Students joined the global observance of World AIDS Day at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Exodus Metropolitan Community Church. The event honored those who have battled HIV/AIDS or lost their lives to the disease.
Connie Mangin, executive pastor of Exodus Metropolitan Community Church and chairperson of Big Country AIDS Resources, said she is passionate about this cause because it is an ongoing battle in need of continual support.
“We come together as a community to celebrate, to remember and to commit to the HIV cause in whatever way each individual can,” Mangin said.
World AIDS Day is a global celebration that links thousands of people every Dec. 1 in remembrance of those who have died due to AIDS related illnesses and seeks to pave the way for a future of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS victims.
In this service of music and remembrance, names were read and luminarias were lit in the memory of those who have died of AIDS. The service also included the stories and testimonies of those who are currently afflicted. Mangin said the service of sadness was also a service of joy as families came together in support of one another.
“We hear a lot about AIDS in Africa and other nations, but we many times forget that HIV/AIDS is very much in the Abilene community and surrounding communities,” Mangin said.
The Abilene community has participated in World AIDS Day for over a decade, with churches of all denominations hosting the event.
This year’s Big Country observance of World AIDS Day was sponsored by the Exodus Metropolitan Community Church, AIDS Resources of Rural Texas, PFLAG of the Big Country, HIV/AIDS Foundation of Abilene and Big Country AIDS Resources.
The theme for 2010 was “Universal Access and Human Rights,” promoting the widespread availability of HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care. Mangin said she believes this is a basic right.
“All people, regardless of who they are and where they are from, are accepted and are people of God,” Mangin said.
A panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt was also on display at the memorial service. The quilt, massive in size, is the largest ongoing community arts project in the world. With over 45,000 colorful panels, the quilt commemorates the many lives lost to AIDS.
As family members and friends continue to add panels of remembrance, the quilt has grown large enough to be displayed in its entirety along the two-mile expanse of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The quilt panel to be displayed at the memorial service will be representative of a Big Country AIDS sufferer.
Melanie Martinez, volunteer pastor at Exodus Metropolitan Community Church, has extended family members with HIV and sang “Calling All Angels” at Wednesday’s service. Martinez said she believes the HIV/AIDS epidemic is entirely misunderstood and that she hoped to give some visibility to it.
“Our society makes it out to be a disease that only impacts a certain community,” Martinez said. “But there is not one single person who is immune.”