AIDS Day Is Observed Around the Globe
- Wed, Dec. 01, 2004
AIDS Day Is Observed Around the Globe
ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
GENEVA - From Armenia to Zambia activists turned out by the thousands
for World AIDS Day on Wednesday, singing in mighty cathedrals, lighting
candles in city squares and playing sports.
The United Nations has dedicated this year's observance to improving
protection for women and girls. Nearly half of the 39.4 million people
infected with HIV worldwide are female.
"Prevention methods such as the ABC approach - Abstinence, Be faithful
and use Condoms - are good, but not enough to protect women where
gender inequality is pervasive," said Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS.
"We must be able to ensure that women can choose marriage, to decide
when and with whom they have sex and to successfully negotiate condom
use," Piot added.
As the day began in Asia, where the disease has claimed 540,000 lives
this year, campaigners in Japan and South Korea handed out condoms.
Thailand, Vietnam, and Bangladesh had marches, and the Philippines a
promotion for HIV testing.
The Chinese government ordered local officials to learn about the
disease and televised a rare visit by President Hu Jintao to AIDS
patients in a hospital.
China, which has an estimated 840,000 infected with the AIDS virus, has
been criticized for reacting too slowly to the threat of AIDS. The U.N.
AIDS agency has warned that China could have as many as 10 million
people infected by 2010 if it doesn't take urgent action.
An Indian cricket match against South Africa, whose players wore red
ribbons to show their support for the anti-AIDS campaign, was dedicated
to promoting AIDS awareness.
In Pakistan, about 400 aid workers discussed how to empower women in a
region where men usually have a dominant role in society.
At the forefront of the pandemic in southern Africa red ribbons were
tied to lamp posts and draped over buildings. Zambians gathered for a
candlelight memorial service in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the
Soccer matches in Botswana were dedicated to the campaign.
Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa appealed for
"HIV/AIDS is not God's punishment of the wicked," Ndungane told a rally
in Cape Town. "AIDS is a preventable, treatable and manageable disease
- no more, no less."
Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika said he wants at least 1 million
of his 11 million people to test for HIV by the end of next year so his
government can determine how many need anti-retroviral treatment.
"We want to have 80,000 people on ARVs by the end of 2005," he said at
an event in the central border district of Nchinji. That would be
nearly 10 times the number of Malawians receiving free treatment.
Eastern Europe, where AIDS figures have jumped since the collapse of
the Soviet Union, joined in the observance. Events in Armenia included
a concert with well-known local artists.
Serbia-Montenegro, where the number of infected people has risen
sharply, had live radio and television programs to increase awareness
of how the disease spreads.
In the Croatian capital of Zagreb activists handed out condoms and
selling Christmas cards made by AIDS-infected children.
In Estonia, where 4,356 of the 1.4 million residents are HIV positive,
the biggest event was an "Open Your Eyes" concert in the Kaarli Church,
in the capital, Tallinn.
Polish campaigners were out to halt the trend of growing infections. In
the northern city of Sopot they lit red candles in the shape of a
ribbon, and in nearby Gdansk they distributed condoms.
Portugal, which has one of the highest rates of new AIDS infections in
western Europe, opened the new headquarters of an association to
support AIDS patients.
A televised five-hour dance-a-thon, which was held simultaneously in
the Dutch city of Arnhem and in Cape Town, South Africa, raised money
to fight AIDS.
One candle was lighted for each of the 1,800 people who have died of
AIDS in Denmark during a ceremony in a Copenhagen square.
Victor Mooney, 40, of Woodhaven, N.Y., kicked off a campaign in Rome to
raise $200,000 by selling bracelets to fund his rowing trip from
Senegal to New York next year to raise AIDS awareness.
Piot took his message about improving the chances of women to the
United Nations' commemorative event at the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine in New York City. Hosted by actors Gloria Reuben and Alan
Cumming, the event featured singer Mary Wilson and South Africa's
Piot said laws must be passed everywhere against domestic abuse and
rape and to make sure women are educated and have property rights
because that will make them more secure and "far less vulnerable to
"We will not be able to stop this epidemic unless we put women at the
heart of the response to AIDS."
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