Vermonters To Observe World AIDS Day on Sunday

For Immediate Release
News Contact: Linda Dorey

Burlington—Sunday, December 1, is the 15th Annual World AIDS Day, and Vermonters will be observing it in many ways throughout the state.

In addition to candlelight vigils, tree lighting ceremonies and the ringing of church bells, people will wear red ribbons to show their support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

This year the World AIDS Day theme is “Live and Let Live,” with a focus on stigma and discrimination, which are major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Fear of discrimination may prevent people from seeking treatment, from getting tested or from being open about their HIV status.

“This year’s theme challenges all people to get the facts about HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Jan Carney, Vermont health commissioner. “The more we know about this disease and how it is transmitted, the more we as a society can do to prevent HIV and to help those living with HIV and AIDS access the care they need.”

AIDS was first diagnosed in the United States in the early 1980s. Since that time, at least 430 Vermonters have been diagnosed with AIDS, and half of them have died, according the Vermont Department of Health.

In addition to those counted as having AIDS, another 166 people had been diagnosed in Vermont as living with HIV as of September 2002, according to numbers that will be updated by the Health Department at the end of the year.

Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as a third of people who have HIV don’t know it, which means that the actual number in Vermont is higher than the reported number.

Nearly 200 countries around the world are observing this day to draw attention to the AIDS pandemic. In the United States, World AIDS Day is coordinated by the American Association for World Health, in conjunction with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Pan American Health Organization, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.