Today, Join the Fight Against AIDS

By Anne Gonzalez

So today is World AIDS Day. Hopefully most of us know that by now. There has been a speaker, a discussion, a quilt on display. There have been posters and banners and statistics and an entire week designated for AIDS awareness. Making sure that Mac students know that AIDS is out there, that it matters, that it takes lives every day. Because when you think about it, it’s astounding. My friend Emily Smith ’09 remarked to me this week that when she read that 42 million people are currently infected with HIV, she realized that she will probably outlive all of them, if her life goes well. “And I did nothing to deserve that. Nothing.” If Emily is right about her living a long, healthy life, by the time she dies approximately 60 million people will have died from AIDS.
The vast scope of the disease prompted the first World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 1988. The day was created to raise both money and awareness, to dispel ignorance and prejudice and to promote education on the topic of HIV/AIDS. The now famous symbol of AIDS awareness, the red ribbon, was created in 1991 by New York based organization Visual AIDS, which brought together artists to create a symbol of support for the growing number of people living with HIV in the U.S..

For many years, World AIDS Day was organized by UNAIDS, more wordily known as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. Last year they handed off World AIDS Day to the World AIDS Campaign, whose slogan is “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise.” This slogan is an appeal to governments, policy makers and regional health authorities to ensure that they meet the many targets that have been set in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

So today is World AIDS Day. And we know that people are dying, that children are being orphaned, that medicines are not affordable, that there is no cure. So what do we do? We wear ribbons, watch documentaries, buy pins and take a moment to think. But it doesn’t have to stop there. As our most famous and beloved alum Kofi said, “The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response. In particular it requires solidarity— between the healthy and the sick, between rich and poor, and above all, between richer and poorer nations. We have 30 million orphans already. How many more do we have to get, to wake up?” What unprecedented actions can Macalester students take to show our solidarity with the world (since now we are all becoming global citizens?)
For one thing, you can talk to David Lawrence. He is starting a new organization at Mac based on the National organization FACE AIDS, with the hopes of fighting AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa by raising money here in Minnesota. There are places to get involved in the Twin Cities too, doing outreach, cooking meals for HIV positive people, or helping pack food parcels to send to South Africa. (To learn more about these options, email me, Annie Gonzalez, at [email protected], or stop by the Civic Engagement Center during lunchtime.)
So today is World AIDS Day. And it’s worth it to do whatever you can. Talk to a friend. Get tested. Buy a pin. Start volunteering. Buy one of those fancy new “red” products that are being marketed. Whatever you can do to further the mission of educating people, decreasing prejudice and increasing awareness. Because it matters today and every day.

Get Involved
Family Tree Clinic
1619 Dayton Ave. Suite 205
St. Paul, MN 55104
651-645-0478
Provides information on contraceptive methods and access to HIV and STD Testing
Clare House- AIDS Care Partners
2182 St. Clair Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
www.clarehousing.org/clarehouse.html
Assist staff by providing supportive care in a home for people living with AIDS.

Open Arms of Minnesota
1414 Franklin Ave. East
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612-872-1152
www.openarmsmn.org
Deliver food to people living with HIV and AIDS.