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BU Unites for World AIDS Day

Events to educate and commemorate on Wed., Fri., Sat.

Most Boston University students can’t remember a world without AIDS. The disease that has killed more than 25 million people worldwide turned 26 this year, making it older than most BU undergraduates. This year, on World AIDS Day, people from all of the University’s schools and colleges — undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff — will join together to raise awareness and recognize the devastating impact of the virus.

“This year’s World AIDS Day leadership theme provided us with a great opportunity for the University to recognize BU student leadership in AIDS awareness efforts, as well as to link student groups on both University campuses,” says Gerald Keusch, School of Public Health associate dean and professor, Medical Campus associate provost for global health, and director of BU’s Global Health Initiative.

The Global Health Initiative, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, and volunteers from the BU Community Service Center’s Project Hope will commemorate World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1. The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, many of whose members are health-care professionals representing 18 major medical institutions in Boston, supports health-related nonprofit organizations through public performances.

Observed every year since 1988, World AIDS Day is a global effort to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS-related issues. “Saturday’s events are a joint effort between the two campuses, and thus represent the entire BU community,” says Nick Goodmanson (CAS’08), a co-coordinator of Project Hope, whose volunteers plan and implement AIDS/HIV outreach and educational activities.

“It’s really exciting to see both campuses so involved,” says Melissa Gambatese (SPH’08), a Community Service Center volunteer. “Uniting the community is what defeating AIDS is all about.”

The BU community’s observance of World AIDS Day begins on Wednesday, November 28, when the Boston University Student Health Ambassadors will host a Safe Sex Party at BU Central, in the George Sherman Union, from 8 to 10 p.m. The event will benefit Boston AIDS Action and will feature bands and food. On Friday, World AIDS Day will be the topic of Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore’s Coffee and Conversation session at 3 p.m. in the Howard Thurman Center. Additionally, throughout the week Project Hope will set up tables in the GSU Link and pass out red ribbons, free condoms, and AIDS-related information.

Most of Saturday’s activities will take place at the GSU between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and will include lectures by medical professionals, theater and music performances by CFA students, films, poetry, and printmaking by papermaker Eric Avery, a psychiatrist from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.   

In addition, BU medical students will administer free rapid testing for HIV/AIDS at the George Sherman Union on Friday and Saturday. Tests are available at Student Health Services throughout the year on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. and cost $65.

“It’s extremely important that we offer these tests,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services and an assistant professor of family medicine at the School of Medicine. “The Centers for Disease Control recommended last year that testing be a routine health-care procedure for all adults, and particularly high-risk patients.” High-risk patients include anyone who has shared intravenous needles, has regular unprotected sex, or has an HIV-positive partner. “Early detection decreases the likelihood of spreading the disease,” McBride says.

The commemoration culminates in a Saturday night performance by the Longwood Symphony Orchestra that includes Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, which will be performed in Boston for the first time in 20 years. The concert will feature soloists from Classical Action, a unique performing arts organization whose musicians dedicate their performances to the fight against AIDS. The concert is at the New England Conservatory of Music’s Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Ave., Boston, and begins at 8 p.m.

Currently, an estimated 38.6 million people worldwide are living with HIV. More than one million live in the United States, and there are 4,738 reported cases in Boston alone, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Nonetheless, Goodmanson believes that the BU community needs to be made more aware of HIV and AIDS. “I think people in the United States, particularly college students, tend to be lulled into a false sense of security,” he says. “I think the attitude is, ‘Yeah, AIDS ruins a lot of lives, but not our lives.’”

For a complete list of World AIDS Day activities at BU, click here.  

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.