A Vanderbilt employee was recently honored with the prestigious World AIDS Day Hero award in recognition of her efforts to eradicate the worldwide epidemic.

The Hero Award is designated to celebrate the achievements of those who have contributed to HIV/AIDS education and research. Victoria Harris, Director of Education for the Comprehensive Care Center/Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic, has been named the recipient of this year's honor.

Harris received the award at a campus event commemorating World AIDS Day 2011 Dec. 1. It serves as a special achievement and an important milestone for Harris, who has worked in HIV/AIDS public health education for 25 years.

During the awards presentation, Harris' peers praised her irresistible spirit and tireless efforts in such a demanding field:

Spurred on by the HIV-related illnesses and deaths of several friends, Victoria began in 1987 with the AIDS Education and Training Centers, serving as a faculty member at Meharry Medical College, and developing statewide education programming. She then poured herself into HIV treatment research at the Vanderbilt AIDS Clinical Trials Center, playing a crucial role in the development in life-saving antiretroviral treatments. 

Her work is recognized state and nationwide, still she focuses her energy on Middle Tennessee, providing tireless service to people living with HIV and collaborating with numerous community agencies, including the Nashville World AIDS Day committee.  Because of her dedication to equipping professionals with the tools needed to provide informed, compassionate care to those infected and affected by HIV, we are glad to honor Victoria Harris.

Harris, who coordinated the first AIDS walk ever held in Nashville, expressed both surprise and appreciation for the honor.

"This is the fifth year in a row I have helped coordinate the World AIDS Day Event in Nashville," Harris says. "I am humbled and honored to be recognized."

In her position Harris coordinates the Tennessee AIDS Education & Training Center to provide training, technical assistance, and ducation for healthcare providers across the state. 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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