World AIDS Day brings awareness to students

The 16th annual event featured a drum circle and free condoms.

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Thursday was World AIDS Day, a day that “is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died,” the event’s official Facebook page said.

MU's Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education and Columbia’s global conversation project, Sharing Our World, each held events to commemorate the day, featuring free and confidential HIV testing, open discussions about sex, a documentary and a candlelight vigil.

HIV testing ran Monday through Thursday at the Regional AIDS Network and Thursday through SHAPE in the MU Student Center, where 78 people partook in the opportunity and 150 stopped by to make crafts, eat cookies, add to the “remembrance quilt” and snag some free condoms.

“We had a phenomenal turnout,” SHAPE outreach coordinator Genevieve Labe said. “It’s important to raise awareness and make prevention efforts because even though we’re in Columbia, Missouri, you can still get HIV/AIDS.”

SHAPE also had a booth selling jewelry made by South Africa women. These women are part of a skills development project through Cape Town’s University of the Western Cape Community Rehabilitation Project.

“(South Africa is) the country with highest population of HIV-positive people in the world,” Labe said.

Once the jewelry is sold, SHAPE will send all the proceeds back to the women who crafted them.

Next to the jewelry booth were drummers in a traditional African drumming circle.

This is the 16th year SHAPE has honored World AIDS Day on campus, a “global health day” that was the first of its kind when it began in 1988.

In past years, SHAPE has had roughly 100 attendees every Dec. 1. Students are able to leave their mark on the day by sewing their own patch to SHAPE’s remembrance quilt that they add to every year.

Sharing Our World played a documentary Wednesday titled “Tiny Tears” about orphans in Brazil, Thailand, Africa and the United States living with HIV and AIDS and their caretakers. Its goal was to show viewers that these children need and deserve love as much as any healthy child. It also displayed the struggle to live a normal life and the steps people take to look at the bright side during their short time on Earth.

“I used to say these children are dying of AIDS,” said one caretaker in the movie. “But now I say they are living with HIV.”

RAIN hosted a candlelight vigil last night at the corner of College Avenue and Broadway to honor those who died from AIDS. There was also a Service of Remembrance held in Firestone Baars Chapel at Stephens College.

Thursday is Downtown Awareness Night, where bars in The District waive the cover charge for those wearing a red wristband, indicating they attended a World AIDS Day event or took advantage of the free HIV testing, from 9 p.m. to midnight. Participating establishments include Harpo’s, Salty’s, Campus Bar & Grill, Bengal's, Shiloh Bar & Grill and Willie’s.

The theme for World AIDS day is “Getting to Zero,” a mantra that reminds people of the World AIDS Campaign’s goal: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. This theme will remain until 2015.

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