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Department of Social Work to host second annual World AIDS Day conference Dec. 1

November 3, 2009 -- Arkansas State University’s Department of Social Work in the College of Nursing and Health Professions will present its second annual World AIDS Day conference, Tuesday, Dec. 1, in the Auditorium on the third floor of the ASU Student Union, 101 North Caraway Road. The theme of this year’s conference is, “HIV Complacency: A Deadly Risk Factor."

The conference is designed to increase awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS in northeast Arkansas.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. just outside the auditorium, and the conference starts at 9:30 a.m. There is no charge for the conference. The last day to register is Wednesday, Nov. 19, by contacting Dr. Loretta Brewer ( There is a continental breakfast, but participants are encouraged to make their way to the HIV testing area immediately after the keynote speaker’s presentation. The location of the free and confidential testing will be announced during the conference.

“This conference is only one of many proactive measures toward reducing the disparities in the occurrence of HIV/AIDS in this area,” said Dr. Guitele Rahill, conference organizer and assistant professor of Social Work at ASU. “Governor Mike Beebe’s HIV task force was an important building block in this effort as has been the work of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission and the ongoing efforts of the Arkansas Department of Health.”

Dr. Dexter Voisin, associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, is the keynote speaker for this year’s conference. Dr. Voisin’s research projects involve mixed method approaches to understanding HIV, drug and sexual risk behaviors among adolescents, and international HIV prevention. His research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the William T. Grant Foundation. His most recent project funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, involved predictors of HIV risk behaviors among adolescents. The title of Dr. Voisin’s presentation is, “I am educated, young, and live in the south; so, why should I be concerned about HIV?”

The impact of HIV on non-racial minority youth in rural areas and the disparate occurrence of HIV in African American communities are important aspects of this year’s conference. A new component to this year’s conference will be opportunities to extend outreach to local and regional Latino communities.  Gina Gomez, director of the Hispanic Community Services in Jonesboro, will co-host a Latino town hall meeting regarding HIV and its impact on the local Latino community. This town hall meeting will be in Spanish and will follow a keynote presentation by Francisco Sastre, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Florida International University. Sastre is regarded as an expert in exploring the cultural negotiations and acculturation stressors and their connection with the process of community formation among Latinos living with HIV in the diasporas in the United States and in Latin America.    

Several other events are planned throughout the day, including focus groups on the role and involvement of local and regional faith-based communities with respect to HIV-positive persons and their caregivers and the implication of HIV complacency on the gay community of northeast Arkansas.   

The day’s events will culminate in a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m., in Heritage Plaza, outside of the ASU Student Union.

For more information about World AIDS Day and it activities, contact Dr. Rahill at the Department of Social Work at (870) 972-3675 or through e-mail at

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