Feb 222006
Authors: Caroline Welch

Every eight seconds, someone in Sub-Saharan Africa dies from AIDS.

To raise awareness for AIDS in Africa, Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, brought Fal///, a local West African drum and dance group to the Lory Student Center Wednesday as part of Black History Month.

Combining rhythm, drums and movement, the group performed traditional African dances, including two "Harvest Dances," and one celebratory drum piece that is performed to welcome royalty.

The group is part of a nation-wide "Dance for Life" movement that brings teenagers together to dance and fight against the disease.

Although HIV/AIDS is a worldwide issue, the disease has the biggest impact on Africans and those who trace their roots to the continent.

"In the U.S. an estimated 950,000 people are living with AIDS and half of all new infections (in the U.S.) in recent years have been among African-Americans," according to unaids.org, the United Nations' AIDS website.

Watching "A Closer Walk," a documentary on AIDS in African narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith, made senior Josh Gold even more passionate about the epidemic, and he has since worked to raise awareness on campus.

Gold is one of 15 Hillel Weinberg Tzedek Advocacy Interns nationwide who work through Hillel on AIDS awareness, and the "dance-a-thon" is one of the activities he planned to further his mission.

"I had a big desire to educate students about the AIDS epidemic," Gold said. "Dancing and music are some things everyone can come to. They help break down stereotypes."

Gold has also done work for World AIDS Day and is preparing for the Alternative Spring Break trip to Seattle, Wash., where participants will work with the Life Long AIDS Alliance and other AIDS related issues.

Liv H-Mckee, a member of the group and CSU alumna, dances because it brings people together to celebrate life.

"We all know how good it makes us feel to dance, to celebrate," H-Mckee said. "That's what this is all about – celebrating life."

Connecting with the epidemic on a personal level, H-Mckee discovered what it means to lose a loved-one to AIDS when her uncle died.

"It is important to know that when we lose people, we lose culture and that's what makes this world beautiful," H-Mckee said. "Even though it is AIDS in Africa, that's part of our world. The world is all one place."

Gold, along with Brian Keener, a junior computer information systems major, is creating a new student organization to continue AIDS education on campus.

The organization, called AIDS Alliance Student Organization, will raise awareness and educate students about the disease and how it impacts the world, both domestically and abroad.

"It will act as a model for other schools," Keener said. "We want to promote education and awareness."

A major downfall in curing the disease, Keener said, is that people don't know enough about the epidemic.

The organization will be up and running in time to participate in T'BGLAD week in April, an event to raise awareness for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) community.

"The energy of the dancing and drumming really got the room motivated to continue the movement to end the AIDS epidemic," Lauren Hick, a senior sociology major said.




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