Boston Lights the Prudential Center Red for WAD
December 1 marks World AIDS Day, a day to raise awareness of this epidemic, to support those living with HIV/AIDS and to honor those lost in its wake. Many Boston enterprises are hosting World AIDS Day events, and it’s not just AIDS organizations.
On Saturday, while the streets are busy and bustling with shoppers, tourists and casual wanderers, the top of Prudential Center, one of the most recognizable buildings in the city, will be lit up red in honor of World AIDS Day. This event is meant to take World AIDS Day out of the inner circles of HIV/AIDS organizations and into the general public eye. Although people living with HIV are living longer and are healthier than ever before, this epidemic still needs attention, unity and effort.
"We’ve got to double our efforts," said AIDS Action Committee President and CEO Rebecca Haag. "If we stay on course, we could really win and be successful at ending this epidemic."
Here in Massachusetts, since 1999 we’ve decreased the rate of infection by 54 percent. Various health initiatives have enabled this stark and promising decrease of cases of infection here. But, as Haag noted, the theme of World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero," and she believed that Massachusetts could be the model for this.
The "Flip the Switch" Event will take place this Saturday, Dec. 1, from 4-6 p.m. in the Belvidere Pavilion of the Prudential Center. Eastern Bank, which hosted the AAC World AIDS Day event at its headquarters last year, will be once again partnering up with AIDS Action to sponsor this event. Some organizations that will be present at the ceremony include the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, JRI Health, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Victory Programs and Boston Living Center. Everyone is encouraged to stop by, ask some questions, lend support and check out the skyline lighting up red.
Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s World AIDS Day Event
Feeling artsy? Then stop by the Institute of Contemporary Art to check out their exhibition "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s" and the World AIDS Day Event they’ve planned to coincide with it.
This exhibition, curated by Helen Molesworth at the Institute of Contemporary Art Chicago, highlights the turbulent and sometimes messy decade, and brings to the forefront some of the major issues of the time from the shifting face of what we call "art" to the politics of Ronald Reagan, to gender roles, racial diversity and one of the most prominent and important of the decade, the AIDS crisis.
"For many years, December 1, World AIDS Day, was known as ’A Day Without Art.’ Many museums, including the ICA have a history of honoring this," said Monica Garza, director of education at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. "We think that this event, and this exhibition, is a great approach to rethinking our commitment to this occasion."
On Saturday, the ICA Boston will be expanding on the theme of the AIDS epidemic by offering two documentaries held in collaboration with the Boston LGBT Festival, as well as bite-size spotlight talks to be featured in and around the exhibition. The first documentary, "United in Anger: A History of Act Up," by Jim Hubbard, accounts the creation and evolution of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the grassroots turned mainstream advocacy group.
The second documentary, "We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco," by David Weismann, chronicles a small community living in San Francisco and dealing with the AIDS epidemic on a personal, reflective level. In between, there will be various talks which will educate visitors about works on display in the exhibition by artists who were personally affected by AIDS. This event will be held from 12-3 p.m. and is free with general admission.
"This event is about honoring individuals and educating the public about an ongoing health issue," said Garza. "It should be enjoyable and refreshing and hopefully will enhance people’s understanding of the AIDS epidemic."
World AIDS Day at the State House
On Dec. 5, the State House will host its Second Annual World AIDS Day event at 1 p.m. at Nurses Hall, 24 Beacon Street. It is free and open to the public and they’ll be serving food and health resources and holding talks by some Boston advocates and legislators.
The theme of this year’s event is HIV and Youth, a population that, Haag asserted, is particularly important in this struggle.
"Youth, and especially LGBT youth often still face rejection from their families. Because of this, homeless youth are especially at risk for contracting HIV," said Haag.
While we tend to think of HIV/AIDS as an adult issue, and while for those living with it, it certainly seems to be, a majority of the new cases of infection each year are in youth, and specifically youth men who have sex with men.
This is the reasoning behind AIDS Action’s "Youth On Fire" program, which helps homeless and street-involved youth to stay safe and healthy. A client of the program will speak at the State House World AIDS Day event, as well as two youth speakers from BAGLY.
Also on the list of public officials speaking at the World AIDS Day Event include Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray. Former Commissioner of the State Department of Public Health John Aurback will be honored for his ardent work in HIV/AIDS over the past 25 years.
"Representative Carl Sciortino is a huge advocate," said Haag, who gave kudos to this administration and legislation for the positive initiatives that have contributed to such the dramatic decrease in new HIV infections in Massachusetts.
"AIDS has been with us for thirty years and the epidemic continues to affect generation after generation," said Representative Carl Sciortino of Medford and Somerville, and a co-sponsor of the World AIDS Day at the State House.
"This year’s event theme highlights the lives of HIV-positive youth in our communities," he continued. "It is important because their stories are often forgotten in the dialogue we have about HIV/AIDS, and we must shed light on the continued need to fund HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services here in Massachusetts, particularly for our most vulnerable populations that include homeless youth, youth of color and LGBT youth."
Haag said she expects a really great turnout for the event and encourages people to come and take part in this occasion.
Health Fairs and Free Testing
Boston Medical Center will be hosting its 10th Annual Community Agency Health Fair to celebrate World AIDS Day on Friday, November 30, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the 9th floor of the Shapiro Ambulatory Care Center, which is located at 725 Albany Street in Boston. For more information contact Sophia Boulos at 617-414-7059.
On Thursday, December 6, Casa Esperanza, 291 Eustis Street Roxbury, will be offering free HIV testing and counseling as well as lunch and a brief presentation for World AIDS Day. For more information contact Alfredo Marulanda at 617-445-1123.
Fenway Health and Old South Church (645 Boylston Street) will be collaborating to offer a rapid response HIV testing clinic from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The testing and counseling is free and anonymous, and results will be ready within 20 minutes. For more information contact Shawn Fielder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see a complete list of community events for World AIDS Day, visit www.aac.org/events/WAD-community-events