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The Daily Tar Heel

StudentsSupportAIDS Day

Students participated in a walk, listened to speakers and participated in testing for HIV for World AIDS Day.

A line of more than 200 students stretched from the Bell Tower down South Road on Friday afternoon as students gathered to march in support of AIDS awareness and prevention.

The event recognized World AIDS Day with a 1 1/2-mile walk beginning at the Bell Tower and ending at Polk Place.

"The fact that there are 200 to 300 people (here) today shows that there is passion and concern for this issue," said Marcie Fisher, chairwoman of the planning committee and high-risk program specialist with the UNC Center for Healthy Student Behaviors.

This third annual march was the finale of a week of events, including an AIDS discussion session and walk-in HIV testing. "I think there is a typical misconception that (HIV and AIDS) doesn't happen here - that it doesn't happen on college campuses," Fisher said. "What we hope happened through this week of education is some real, concrete events that help dispel these myths."

Although several student groups were represented at the march, many people came in small groups or as individuals with more personal callings to support the issue.

"I feel invested in making sure this (AIDS) knowledge is widely known because I'm gay, and AIDS has hit the gay community particularly hard," said Mark Kinsey, a UNC staff member in the drama department.

The march began at 2:30 p.m. after an opening delivery by Jesse Moore, chairman of the White Ribbon Campaign, a group of men committed to preventing violence against women.

"Today's theme is `All Men Make a Difference,'" Moore said. "Men may fear participation in these issues because they think that it will identify them as gay. Let's get rid of homophobia in our society - it's a terrible thing."

At the conclusion of the walk, the Rev. Robert Arrington, an "activist of humanity," licensed minister and student at Shaw University, gave a moving speech in Polk Place.

"I have now been HIV-positive going on 13 years - but I don't live with HIV. It lives with me," Arrington said. "HIV has been a blessing for me because I have had the opportunity to share (my experiences) and change people's behavior."

In his talk, Arrington emphasized that people with HIV or AIDS are still human. "I still date, I still cry, I still work out - I'm still a very active person," he said.

Charles Van der Horst, a doctor at UNC Hospitals, followed Arrington with a very direct talk about the spread of the HIV virus. "On campus, about one student gets infected every month," Van der Horst said. "Anybody having sex can get infected with this virus."

At the end of the day's events, Arrington sent participants away with an important mission. "What I would like you to do today is to take this message to others on campus and tell them you have seen a person living with AIDS."

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