Around the Globe, Advocates Celebrate World AIDS Day
Around the world, AIDS campaigners will spread the message today that "Men Make a Difference" in the fight against AIDS as part of World AIDS Day 2000, Reuters reports. "Men can make a particular difference: by being more caring, by taking fewer risks and by facing the issue of AIDS head on," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said in his World AIDS Day message. Advocates in nations around the world will celebrate the internationally recognized day, presenting a "global collection" of happenings, parades, rallies, documentaries, songs and posters to help combat the spread of the "killer" disease. In China, for example, an AIDS awareness train will travel between Kunming in the Yunnan province to Pingxiang in the Guangxi province (Bases, Reuters, 12/1). Children of AIDS patients in Melbourne, Australia, planted a new rose hybrid, called the "Hope Rose," in a ceremony to inspire those afflicted with the disease (BBC News, 12/1). And red light bathes St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the South African parliament and the Sydney Opera House in another display of support for people with AIDS (Reuters/Excite, 12/1). In New York, the United Nations has scheduled a "town meeting" of speeches, music and testimony from those with AIDS and their supporters (Reuters, 12/1). And in Washington, D.C., the World Bank has gone "all out" to celebrate World AIDS Day, mounting a 32-foot high, 100 pound red ribbon on the organization's downtown headquarters. The World Bank has also "blacked out" its Web site, featuring only "stark and alarming" AIDS statistics, and the organization has opened a "striking and moving" photo exhibit to highlight the AIDS epidemic in Africa (Boustany, Washington Post, 12/1). Other highlights of observances around the world:
- Bangkok, Thailand: Men dressed in condom costumes solicited donations from commuters at train and bus stations, which will go towards purchasing baby formula for infants born to HIV-positive mothers. In previous years, the government handed out free condoms but did not do so this year, citing insufficient funds (Canadian Press, 12/1).
- Beijing, China: Health officials in China handed out condoms and newspapers published articles about AIDS victims in an effort to "tackle public ignorance of the disease," in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Movie star Pu Cunxin pledged to live with an HIV-positive individual for a day in order to address the need to overcome fear of AIDS. At an AIDS awareness concert attended mostly by college students, a prevention spokesperson from the Ministry of Health pleaded for "more compassion." Official figures for China put the total of HIV and AIDS at 20,711, with health experts estimating an additional 600,000 to be infected nationwide (Associated Press, 12/1).
- Dhaka, Bangladesh: In the capital city of Dhaka, activists from the Pratyasha antidrug group marched with banners aimed at increasing awareness of the virus among the mostly Muslim population of 120 million people. One hundred children gathered near the city's press club, calling for greater awareness of methods to prevent the spread of AIDS. Health Minister Fazlul Karim Selim attended an official meeting on the issue, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed declared the government's support for "strengthening international AIDS cooperation." Official sources report that approximately 100 cases of AIDS have been recorded in Bangladesh, but unofficial estimates "suggest up to 30,000" Bangladeshis may be infected by HIV (Agence France-Presse, 12/1).
- Hanoi, Vietnam: In Ho Chi Minh City today workers from the UNAIDS campaign handed out condoms and AIDS information pamphlets from pink buses decorated with red ribbons and condoms, in observance of World AIDS Day. The buses are expected to continue roaming the city for the next two days, stopping "outside karaoke bars and other nightspots." Current official figures show that 27,000 Vietnamese are HIV-positive and the national anti-AIDS committee estimates that nearly 200,000 people will be infected over the next five years (Agence France-Presse, 12/1).
- Moscow, Russia: Russian HIV/AIDS workers and United Nations staff launched a two year prevention campaign titled "AIDS: Much Depends on Men," in conjunction with World AIDS Day. In response to the spread of HIV among a growing population of intravenous drug users and homosexual men, the campaign will focus on the male role in "warding off the epidemic." This is a departure from previous campaigns that targeted the practice of safe sex among younger people. Russia has recorded 71,306 HIV-positive people, although experts believe the figure could be closer to 400,000 (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 12/1).
- Seoul, Korea: The National Institute of Health, the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS (KADA) and the Korea Anti-AIDS Federation jointly hosted "World AIDS Campaign -- Men Make a Difference" events as part of World AIDS Day. A candlelight vigil for victims of the disease and the hanging of AIDS posters from around the world were among the activities. The National Institute of Health reports that a total of 1,244 Koreans are currently infected with HIV (Korea Times, 12/1).
- Tokyo, Japan: A fundraising pop concert sponsored by the Health Ministry of Japan kicked off the 13th annual World AIDS Day. Monies raised from the event will go towards funding prevention and treatment of AIDS (Canadian Press, 12/1).