programs might not.

"While most students don't think HIV will happen to them, they realize it can happen to their friends," Sullivan said.

They dealt with the issue of being a friend to someone by influencing them to make the right decisions about sex and alcohol as well as the issue of being friends with someone who is HIVpositive.

It is important not to be "afraid to confront your friend when they are making a bad choice," Goldman said. For those students who have made decisions to abstain from sex and alcohol altogether, Goldman said, "Don't be afraid to stand up for who you are."

The idea of how to be a friend to someone with HIVwas also touched upon.

"For me, to feel normal,' I really needed people to treat me as they always had treated me," Goldman said. "Most people I know want to feel normal again."

Sullivan also shared with the audience how he felt after his friend had called to tell him he was HIVpositive.

"For a week, the phone would ring and I wouldn't answer it because I was afraid it was Joel," Sullivan said.

However, "within a week of him telling me, we're still friends and nothing's changed," Sullivan said.

Presenters highlight self-esteem

Sullivan highlighted the importance of acknowledging one's feelings when it came to coming to terms with having a friend with HIV.

"If you're afraid, that's OK. If you're angry, that's OK. If you're scared, that's OK. They are valid emotions," Sullivan said. Ultimately, however, "You have to realize your friend needs you."

This is the pair's third time visiting MIT, Sullivan said. They began visiting college campuses in February of 1993 when Goldman decided he wanted to turn something negative, being diagnosed with HIV, into something positive, educating college students about his own mistakes and how he has dealt with the disease, Sullivan said.

The program, currently in its fifth year, has visited over 100 college campuses. They will reach their half-millionth student later this year, Sullivan said.

Visiting campuses and spreading the word about AIDS was at first a part-time job for the two until it became a full-time career in 1995, Goldman said.

One larger goal of their program is to illustrate to people that everyone is affected by HIVand AIDS, from those who are exposed themselves, to friends of those infected with the disease, to taxpayers paying for government-funded research and health-care, Sullivan said.

"My goal is to be out of a job," Sullivan said.

Goldman graduated from Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 1985. Sullivan is a 1988 graduate of Indiana University's School of Journalism.