Observing World AIDS Day
by Juan Lachapelle | published Dec. 22nd, 2013
Worlds AIDS Day is observed every December 1. The day is a way of raising awareness for the global AIDS pandemic and the steps many people are taking to stop it. According to AIDS.gov, more than 25 million people have died from the disease since cases were first reported in 1981. Currently 33.4 million individuals are living with HIV, the virus that has the potential to transform into AIDS.
The first World AIDS Day occurred in 1988 and was founded by James Bunn, a public information officer in Geneva at the Global Program on AIDS, with the help of his colleague Thomas Netter. Both Bunn and Netter felt that the stigma and fear surrounding the topic of AIDS prevented people from actually learning about the slowly growing pandemic.
Since then, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has been in charge of planning and promotion of the day. After much consideration, they decided to create a campaign based around the day in order to educate people on prevention and provide facts on the disease year-round.
Since its creation, each day has had different themes to represent the focus and goals of the campaign for the year. The first goal back in 1988 was simply communication. Getting people to talk about the pandemic rather than ignoring it was a radical idea at the time. Other themes have included youth, women, discrimination and the most recent “Getting to Zero” campaign. The campaign, which has been the theme since 2011, aims to achieve the UNAIDS vision of “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths,” according to the UNAIDS website.
On December 7, the brothers of Lambda Sigma Upsilon and the sisters of Lambda Pi Chi held their second annual World AIDs Day banquet in the University Gallery. This event was created last year after the realization that both organizations were raising money for similar philanthropies involved in stopping AIDS. The banquet was created in order to help raise money for Trillium Health, an organization in Rochester that specializes in the care of patients living with AIDS or HIV.
The event itself held a variety of musical performances, speeches and a special keynote address from Orlando Harris, an expert who has been studying the pandemic in young adults for years. In addition to the banquet, the two organizations also host an AIDS walk during the spring and other events throughout the year. The banquet raised $2000 this year, nearly doubling the amount raised last year.
There have been tremendous strides since 1988, but the work is not yet over. Supporting events, like the banquet, is a way for RIT students to fight against the disease in their own community. Interested students are encouraged to reach out to organizations like Lambda Sigma Upsilon and Lambda Pi Chi for more information on the subject and to learn more on how to donate.