On Dec. 1, The Research Initiative on Social Justice and Equity (RISE) will host a day of events in honor of World AIDS Day.
RISE is a group comprised of faculty, staff and students who wish to bring equity to Mississippi and the rest of the world. The group stems from the College of Education and Psychology. The group is made up of 16 individuals, four of which are directors.
The day will begin with a luncheon at noon, held in the Thad Cochran Center Ballroom I. The luncheon will be an event where researchers, experts and community leaders can speak about HIV and its affect on Hattiesburg and the state of Mississippi. Guests were required to register for the event by Nov. 21.
At 3:30 p.m., the group will be showing “How to Survive a Plague” in R.C. Cook Union. This movie specifically focuses on HIV and community activism. The viewing is completely free and those in attendance will also have the opportunity to win door prizes.
Throughout the entire day, students will also have access to free and rapid HIV testing. Students can come to Union rooms A, C and D for testing.
“It’s incredibly easy, takes only 15 minutes and is completely free and confidential,” said Kamden Strunk, a director for RISE. “Knowing our status is one of the most important individual steps we can take in this fight.”
Also throughout the day, students will be able to view the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the main atrium of the Thad Cochran Center.
According to the AIDS Quilt website, the quilt was created in 1985 by Cleve Jones, a gay rights activist. While planning a march in honor of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, Jones found that over 1,000 people in the San Francisco area had also lost their lives to HIV/AIDS.
The quilt has now been viewed by over 14 million people and is made of 48,000 panels from across the nation.
According to Strunk, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, City Hall and USM are all home to panels of the quilt.
“They are memorials to those who have died due to the epidemic,” Strunk said. “In that sense, they are a very visible and poignant reminder of the real, human cost of the continued soaring HIV infection rates in Mississippi, and the urgent need for us to take action to
change the pattern.”
In 2010, The Mississippi State Department of Health issued an STD/HIV Epidemiologic Profile that found roughly 14,000 cases of HIV had been diagnosed in Mississippi as of Dec. 31, 2010. Four percent of the cases found in 2010 were found in Forrest County.
Then, in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study stating that Mississippi ranked 20th in the number of HIV diagnoses that year.
For more information of RISE and World AIDS Day visit usm-rise.weebly.com.