AIDS walk brings local community, students together

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February 14, 2011

11:17 PM

LiVE, a student-run organization on campus, held its third annual AIDS Walk Saturday. The goal of the organization is to promote public health on campus by holding events that bring awareness to different health issues.

“It also serves to promote a positive self image among both men and women on the campus of William and Mary,” Courtnie Gore ’12, co-president of LiVE, said. “The main goal was to educate and motivate the community.”

For each event, the group discusses and selects a single health issue and then researches the disease or ailment and ways to inform students about both prevention and support. The organization frequently fundraises for HIV/AIDS research.

“HIV/AIDS can be such a touchy or ‘eerie’ subject to discuss,” Gore said. “By bringing the Williamsburg AIDS Network toour everyday, casual setting it encourages students to take the necessary precautions and actions to live a healthy life, and even encourage their colleagues to do the same.”

On Saturday, the AIDS Walk aimed not only to present students with information about AIDS prevention, but to support community members who suffer from the disease. The money raised by the event will be donated to the Williamsburg AIDS Network, which LiVE has worked with since the club began.

“The speaker is…important not only because she provides a lot of information on AIDS, but it also bridges together our community with a local organization,” Blari Howell ’12, LiVE historian, said.

The AIDS Walk was separated into three main events. Participants were provided breakfast as they arrived, and invited to decorate shirts with a reserved space on the back to write about what inspired them to support HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

After breakfast, participants were invited to hear speaker Reverend Kellie Schorr of the Williamsburg AIDS Network share her experiences with people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their stories. Schorr focused on promoting healthy promotions and also erasing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that often hinders discussion, openness and treatment.

“So many people know of this epidemic, but very few people know about it, its causes and how it can be prevented,” Gore said. “The social stigma towards this disease and the people who may have it is something that also needs to go.”

Afterwards, the group and other participants made a loop around campus and stopped at three different locations where they received different objects, such as awareness buttons. At the end of the walk, participants had the opportunity to get tested for HIV/AIDS at no charge.

LiVE, which started three years ago, has had to face the challenges of a new organization in terms of recruiting and publicizing tits events. However, members have learned to use their other organizations and groups as a starting point from which to draw support.

“The most challenging part was most definitely promotion and advertising,” Gore said. “After reaching that obstacle, promotion…was at first very hard. Encouraging students to come out on a Saturday morning to walk [was difficult]. But…we have a great amount of students who care enough to do so.”

Its next event, a fashion show to support multiple sclerosis on April 15th, will include other organizations on campus to raise support.

“This year we’re doing a global theme, so we’ll have groups such as Syndicate perform all the way to the African Cultural Society,” Gore said.

The range of events and health issues that LiVE covers gives students and community members the ability to help promote a healthy lifestyle.

“The fashion show is a lot of fun to be in and to watch, we love that we get to bring in local high schoolers to the event,” Shartania Askew ’12, LiVE’s treasurer, said.

The goal behind learning and educating others about different diseases and health issues is not only to raise awareness, but to make subjects that are difficult to talk about more approachable.

“The most important thing is to know your status,” Askew said. “That should be the first priority. Then the second priority is to help others protect themselves and to protect yourself as well.”

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