FSU College of Medicine focuses an awarness with 1st HIV/AIDS Candlelight Vigil
By Bre-Shara McCall
In observation of World Aids Day (Dec. 1), the Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine hosted its first HIV/AIDS Awareness Candlelight Vigil on Dec. 2.
Representatives from local healthcare providers like Bond Community Health Center, Neighborhood Medical Center, Leon County Health Department and the Florida Department of Health were in attendance to provide extensive information about HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and testing. A mobile testing unit was parked on Stadium Dr. for those who wanted to know their status.
Clear string lights aligned the stair railing while red paper bags sat on the steps shaped like a ribbon, displaying loving messages to those affected by HIV/AIDS.
The evening began with a welcome from Eric Walker, FSU College of Medicine student and Student National Medical Association (SNMA) community service chair. “We want to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS and decrease the stigma associated with the disease. This stigma is preventing people from being tested. This stigma is preventing people from seeking the care they need. This stigma is preventing people from educating themselves,” said Walker.
Following a musical solo by Patricia Brownell, keynote speaker, Dr. Antonio Carrion was introduced.
Dr. Carrion, a two-time Florida A&M University (FAMU) graduate, currently serves as assistant professor of pharmacy practice at FAMU and provides healthcare services to patients at Bond Community Health Center.
“The problem with HIV is that it is non-discriminatory, it doesn’t care about your color, creed, race, ethnic background, gender or how old you are. It’s like a bullet, it attacks whatever it hits,” explained Carrion. “I want people to know that if you shake their hand, you can’t get infected; if you hug someone, you can’t get infected,” said Carrion as he shook the hand of an audience member and hugged another.
In his closing, Dr. Carrion reminded the audience the importance of educating themselves, getting tested and creating awareness for the deadly disease. “We need everyone involved and it starts with this right here, the dialogue. Let’s no longer sweep it under the rug. Everyone can do something.”
Attendees made their way to the courtyard for the candle light vigil, to honor family and friends who have lost the battle with HIV/AIDS and to support those who are still fighting. With candles lit, they stood in a circle, heads bowed for a moment of silence.
The program concluded with a small award ceremony recognizing Dr. Damon McMillan, Dr. Leslie Beitsch, Dr. Maria Okeke and Dr. Antonio Carrion, for their outstanding dedication to educating, advocacy and clinical care for those of the Big Bend Community.