“I’m from Queens, N.Y., I love Italian food and binging Netflix shows,” was the first thing that Miss Bella said to attendees in the Oak Room of the John A. Barone Campus Center, flashing a smile.
The Fairfield University Alliance had an event in commemoration of World AIDS Day on Dec. 3, 2018. This was the second Alliance event the guest speaker attended, Miss Bella, who put on a performance at The Levee last year during spring 2018.
Before Miss Bella’s presentation began, David Bogdan ‘19, a health and human biology major, gave a presentation to discuss the science behind HIV and AIDS.
Throughout his speech, Bogdan explained a complicated disease in terms that all of the students in the room could understand. He described what makes HIV such a difficult disease to cure because it has the fastest mutation rate in the world. The presentation was a great way to open for the later animated talk from Miss Bella.
Miss Bella is not only a drag queen but also an HIV advocate who travels across the country to talk about HIV and AIDS.
“World AIDS Day spreads awareness and it’s important to talk about it. In everything you do in life really — communication is key,” said Miss Bella.
She herself has been dealing with HIV for many years, and feels that she is a vital voice in breaking down the stigma of the disease.
Throughout her talk, Miss Bella discussed her story, not just focusing on her HIV but also how she first found her love for drag. Miss Bella has been a drag queen for almost 10 years, first encountering drag at her alma mater Rochester Institute of Technology,
“I felt one of the reasons why I kept with drag after finding out I had HIV was that I felt I could use my platform to do outreach,” said Miss Bella.
Today she is healthy and her HIV is virtually undetectable thanks to the development of treatments that help those diagnosed live normal lives free of sickness. She herself works for Northwell Health, where she not only does outreach but helps do free HIV/AIDS testing on Fire Island in Long Island, N.Y.
Throughout Miss Bella and Bogdan’s presentations, one thing became clear: getting tested for HIV/AIDS as a sexually active college student is extremely important.
Bogdan explained the ways in which the diseases can be transmitted in his presentation: “intravenous drugs and shared needles, unprotected sex, non-monogamous relationships, positive mother to their babies — finally those who don’t get tested.”
Bogdan emphasized the importance of students knowing the ways in which they can practice healthy sexual behaviors. President of the Fairfield Alliance Madison Ortiz ‘20 hopes that exactly is the major takeaway for students in attendance of the event.
“A main topic we wanted to hit during the presentation was the topic of prevention and there’s no way to prevent these circumstances from happening if we don’t talk about them. I hope that talking about it more with not only bring awareness but knowledge,” said Ortiz.
The Fairfield University Health Center does free HIV/AIDS testing, and students are encouraged to ensure their safety and health by getting tested.