Team Carolina | World AIDS Day

By Ngo on January 3, 2012 in AmeriCorps, World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day, Team Carolina worked together to observe the impact of HIV and honor all those who have lost their lives to the pandemic. We were extremely grateful that so many organizations were honoring this day with community events, dance demonstrations, testing events, and university campus-wide shows. Due to the overwhelming amount of activities, Team Carolina members participated in their own host agency events as well as other community events. These events were located at North Carolina Central University, Shaw University, Veteran Affairs Medical Center of Durham, and the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, on both November 30th, and December 1st.

At Stephanie’s placement, the Durham Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center was holding a World AIDS Day celebration at the chapel. The celebration kicked off with a Congolese drum and chant led by Dr. Ken Wilson, a physician from the infectious disease department, and his friend Pline Mounezo with the Durham VA Choir accompanying them. After the upbeat start to rev up the audience’s energy, we welcomed three speakers. Stephanie started things off and shared her previous experiences with HIV in Vietnam, how that translated to her work currently in the VA, and how HIV is disproportionately affecting the South. Jessica Fulton, the psychology intern in the infectious disease department, spoke of the mental health and issues HIV positive patients face. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Goldstein, focused on HIV in women veterans and the importance of directing care and resources to this population. The chaplain, Carl Clark, gave closing to the ceremony through a moving vigil. With such a jam-packed program with enthusiastic speakers and performers, the program was very well received by the audience.

In addition, Partners in Caring, in collaboration with Duke University, participated in providing HIV testing to students at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC. While partnering with another advocacy organization, our team was able to test 45 university students. We also provided students with basic safe-sex education counseling, various educational pamphlets and brochures, and contraceptives. This initiative helped raise awareness and reduce the sigma around getting tested. The turnout was more than expected, but in our line of work, this is always an awesome thing.

Project SAFE is North Carolina Central University’s only HIV prevention organization. It  held its annual World AIDS Day event in the Miller Morgan Auditorium on NCCU’s campus. While Project SAFE put in many long hours to making this event happen, the event’s success could not have been achieved without the help of others. Several HIV agencies and organizations from the community came to set up informational tables to be viewed before the event. Furthermore, the event was held in collaboration with many other student organizations around campus. Each organization created some type of work to be shown or performed at the event, including skits, videos, and spoken word. Each performance helped to raise awareness about HIV and safer sex practices among students at NCCU. The event included a keynote speaker who was HIV positive to talk about his story and give the issue a human face. Over 300 students attended this event and free HIV/Syphilis testing was provided to those who were interested.

Josh represented the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina (AAS-C) on the planning committee and coordination of two events.  The first event was the Durham County World AIDS Day Celebration, which was a huge success!  Hundreds of community members turned out to check out exhibitors, participate in the Facing AIDS Campaign, get free HIV testing, eat delicious food, and view a program with amazing dancers, singers, artists, and speakers.  Some of the speakers included the founder of a local AIDS service organization, people living with HIV of all races, ethnicity, genders, languages, and ages, HIV case-workers and prevention educators.  Josh’s role was to recruit and coordinate volunteers throughout the program, and particularly a group of dedicated volunteers from the AAS-C AIDS Care Teams to help prepare and serve food to attendees.  The experience was incredibly empowering, with personal stories, a diverse crowd, Spanish-language performers, speakers, and translators, song, dance, and attendees and volunteers who are truly committed to helping those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  Josh also coordinated a food drive which resulted in loads of food items to be donated to the AAS-C’s food pantry.

Lastly, Josh, as an Associate Faith Ministries Coordinator in his AmeriCorps placement, put countless hours into planning a World AIDS Day Interfaith Worship Service in neighboring Raleigh, NC.  The beauty of this service was the diversity of faiths represented and contributing to the program.  This event showed that HIV/AIDS can be confronted from non-judgmental, multiple faith perspectives, and that people of faith and people of no faith community can come together to “Remember the Lost, Remember the Living, and Remember Those We Must Protect,” the motto of AAS-C.  In spite of being unable to attend the service due to dual obligations on the evening of World AIDS Day, Josh was particularly touched that his parents, both local Baptist ministers, affirmed him and his HIV-positive status, and accepted an invitation to read passages as a part of the Worship Service.  Nothing is more meaningful than one’s own parents moving towards a place of acceptance and affirmation and joining the fight for their son and every other person living with HIV/AIDS. These events were how we as AmeriCorps members move people to get up and ACT to fight HIV/AIDS.

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