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Program Board seeks to break stigma, raise awareness about HIV/AIDS

Shepherd University's Program Board has made it a priority to bring World AIDS Day to the forefront each year.

World AIDS Day, founded in 1988, is held every year on December 1 to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

On Tuesday, December 1, Program Board hosted a World AIDS Day Lecture: Words from the Heart, with Shepherd University alumnus Aaron Burgess holding an open, candid conversation about the myths and facts of AIDS.

"We feel like it's just too important to not recognize," said Rachael Meads, assistant director of the Student Center and Student Activities and Leadership. "It's not gone."

Meads said that the discussion of AIDS has become like wallpaper and has lacked the attention it deserves.

"It's a fact of life, instead of something we need to do something about," Meads said.

Meads said that another reason it is so important to raise awareness of the topic is that it mainly affects people ages 18-25, the core age group of Shepherd's student population.

Burgess, who graduated last year with a degree in social work, has worked with AIDS prevention with youth awareness in New York City and toured across the country.

Burgess lost a friend to HIV last year and shared his personal reflections as well as information about prevention.

"Before I came in here today, I talked to a friend who is HIV positive," Burgess said. "He told me to tell you to not focus on the stigma, but to focus on the heart."

On Thursday, December 3, Program Board, Student Government Association, and Leadership Lounge will host a screening of the award-winning documentary film "A Closer Walk," at noon in the Cumberland Room, located in the Student Center.

The film is the first film to depict humankind's confrontation with the global AIDS epidemic and took two years to film because of its comprehensive global overview of the crisis. Profiles and interviews were conducted all across the United States and the world.

• Jillian Kesner

Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.

Aaron Burgess discusses his work with AIDS prevention and awareness.


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