I had the amazing opportunity of being selected for one of Community Outreach’s Alternative Breaks to New York City. Having gone to Jamaica on the Greek Alternative Break 2014, I wanted to continue my commitment to service and participate in other alternative breaks that the university has to offer. After researching all of the alternative breaks that were available this semester, I applied to do a weekend one to NYC, with a focus on HIV/AIDS. The trip took place November 7-9.
This short weekend was a life-changing experience and I am so grateful that I went. We got the chance to learn through the eyes of many different perspectives, as well as learn the history of HIV/AIDS activism. We visited a Harm Reduction Center, in which they do clean needle exchanges for people to turn in their used needles and get clean ones for free. They also give out “safer smoking” and “safer sniffing” kits in order for people to reduce their harm when they are doing certain drugs. This work is obviously very controversial, which is why it was great to get the perspective of the people who work there, as well as talk through some of the controversial aspects of the whole idea.
We also got to go to “Act Up” Headquarters in Manhattan. This was such a unique experience being that Act Up is the organization that started HIV/AIDS activism back in 1987 when there were many people who were HIV positive with a medication that was ineffective in helping them fight the disease. We got to really experience how activism works, not just in regards to HIV/AIDS, but in general.
If you have the opportunity, you should go on an alternative break. You learn so much about yourself and the other people that you go with and you get to give back at the same time. I feel a much deeper connection to HIV/AIDS awareness and activism than I did before I went on this trip and I now know some ways that I can help fight for the causes.