Columbia celebrates World AIDS Day

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 10:11 a.m. CST; updated 11:47 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Regional AIDS Interfaith Network Executive Director Cale Mitchell is enveloped in red balloons, which attendees of RAIN's annual World AIDS Day tribute carried with them on a walk down College Avenue to the Bond Life Sciences Center on Monday evening. The event was held in remembrance of the 235 AIDS victims in North Central Missouri in the past 27 years.

COLUMBIA — In some of the coldest weather so far this winter, dozens of Columbia community members participated in World AIDS Day, walking down College Avenue with fistfuls of helium-filled balloons Monday evening. Illuminated by blinking lights, the 235 red balloons represented the lives of the 235 North Central Missouri residents who have died of AIDS during the past 27 years.

As of 2007, there were 202 people living with HIV in Boone County; 11 cases were diagnosed in 2007 alone, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.


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World AIDS Day is celebrated annually around the globe on Dec. 1 to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Rain, a local STD prevention and care organization, partnered with the Bond Life Sciences Center, the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, SHAPE, Trail to a Cure and The NAMES Project Foundation to bring World AIDS Day to Columbia.

Throughout the day, free HIV tests were available at Memorial Union on the MU campus. Families and friends of AIDS victims also shared their personal stories and answered questions.

At night, a remembrance was held in Firestone-Baars Chapel at Stephens College. Cale Mitchell, executive director of Rain, began the ceremony as he stood in front of a single red candle, lit and surrounded by a white cloth with a red ribbon across the front.

"There are more new HIV positive people in the last year than I have ever experienced, and they’re getting younger and less educated," Cale said. "We need to have conversations for them, conversations about protecting ourselves."

The need for conversation was the theme of the night. Kevin Clohessy of the Trail to a Cure organization, stressed that HIV and AIDS need to be talked about personally — that the stories people tell "need to be real to people."

"Take risks to talk about it," Clohessy said. "If we take the risk to tell, story by story and person to person, lives will be changed."

Before leaving to participate in the procession down College Avenue, attendees participated in a moment of silence. As community members closed their eyes, some holding hands, a bell rang 27 times to commemorate the 27 years of the AIDS epidemic.

After walking with balloons in hand, attendees met at MU's Bond Life Sciences Center. There, four quilt blocks were on display. Each block, part of the 5,789 that make up The Quilt, is 12 feet across. The Quilt is an AIDS memorial that has blocks on display at approximately 250 different locations.

University scientists were also at the event and held a presentation about the medical aspects of the disease. Roger Worthington, assistant deputy chancellor and chief diversity officer of MU, discussed the AIDS epidemic and the importance of raising awareness and promoting new knowledge through research.

Honoring AIDS research and their loved ones, those in attendance read the names stitched into the quilt blocks, taking pictures and sharing stories. Gregory Lauhoff said that he came to the event to learn more about AIDS and support the cause.

"I have some friends that are HIV positive. Some people see it as something to be ashamed of, but it’s not, and it happens to a lot of people," Lauhoff said. By raising awareness, he hopes more people will be tested.

“I’ve seen too many people just sit back and let it eat at them.”

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Mike Bellman December 2, 2008 | 1:08 p.m.

Are you sure CELEBRATES was the appropriate word usage in this headline? Do we celebrate Memorial Day like Independence Day?
'Celebrate' Pearl Harbor Day as we Celebrate New Year's Day?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 2, 2008 | 1:50 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Charles Dudley Jr December 2, 2008 | 2:03 p.m.

It reminds me of this video:

Hey ray you want some too?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 2, 2008 | 2:52 p.m.

How in the world is a Van Halen song appropriate for this story?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 2, 2008 | 3:43 p.m.

John Schultz by the simple fact that NOBODY wants some and NOBODY wants the behaviors that lead up to the topic this is about in their face.

It was a punch at the topic not meant to be positive at all.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 2, 2008 | 4:38 p.m.

Do you mean nobody wants AIDS? OK, I can agree with that, but I don't see where gay behavior was in anybody's face in this story. Gays are not the only people who are at risk from AIDS and I don't see it being a factor at all in this story.

Have you ever seen the AIDS quilt? I remember walking in this parade around 1994/1995 after some coworkers twisted my arm and then saw some of the quilt spread out at Hearnes. It's pretty damn sobering and I don't see where this article promotes homosexuality at all if that is your beef.

(Report Comment)
gary revelle December 4, 2008 | 12:28 p.m.

I think it is wounderful that Columbia has joind with all the other places in the world in AIDS day.It is like the news and other media has lost the story of AIDS and it is ashame.I think the more that it is in the lime light the faster we can beat this.My hart and prayers go out to all that have to deal with this problem.I was diagnosed with hiv 23 years ago and went full blown AIDS 5 years ago.I am a serviver do to Gods great love.

(Report Comment)

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