Home Local News Meharry Celebrates World AIDS Day with “Ignite the Night” Gala 

Meharry Celebrates World AIDS Day with “Ignite the Night” Gala 

by Cass Teague
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, President, Meharry Medical College

Meharry Medical College will celebrate World AIDS Day by honoring a Nashvillian whose work has affected the Nashville community with his compassion and activism in the cause of care for those with HIV and AIDS. The event, “Ignite the Night,” is an HIV awareness fundraising gala celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church First Response Center Clinic and its founder, the Rev. Edwin Sanders, the pioneering faith leader who embraced the cause of ministry to those affected by HIV/AIDS, engaging in the fight against AIDS within the Nashville community.

The gala will take place on the evening of World AIDS Day, December 1st, in the ballroom of Meharry Medical College’s Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and a dinner and program at 7:00 p.m.

For 30 years, the First Response Center has served many affected by HIV who because of stigma or other factors would not go to a primary care doctor or one of the major facilities in town, so they had an alternative place to go. Meharry’s president, Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, a renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, said he has been a supporter of the clinic since he first met Rev. Sanders in 2005.

“We were so proud to partner with the First Response Center,” Hildreth said. “From the beginning, Meharry was a partner in this. And that’s our mission too, to make sure that no matter who you are you can get the health care and achieve your best health. That’s what the First Response Center Clinic did for many individuals who otherwise would not have gone to a clinic or one of the traditional facilities or a hospital for care. It filled a very important niche in that way.”

The philosophy of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church which Sanders founded with his wife, Billye in 1981 is central to the ministry of the First Response Center, Dr. Hildreth said. “They welcome all people with open arms.” Dr. Hildreth said that because HIV/AIDS transmission more often deals with the subject of sex, the religious community originally hesitated to embrace HIV/AIDS ministries.

“For someone in the faith community to openly embrace HIV and AIDS as an issue was a very courageous thing to do,” Hildreth said, “and Rev. Sanders was one of the very first faith leaders to do so in the Black South. We’re celebrating the fact that he had enough courage to do this because it paved the way for others to do the same.”

World AIDS Day is an annual call to action, where humanity unites against HIV and AIDS around the globe. It serves as a solemn commemoration for those who lost their fight against the disease and a beacon of hope for those living with HIV and AIDS by heralding victories such as enhanced access to treatment and prevention services.

Attendance for the event is by ticket only and tickets are still available. For more information on the gala, contact Sandra Williams at 615.327.6904 or via email at williamss@mmc.edu.

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