HIVigil: Candlelight march brings awareness

President John Casteen declared November "HIV/AIDS Awareness Month" at UVA. To end the month on a high note, a local candlelight walking vigil to commemorate World AIDS Day took place December 1.

UVA students, faculty, and townies convened on the steps of the Rotunda with red ribbons pinned to their jackets and hand-made banners promoting AIDS awareness and safe sex. Jeanette Lancaster, nursing school dean, spoke to the 50 or so who then carried their messages down University Avenue and to Emmet Street during the 5 o'clock rush hour. Hundreds of drivers honked in support of the effort, jointly sponsored by the UVA School of Nursing, AIDS/HIV Services Group (ASG), and UVA student group Promoting HIV Negativity.

The end of the journey was a bit surreal. While rows of cars and trucks piled up in traffic, participants lined Emmet Street from ALC Copies to just past The Tavern, holding candles and sitting in silence for 23 minutes-­ one minute for every year since World AIDS Day began. After the silence, the group heard songs by the a cappella group Virginia Gentleman and speeches by Dean Shamim Sisson and ASG board member Meredith Richards.

When someone in the world is infected by HIV every seven seconds, the disease is the most serious health crisis facing the human race today. In the US, 40,000 people are diagnosed every year, a rate that hasn't changed in 10 years.

UVA students and others line Emmet Street for a candlelight vigil on World AIDS Day.

Students and their AIDS banners on the steps of the Rotunda

Stacy Brotherton's banner urges, "Don't Risk Infection! Use Protection!"

Jessica Dennis stands quietly for a 23-minute Moment of Remembrance.

Dean Jeanette Lancaster gives a speech to demonstrators and WINA listeners.

An important message brings up the rear.

Marchers convene at the Rotunda.