[StudentCorner] Negative perceptions of HIV/AIDS

The number of HIV carriers in Korea is estimated at 8,544. If you cannot feel the suffering these virus carriers have, then look at these words ― shock, awe and fear ― and imagine how they feel.

No one can deny that the carriers suffer social prejudice due to a lack of public awareness and correct information about HIV/AIDS.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was established in 1994 for the purpose of supporting an expanded response to HIV/AIDS. The fatality rate of the virus carriers is decreasing thanks to medical breakthroughs. But negative social perceptions still prevail over the disease.

I write this article to help change the negative perception by offering some suggestion to UNAIDS that can solve this problem in Korea. First, use the Korean national football team. Recently, Hong Myung-bo, the former coach of the nation’s Olympic football team, was appointed as a goodwill ambassador of UNAIDS.

I guess the cheerful image of the team will help him become a successful ambassador. The symbolic color of the national team is red, which matches the color of the “Product Red” campaign that raises awareness and has already generated over $150 million for HIV/AIDS programs in Africa.

This is a great opportunity for the team to join many partner corporations and if the Korea national football team collaborates with the campaign, there would be two positive effects.

The catchy and sophisticated image of the campaign has countervailed over the negative image of AIDS, and changed perceptions of the disease.

If the cheerful image of the football team is added, I am sure the image of AIDS will be improved further. A partnership with the football team is also expected to help the campaign raise funds. In continuing the strenuous fight against the disease, the biggest obstacle is money.

The Korea Football Association may donate part of the entrance fees of an exhibition match or sell a limited edition of Product Red Korean football team merchandise in collaboration with Nike, which is not only the team sponsor but also a the vigorous participant in the AIDS awareness campaign.

Youth groups in Korea, especially at universities, should also be used in the campaign. There are almost a million college students in Korea and the potential they have affects more than a million people. Many young people in Korea are interested in international organizations such as the United Nations.

However information about such organizations is scarce. Therefore, if UNAIDS contacts student unions at universities or the universities themselves, it will be able to access hundreds of interested students.

These students can improve others’ knowledge and perceptions about AIDS, with the help of UNAIDS. UNAIDS would get two benefits. It can provide accurate information about AIDS and at the same time, have access to the Korean resource pool.

People in their 20s in Korea are obsessed with finding their own career paths. Individual interest comes first and the surrounding community no more than a word that means nothing to them.

To change the prevailing negative perceptions of AIDS, we need to stand up. As a student of Korea and as a member of the community that is working to develop ourselves into better human beings, I hope we will stand up and listen to the sufferings of our neighbors.