World AIds day
Acting up to break the silence
World AIDS Day is Thursday, Dec. 1, and the Philadelphia Center, Northwest Louisiana’s HIV/ AIDS resource center, will commemorate the day with free HIV screenings, door prizes and a program featuring former Shreveport Mayor and Rep. Cedric B. Glover at Centenary College.
The event kicks off with free HIV screenings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Centenary College. Evening activities begin at 5 p.m. in the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse lobby with complimentary refreshments.
“We educate to help reduce the stigma that HIV / AIDS carries and raise awareness that HIV is still very much with us, particularly here in the South,” The Philadelphia Center’s Advocacy Coordinator Chip Eakins said.
Following the reception, the Lifetime Advocacy Award will be presented to John and Candy Beaird of the Beaird Family Foundation posthumously. This year’s recipient is Jim Montgomery, who passed away in 2013. Rep. Glover will also speak at the program.
The program will also feature the local film “Small Town Rage: Fighting Back in the Deep South,” which received critical acclaim at the year’s P.A.C.E Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The independent documentary film examines the work and influence of ACT-UP Shreveport, a movement that worked to bring attention to the plight of those living with the disease. The movement, which staged protests and crashed meetings, called government to act on the AIDS epidemic, a controversial topic in the Deep South.
World AIDS Day began in 1988, and AIDS and HIV are still ongoing issues in the nation, especially in the South. According to the Philadelphia Center, southern states account for 48 percent of new cases of HIV in the United States.
The ACT-UP Shreveport movement helped give birth to the Philadelphia Center, which was established in the spring of 1990. Serving the parishes of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Red River, DeSoto, Sabine and Natchitoches, the organization is the only HIV/AIDS resource center in Region VII.
The Philadelphia Center not only provides screenings, it also works to help those living with HIV/AIDS.
“I work with our clients [who are] finding their voices to raise concerns over the issues that affect their lives, such as access to stable housing, health care and adherence to HIV meds. A lot of my work involves local organizations and state legislators/representatives as well as federal lawmakers. There is a huge vacuum in HIV education, and that is what I love the most, educating the public regarding HIV/AIDS,” Eakins said.
The Philadelphia Center also offers the latest form of HIV prevention, preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.
World AIDS Day events in Shreveport are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Philadelphia Center’s Facebook event. The event is sponsored by the Philadelphia Center and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
– Tara Bullock