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Flandrau AIDS exhibit caters to young audience

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 22, 1998
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Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

The HIV Risk Exhibit at Flandrau Science Center illustrates to children the unpredictable nature of the HIV virus through the chance roll of dice in metal cages. The HIV Risk Exhibit is part of "What about AIDS?" - a traveling exhibit geared toward educating children on HIV and AIDS research.

A new exhibit at the UA Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium is putting HIV and AIDS research into layman's terms.

The "What about AIDS?" display, which opened Sept. 11, is traveling around the United States educating teen-agers about the deadly disease. It was developed by the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia for the National AIDS Exhibit Consortium.

Three areas addressed by the exhibit include "Protecting yourself from HIV," "Community around the world trying to stop AIDS" and "What is AIDS?"

The display's format is clear and concise.

"There is not a lot of highly technical information that the public wouldn't understand," said Joe Ruggiero, director of the exhibit. "We had been pursuing it for a couple of years. Since it was in New Mexico, it was convenient."

The exhibit, which will last until the end of the year, was shipped by two semi-trucks from New Mexico, where the last display was held.

The educational display is geared toward children and young adults ages 10 to 20, Flandrau staff member Frank Appleyard said, but it contains information that can benefit anyone.

"I - wouldn't limit it to those ages - a lot is good for those ages, but some of it is good for adult ages too," Appleyard said.

Children gathered around Flandrau's colorfully decorated walls, using hands-on equipment in a "playground of knowledge."

The first area, "What is AIDS?" explains the nature of the virus and its epidemic.

The section titled "Protecting Yourself from HIV and AIDS" illustrates how anyone can get AIDS and gives 10 ways to "make love" without having sex, such as taking a walk in the park.

The last part discusses the future of the disease and personal stories from AIDS-infected patients. A notebook allows visitors to share their thoughts after seeing the exhibit.

The exhibit is funded by a $300,000 grant from the Silence Violence Program, which seeks to prevent children from becoming involved with gangs, drugs and AIDS.

Flandrau staff expects 7,000 school children to visit the exhibit by the end of the year. It hopes to have several thousand groups come, many of which will be sponsored by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

The foundation assists HIV and AIDS patients and helps people avoid contracting the disease.

Although staff had concerns that the display would garner criticism, Ruggerio said, "We haven't heard any outrage that some of us expected."

Flandrau Science Center admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children ages 3 to 13.

More information is available by calling 621-STAR.

Irene Hsiao can be reached via e-mail at Irene.Hsiao@wildcat.arizona.edu.