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AIDS, after the headlines

‘Keep the Promise’ to honor World AIDS Day
Thursday, November 30, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:47 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

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InterAct members, from left, Andrea Thames, 14, Aurielle Sisson-White, 16, and Paige Shipma, 13, rehearse “Keep the Promise,” a poetic reading, for World AIDS Day. The event was started 19 years ago in in the United Kingdom.

(Photos by IKURU KUWAJIMA/Missourian)

For Cale Mitchell, a candle not only gives light in the darkness but sheds light on a much more spiritual level.

“It symbolizes a kind of remembrance,” said Mitchell, “and for many people, it helps them to find a way back home.”

This remembrance and recognition is what Regional AIDS Interfaith Network of Central Missouri, an organization providing case management and HIV/AIDS prevention education, will embrace on World AIDS Day this Friday, said Mitchell, RAIN’s executive assistant. The organization will hold a candlelight vigil in downtown Columbia in remembrance of those affected by HIV/AIDS and to commemorate the 19th annual World AIDS Day.

Before the vigil, RAIN will host a poetry reading with MU’s Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education and InterAct Teen-to-Teen Theatre, a troupe of teen and young adult peer educators/actors dealing with teenage issues at the Ragtag Cinemacafe.

The theme of the event, “Keep the Promise — 25 years of HIV/AIDS,” aims not only to echo the worldwide concern of AIDS, Mitchell said, but to bring home its reality.

To RAIN, the most worrisome fact is that many teenagers do not recognize the impacts of AIDS, Mitchell said.

“They think the consequence of getting AIDS is just to take a pill and go about their daily lives,” Mitchell said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many 33 percent of people infected with HIV are unaware they have the virus. In Missouri, more than 15,000 cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in the past 25 years, 500 of these in 2005 alone.

In order to spread the word on HIV/AIDS and

how RAIN can help, Mitchell said he hopes that more people will come to the events Friday than the 50 to 75 who attended last year.

“People don’t get involved partly because they are afraid of raising stupid questions,” Mitchell said. “But as a supporting group, we want people to ask questions. We consider ourselves a hub that integrates resources like medication, housing and special support for our clients.”

Shawna Kelty, the artistic director of InterAct, said she hopes to “pack the house and get everybody there” for the poetry reading, especially because the theater’s teenage members came up with the idea.

“They watched the documentary (“Out of Control: AIDS in Black America”) by Peter Jennings and were inspired by it,” Kelty said. “I felt that they’d really like to do something that can make a difference of the world.”

Andrea Thames, a ninth-grader at West Junior High School who joined InterAct last year, is excited about her first performance on an AIDS-related issue, she said.

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From right, Art Scott, 14, Katie Ross, 14, and Paige Shipma, 13, rehearse for “Keep the Promise,” a poetry reading, at First Christian Church. The event’s theme focuses on alerting people to the reality of the HIV/AIDS disease and recognizing its global effects.

“Jennings’ documentary really opened my eyes to see (AIDS) is really here and it’s not going away,” Andrea said.

Art Scott, a ninth-grader at Jefferson Junior High School, has a family member affected by AIDS. To Art, AIDS is not one certain group’s issue because it affects everyone, he said, and although kids his age have learned about AIDS, they might not comprehend its magnitude.

“If people don’t start taking action now,” Art said, “they are going to be affected one way or another.”


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