By Abbey Brandt

If you’re reading this, you’re probably connected to UCLA in some way. Maybe you’re a student, alum, a professor, or maybe your niece’s childhood best friend toured the school “way back when.” If you’ve ever been on campus, you have probably asked by students wearing obnoxiously bright T-shirts, “HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR DANCE MARATHON?”

Well, have you?

You have? Amazing! We can’t wait to see you. On the fence? Not even sure what Dance Marathon is? Keep reading for the answers to 13 possible questions you might have about us, our cause, and our philanthropic event.

1.     What is PAC?
The Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA – otherwise known as PAC – is a diverse group of students with a shared goal: to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Working directly with individuals affected and infected by HIV and AIDS, we aim to educate ourselves and others about the cause. 

2.     What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS? 
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, meaning it can be spread between human hosts. AIDS, conversely, CANNOT be transmitted. Rather, AIDS is an acquired condition, which is why it is called “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.” HIV attacks the immune system, destroying CD4 cells that help the body fight off infections. If an individual’s CD4 count is lowered to fewer than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, AIDS is then diagnosed. Another important point to note is that HIV does NOT always progress into AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) protects the immune system by reducing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus present in the body. While this treatment has proven effective in stopping the progression of HIV, it does not cure the virus.

3.     How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is ONLY transmissible by certain bodily fluids: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It is a common misconception that saliva and sweat can transmit HIV, but this is false. You cannot contract HIV from a hug, kiss, or casual contact!

4.     Can you die from HIV or AIDS?
NO. HIV weakens the immune system to such an extent that the body is unable to fight off infections, especially if the CD4 count drops below 200 as in AIDS. HIV and AIDS-related deaths can be caused by a variety of these “opportunistic infections” that take advantage of suppressed immune systems. These can include, but are not limited to: Pneumocystis pneumonia (a fungal lung infection), toxoplasmosis (infection by a microscopic parasite), oesophageal candidiasis (infection of the esophagus), certain cancers, and many more. 

5.     Why Pediatric HIV/AIDS?
Around 400 babies are born HIV-positive every day. Not only is this number devastatingly high, perinatal transmission (from mother to child) is almost completely preventable. Think of what you could buy with a $20 bill: jumper cables, a dozen roses, a hearty breakfast. For only $19, an HIV-positive mother can receive the medicine necessary to give birth to an HIV-negative baby. Though this might strike you as a small financial commitment, stigma is the main barrier to access for mothers across the globe. By providing HIV-positive mothers the access to care they need, we can create an AIDS-free generation, putting us one step closer to reaching our ultimate goal: ending HIV and AIDS altogether. 

6.     What is Dance Marathon?
Dance Marathon (often shortened to DM) is a dance-a-thon during which members of PAC, UCLA, and other communities take a literal stand against HIV, AIDS, and the stigma that kills with its social power. This year, the 19th annual Dance Marathon will take place from April 18th to 19th in Pauley Pavilion. DM at UCLA is the largest student-run philanthropic tradition on the West Coast, qualifying as one of UCLA’s “True Bruin” traditions. Our PAC motto sums up Dance Marathon perfectly: “When there’s a cure, we’ll dance for joy. Until then, we dance for life.” Check out the 2019 Dance Marathon Outro Video here.

7.     How long is it?
26 HOURS! This is because a typical marathon is 26.1 miles. I’ve never even signed up to run a marathon, but I can guarantee Dance Marathon will be a lot more fun.

8.     Do I have to dance for 26 hours?
Absolutely not! Whether a physical impairment limits your movement or you would rather engage in other activities to avoid exposing your lack of rhythm (like myself), there are always options. Alternatives to dancing include watching live performances from your favorite artists, dance teams, and student a cappella groups or engaging in color wars with your DM team. Want to take a break from the crowd? Grind through some homework in the study corner, play Wii Sports on the outer concourse, or get your flow on with yoga near the main doors. During these 26 hours you will also hear from incredible speakers and children from our beneficiary, Camp Laurel, about their experiences with HIV and AIDS. You’ll even have the opportunity to meet some of the Camp Laurel ambassadors!

9.     Do you have to sign up with a group?
Nope! Regardless of if you decide to sign up with a group or as an individual, you will be on a color team for Dance Marathon. Each team is led by a member of PAC’s Dancer Relations Committee who will guide you through DM and help you with anything you might need before the event itself. If you do sign up with an organization, club, or group, you will all be on the same color team.

10.  Does it cost money to sign up?
Normally, registration for Dance Marathon is $25. If you sign up during PAC’s Registration Drive (January 6-17), however, you get $5 off your registration fee. This fee covers five meals AND a T-shirt.

11.  Is there any commitment aside from the actual event?
The short answer is yes: all dancers are required to fundraise a minimum of $260 for the event ($10 for every hour of DM). DON’T LET THIS SCARE YOU AWAY! I admit, the number sounds pretty intimidating, but that’s what we’re here for. We have an entire committee dedicated to helping you reach your fundraising goal, not to mention your team captain who will be there for you every step of the way. 

12.  Where does all of this money go?
All of our proceeds are dispersed according to the following percentages among four beneficiaries: The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (15%), UCLA AIDS Institute (14%), the Laurel Foundation 14%), and PAC’s Direct Service Fund (1%). Last year alone, we raised $330,037.79 for a cure. This year, we want to make an even bigger imPACt, but we need your help!

13.  How do I sign up?
Ah, there we go. Click this link to sign up today!