ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In observance of World AIDS Day. Big Country AIDS Resources (BCAR) held a memorial ceremony in which more than 80 names of loved ones lost to the virus were read aloud.

Every December 1, BCAR recognizes World AIDS Day, but this year their venue has notably changed.

“We are one of 14 projects that spans five states in the south with the shared objective of reducing HIV/AIDS stigma,” says McMurry University Director of Servant Leadership Jeff Scott.

Scott says their decision to partner with BCAR is central to their mission of health education.

“We see that as vital work at McMurry University and we want to be a part of it,” says Scott.

Executive Director of BCAR James Wagstaff, a graduate of McMurry, says this partnership alone is proof that the conversation around HIV has changed since those early days.

“It’s very sad what was going on because we didn’t talk about it, we didn’t support, we didn’t do anything except let people pass,” Wagstaff says.

Wagstaff remarked in his speech that he and many others hold regret over the culture of silence that permeated the topic not too long ago. It is through events like this that they hope to spread education and stop the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

“That stigma is more pronounced in southern, including Texas, so we feel like McMurry is positioned to be the vanguard in leading change in this area,” Scott says.

“In recognizing these individuals, we let them live, but we also have a pledge to not let something like this happen again,” said Wagstaff.

According to Scott, this partnership is not just a one-time thing, as McMurry plans to work more closely with BCAR in the future in search of an end to the AIDS epidemic.

“The objective is going to be to lay the groundwork for a continual relationship between McMurry University and Big Country AIDS Resources, such that we can provide leadership and service that allows that organization to expand its capacity and to serve those in the HIV/AIDS community,” Scott says.