Anyone strolling through Lobby 10 on Friday, Dec. 1 could help fight AIDS by sampling a sumptuous selection of cheesecakes, cookies, candies and more during the annual chocolate buffet honoring World AIDS Day 2006. The cost for three chocolate treats: $5.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale and raffles--totaling close to $4,000--were slated for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. Hundreds of people came through the buffet, which was staffed by volunteers from the MIT Women's League, the Japanese Wives Group and individual students and staff.
World AIDS Day is an international day of coordinated action, raising awareness about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and the virus that causes it (HIV). 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS in the United States.
In 1988, the World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention called for an opportunity to open channels and raise awareness and communication to support the fight against AIDS worldwide.
Since then, World AIDS Day has received the support of the World Health Assembly, the United Nations, and governments, communities and individuals around the world. It is the only international day of coordinated action against AIDS.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2006 was "Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise."
The MIT buffet was the brainchild of Ellen Shapiro, former president of the Women's League and current board member who coordinates the event each year. "I wanted to leave MIT a gift. And I love chocolate," Shapiro said. Each year, the treats are donated by dozens of members of the MIT community and several local restaurants and bakeries.
The buffet has become one of the more popular--and touching--events on campus, Shapiro said. She has been moved over the years when students, faculty and staff come to her with a check and mention someone close to them who has been affected by AIDS. "It is a very emotional day," she said.
Behind the buffet tables hung large panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Each panel is comprised of smaller squares made by the family and friends of a person who has died of AIDS. "We treat the panels with the same care one might give the American flag," Shapiro said. They never let the pieces touch the ground and make sure when hanging them that they are given the proper respect, she said.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have passed and also to reflect on those who are currently affected," Shapiro said.
The day was also about education. Several groups, including the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Boston Living Center, Cambridge Cares About AIDS, the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness at MIT Medical, the Children's Hospital AIDS Program, the Latin American Health Initiative, the MIT Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Issues Group, the Massachusetts Asian and Pacific Islanders for Health and the NAMES Project Foundation, had information tables.
"People come up and ask how they can be tested," Shapiro said. "Even in a place like MIT with so many smart students, people still do not know those things."
The AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, a non-profit, community-based health organization whose mission is to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic by preventing new infections and optimizing the health of those already infected. AIDS Action provides free, confidential services to 2,500 Massachusetts men, women and children living with AIDS.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 6, 2006 (download PDF).