World Aids Day observed in Nashville

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by Tom Schlueter-White
Inside Out Nashville Contributor

World AIDS Day was established by the World Health Organization in 1988 and serves to focus global attention on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Each year, observance of World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programs, churches, community organizations and individuals to demonstrate the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS by encouraging dialogue and focusing on a world-wide reminder of the global impact of this epidemic.

The Comprehensive Care Center (C.C.C.) along with Nashville CARES, The First Response Center and Street Works will combine their efforts as host for this year’s World AIDS Day gathering at Centennial Park on the steps of The Parthenon, On Friday, December 1. The event will get underway at 5:15 p.m. with the lighting of 1,200 luminaries to symbolize those we have lost in our community to this disease.

The program entitled “Stop AIDS, Keep The Promise” will feature speakers including Dr. Stephen Raffanti, Executive Director of the Comprehensive Care Center, Joseph Interrante, CEO of Nashville CARES, Ron Crowder, Executive Director of Street Works and an invocation by Reverend Christopher F. Davis of the First Response Center.

Following this program there will be a memorial service held at 6pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway, featuring a reading of names of those lost to AIDS within the last year. Both events are free to the public.

The goals of World AIDS Day are to call attention to the pandemic, to educate people about prevention, testing, and treatment options, and to fight the stigma that allows HIV/AIDS to spread.

The theme for World AIDS day 2006 is accountability, and accountability is all the more critical as governments should now be in the process of setting national targets as called for in the June Declaration and due at the end of 2006. The World AIDS Campaign and its partners call on all governmental leaders to be accountable for the promises they have made, to set the targets necessary to reach universal access to care, treatment and support, and to make all the necessary resources available in order to overcome the AIDS pandemic.

Through the years, many Middle Tennessee LGBT organizations have worked hard to help raise money, to educate, to spread awareness, and to encourage constructive discussions about HIV/AIDS. For example, both Smoky Mountain Rodeo Association (SMRA) and The Conductors have contributed financial assistance to Nashville CARES, Nashville’s largest HIV/AIDS charity.

As the AIDS epidemic became more prevalent throughout the United States, The Conductors made the decision to raise funds for those families and individuals in middle Tennessee whose lives were changed by HIV/AIDS. The Conductors continue to focus their fundraising efforts (monthly club nights, annual Leather Runs and other events for example) on Nashville CARES. Periodically, Nashville CARES will contact the Conductors to help with various monetary needs. They continue to work hard to provide financial assistance in a strictly confidential and unbiased manner.

Each year, Smoky Mountain Rodeo Association chooses at least one charity partner that focuses on HIV/AIDS for whom they raise funds throughout the year. Past charity partners have included Nashville CARES and the Bianca Page Awareness Network.

SMRA is one of twenty-eight associations of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) that raise funds to fight HIV/AIDS throughout the United States and Canada. By hosting rodeos and other events that promote education and enjoyment of the western lifestyle, IGRA member associations raise funds for their communities. Recently, the members of SMRA worked hard to host the 2006 IGRA Convention in Nashville which allowed them to host several additional fundraisers including a “Pub Crawl” and a Dance Competition.

Panels from The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on Display at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tennessee on Friday, December 1. Sections of the internationally recognized AIDS Memorial Quilt will return for display, courtesy of The NAMES Project Foundation. Three 12′ x 12′ segments of the memorial quilt will gild the entrance around the main art gallery for a one-day display honoring World AIDS Day. This traveling display serves as a monument to those stricken and also an educational means of awareness for the world AIDS crisis.

Nashville in Harmony, vocalist Holly Lewis and The Harp School, Inc. will be performing during the reception from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Details at www.rcenter.org