Diet and Disease: Collaborating to raise AIDS awareness

Nathan Acuña

In Visiting Lecturer of Kinesiology Professor Melanie Householder’s course, Diet and Disease, students are trying to involve the entire campus in a food-raising effort in collaboration with AIDS Project Los Angeles Health (APLA Health). 

Starting tomorrow, Dec. 1, through Dec. 8, students will sit in front of the Campus Inn, a central location where anyone can take their nonperishable holiday donations, such as canned meats or whole grain cereal.

“We’re just putting into action what we’ve learned in the class,” said Senior Petra Carlos-Arzate, who contacted the QC on behalf of the class. “This is a practical implementation of our knowledge.” 

 Diet and Disease is one of Whittier’s Connection classes, a requirement of the college’sLiberal Arts degree. These classes have the specific purpose of integrating scientifics or mathematics with current cultural or societal issues.

The course also seeks to teach the students taking the course the major role that nutrition plays in human health, as well as the consequences one’s diet has on their health over time. 

Specifically, the course addresses chronic diseases with the purpose of requiring students to “critically think about connections between the science of nutrition and lifestyle choices that lead to diseases commonly found in the United States and around the world.”

Whittier alum Carlo Keana worked with APLA Health, and came to speak to the class. Keana also serves as the classes point-of-contact for the project. 

“Though it is a food drive, our mission is not to get a certain quantity,” said Carlos-Arzate. “Rather, it’s just to spread awareness on the importance of diet, specifically with HIV and AIDS.” 

The foundation of AIDS Research reports that, as of March 2016, 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with an HIV infection, with an estimated 50,000 infections occurring each year. 

Dr. Gil Chavez of the California Department of Public Health told ABC News that 137,000 Californians are HIV+, with 4,700 being added each year. Gil also says that California is second to Florida in their annual new HIV infections.

APLA Health holds this food drive in commemoration of World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1. 

The food drive aims to encourage individuals across Los Angeles County to donate non-perishable food items and personal hygiene products for people living with HIV. 

“Proper nutrition is vital to the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV,” writes APLA Health in the food drive page of their website. 

According to APLA Health,  more than 14,000 patients visit their location each year, and a visitor of one of their eight food pantries typically live on less than $1,000 per month.

Carlos-Arzate says that the class wants to get the entire campus involved. 

“I know it’s a hard time. We do not want force this on anyone, but even if it’s a can or two, that would help.”