The Health Education Outreach (HEO) Center of the Claremont Colleges hosted its second annual AIDS awareness event series from Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, to Dec. 5.
In conjunction with Pomona College, the Foothill AIDS Project, the Claremont United Church of Christ (CUCC), and other groups, the HEO planned a series of events for the week. An event was held each day, including the presentation of a quilt made in honor of World AIDS Day, free HIV/AIDS testing for members of the Claremont community, and a panel discussion entitled “Living Positive.”
“For the past two years, HEO has hosted a week-long event to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those that we’ve lost,” HEO Director Elizabeth Wilmott said. “At HEO, our mission is to educate and empower students to make intentionally healthy lifestyle choices, including reducing the risk of HIV and AIDS. We do multiple events to try and reach as many students and community members as possible.”
The Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College also hosted a talk by Eric Sawyer, co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a group that advocates legislation that benefits those with HIV/AIDS.
Representatives from all of the organizing groups began meeting in September to plan the event and invite speakers. The Motley Coffeehouse, the Queer Resource Center (QRC), and the Athenaeum joined the planning efforts more recently.
HEO’s collaboration with organizations in Claremont was an intentional move to reach out to the wider community.
“The primary reason for creating a team involving community resources is to encourage students to get involved and engage in the community,” Wilmott said. “HIV and AIDS may not impact our college community greatly; however, we know that it impacts our at-large community—a detail we do not want to lose sight of.”
This is the first year that the CUCC has participated in the full week of events, although it has a partnership with the HEO that goes back more than five years, according to CUCC Director of Communications and Technology Chris Caldwell.
“We are what we call an open and affirming congregation,” Caldwell said. “We have a public covenant to welcome persons in our ministry of all sexual orientations, gender expressions, and histories. We wanted to help with the events and be a presence all week to bring more awareness of our openness, so people in the college and broader community know that we are here for everyone.”
The United Church of Christ website, which represents 5,100 churches across the United States, states that “the United Church of Christ support[s] GLB [gay, lesbian, and bisexual] civil rights, the elimination of institutionalized homophobia within the UCC, [and] HIV/AIDS education and care as it affects GLB persons.”
Caldwell also noted that the Foothill AIDS Project is housed on CUCC property, which helped them collaborate closely to plan the event.