STUDENTS are still not taking the safe sex message seriously, according to University of Wollongong medical student Chelsea Ricketts.
The president of the Wollongong University Health Over Wealth student society hopes this week's Red Week will raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, and prevent the spread, stigma and stereotyping surrounding it.
A "condom olympics", information sessions and trivia nights are some of the events that have been held at the Wollongong and Shoalhaven campuses this week, and the activities will culminate in tonight's Red Party at the UniBar.
"Red Week is a nationwide initiative which a lot of medical schools take part in to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS," Ms Ricketts said.
"I think it's one of those issues that quite a few people become blase about, and forget the impact it has on so many lives both in Australia and all over the world.
"There's still no cure, and while treatment can help people who are HIV-positive live for longer, it still impacts on their lives and the choices they can make."
Sydney man Peter, one of two HIV-positive people scheduled to speak at the Graduate School of Medicine this week, feels lucky to be alive 27 years after diagnosis, but it has not been an easy life.
"I was diagnosed in 1985, and my main fears were that I would lose my job, my home and my family. All those things happened when I became ill as I could no longer work or afford my rent and many family members disowned me," he said.
"Attitudes are changing and with treatment you're now looking at a life with a chronic disease, rather than a terminal illness, but there's still a lot of health, mental and social issues to contend with."
Peter, 49, said he shared his story with young people because HIV/AIDS had "fallen off many people's radars".
"I think a lot of people have let their guard down - there's still the assumption that it's only sex workers, drug addicts and homosexuals at risk," he said.
"For instance, many heterosexual women don't think they're at risk - they may represent the smallest percentage of new HIV cases, but it's the group that is most rapidly growing.
"Anyone who's sexually active should be concerned."
Southern region manager of the AIDS Council of NSW, Radda Jordan, said about 300 people were diagnosed with HIV in NSW each year.
"This rate has remained stable over the past 10 years, which would indicate that people are negotiating safer sex in various ways," she said.
"The use of condoms is the key message we try to get out, as well as the need to ... get tested regularly if you are sexually active."
The proceeds from the university's Red Week events will be donated to the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, which supports people affected by HIV in NSW.