The red cloth banner draped over the entrance table was riddled with the names of people who cared; people who cared to help spread awareness about a growing epidemic: AIDS.
On December 1, AIDS Day 2008 was acknowledged worldwide, and St. Mary’s took part by throwing a benefit concert in DPC at 8:00 p.m, which included the signing of a red cloth by all guests. The event was put together by Binta Diallo, senior; Tricia Realbuto, the Coordinator of Orientation and Services; and Candace Daniels, a Wellness Advocate. Bringing in about 40 students who helped by raising $50 in donations for UNAIDS, the benefit concert featured music by the band Half the Battle, new dance moves from the Step Team, and singing by the Gospel Choir.
“It’s really good to know that our school cares enough to put this event together. And I didn’t even know there was a world AIDs day before this event or that AIDs affects so many people,” said senior Rachel Reckling.
Sponsored by the Counseling Center, Student Activities, and FUSE, the proposal for the event was presented to Tricia Realbuto’s office from Lenny Howard, the Assistant Vice President of Academic Services. Realbuto then “picked up the idea and ran with it.”
Realbuto said the main goal of the event was to “raise awareness and to get a discussion going. Everyone has this mentality that if it doesn’t happen to me and that if I don’t know anyone with AIDS, it must not be a problem. But it can happen to anybody.”
The seriousness of the illness was conveyed through poetry read by members of the audience in an open-mic style between bands. Marian Stukes, senior; Mariela Mata, senior; and Suzanna Sample, sophomore; were just a few of the people to read their pieces aloud. From a letter written to God from ‘love’ reporting that it is giving up on people, to a skit performed by Adam Butler about an 18 year old who is scared to tell his pregnant girlfriend he has HIV, the performances were memorable for all attending.
Half the Battle also captured the audience’s attention with their renditions of some popular songs from the 90s and more recently, like ‘Mr. Jones’ by the Counting Crows and ‘Sweetest Girl’ by Wyclef Jean.
The Step Team gained a few more members since their last performance at The Dance Show and energized the crowd with new moves. Dancing in red shirts to acknowledge World AIDS Day, the Team took up half of DPC with their performance and succeeded in drawing in the crowds. Senior Kait Gruber said, “I came out just to see what the event was all about, but mainly to see the Step Team.”
In addition to the entertainment, the front table provided all guests with an array of brochures about the basics of HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention, testing for HIV infection, and a list of HIV counseling, testing, and referral sites in Maryland.
Condoms and red ribbon pins were also supplied. Daniels strongly encouraged the audience members to get tested for HIV, especially if they were concerned that they may have the symptoms.
Realbuto was also adamant about students getting checked for the disease: “We wanted to do HIV testing at the Health Center, but unfortunately they don’t have the labs or the manpower to carry it out. Hopefully the information on where to get tested throughout the county will inspire people to do so.”