Monthly Archives: February 2015

Peer Health Perspectives!

Thinking about applying to Peer Health? Interested in learning more about what we do? Members Erin, Anna, Omar, and Tim have some thoughts to share about their own experiences as a part of Peer Health at Bowdoin!

Erin Houlihan, 2017, major: EOS

Anna Morton, 2015, major: English, minor: Theater

Omar Sohail, 2015, major: Religion, minor: Chemistry minor‬

Tim Coston, 2017, major: EOS and Physics

What is your favorite thing about being a member of Peer Health?
Erin: My favorite thing about Peer Health is being part of a welcoming, enthusiastic, and accepting group on campus, while learning new skills, creating a variety of programs, and getting to know first-years through the Peer 2 Peer Program.
Anna: My favorite thing about being a member of Peer Health has been getting to know all of the other amazing people in the group.
Omar: Having a weekly space to have intimate conversations with some of the most caring people on campus. Plus, getting to see Whitney at least weekly.‬
Tim: My favorite thing about being a member of peer health is the great support group that comes along with being a member. Our weekly meetings are always a great refresher and a wonderful way to connect with peers in a completely different way.

What was something you learned while on Peer Health?
Erin: I learned motivational interviewing skills and gained a variety of perspectives and stories from my peers.
Anna: Peer Health has taught me that sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for another person is just to listen to them.
Omar: That’s a tough question…I’d say how to listen. How to truly listen to what someone is saying, even if you don’t agree with what he/she is saying or you don’t know how to respond. ‬
Tim: The biggest thing that I have learned while on Peer Health is that everybody’s personal history is always so much more complex and surprising than you could ever imagine.

What health topic are you most passionate about?
Erin: Mental Health including self-care and mindfulness.
Anna: The health topic that I am most passionate about self-care and wellness. I think these are practices that are especially important to promote on a college campus.
Omar: I’m most passionate about anxiety and how Bowdoin culture sometimes promotes anxiety. I like talking about mindfulness, exercise, and food. Mostly food.‬
Tim: I am most interested in mental health at Bowdoin. I believe that it is something that is really under the radar but affects a greater proportion of the student body than most students realize.

Applications have been emailed school-wide, so check your inboxes to find the link! If you have any questions or would like more information, please email Kendall Carpenter ’15 (

The AIDS Quilt’s Visit to Bowdoin

On Monday February 2nd, an important piece of the troubling history of the AIDS epidemic in America came to Bowdoin, when a panel from the AIDS Quilt goes on display in Lamarche Gallery. The AIDS Quilt was an initiative started in San Francisco, by gay rights activist Cleve Jones. The idea originally came to Jones in 1985, when, as a part of his organization of the annual candlelight march to honor the assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, he learned of the over 1,000 San Franciscans who had already died of AIDS. He asked each of the marchers at the event to place a card with the name of one their deceased fellow citizens on the side of the San Francisco Federal Building. The final effect bore a striking resemblance to a quilt.
Thus the idea for the Aids Quilt was born, and two years later, in June 1987, the project was started in earnest. People from all over the country began sending handmade quilt panels into the project’s San Francisco office, with high volumes of panels sent from cities in which the epidemic had been heavily affected, such as Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco itself. On October 11, 1987, the Quilt made its most remarkable public appearance, carried by demonstrators onto the National Mall in Washington D.C. during the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. The Quilt, which at this point was composed of 1920 panels – making it larger than a football field – was visited by over half a million people that weekend.
Not long after, in the spring of 1988, the Quilt made a four-month, twenty-city national tour, which raised almost $500,000 for AIDS service organizations. In each city, new panels were added to the quilt, and by the end of the four-month period, it had accumulated 6000 new panels. Within four years, the Quilt contained panels from every state and twenty-eight countries worldwide. Today, the Quilt has 48,000 panels, making it the largest community art project in the world. And it’s still growing – anyone can design their own panel to add to the collection and to honor the life of an AIDS victim. Out of necessity, the Quilt has been separated into smaller collections of panels, one of which is housed by our campus this week.
The Quilt was a way of both honoring the individual lives lost to the AIDS epidemic as it first swept across America while insisting on public (and, in the context of the 1987 March on the National Mall, governmental) acknowledgment of the huge number of lives lost to the disease. This was necessary, as governmental and administrative reaction to the very real epidemic was reluctant at the start. It wasn’t even until 1981 when the CDC released its first warning about the disease, describing AIDS as a “rare form of pneumonia affecting a relatively small number of gay men.” Although our research, treatment and general understanding of the AIDS virus has vastly improved since that time, the Quilt reminds viewers that the support and treatment available for people living with AIDS today has not always been there. And with new panels being submitted to the project, it also reminds us that the virus has not gone away.
Indeed, despite huge amounts of scientific research and education regarding prevention measures, 56,000 new HIV cases and 18,000 HIV-related deaths are reported annually in the U.S. alone, and there are currently 1.1 million Americans living with the disease. And even with advancements in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART, also known as the AIDS cocktail), living with the disease is no small task. Generic versions of this treatment were approved and introduced between 2009 and 2010, making it more affordable to patients around the globe, but the cost is still hugely expensive. The CDC estimates that the average annual HIV treatment cost for HAART was $23,000, with the most recently published estimates of lifetime costs coming out at a staggering $379,688. This cost makes treatment out of reach for many Americans living with HIV. Individual access to life-saving HIV treatment may be one of the largest ethical dilemmas facing our medical system today. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that HAART treatments make patients more vulnerable to developing diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and contributing to bone loss.
Although the face of AIDS has changed since the inception of the AIDS Quilt project in the eighties, the realities that surround the virus have largely stayed the same. There is still undeniable stigma attached to the label “HIV-positive.” There are still huge obstacles for Americans living with HIV, of whom (according to the AIDS charity AVERT) less than 20% have private health insurance and over one-third do not have any health coverage at all. There is still educating to be done concerning HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. The landscape surrounding the AIDS epidemic in America has changed in many ways, but there is still work to be done, and the Quilt reminds us of this. By enshrining each life lost in a beautiful, distinctive quilt panel, the AIDS Quilt sends a powerful message urging us all onward in the search for a cure to this virus.

Starting Monday, February 2nd, a panel of the AIDS Quilt will be on display in Lamarche Gallery on the second floor of Smith Union. On Tuesday, February 3rd, there was a reception at 6:30 followed by a talk at 7:00 by Birgit Pols entitled “Looking Back to Look Forward: AIDS in the 21st Century.” The Quilt will be on display until the 9th. We encourage everyone to go see it, reflect on the past, and the long road that is still ahead of us.