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Raising AIDS awareness

Students schedule day of events

In an effort to inform the Dartmouth community of the effects of the global AIDS epidemic, the Office of Student Affairs is sponsoring a day-long AIDS event on Friday, Feb. 25. AIDS Day at Dartmouth, a multimedia awareness campaign, will include lectures a roundtable discussion and a screening of the documentary, A Closer Walk.

Robert Bilheimer
Robert Bilheimer, director of A Closer Walk (photo courtesy of Worldwide Documentaries, Inc.)

Directed by Robert Bilheimer, the film explores the global AIDS epidemic through the experiences of a wide range of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, including children and orphans. A Closer Walk is not new to Dartmouth. In the fall of 2004, the First Year Office screened the film as part of pre-Orientation activities, and Sydney Stowe, Assistant to the Director, Film, Hopkins Center, had a chance to view it.

"A Closer Walk is incredible," said Stowe, "and I believe we have a moral obligation to show the film to the Dartmouth community."

"The film argues that basic human rights-including the right to medical care and the right to essential dignity-are imperiled by the rise of AIDS," wrote Robert Butler in the Kansas City Star. "In fact, the disease will affect every aspect of our lives."

Bilheimer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1989 documentary about a South African anti-apartheid leader, The Cry of Reason, will be on hand to speak about the film.

Production of A Closer Walk began exactly five years ago, in February 2000. The film, which was sponsored by the Global Health Council in Wilder, Vt., profiles over 50 men and women from Cambodia to Cambridge, Mass. It features interviews with leaders in science and medicine, as well as government officials.

According to Bilheimer's Web site, the goal of A Closer Walk is to explain "the underlying causes of AIDS; the relationship between health, dignity, and human rights; and the universal need for action, compassion, and commitment to counter what has become the worst plague in human history."

The first event of the day will be a discussion at 10 a.m. in Collis Common Ground with Bilheimer and Greg Behrman, author of The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe of Our Time (2004).

A Closer Walk will be screened with an introduction by Bilheimer at 4 and 7 p.m. in Loew Auditorium.

A concluding event titled "What Can I Do?" will take place in the Courtyard Café area of the Hopkins Center, and, according to Linda Kennedy, Director of Student Affairs, this is one of the most important aspects of the day.

"Student groups and professional, nonprofit organizations from all across campus and the Upper Valley will be on hand to showcase their involvement with AIDS and present any volunteer opportunities," said Kennedy.

Groups expected to attend include Grassroots Soccer, founded by Thomas Clark '92, DMS '01, the Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health, and other global health organizations. In addition, students who have been personally touched by the AIDS epidemic will be present to share their experiences.

By NOAH TSIKA '05

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Last Updated: 12/17/08