Ruth Gowitzke News Editor
On Dec. 3, from 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., Windham Aids Program, Generations, and Perception Programs, hosted an event at the Willimantic Public Library about World Aids Day. The official day is Dec. 1. This event was held to bring awareness to this day and to educate the community on what HIV/AIDS is and how it has affected people. This program also offered free testing for HIV. The test for this disease is simple. All someone has to do is get their finger pricked using a lancing device. Then, the blood is tested for HIV, which only takes 20 minutes. Stephen Feathers, one of the people who works for Perception, said that if you are sexually active, it is recommended to get tested annually.
However World Aids Day is more than just a day to bring aware, it is also, according to worldaidsday. org, an “opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS- related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.”
Another important part of this day is the red ribbon. This symbol, like the pink ribbon for breast cancer, is used to show support for those who may have this disease and to thus, bring more awareness to this disease. In addition, as stated by the World Aids Day website, this symbol was inspired by a lot of factors. “They took inspiration from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War. Additionally, they decided that the elegant loop of the ribbon shape was easy to make and replicate. They avoided traditional colors associated with the gay community, such as pink and rainbow stripes, because they wanted to convey that HIV was relevant to everyone. They chose red for its boldness, and for its symbolic associations with passion, the heart and love.”
Another part of the event was a showing of the documentary “5B.” This film talked about the beginnings of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. This documentary specifically focused on San Francisco General Hospital and how they opened up a new ward called “5B,” that was specifically for people who had HIV. This documentary provided information about the emotional, physical, and political strain that was present during this time and how everyone, even the patients, felt about it. It touched on the reality of this time, such as how nurses and doctors would refuse to treat the people affected by this disease.
In addition, this film showed the prejudice that people had toward those in the gay community which was only exasperated by this disease. Later in the film, it showed Ronald Reagan’s own contribution to this epidemic; which was the announcement about AIDS. However, according to the documentary, this was six years after its discovery; where 21,000 people had already died. Thankfully, the number of deaths has slowed down and people are now able to be treated to prevent aids using a drug called Protease, which was created in 1996. At the end of the film, it said that the ward closed in 2003. This film was shown because it reminded people that this issue is still prevalent today, even if it is not talked about much anymore.
Be sure to check out these organizations and get involved in what they do. The Windham Aids Program is located at the Windham Regional Community council on 872 Main Street. Perception Programs is located on 54 North Street and Generations is located on 40 Mansfield Avenue.