The MU Bond Life Sciences Center partnered with Missouri Rain, an HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease prevention and education organization, to commemorate World AIDS Day with a memorial service Monday.
Posters displaying research by MU faculty on HIV/AIDS lined the walls of McQuinn Atrium.
Four quilts hung from each level of the building to commemorate victims of the disease. Each patch was made by family members and loved ones in honor of the deceased.
Two speakers, one of whom is HIV-positive, were scheduled to talk about their experiences with the virus, but they had to cancel due to illness. Missouri Rain executive director Cale Mitchell said he was upset about the cancellation because he thinks the speakers help humanize the disease.
“Having someone who is courageous enough to speak out about their personal experience helps put a human face on the disease,” Mitchell said.
Missouri Rain will work to bring the speakers to MU next semester, Mitchell said.
Despite the schedule changes, Mitchell said he hoped the same message about HIV/AIDS prevention and research would be conveyed to attendees. Because the virus is no longer a hot topic in the media, people forget it still affects families in this country.
At the memorial service, Mitchell told his audience there are 465 diagnosed cases of HIV in this area, and 25 local people die from the virus annually. He said he hopes this event and others will make people realize HIV/AIDS is not just a developing world problem.
At the end of the memorial service a bell rang 31 times in honor of the 31 years that have passed since the recognition of the disease.
Margaret Lange, a postdoctoral fellow at the Life Sciences Center, said she thought the research conducted by MU and other organizations on the virus is very important for public awareness about HIV/AIDS.
“Without public awareness there’s no way to prevent the disease,” she said.
Lange said she thinks awareness will lead to more people being tested for the disease and learning about drugs that help slow down its progression.
There were also booths set up by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, Youth Advisory Board and Trail to a Cure with information about testing sites and ways to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Senior Rachel Doren said she attended the event as part of a class she is taking.
“I think it’s very interesting how far studies have come and how their focus is moving towards prevention now,” Doren said.
The research posters, along with the quilts provided by Missouri Rain, will be on display until Wednesday.