World AIDS Day Wrap-Up
Commemorating World AIDS Day
On Dec. 1, 2015, several cities around the country commemorated World AIDS Day (WAD) with several events to raise awareness and to support PLWHA. (An estimated 34 million people have the virus worldwide, and more than 35 million people have died as a result of AIDS.)
With “The Time to Act Is Now” as this year’s theme, President Barack Obama kicked off the day in Washington, D.C., by releasing a proclamation that touched on how extraordinary progress has been made over the last three decades to fight the disease—especially with more people than ever receiving lifesaving treatment for HIV—but that there is still much that remains to be done.
In conjunction with WAD, the White House also hosted an event with domestic and global leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which opened with video remarks from the president. The White House Office of National AIDS Policy also released the “National HIV/AIDS Strategy Federal Action Plan: Updated to 2020”.
Here’s how other U.S. cities observed WAD:
Georgia Equality marked WAD at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta with a policy-focused luncheon where Youth HIV Policy Advisors presented the “2015/2016 Policy Agenda—Youth Living With HIV in Atlanta” to metro-Atlanta elected officials, community leaders and the media. More than 100 people were in attendance. Also, the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS released “Phase 1 Progress Report: Building the Strategy to End AIDS in Fulton County“, which lays out strategies to end AIDS in the county, as well as prevention and testing objectives.
The city held several events, including “The Time Is Now: Share Your Story”, hosted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Prevention and Health Promotion Administration, which featured the Maryland AIDS Quilt (a five-panel quilt created by state residents infected with and affected by HIV), exhibits and community speakers. The mayor’s office and the Baltimore City Health Department hosted a free event at City Hall with the members of the city’s HIV Planning Group and Commission and other local experts.
WAD was observed by a free event at the Kelly Ingram Park amphitheatre that included a moment of silence and the ringing of church bells in memory of those who have died of AIDS. In addition, Birmingham AIDS Outreach presented its 3rd Annual World AIDS Day Concert at First Presbyterian Church. The free community event featured local choirs and choruses.
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago sponsored the “#BlackLivesMatter Conference: HIV, Stigma and Violence at University City,” a full-day free conference to discuss ways of decreasing stigma and violence and to increase HIV prevention strategies in Black communities. The city also launched the Chicago Wears Condoms campaign, created by the city’s Department of Public Health and teens from the Mikva Challenge, a youth civic-engagement initiative, to promote safer sex and condom use.
The Jackson Medical Mall hosted its Annual Richard Polk Christmas Parade. The health-care facility also held a World AIDS Day Observance and Remembrance Board, in which family and friends wrote the names of those who died of the disease.
With more than 420 people in attendance and actress and AIDS activist Pam Grier as the keynote speaker, AIDS Foundation Houston hosted its 2015 World AIDS Day Luncheon at the Post Oak Hilton and raised $150,000 to support HIV/AIDS awareness.
A health fair held at the Los Angeles County and USC Medical Center featured community-agency HIV and AIDS educational booths as well as rapid HIV testing, while AIDS Project Los Angeles launched a countywide food drive for Los Angeles residents living with HIV/AIDS. Also, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation held a free screening at the Arclight Theatre of a documentary highlighting the agency’s work over 28 years. Debbie Allen, Tina Campbell of Mary Mary, and Amber Rose were in attendance.
New York City
In addition to free HIV testing throughout the city, a free, two-hour event, “From Vision to Reality: World AIDS Day at the Apollo Theater,” took place at the Harlem landmark to honor those who lost their lives to AIDS and those living with the disease. Guests included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who committed $200 million to support HIV/AIDS efforts; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; and members of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and more than 60 AIDS service organizations.
South Florida (Miami and Palm Beach)
A march and rally were held at Hagen Park in Broward County, ending with a candlelight vigil at the Pride Center at Equality Park, in addition to free HIV testing and rapid HIV testing throughout the city. The LGBT Community Center of Palm Beach County hosted a “Day With(out) Art,” asking local artists, galleries and museums to shroud works of art with a black cloth and replace them with information about the impact of HIV/AIDS and where to get tested.
LaShieka Hunter is a freelance writer and editor based on Long Island, NY.