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BU recognizes World AIDS Day today

Events scheduled for Charles River and Medical campuses

Boston University marks World AIDS Day today, December 1, with several events on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus.

On the Charles River Campus, the Community Service Center’s Project Hope program will conclude a week of AIDS/HIV-awareness activities tonight with a documentary screening and a candlelight remembrance vigil.

The evening will begin with a screening of Living with Slim, a documentary by Sam Kauffmann, a College of Communication associate professor of film, about children in Uganda living with AIDS/HIV. Kauffmann will be available for questions after the showing.

The award-winning film is the product of a Fulbright Lecture and Research Award that sent Kauffmann, whose film topics have ranged from fatherhood to forced busing in Boston, to Uganda last year. Knowing the effect AIDS has had on Ugandan society, he says, “it seemed important do to something about that, the greatest scourge.” When he began to see the stigma associated with the disease — and its devastating effects on HIV-positive children — Living with Slim was born.

The concept is simple, borrowed from one of Kauffmann’s earlier films, about children’s relationships with their fathers: each child interviewed answers the same questions about his or her health, family, friendships, and hopes for the future. Working with doctors and AIDS counselors at the government-run Mulago Hospital, Kauffmann initially interviewed about 30 children, all of whom had contracted HIV at birth. The seven depicted in the film were chosen because they represent a variety of lifestyles — rural and urban, poor and well-off, with and without access to medicine — and tell some of the more compelling stories.

The film, winner of Best Documentary Short at festivals that include the New England Film & Video Festival and the Woods Hole Film Festival, was an official selection at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Living with Slim will also be screened Sunday, December 4, in the New York AIDS Film Festival.

Tonight’s showing of the film is at 7 p.m. in COM 101, followed at 9 p.m. by a candlelight remembrance vigil at Marsh Chapel and on Marsh Plaza. Participants will speak about and remember those who have lost the battle with AIDS.

On the Medical Campus, the Center for HIV/AIDS Care and Research (CHACR) at Boston Medical Center invites family, friends, and community members to attend various events organized by a variety of individuals and groups who share a commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic.

The day’s free events begin at 10 a.m. in the Menino Pavilion and feature numerous inspirational testimonies from patients living with AIDS/HIV; a keynote address by Dawn Breedon, a motivational speaker and AIDS/HIV activist; and an informational health fair and free rapid HIV testing.

“World AIDS Day is an opportunity to heighten awareness and inspire action in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” says Paul Skolnik, CHACR director, chief of the BMC section of infectious diseases, and a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “While this event provides a means for remembrance and healing, it also increases a deeper understanding of this widespread epidemic.”

An added feature of this year’s events is the public display of the AIDS PhotoMosaic by Face-to-Face Malawi, a multifaceted project that focuses on the culture and society and the fight against HIV in Africa. The stunning artwork contains 48 black-and-white portraits of HIV-infected or affected teachers, students, family members, and friends, and depicts how AIDS engulfs whole communities.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt will also be on display. A visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic, the quilt has come to symbolize and commemorate the millions of lives lost to HIV.

This year’s theme, Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS, seeks to address the way the inequality of women helps fuel the transmission of HIV and AIDS. Globally, studies show that young women and girls are 2.5 times more likely to be HIV-infected than their male counterparts. According to Skolnik, this vulnerability on the part of females is primarily because of inadequate knowledge about AIDS, insufficient access to HIV prevention services, and an inability to negotiate safer sex.

Supporters of the Medical Campus World AIDS Day events include the Boston Public Health Commission and BMC’s Consumer Advisory Board.