Dec. 1 marked the 26th annual World AIDS Day. Locally, an event was held in Sylvester park by the Pierce County AIDS Foundation.
The day is sponsored by the Pride Foundation, Walgreens, and Trusteed Plans Service Corporation. Pierce County Aids Foundation Jill Rose wrote about the purpose of World AIDS day in the foundations press release: “World AIDS day is an international day of remembrance that was established in 1988 by UNAIDS to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. It has been observed annually since.”
The day is recognized around the world by all the UN member states. According to the World Health Organization website, it is one of eight official global public health campaigns. The theme this year for World AIDS day was “Remember. Hope. Act.”
To raise awareness, participants were asked to put red ribbons, the international symbol for AIDS, around their communities. Pictures of the ribbons were uploaded to social media with the hashtag #putaribbononit.
Michael Waggener, the Bureau Coordinator at PCAF Olympia, spoke at the Olympia event. He has shared his story since after his diagnosis in 1996.
Duane Wilkerson, the PCAF executive director said the importance of this day is to “raise awareness of the ongoing impact HIV and AIDS, and to take action to reduce stigma still faced by many of our friends, neighbors and family members who are affected by the disease.”
The stigma he is describing makes people who are HIV positive afraid or embarrassed to get tested or start treatment. “Despite the advances that have been made in treatment and care for those infected, HIV is not going away, and in fact continues to be on the rise in our community,” said Wilkerson. By bringing the publics attention PCAF and other AIDS foundations, Wilkerson hopes to see a decrease and eradication of the disease in the future.
According to statistics on the World AIDS day website, an estimated 34 million people are HIV positive. Of this 1.1 million live in the United States and one in six do not know they are infected. An HIV test is easy and painless, it can be tested with a saliva sample and takes 10-15 minutes to get results.