Maryville marks World AIDS Day


Maryville University commemorated World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 with two screenings of a documentary about the early days of the epidemic in San Francisco and a display of several panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which records details and reflections about those who have died from the disease.

Lynne Cooper, the president of the St. Louis-based Doorways that provides affordable housing and services for those living with HIV/AIDS, visited Maryville for the events. “On a college campus, it’s about awareness and helping people understand it’s part of their life, too,” she said. Increased awareness helps people better understand the disease and take steps to protect their own health, she said.

In the city of St. Louis and six nearby Missouri counties, nearly 7,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. And raising awareness among the young remains vitally important, with 54 percent of all new HIV infections in the St. Louis area occurring in people younger than 25.

Chuck Gulas, PT, PhD, the dean of Maryville’s School of Health Professions noted the importance of bringing the highly regarded documentary “We Were Here” to campus. He spoke of how it could provide catharsis to those whose lives have been changed by HIV/AIDS. It also opens a window of understanding to those who only have a vague idea of what happened during the early years of the epidemic, he said.

For many Maryville students, the panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display in the Donius University Center marked the first time they had ever seen part of the project. In 1987, a small group gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives of those lost to AIDS. The meeting served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. A small sample of its more than 44,000 memorial panels were on display at Maryville.

The St. Louis film screenings were sponsored by Maryville University’s School of Health Professions, the University’s Health and Wellness Office and Doorways. Admission donations were to benefit Doorways, and students could instead donate a personal care item for Doorways clients.