Twenty five million is a staggering number. Twenty five million seems even more staggering to think about when it comes to human lives. Twenty five million lives have been lost in just the past three decades because of AIDS. AIDS is a virus that has continuously spread since the first recorded case in 1981 and continues to affect millions of people worldwide.
When the first documented cases of AIDS were found in minority groups and the homosexual community and went public, prejudice and hasty generalizations surrounded the concept of the virus. With little knowledge of how the virus was transmitted, how everyone is at risk, and the deadly effect of AIDS, the virus continued to kill, stigmatize, and spread.
The effect of AIDS on the human race has been devastating. However, it also demonstrates the power of the people, and the remarkable difference we can make by unifying one day a year to lower this staggering number.
Each year, December 1st marks the annual World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the fight against HIV/AIDS. First held in 1988, World AIDS Day has continued to spread knowledge of HIV/AIDS prevention and raise money for cure research.
This past World AIDS Day was no exception. Whether it was the sale of red-ribbon pins in middle schools, or Lady Gaga performing a sold-out concert for the NAT (National AIDS Trust), citizens worldwide did their part to make a difference. Even Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School took a part in the action. RFH has tried different activities each year on World AIDS Day, to raise awareness among the student body.
“There’s a misconception that AIDS is under control,” explained GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) adviser Mr.Emmich.
I sat down with Mr. Emmich to ask him why exactly World AIDS Day is so important. Emmich told me that this “misconception” is that the HIV/AIDS virus is simply history when it is actually still very prevalent, even in developed countries. This is where World AIDS Day comes in, to change the stigma and raise awareness.
In regards to what RFH has done as a school for World AIDS Day, Mr. Emmich said, in his opinion, that the most memorable activity was creating a banner of faces hung in the library last year on World AIDS Day. The banner of faces was of recognizable people who have died of AIDS.
“It’s powerful to put a face to a name,” said Emmich.
The banner forced students and faculty who saw it to not only commemorate these victims of HIV/AIDS, but remind them that the disease is very much still alive, and to constantly be aware. The eye-catching sign was hung centered in the library for all to see and achieved its goal in a memorable, unique way.
RFH’s part in World AIDS Day may have been minute compared to massive fundraisers, but it still spread awareness of the prevalence of AIDS and got the message across to many people. Collectively, hundreds of both high schools and middle schools participated in World AIDS Day with various fundraisers like bake sales and methods of raising awareness such as information pamphlets.
World AIDS Day proves to be successful by constantly bringing the issue to light and world leaders are now suggesting a cure for HIV/AIDS by 2015. Until then, World AIDS Day will be a bittersweet reminder of those who have died, those who are living with AIDS, and the power that anyone can hold to make a difference.
Still, the question remains: what will you do next December 1st?