Perhaps it is unfair to say, but it seems that in today’s competitive and stressful society, we are running through life like machines. We become so individualistic and self-centered; it’s hard to stop and think about how countries of people suffer every day, not only from hunger and poverty but also the terrible, pandemic AIDS. Since joining the organization FACE AIDS at UCLA, Dhithya Ramaswamy, who is now a senior and will be FACE AIDS’ president for another consecutive year, discovered her future career path and passion for a global cause that has rocked today’s youth. Most of all, her involvement in FACE AIDS has brought out a valuable quality that has helped her endure the challenges she faces each day: humility.

FACE AIDS began with three Stanford students who traveled and worked at a refugee camp in Zambia, where most of the 200,000 inhabitants were inflicted with AIDS. These three students met a grandmother named Mama Katele whose stories of living with AIDS and struggles to find a way to help her community inspired them to create a movement that spreads awareness of the terror of AIDS to our generation. First, they created beaded pins to show awareness of AIDS and also as a source of income for AIDS victims. In 2007, Partners in Health contacted FACE AIDS to join their efforts in Rwanda, and since then, FACE AIDS has reached out to many sub-Saharan African countries.

FACE AIDS stands to fight for global health equity and social justice. It expands through community conventions, centers for counseling and testing, and HIV education. In over 205 chapters, FACE AIDS members create an amazing network of passionate health and development activists who transform into leaders of their communities, empowering each other and uniting under the mission for justice.

At UCLA’s Fowler Museum, on April 2, FACE AIDS hosted a conference that addressed the issues of how we can achieve global action and awareness of AIDS, believing that each youth has a potential artistic and special contribution to the cause. What can we do to help our generation understand the urgency and desperation that a victim of AIDS feels each day? Dr. David Gere, professor of World Arts and Culture at UCLA and director of Art/Global Health Center, emphasizes the significance of art in capturing human interest and sympathy for FACE AIDS’ mission.

Currently, FACE AIDS is working with Dr. Gere for his “amp it up” program to spread awareness. Furthermore, he stressed the necessity of motivating each new freshman entering UCLA’s dorms this year to read Mountains Beyond Mountains, which discusses Dr. Paul Farmer’s work towards AIDS awareness, because the dorms’ resident assistants will hold discussions about this book with the students who live in the halls.

Ramaswamy says taking part in the conference humbled her as she realized how much an individual can actually care about others and fight all of his or her life for others. Whether we personally know and lost someone to AIDS or not, the realization that AIDS exists in countries of less industrialization and education and more poverty and crimes opens our eyes to the injustice. This humility and realization pushes her to work harder to achieve health care for every human being.

This year, Ramaswamy led FACE AIDS to raise $1000. For three years in a row, FACE AIDS hosted a Black Light party at Covel’s Grand Horizon Room that many students who lived in the dorms enjoyed and donated money for the cause. In addition, FACE AIDS participated in the Back-to-School campaign, LOVE campaign and World AIDS Day. On Bruin Walk during these campaigns, FACE AIDS set up a booth to greet students and educate them about AIDS and HIV prevention. Pin sales not only contribute to FACE AIDS funds but also act as the symbol of unity under a common cause of the students who wear the pins. Ramaswamy’s goals for FACE AIDS this upcoming year are to increase membership and organize a quarterly event that is definitive of FACE AIDS at UCLA.

The vision of FACE AIDS is a world in which everyone has access to health care despite their backgrounds, but this vision can only come true if our generation is equipped with the essential skills, knowledge and drive. Ramaswamy claims that FACE AIDS does indeed empower her with these crucial skills and knowledge, and the experiences and interactions with others who have made AIDS awareness their goal ignite her drive to help people in any way she can.

Furthermore, Ramaswamy says, “FACE AIDS inspires me to pursue a career in public health in hopes of creating a world where we can declare that health care is a human right not privilege. In fact, AIDS awareness has become an outlet for other gateway issues and social injustices that tarnish our generation’s behaviors. Honestly, FACE AIDS changed my life because being a part of it has enabled me to proudly say that I am living for others not just myself because I cannot imagine a world where I am just running around for myself with few people to share my stories, successes, and frustrations. Knowing I am helping others makes every obstacle that I face worth it. All those whom I’ve helped and reached out to have increased my network of friends who I can share my joy and all this world has to offer.”

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