AIDS activist's message is one of hope, caution

October 09, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Sharon Lund may not be the best-known speaker on the college lecture circuit, but her message is the most alarming: The number of HIV-infected college students is increasing.

"The numbers tell us this epidemic is not under control," said Ms. Lund, an activist who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS and who uses her story to offer a message of hope and words of caution.

She will speak at 3 p.m. tomorrow in Room 157 of the Carroll Community College in Westminster.

"It can happen to anybody, and I make it more real to people," she said. "I add another face to the virus."

She brings the national and local statistics to her discussions, but declines to give her age.

"I don't want kids to think I am someone older and far removed from their problems," she said.

She delivers hard facts.

"Four years ago, one out of 500 college students was infected with HIV; last year it was one out of 200. Now, we are at one out of 95."

Ms. Lund said perilous behavior by many students began years before college and is difficult to reverse.

Organizers are hoping to fill the building's largest classroom with listeners. Ms. Lund remains oblivious to the size of her audience, which has ranged from six to 8,000 at Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

"If I reach one person and make them stop and think about their behavior, it will be worth it," she said. "I will have done my job."

Her job is stressing awareness and prevention of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, along with compassion for its patients.

"I am just an average person, not a drug user or prostitute," she said. "Anybody can become infected. Everyone should know how not to become infected."

She shares all the details of a story that began nearly 10 years ago, when she was diagnosed positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. Ms. Lund contracted the virus during a brief second marriage to a man who didn't tell her of his infection. He has died.

Through misunderstanding of the disease, she said, she lost nearly all of her former friends. She has a 19-year-old daughter from her first marriage.

Ms. Lund remains determined to battle the disease and the prejudice that surrounds it.

"Everyone infected deserves love, compassion and understanding," she said. "How they were infected makes no difference."

pTC She takes a holistic approach in treating her disease and won't accept what many call a death sentence.

"Long ago, I stopped saying, 'Woe is me,' and dwelled on, 'Thank God, I'm alive today,' " she said.

Ms. Lund speaks on about 150 campuses a year.

"It can be hard, exhausting work, but what else can I do?" she said.

She discusses prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and weaves the dangers of substance abuse into her (( message.

"I see how alcohol and drug abuse are playing a large role in the transmission of these diseases," she said. "I tell students when their inhibitions are gone, they are at great risk."

She takes questions from her audiences after her lecture and does not shy away from personal details from her own life.

"You can ask any question," she said. "There is nothing I won't answer, I promise. Maybe I am the first infected person some of these people have met, but I doubt that."

Information: 876-9639.

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