CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ The West Virginia Department of Education is recognizing World AIDS Day by sponsoring a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Founded in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest ongoing community arts project in the world. A section of the quilt can be viewed now through Dec. 3 at Cultural Center in Charleston.
Each section consists of eight individual three foot by six foot panels sewn together. Virtually every one of the more than 40,000 colorful panels that make up the quilt memorializes the life of a person lost to AIDS. In West Virginia, more than 1,500 people have been affected by the disease that weakens the immune system, gradually destroying the body’s ability to fight infection.
State law requires public schools in West Virginia to incorporate health education in grades six through 12 on the prevention, transmission and spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and the importance of healthy eating and physical activity to maintaining a healthy weight.
West Virginia’s education efforts through the Office of Healthy Schools are starting to pay off. The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that West Virginia experienced a 17 percent drop in the number of high school students who engaged in sexual behavior from 1993 to 2005.
In the United States, minority women are especially vulnerable to AIDS. In 2003, black and Hispanic women accounted for 25 percent of all U.S. women but 83 percent of women diagnosed with AIDS. Black women were 25 times more likely and Hispanic women six times more likely than white women to have been diagnosed with AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
World AIDS Day, which will be celebrated on Dec. 1, was first observed in 1988 as a way to strengthen global efforts to address the challenges of the AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day events in Charleston this year will include the screening of a documentary film at the Cultural Center, Pandemic: Facing AIDS, about living with HIV/AIDS and a candlelight vigil at the Living AIDS Memorial Garden near the Capitol Complex.
For more information, contact Rebecca King in the Office of Healthy Schools at (304) 558-8830 or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.