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Quilt, Activities Observe World AIDS Day

By Orli G. Bahcall
staff reporter

In observance of World AIDS Day today, a quilt bearing the names of people affiliated with MIT who have died of the disease will be on display in Lobby 7.

A panel from the national AIDS quilt from the Names Project, an organization which compiles the names of all AIDS victims in the nation, is also being displayed.

Additionally, representatives of Cambridge Cares About AIDS "will be going to populated areas on campus [to] talk to students about their personal HIV risk," said coordinator of the event Gary Fallas, who works for the Medical Department.

Representatives of other organizations including Names will be at the booth to distribute HIV information, condoms, and red ribbons.

The MIT quilt currently contains nine names, Fallas said.

"We know there should be more names on the quilt," Fallas said. "If anyone has information," they can contact the Health Education Service of the Medical Department.

Tonight, members of the MIT community will participate in a candlelight march from the statehouse to Faneuil Hall, where a ceremony will be held "to commemorate those who have lost their lives to the epidemic," Fallas said.

The march is sponsored by the Red Cross and the Boston AIDS Action Committee.

Today's events were coordinated by the Health Education Service with the help of student groups including Medlinks; Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends; Amnesty International; and the Women's Forum, Fallas said.

Groups focus on awareness

This day was planned "to raise awareness and provide activities for people to get involved and make a change" said student coordinator Shamim M. Islam '96.

Much of campus seems "desensitized as to how dramatic a situation we face," he said.

The "important message" this event is trying to send is that everyone will affected by this disease in some way sooner or later, Fallas said.

"Many people have anxiety about HIV," Fallas said. "And it is important that these people talk about these anxieties."

The truth is that "we live in a epidemic," Fallas said. "The best way to understand it is to become educated" about how HIV is contracted so that people can make correct decisions about how to stay HIV negative, he said.

"Sometimes when we bring up these issues, we create more anxiety than we want to" Fallas said. Participants in the day's events should remember that casual contacts don't put people at risk.

"There will be people with AIDS at the booth and the walk, and nobody is at any risk from these people" Fallas said.

More involvement needed

"Shared rights and responsibility" is the theme of this year's World AIDS day.

"We want the MIT community to discuss our responsibility to these issues," Fallas said. "Sometimes these issues can be brought out only once a year."

Hopefully a more lasting awareness and more programs that will meet the need of the student will be brought out by the administration, he said.

Fallas stressed the importance of developing programs dealing with "student health and their personal risk for HIV [that] will stay with students even after they graduate from school."

"We will continue to organize these events," Fallas said. "If people are interested in HIV issues, now is the time to get involved."

"We would like to start organizing for next year right away" he said. We are "always looking for a very diverse group of people."

"We would also like to see more of the administration" involved in these projects, Fallas said.