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World AIDS Day

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December 1 is World AIDS Day. On this important day wearing a red ribbon signifies support of those living with HIV and remembrance of those lost to AIDS. Wearing a red ribbon will show you care about the issue of HIV/AIDS in your community as well as world wide.

World AIDS Day was first observed December 1, 1988. It was conceived by public information officers for the Global Program on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland (now known as UNAIDS.)

World AIDS Day started as a day to share with the world messages of hope, compassion and understanding. It remains the only international day that takes action for AIDS every year. Organizations, groups and individuals around the world plan events to participate in World AIDS Day such as holding a remembrance vigil and launching new education campaigns.

UNAIDS estimates there are now 33.2 million people living with HIV, including an estimated 62,000 in Canada and 2.5 million children around the world. During 2007 some 2.5 million people became infected with the virus. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and die from AIDS before they turn 35.

The theme for World AIDS Day from 2011-2015 is “Getting to Zero.” Global leaders have pledged to work toward universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, recognizing these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV/AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved. In the epidemic’s third decade, a full third of countries lack laws protecting people living with HIV from discrimination.

Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalized groups at higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination.
Even if HIV has not touched you personally, it is important to understand that HIV lives in Southwestern Ontario as well as on the other side of the world.

Let this year’s World AIDS Day be an important reminder that HIV impacts you and your community. There is much work still to be done in helping people understand the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS locally. Here are some things you can do:

• Get tested, know your status and use a condom every time.
• Wear a red ribbon.
• Get the Facts: learn how HIV is transmitted.
• Talk with your intimate partner about HIV.
• Talk with your children about HIV. Infection rates among youth are rising.
• See injection drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
• Challenge stigma and stereotypes of people living with HIV/AIDS.
• Volunteer at an AIDS Service Organization, like Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.
• Participate in the AIDS Walk for Life by gathering pledges or sponsoring a walker in September.
• Make a donation to your local AIDS Service Organization.
• Request someone to speak at your workplace, community centre or service club about the issues surrounding HIV.

This year, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection will be hosting two World AIDS Day candle light vigils - one in Stratford and one in London. Please join us as we join millions around the world in remembering, honouring and celebrating the lives we’ve lost and those who are still with us.

This year’s Stratford vigil will be held on Friday, November 30 at Community of Christ, 226 Forman Ave. in Stratford. The ceremony will begin at 7:00 p.m. followed with refreshments. Everyone is welcome. For more information please contact Jennifer Gritke, Regional Coordinator of HIV/AIDS Services at 1-866-920-1601 or by email at jgritke@hivaidsconnection.ca.

This year's London vigil will be held on Saturday, December 1 at Civic Garden Complex, 625 Springbank Drive, London. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the vigil running from 7 p.m. until approximately 8:30 p.m. Check back for more information as the date gets closer.