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Monday, Nov. 23, 2015

AIDS Awareness

Philadelphia Center plays host to event supporting survivors

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Philadelphia Center plays host to event supporting survivors

Dec. 1 marks the annual World AIDS Day – a day of raising awareness, showing support and promoting advocacy for those living with HIV and commemorating those who have died. The global health day was first started in 1988, and has since become a day of recognition and calls to action.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in eight people living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Additionally, about one in four new HIV infections are in youth ages 13-24. Globally, 35 million people are living with HIV – 3.2 million of which are children. World AIDS Day acts as a day for people to unify and promote education on treatment and prevention, advocacy in both communities and legislation and bring a global consciousness to the health epidemic.

Locally, there are organizations and business who are coming out in a show of support and recognition for the global health day. Serving as the only HIV/AIDS resource center in Northwest Louisiana, the Philadelphia Center will host an event Dec. 1 at Robinson Film Center. Chip Eakins, advocacy coordinator, said the nonprofit choose a new location for their event every year, and that the Robinson was a perfect fit. They will screen a preview for the film “Small Town Rage” introduced by co-producer David Hylan. The documentary examines the story of ACT UP Shreveport during the early years of the AIDS pandemic, and the experience of those living with the disease. Eakins said the film will revolve around history and the ACT UP movement with the Shreveport chapter. The importance of showing a preview for the documentary, Eakins said, is to educate the youth on understanding where the pandemic started and how the community came to be where it is today.

Keynote speaker will be Bobby Darrow, who is a long-time AIDS survivor, one of the founding members of ACT UP Shreveport, director Emeritus of the Philadelphia Center and currently the executive director of the Shreveport Little Theatre. Darrow was recently named by POZ Magazine as one of their 100 most influential long-term AIDS survivors.

“The day will start at 4 p.m. with prevention,” Eakins said. “Our mobile health unit that was recently donated will offer free HIV and STD testing outside on Texas Street.”

The reception will begin at 6 p.m. with Abby Singer’s providing hot and cold horderves, and the program will begin at 7 p.m. with Baylor Boyd, president of Philadelphia Center’s board of directors, presenting a special award for the first time. Eakins said there will also be an educational table offering information on safe sex, the history of HIV/AIDS and other preventative information. Eakins said his job as the advocacy coordinator is to educate the public and raise up activists to help in legislation down in Baton Rouge. Eakins will also offer information on his fight against the HIV criminalization law in Louisiana.

The event will be centered around prevention, history and education. They will offer a moment of silence to those who have passed away and work to empower and educate those within the community. Eakins said changing times has shifted the HIV/AIDS focus from typically white, gay males, to the black community. He said the importance of raising awareness, testing and treatment is connected to the fact that the community is already marginalized and stigmatized in their opportunities for healthcare, education and accessibility to services. Advocacy starts with having a conversation and addressing the stigma. He hopes to influence younger generations to get involved with the global theme of “Getting to Zero” – zero new infections and zero deaths.

“We have a horrible death rate in Louisiana [when it comes to HIV/ AIDS],” Eakins said. “And it doesn’t have to be that way. ‘Getting to Zero’ starts with talking about the stigma, and talking to young people. They are dying because of it, particularly young people of color.”

The Philadelphia Center’s mission is to empower those affected by HIV/ AIDS through education and service. Some of their client-centered services include connecting people to resources that are medically appropriate, ongoing assessment and service planning, risk reduction counseling, continuity of care and other direct assistance as well as referrals. Additionally, the Philadelphia Center manages the Mercy Center, a 24-hour permanent supportive housing program for formerly homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The program aims to allow these individuals to live a safe, supportive, active and productive life. Founded in 1989, the Mercy Center houses 19 men and women as of 2015.

About the Film:

More information on the film, ‘Small Town Rage,’ can be found at www.smalltownrage.com.

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