AIDS activist to speak at MSU

Mississippi State students will have an opportunity to learn firsthand about what it’s like to be living with AIDS in a Monday night program.
The Mississippi State Department of Outreach and Sexual Assault Services and Black Student Alliance will be hosting “Living with AIDS” Monday at 7 p.m. in the Colvard Student Union’s Foster Ballroom.
Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton broke through AIDS and HIV stereotypes when in 1994 she appeared on the cover of Essence Magazine and was quoting saying, “I’m young, I’m educated, I’m drug-free, and I’m dying of AIDS.”
She was the first African-American woman to tell her story in a major magazine publication.
Since she first appeared in Essence, she has been featured three additional times, and in 2000, Lewis-Thornton was chosen as one of three “Stories You Can’t Forget.”
“Ms. Thornton is a well educated woman who has over come many challenges in her life.  She is a survivor as well as fighter who has withstood a number of obstacles,” said Dr. Beatrice Tatem, Director of Outreach and Sexual Assault Services. “As a woman living with HIV and AIDS who was diagnosed in her early twenties at the prime of her life socially, professionally and personally it is my hope that her message, which is powerful, will help students to acknowledge that in many ways she is just like any of us.”
Tatem explained that her role as Director of Outreach and SAS is to always bring awareness to the students at MSU.
“The goal of Sexual Assault Services is to educate, train, respond, advocate and heighten the awareness of the campus community about sexual assault, sexual abuse, date rape and domestic violence,” Tatem said. “As in the past, the goal is to prevent the occurrence amongst our students as much as possible through proactive measures.”
Though often a topic not eagerly talked about, AIDS awareness is an important part of student health and empowerment, Tatem agreed.
“It is my hope that students and young people in particular will leave the program knowing that it is a topic that must be talked about and not avoided as though it is a topic to difficult or shameful to discuss.  The goal is not to create fear but open dialogue,” Tatem explained.