HIV/AIDS has not gone away
IT was 20 years ago that the practice of wearing a red ribbon to mark World AIDS Day and help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS was first adopted.
Now the symbol is globally and immediately recognised and while AIDS is not as visible in the community as it once was, about 1000 new diagnoses of HIV are made in Australia each year and more than 21,000 Australians live with the disease.
"HIV is still around" is the theme of World AIDS Day activities to be held across the nation today, including in Lismore.
ACON Northern Rivers branch manager Dermot Ryan said the theme was designed to remind people HIV was still prevalent in the community, to push the safe-sex message and to raise awareness of issues such as discrimination against people with HIV.
"Not only does purchasing a red ribbon assist us to fund local programs for people but it also helps show solidarity and support and helps raise awareness," he said.
Mr Ryan said discrimination against people with HIV was now less common, but people often remained fearful of people living with HIV.
"People might choose to not socialise with people with HIV or to not support events such as fundraisers, for example, that are HIV-related because they fear they will be exposed to HIV," Mr Ryan said.
"But that normally comes from a position of ignorance. World AIDS Day is about taking the opportunity to challenge discrimination and remind people that you can't actually tell, just by looking at somebody, who has HIV and who doesn't," he said.
A candlelight memorial will be held at 7.30pm at Spinks Park on Molesworth St in Lismore, but from next year the candlelight memorial will be held on May 15 to coincide with other such memorials in Australia and across the world.
"Shifting Candlelight to the new day in May will hopefully give our community on the Northern Rivers a better opportunity to focus on this important occasion for reflection and remembrance," Mr Ryan said.
This year's activities will include an "attack" by the Lismore Yarn Guerrillas who will perform a "yarn bombing" at a secret location.
HIV IN AUSTRALIA
- Cases diagnosed to end 2010 - 30,846.
- People living with HIV to end 2010 - 21,391.
- New HIV diagnoses in 2010 - 1043.
- New diagnoses have remained relatively stable at about 1000 a year for the past five years.
- HIV continued to be transmitted primarily through sexual contact between men.
SOURCE: KIRBY INSTITUTE - ANNUAL SURVEILLANCE REPORT 2011