The Maneater

Bond Life Sciences Center spearheads the effort to bring HIV awareness to campus

“The global community recognizing that it is still an issue is important, but locally it is important to recognize that,” said Cale Mitchell, executive director of Central Missouri RAIN. “World AIDS day is a good way to do that.”

Every Dec. 1 since 1988, countries across the globe recognize World AIDS Day as an opportunity to spread awareness and provide support to those who suffer from HIV. This year the Bond Life Sciences Center, in partnership with SHAPE and Rain of Central Missouri, a STD prevention and care organization, will be leading the effort to bring awareness of HIV and AIDS to the MU campus.

“I think that World AIDS Day begins a conversation and a narrative,” said Bobby Remis, strategic communications associate at the Bond Life Sciences Center. “(It) helps take something that is very stigmatized and takes it to a level that people can understand it better.”

The Bond Life Sciences Center primarily focuses on research. However, executive assistant Karla Carter said that another mission of the center is public education and outreach. In the past, the center has sponsored a number different of events. This will be their third time participating in World AIDS Day itself.

“We have HIV researchers in the center, so we have built a liaison with the community (that has) to do with HIV and AIDS,” Carter said. “The idea is that we can put a face on the research to do behind HIV.”

Although World AIDS Day typically receives attention on campus, this year promises to be the biggest yet. In addition to the free HIV testing administered by SHAPE and Rain, the Bond Life Sciences Center is hosting speaker Greg Louganis on Dec. 1 in Jesse Auditorium. Louganis is a gold medal Olympic diver and activist who has been living with HIV since he was diagnosed with the virus shortly before his appearance in the 1988 Olympics.

“We have the opportunity to bring a celebrated Olympian here,” Remis said. “I think what’s wonderful is his story is not just to one population, it’s not just to the LGBT, it’s not just to people with HIV, it’s to everyone.”

The Bond Life Sciences Center will also be hosting a panel discussion titled “A Day in the Life of HIV," which will include physicians and residents from the School of Medicine, social workers, members of the LGBTQ community, HIV researchers and Greg Louganis himself.

“The idea is, you’re getting all of these different people who interact with HIV who might not necessarily interact with each other,” Carter said. “Maybe by bringing them all together, then they can answer some questions and see what it’s like a little bit beyond their existing vision.”

In addition to the panel discussion and Louganis’ speech, sections of an AIDS memorial quilt are currently being displayed in Jesse Hall and the Bond Life Sciences Center and will remain on exhibit through Dec. 1. Names Project Foundation created the quilt in 1987 to honor those who have died due to AIDS related illnesses. Although only a few sections are on display at MU, the entire quilt is made up of over 48,000 panels.

“Each of those sections (on the quilt) were made by a family member, by a spouse, (or) by a partner that loves this person,” Remis said. “It also tells a story of how far we’ve come and how far we are going and have to go with HIV research, but it’s really about honoring the people who have died from the disease.”

This year’s World AIDS Day is of particular importance to the Bond Life Sciences Center because of a number of new developments in HIV research that have come out of the center recently in 2015. Carter said that these findings have been featured in major news outlets.

“We are seeing new cases (of HIV) all the time,” said Cale Mitchell, executive director of Rain. “There is better science and better access to care but that is only as good as how much the community is willing to support that endeavor. The global community recognizing that it is still an issue is important, but locally it is important to recognize that. World AIDS day is a good way to do that.”

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