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Unique Exhibit Places Philly Front and Center as World AIDS Day Nears

November 14, 2007
RADNOR, Pa., Nov. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- As World AIDS Day (December 1) approaches, Philadelphia is front and center with a riveting exhibition featuring the creative works and stories of AIDS orphans and other children left vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in Uganda, South Africa, India, Cambodia, the United States and Guatemala.

"The Children Left Behind: AIDS Orphans Around the World" is currently on view from 8 a.m. till 9 p.m. daily at Falvey Library of Villanova University. On Saturdays and Sundays, the exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Parking is available in the lot located on Ithan and Lancaster Avenue. The exhibition features paintings, drawings and crafts from more than 20 children that will be on display until December 2. Presented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Villanova University, the display also includes two interactive kiosks: one allowing visitors to write to AIDS orphans and the other featuring a computer learning game built around the AIDS virus and antibodies.

On Tuesday, November 26, Robert Makunu, Deputy HIV and AIDS Unit Manager from CRS Kenya, will speak on the importance of HIV and AIDS programs in Africa at the Falvey Library at 7 p.m. His talk will be preceded by a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m., also in the Library. Makunu is responsible for the development of HIV and AIDS control projects in Kenya with an emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children. His work also involves technical assistance to partner organizations in key areas of HIV and AIDS programming. He will be joined by Candice Harris of the CRS Northeast Regional Office and Joyce Zavarich of the Villanova University Campus Ministry who has recently returned from a trip to CRS programs in Zambia.

In 2006 an estimated 15 million children under age 15 were orphaned due to AIDS, according to UNAIDS. If current trends continue, by 2010 the number of children orphaned by AIDS worldwide will reach 25 million. These orphans frequently experience distress, social isolation, neglect, abuse and/or exploitation. Therapists explain that the drawings and craft projects are therapeutic and "offer a subconscious outlet for painful life experiences." AIDS-orphaned children in South Africa, for example, have created "memory boxes" of drawings, writings and mementoes, which help them retain good memories of loved ones.

According to CRS Northeast Regional Director Maureen McCullough, "this is the other side of the AIDS pandemic that people don't see -- the human story and the struggle to help these children and give them hope for a better life."

Moved by compassion, Catholic Relief Services initiated its first HIV and AIDS project in 1986 in Thailand. Today CRS has more than 250 such projects serving more than 4 million people in 52 countries. This year, CRS will directly help more than 3.5 million people affected by the pandemic.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.

Source: Catholic Relief Services

CONTACT: Karen Connor, +1-610-828-4412, ext. 201, cell, +1-610-547-6713, or Dan Cirucci, +1-609-922-3149, both for Catholic Relief Services