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What We Can Do: Innovative World AIDS Day Activities

December 1, 1999

To successfully combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, it is necessary to stimulate involvement on all levels -- from individuals to groups, institutions and governments. World AIDS Day is designed to draw attention to the issue of HIV/AIDS and to give local leaders a rallying point around which to organize HIV/AIDS activities and programs. On the next few pages you will find examples of individuals working together to do their part in the fight against AIDS. The following are descriptions of just a few World AIDS Day events and activities that occurred in communities across the United States last year.

In Prescott, Arizona, the Yavapai HIV/AIDS Action Committee coordinated a day of activities that included an open house with a memorial tree and a local AIDS memorial quilt on display. Nearly 200 people gathered for a service of hope and a candlelight vigil given by a local church.

In Mayfield Village, Ohio, the Progressive Corporation, an insurance company with over 15,000 employees nationwide, recognized World AIDS Day 1998 by sending HIV/AIDS information to employees who requested materials. They also asked their employees to submit essays describing how HIV/AIDS had affected their lives.

Students at Michigan State University set out to break a world record last year by adorning trees across the campus with red ribbons. Nearly 10,000 yards of ribbon were used to create a greater sense of awareness around the campus. The students hoped that such an extravagant display would send the message that college students need to be more involved in the fight against AIDS. The message reached nearly 40,000 people on campus. The student government provided $3,000 to finance the project.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, at West Mesa High School, students called "Healthy Peers" developed a fact sheet and a quiz using the materials from the World AIDS Day Booklet. From a display table in the high school courtyard, students were invited to take the quiz during their lunch break. A correct answer to a particular question qualified students for a drawing for a jar of M&M's. The activity was organized by a group of Healthy Peers -- high school students recruited by the University of New Mexico Healthy Peers group to educate their fellow students. University students helped the high school recruits to plan and implement the event. This was the high school's first such World AIDS Day educational activity.

In Florence, South Carolina, the Pee Dee CAA Head Start Program collaborated with three other organizations to increase the awareness of World AIDS Day. Holiday cards were made by children enrolled in this Head Start Program.  Information about World AIDS Day was added to their cards. They also placed into employee paychecks inserts with information about HIV/AIDS and World AIDS Day.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, the Indiana AIDS Fund worked with Barnes & Noble Bookstore and The NAMES Project to display sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. They also distributed education materials. Central Indiana High School students presented essays, skits, and puppet shows on the topic of HIV/AIDS awareness, education, and prevention. They also held a Service of Remembrance in memory of those who lost their lives to an AIDS-related illness.

In San Bernadino, California, the County Department of Public Health and seven other collaborating agencies received permission from AAWH to reproduce the World AIDS Day graphic on coffee mugs. These mugs were provided to gay bars, coffee houses, and gay, lesbian and bisexual groups for free distribution. The groups also developed a press packet to distribute to media outlets to increase awareness throughout the community.

In Atlanta, Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University promoted World AIDS Day 1998. The program began with a memorial to Jonathan Mann and his wife, Mary Lou Clements Mann, who were killed in an air crash in 1998. They each contributed significantly to the field of HIV/AIDS education, prevention and eradication. All CDC staff and Emory University Health Sciences staff received e-mails with information about the activities. The program also included a performance by En Acte, a performing arts troupe. Posters displaying the World AIDS Day graphic were hung at Emory University and other community organizations.

In Hermosa Beach, California, the South Bay Clinic, along with several other organizations, worked together to create a World AIDS Day program that featured lectures, singing, a candlelight walk, and a red ribbon distribution. Over 400 people attended.

Citizens in Poughkeepsie, New York, observed World AIDS Day with a variety of activities. Buttons were produced and distributed, a human ribbon comprised of 50 students and 100 yards of red material was paraded around campus, a candle was burned throughout the week in memory of individuals infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and a play was performed by the New York City AIDS Theater Project.

Laurel, Mississippi, kicked off World AIDS Day by tolling church bells around the city 18 times to represent the number of years AIDS has been a worldwide epidemic.

In Redding, California, the Shasta County Department of Public Health organized a food drive and collected over 3,000 pounds of food for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day art projects were designed by local school students and hung on the walls at the Health Department. A candlelight vigil was also held in remembrance of those who have died of AIDS.

In Princeton, New Jersey, over 700 high school students from 50 different schools participated in a Day of Learning. Student leaders were trained in HIV prevention and communication. Students were able to interact in small groups, allowing them to discuss issues such as teen vulnerability to HIV, refusal skills, HIV myths and facts and communication in relationships.

In Wichita, Kansas, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Health Department, in collaboration with Wichita State University, spread the message of World AIDS Day through a variety of activities. With the assistance of Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the groups displayed sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and supplied educational information. They also provided free HIV testing and counseling. The local museum held "A Day Without Art" to show the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the art world.

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This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication Be a Force for Change.
See Also
World AIDS Day Planning