The groups collaborated efforts to organize and host an educational forum on AIDS in observance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
"Myself, along with other VISTA members, chose AIDS as a topic of discussion for this event because AIDS is a very important issue, not only in the Mississippi Delta or Mississippi, but nationally. We felt members of our community needed to know the facts about HIV/AIDS in addition to being informed about resources that are available to help treat HIV/AIDS," said Wilnessa Foster, AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Speakers at the forum included Jerome Winston, Mississippi Department of Health disease intervention specialist supervisor for District 3, and Gini Tucker, DREAM Inc. prevention education specialist.
Since a movement has been made more toward screening in recent years, a pre-AIDS screening service was provided free to Delta State students on Thursday, Winston said.
"It's more about knowing your status," he continued. "A lot of the people who organized this event texted, asked, and sent folks over to the school's Health Center. We screened about 50 people.
Participants gave two blood and urine samples to be screened for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Results from the tests are usually returned within two weeks.
"Our overall goal throughout this project is to let members of the community know that HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence," Foster said.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health website, the reported cases and rates of individuals living with the HIV disease in Bolivar County from 2007 to 2011 has remained at a steady average of 127 people per year.
In 2010, Mississippi ranked seventh nationally in HIV case rates, and reported 573 new HIV infections in 2011.
Males accounted for 75 percent of the newly reported HIV infections; with infection rates highest among those aged 15-24 years of age, the age of the target audience of AmeriCorps VISTA's forum.
World AIDS Day, an international health day, is recognized by the wearing of the red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV.
According to the World AIDS Day website, www.worldaidsday.org, the red ribbon was the first ever ribbon symbol.
It later inspired versions such as the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, purple for Alzheimer's awareness, and green for support for public school students and teachers.
Many organizations around the world garnished their buildings with red ribbons to commemorate the cause including The White House, the Sydney Hospital in Australia, The Puerta de Alcalain in Madrid, Paris City Hall in France, and Manchester Town Hall in England.