Working together to inform the public about AIDS, the Office of Diversity Affairs, the Gay-Straight Alliance and the Student Health Center of Fort Hays State University are planning a series of events for World AIDS Day beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1.
A World AIDS Day display, a public forum, a display featuring 12 of the 40 thousand panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, free HIV testing and an art exhibit and silent auction are all part of the commemoration to World AIDS Day at FHSU in the Memorial Union.
The World's AIDS Day display will be presented on the main level of the union from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Workers will hand out information booklets as well as awareness stickers and other paraphernalia.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt, consisting of panels weighing anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds and measuring 12 square feet, serves as a tribute to those who have suffered from HIV or AIDS. Sponsored by the NAMES Project Foundation, the quilt was founded in 1987 as a way to, provide a creative means for remembrance and healing, effectively illustrate the enormity of the AIDS epidemic, increase the general public's awareness of HIV and AIDS, assist others with HIV infection-prevention education, and raise funds for community-based AIDS service organizations. Over 14 million people have visited the quilt at various locations worldwide, and the NAMES Foundation has raised over $3 million for AIDS service organizations in North America. From on Dec. 1 to 3, FHSU students, faculty and staff, as well as the Hays community, will have their chance to view the famous quilt which has been featured in books, films and even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The quilt will be on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Fort Hays Ballroom and the Black and Gold Room of the union. Admission is free.
"The quilt is really a community art project," said Michael Miller, Chanute junior and president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. "One panel will be specially made from the people in the Hays community who have had AIDS touch their lives."
Any volunteers wishing to assist with the AIDS Quilt can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The volunteer work will count for Tigers in Service credit.
On Dec. 1-2, the health center will conduct free and confidential HIV testing. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS by slowly attacking the immune system. Often times, people with the HIV virus can show little to no symptoms but are still highly infectious. The tests will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the health center in the lower level of the union.
"We want people to know HIV is not a gay disease," said George Jackson III, coordinator of diversity affairs. "Anybody can be HIV positive."
FHSU students and faculty members have been asked to donate art pieces to be sold at the silent art auction outside the ballroom. The auction will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. on Dec. 1-2. All proceeds will go to the AIDS Research Alliance. According to their Web site, the ARA is an organization that exists to develop a cure for HIV/AIDS, medical strategies to prevent new infections and better treatments for people living with HIV/AIDS. Anyone donating art pieces must have their work turned into the Center for Student Involvement by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25. After raising $200 last year, the group has set a goal of $500 for this year's event.
A public forum will be on Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Cody Commons in the lower level of the union. The forum will be hosted by Jackson, as well as a representative from the health department. "I would also really love to get a pastor, or someone to provide a Christian aspect as well," said Jackson. The representatives from the different areas will be present to answer any questions students may have concerning HIV or AIDS.
The Gay-Straight Alliance has asked Nina Martinez to speak on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Martinez contracted HIV as a six-week-old infant after a faulty blood transfusion. Martinez will speak from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Black and Gold Room.
Finishing the events on Thursday, Dec. 3, will be the showing of the documentary "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt." The film tells about the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, and features the AIDS Quilt as its "central metaphor." "Common Threads" relives personal memories and conducts an expose of the U.S. Government's reaction to the epidemic and the resulting protests. The film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1989. The film will be shown on at 7:30 p.m. in the Black and Gold Room.
"We really hope to raise awareness that AIDS is an epidemic everywhere," said Miller. "It doesn't matter what race, gender or sexual preference you are." Miller will conduct the closing ceremony after the film to conclude the events.
For additional information about the commemoration, contact Jackson at (785) 628-4664.