By Saloni Gupta
July 8, 2016
My name is Saloni Gupta and I am a senior at UCSC. I especially became aware of the importance of discussing and educating people about sexuality during my last trip to India. In India, as in most countries, sex is extremely taboo. Sexuality before marriage is suppressed so much, in fact, that the incidences of rape are extremely high with an overwhelmingly 99% of them unreported. People are ashamed to talk about sex, but reproduction is an innate quality of all living things that simply cannot be suppressed healthily. In the Indian lower class, it is common for women to get married in their mid-teens. Many of these uneducated women do not know anything about sex until their wedding night–forget knowing about contraceptives, STIs, or consent. I feel very fortunate to live in a country where sexuality is discussed so openly. This openness is imperative. After all, it is the best way to encourage safe, consensual sex and get people appropriate STI treatments. When you don’t talk about sex, there is no way for people to know about the associated risks. I joined SCAP in January of 2016 because I wanted to be a part of the amazing education SCAP offers to the Santa Cruz County. This education has a tremendous positive impact; probably more than we realize.
I grew up learning the art of mindfulness. Recently, more and more research is being done on the effects of meditation and stress-relief on our bodies, even down to the DNA level. I cannot imagine that living with HIV is easy, especially due to the stigma that still exists. At SCAP, I offer mindfulness classes to clients once a week. During the class, we start by setting a goal for our practice, whether it be relieving stress due to a particular event, wanting to boost energy, or wanting to build focus. We work on achieving this goal through breathing, stretching, and increasing awareness about our five senses and the environment around us. The goal of my classes is to help clients become aware of what may be stressing them (finance, health, other people), let them temporarily forget these stress factors, help them reach a state of relaxation, and aid them in observing this relaxed state. As clients continue to practice, it should become easier for them to relax and relieve stress permanently in their daily lives.
SCAP has given me the opportunity to spread what I know about mindfulness to other people. SCAP doesn’t just stand for the “Santa Cruz AIDS Project”. To me, it also stands for Such a Caring, Altruistic Place. Through their client services, educational presentations, and outreach events, SCAP really cares for the Santa Cruz community as a whole. All of SCAP’s employees and volunteers are so kind, and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by people like them. Thank you, SCAP, for the opportunity to join your noble mission and for all you do!