Every day more than 6,000 children lose a parent to AIDS. On or around World AIDS Day, December 1st, many InterVarsity chapters will join with other student groups to expand AIDS awareness. They’ll be working with World Vision, which is using the theme 6,000 Reasons to Act.
Princess Kasune Zulu lost both of her parents to AIDS and is herself HIV positive. Since speaking at Urbana 06, Princess (her given name, not a title) has been invited by InterVarsity chapters all over the country to speak on AIDS and related issues. She speaks to many groups as an AIDS advocate and educator through Acting On AIDS, a college-student-initiated ministry of World Vision.
For Princess, AIDS is not a stand-alone issue. “Poverty is the mother of the HIV epidemic,” she says. Lack of education and gender inequality are also AIDS-related. “HIV likes to hide itself where there is denial, where there is stigma, where there is discrimination.”
She is pleased that more and more college students share her fight against AIDS. “It looks different on every campus but the motivation is the same,” she says. “It’s exciting for me to see young people who could have been in this situation to say we want to be the voices for our fellow young people. We want to be the voices for what breaks the heart of God.”
Some student groups have been teaming up with World Vision for much of the fall semester on the 6,000 Challenge. Among their tools are t-shirts designed for AIDS awareness. On some campuses the goal is to get 6,000 students to wear the shirts. Other student groups are collecting 6,000 signatures, or collecting $6,000, or creating some other representation of 6,000.
Some student groups are raising AIDS awareness with a Broken Bread meal, consisting of a porridge made out of corn and soy. In Princess Zulu’s family, and many others left parentless by AIDS, porridge doled out by aid organizations was often their main meal. Since Urbana 06, when the Broken Bread meal was introduced, more than 150 campuses have used it to offer students a chance to identify with part of the AIDS orphan experience. (The meal is also being offered this week as part of Saddleback Church’s Global Summit on AIDS and The Church.)
“I tell people HIV AIDS is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” says Princess Zulu, who learned of her own HIV status ten years ago at the age of 21. “Our strategies need to continue changing. We need to continue learning. We need to continue praying. It’s not an easy walk.”
After learning of her HIV status, Princess felt God calling her to speak to churches. But the churches rejected her, at least at that time. She found other ways to speak out on AIDS, including through an award-winning radio program in her native Zambia and now through World Vision.
“I like all of the platforms that God has given me,” she says, thankful for the opportunities. “But there’s nothing like speaking to the young people. I tell them, ‘You are not just the leaders for tomorrow, you are the leaders today. If you’ll take the lead, then we’ll have a better world to live in.’”
An interview with Princess Kasune Zulu is this week’s InterVarsity podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast, download the audio, or listen to the interview, by going to InterVarsity’s audio resources page.
Daily Titan report from California State University Fullerton