U.Va. Marks World AIDS Day with On-Grounds Events

November 30, 2006

Dec. 1, 2006 — For the third year in a row, the governor of Virginia has declared the first week of December to be HIV/AIDS Awareness Week for the commonwealth. This statewide push for AIDS awareness and education first began at the University of Virginia School of Nursing.

Led by assistant professor of nursing Reba Moyer Childress, students in the “HIV/AIDS: A Personal and Social Perspective” course started the awareness effort on Grounds. At Childress’ request, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III declared November to be HIV/AIDS Awareness Month at the University, launching a campus-wide campaign. Three years ago, she requested that he lobby the governor to expand the campaign’s reach by promoting AIDS awareness at the state level.

"It's astonishing that when this disease first came on the scene, it was considered a death sentence," Childress said.  "After 25 years, and with scientific advances, medications and increased awareness, it's nice to see there is indeed hope."

Childress has incorporated a service component into the HIV/AIDS course, which has allowed students to experience first hand what an individual coping with HIV or AIDS endures.

“This type of learning experience provides the students with more insight, compassion and drive to help others as well as assists them in educating others about how to protect themselves or others in general,” said Childress. “Due to the work through this course several students have generously given their time to assist the local AIDS/HIV Services Group once they graduate. Some also have gone on to serve in the community in which they chose to live in post graduation. Indeed, what they experience in this course makes a difference in many lives.”

The University marked World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 with a series of events, ranging from a fund-raising pancake breakfast to a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to a vigil ceremony.

This was the 25th World AIDS Day. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988, World AIDS Day serves to focus global attention on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Observance of this day provides an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programs, churches, community organizations and individuals to demonstrate the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

As part of World AIDS Day, a group of medical students at U.Va. staged the 2nd Annual Medical School Pancake Breakfast benefiting the Ugandan School Building Fund to help children affected by HIV/AIDS. Proceeds benefit the U.Va. chapter of Building Tomorrow: Destination Kampala, a contracted independent organization begun by several medical students in an effort to raise funds and awareness to build a school in Kampala, Uganda, for a community severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In addition, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed in Newcomb Hall under the sponsorship of AIDS Service, Awareness & Prevention, and the U.Va. Hospital’s Infection Disease Clinic and AIDS/HIV Services Group sponsored free HIV testing.

A World AIDS Day Vigil was held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., sponsored by the School of Nursing and the AIDS/HIV Services Group. The candlelight vigil included a walk from the Rotunda to the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street, followed by an hour-long ceremony with special guests and dignitaries from the University and the community.