Awareness, accountability are themes for 2007
Activists throughout the North Texas region will unite behind the common causes of awareness and accountability during this year’s World AIDS Day events. From Denton to Fort Worth, to Plano and back again to Dallas, the public will hear from diverse storytellers and learn from their experiences.
After years of promising to develop plans for universal access to care treatment and prevention services, the global community has grown anxious. While time has passed, the rate of infection has increased. Through the slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise,” the 2006 World AIDS Day Campaign is making it clear that the world won’t wait.
According to the United Nations’ AIDS epidemic report, more than four million people were infected with HIV in 2006. Almost 3 million people died due to AIDS in the same year. Since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was identified in 1981, more than 25 million people have passed away due to AIDS-related causes.
“We lost an entire generation of smart, talented, creative people to this disease, said the Rev. Jo Hudson, head pastor at Cathedral of Hope. “We must give thanks for their lives and remember that the disease has not died yet.”
The Cathedral of Hope will continue its long-standing tradition of supporting folks with HIV/AIDS throughout the weekend. On Dec. 1, there will be a noontime service until 12:35 p.m. in the sanctuary. The Rev. Carol West, former AIDS chaplain at Cathedral of Hope and current pastor at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, will lead the sermon. A light lunch will be offered following the service.
“I always hope for two things to come out of worship around this time,” said Hudson. “The first is that people will have time to remember those who have died and really grieve the loss to our society. The second is to awaken people to the grave fact that diagnoses have risen locally.”
On the following Sunday, Dec. 3, the concert “Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens” will begin at 7 p.m. A $10 recommended donation will be collected at the door, as well as an offering later in the program. All proceeds benefit the church’s AIDS Crisis Fund, which directly assists people living with AIDS. The show, set to blues, jazz and rock tunes, features 30 individual stories. The folks represent a wide variety of experience and sources for the disease.
“For those of us who have been through it, it’s so difficult to watch these numbers go back up,” said Dr. Hudson of the reported increase in the rates of infections in North Texas. “We hope to continue to educate and advocate for funding, research and helping others.”
Dallasites will have many ways to get involved in town during World AIDS Day. A group of artists will partner with the Resource Center of Dallas for the third year in a row at the “Art Rage Us III” World AIDS Day Art Show. The show opens at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 and will continue through Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Artist Joleen Decle birthed the idea when many of her friends were living with HIV/AIDS. She hopes that the shows have a combined effect of raising awareness in the public and raising funds for the center.
“Through a variety of art, color and love put into these art pieces, we hope that people will come out and help a great cause, and come away with a beautiful piece of art,” she said.
Bill Hanges, Dinora Salerno, Scott Frelick, Jim Fredrick, William Miller, Greg Bergeron and William Hood will join Decle in donating more than 40 pieces of artwork. Half of the proceeds will directly benefit the Resource Center.
“Tearing Down Walls, Building Up Hope,” will be the slogan and goal of the event sponsored by AIDS Interfaith Network and Grace United Methodist Church in Dallas. At 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, the Rev. Charles Cox of Grace UMC, the Rev. Steven Pace, AIN’s executive director, and Andy Smith, president of AIN, will lead a special service in honor of the World AIDS Day theme of accountability.
“Through compassion, we can lay the cornerstone of hope. Everyone needs to feel hope,” said Pace. “For people AIN serves, sometime hope is elusive. Acts of help are acts of healing. It is through compassion that others find hope.”
The Grace UMC choir will lead an Evensong, an expressionist, participatory form of worship. “Be Not Afraid,” “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Lord of The Dance” will help visitors feel the message in an emotional way through music and song, organizers said.
Dallas will also be represented at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and pastor at Saddleback, has spearheaded efforts to get the church more involved in the fight against AIDS. Liberty Church will send Pastor Jerry Cook, founder of five evangelical GLBT churches, as a delegate to support the need for recognition of the AIDS crisis within the evangelical community, Cook said.
The conference will feature renowned health specialists, politicians, pastoral leaders and entertainers for a three-day workshop. Beginning on Thursday, panels will be presented on the increasing rates of infection in the African American community, the importance of bipartisan public policy and the emergence of new forms of treatment.
Meanwhile, Fort Worth will offer opportunities for both solemn reflection and swanky celebration. The Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network’s theme for their World AIDS Day event is “Action Makes a Difference.” In addition to remembrances, a community-wide, interfaith service will encourage folks to get active. The service will be held at the Agape Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Worth.
“It seems like there’s a lot of apathy and discouragement,” said Curtis Smith, the volunteer coordinator at TCAIN and a pastor at Trinity MCC in Arlington, which is partnering with others to present the event. “We want people to know that any action they take to give someone else hope makes a difference.”
In Arlington, the Second Annual Designer’s Holiday Collection for World AIDS Day will be at the Arlington Museum of Art on Dec. 1 from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. A silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, wine and musical entertainment will be available. The area’s best floral and interior designers will showcase their latest works at the auction. Tickets are $25 and all proceeds go to support the clients and programs of AIDS Outreach Center of Greater Tarrant County.
Several media events will commemorate World AIDS Day this year. Showtime will air two movies, “Beat the Drum” and “3 Needles.”
“Musa,” an orphan boy, leaves his Zulu village for Johannesberg with his father’s last gift, a tribal drum, in “Beat the Drum.” Approximately 12 million orphans have been left behind by 30 million AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. It will air at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1. In “3 Needles,” three separate story lines are followed through China, Canada and South African. Stockard Channing and Lucy Liu star in the film that will debut at 8 p.m. on Dec. 4.
All cable networks will air a public service announcement aimed at HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention at 6:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Bid 2 Beat AIDS will launch on eBay on Dec. 1, as well. Memorabilia from Madonna, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Black and Jake Gyllenhaal will be among the finds in the online auction. “Lend-A-Hand to LIFEbeat” cards will feature hand traces and signatures from various celebrities. All proceeds benefit LIFEbeat, the Music Industry Fights AIDS. Last year, more than $75,000 was raised for AIDS services.
The University of North Texas will make sure college students in Denton stay informed. Free HIV testing and results will be available to all UNT students all day Thursday at the Student Health and Wellness Center. A panel featuring presentations from the Peace Corps, AIDS Services of North Texas and various UNT students will commence in the University Union at 1 p.m. Dec. 1.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, ten blocks from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in the One O’Clock Lounge in the University Union.
Collin County has not been spared the rising rate of infections. In the last year, Collin County saw a rise of 62 percent of new HIV infections. Through the North Texas AIDS Awareness Coalition, the World AIDS Day 2006 event is scheduled at the Collin County Community College Spring Creek campus on Thursday.
At 1 p.m., 30 blocks of the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt will be revealed for public viewing.
Miss Texas, Shilah Phillips, will join a panel of speakers for a ceremony that commences at 7 p.m. Afterward, new local blocks of the quilt will be dedicated to The Names Project.
“The quilt is such a powerful symbol of all the lost lives,” said AIDS Services of North Texas board member Rosemarie Odom. “It also inspires people to take action and pursue prevention.”
In addition to the quilt, photographs of 17 faces of AIDS will be showcased.
The subjects are local citizens whose lives have been touched in some way by AIDS. They will be on-hand to share their stories one-on-one with visitors who ask.
With 40 million people infected and 5 million predicted to contract the disease this year, civic, health care and spiritual leaders are calling for action now. Although World AIDS Day has become one of the most successful international campaigns for a cause, the fight always starts at home.
“No matter how we feel, we have learned that serving those who are ill is an opportunity to show compassion, love and mercy through the lives of friends, families and caregivers,” said Rev. Pace.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.