November 16, 2009

University to host Aids Awareness 2009

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Five thousand red and white flags, each representing 240 Americans affected by the HIV/AIDS virus, will line Lincoln Drive leading up to the Student Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale beginning Nov. 30 as part of AIDS Awareness 2009.

Signs bearing the facts, figures and statistics about HIV and AIDS will be alongside the flags. A giant red ribbon hanging from the top floor of the Student Center will symbolize the ongoing fight and serve as a beacon of hope in the battle against the deadly disease.

The first AIDS Awareness event at SIUC was the Student Center’s display of eight panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Dec. 1, 1999, World AIDS Day. The ensuing years have seen the expansion to a multi-day annual event involving various agencies, organizations, and facilities on- and off-campus. The quilt has made subsequent appearances joined by the Faces of AIDS. Guest speakers and renowned AIDS activists including Sheryl Lee Ralph and Gloria Reuben have come to SIUC.

AIDS Awareness 2009 brings to campus a variety of special displays, speakers and activities. This year the Jackson County Health Department will offer three days of free, anonymous HIV screenings in Student Center Ballroom D. Testing will be Dec. 1-3 from 1 to 6 p.m. each day. During the 2008 AIDS Awareness Week free testing, an average of 10 people per hour participated in the testing. As a bonus, the test this year provides results in just 20 minutes, meaning no return visits to get the answers. Counseling will be available on site too.

The return of the AIDS Memorial Quilt highlights the 2009 display. When the Student Center last hosted the quilt in 2005, it was at that time the second largest display of panels on a college campus in the U.S. and there was an overwhelming response. Four years later, organizers anticipate the quilt will have a major impact on students and visitors, reminding them of the individuals and families affected by this worldwide epidemic.

The display will come even closer to home this year as Calico Country is creating quilted panels bearing the first names and last initials of 150 people from throughout Southern Illinois who have died from AIDS. This display offers family members and friends a chance to pay their respects and honor those who have died, organizers said. Afterward, organizers will return the eight local panels along with the AIDS Memorial Quilt for inclusion in the 2010 AIDS Memorial Quilt.

As a host site, SIUC can also accept new quilt panels. Bring completed panels any time the display is open, up until 6 p.m. on Dec. 3. For instructions on how to create an acceptable panel or for additional suggestions and information, log on to

The opening ceremony for the 2009 AIDS Awareness program is at 10 a.m. Dec. 1 in the John W. Corker Lounge. Visitors can then view the quilt in Student Center Ballrooms A, B, and C on Dec. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Dec. 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A continuous reading from the “Book of Names” will accompany the quilt display. Community members as well as SIUC students, faculty and staff are welcome at the display and reading, joining more than 18 million people who have viewed the quilt since 1987. There are 91,000 names on the quilt, including some from Southern Illinois families. To volunteer as a reader from the “Book of Names” e-mail Jennie Gintoli at

University Housing is also facilitating creation of a very different “quilt” by those living in its facilities. They’ve provided cut card stock blocks and are asking students to write on one of the blocks of different hues the answer to one of four questions: What word first comes to mind when you hear HIV/AIDS? If you’ve seen the AIDS Memorial Quilt how did it make you feel? How has HIV/AIDS affected you? Why is the annual HIV/AIDS program important? Volunteers will tie the blocks together and you can see the finished project Nov. 30-Dec. 4 in the University Bookstore hallway display case at the Student Center.

“Does HIV Look Like Me?” is both the title of the World AIDS Day presentation and the question posed by featured speaker Lolisa Gibson. Gibson discovered at age 17 that she was born HIV-positive. She will speak at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Student Center Auditorium. Her talk is free and open to the public.

A pair of special presentations is set for Dec. 2. “Are You Positive You’re Negative?” with Christy Hamilton, a wellness coordinator at the Student Health Center, is set for 5-6 p.m. in the Student Health Center Auditorium.

Then, Steven St. Julian of the Jackson County Health Department joins Hamilton for the popular annual “Sex in the Dark” event fro 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium. It’s an entertaining evening that offers answers to any and all of those questions you’ve always wanted to ask but, for one reason or another, never have. Those attending submit their questions anonymously before the program and when the lights go out, they’ll find out all of the answers. The presentation will be both informative and engaging with a panel of students offering initial answers and then Hamilton and St. Julian clarifying and offering more complete details through a “floating head” reminiscent of the wizard from Oz.

Closing ceremonies are set for 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Student Center’s John W. Corker Lounge. Presiding will be the Rev. William Sasso, minister of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, and registered nurse Carla Feldhamer. Music will be by well-known Carbondale folk singer Kathleen Shaffner.

Co-sponsors of AIDS Awareness 2009 include: Student Center, Student Health Center, University Housing, GLBT Resource Center and University Bookstore at SIUC along with the Jackson County Health Department and Illinois Department of Public Health.

For more information about the AIDS Memorial Quilt, look online at For additional details about AIDS Awareness 2009 and the events at SIUC, check or call 618/453-1142.