Amidst fear, panic and threat of a pandemic in 1987, two action-oriented individuals — James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter – perceived a day to conscientiously focus on HIV / AIDS.
Reportedly the men, two public information officers for the Global Program on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, director of the Global Program on AIDS.
Dr. Mann readily embraced the concept and quickly adopted the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be Dec. 1.
Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, California made the recommendation believing it would maximize media coverage of World AIDS Day by American news media, “sufficiently long following the U.S. elections but before the Christmas holidays.”
First implemented a year later in 1988, U.S. presidential proclamations of World AIDS Day are issued annually.
World AIDS Day is now a designated date to hear a message from Pope Benedict XVI and influential world leaders.
The White House began marking Dec. 1 with the iconic display of a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the building’s North Portico in 2007.
Now an annual tradition, the display of the banner is the first sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since the Abraham Lincoln administration.
AIDS has caused the deaths of more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012). In addition, an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV.
These alarming figures accounts for HIV / AIDS being one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history.
“Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.”
More than 2.1 million Americans are living with HIV or AIDS.
In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. While the choice of this theme was criticized at the time by some for ignoring the fact that people of all ages may become infected with HIV, the theme helped alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease and boost recognition of the problem as a family disease.”
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day campaign is “Getting To Zero.”
On Dec. 1, music artists from around the world will take part in the 15th annual Harry Shearer and Judith Owen’s Christmas Without Tears showcase. Held in honor of World AIDS Day, the fun-filled showcase will take place at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) at 7:30 pm.
Described to be “a reverent and irreverent antidote to the most stressful of seasons,” the 15-year-old tradition that Shearer and Owen started in their Santa Monica, California home has since grown to become an annual heartwarming house party around the piano involving fellow performers and audience members.
Reflective of simpler times, the variety show is acclaimed for being “a festive romp and salve for the soul, serving as a reminder to all that Christmas is a time to be with the ones you love — and sometimes, even family!”
Since 2005, when the first public performance was staged at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to aid the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the event has been acclaimed for its guilt-free approach to having fun and giving back.
Comics, magicians, and even circus acts have been welcomed acts that combine to provide the perfect mix that makes the presentation a true variety show.
This year’s performers include: Owen, actor Alan Cumming, funnyman Mario Cantone, actress Olympia Dukakis, Alfie Boe, musician Paul Shaffer, Artie Lange, Fred Willard, Béla Fleck, Peter Asher, Davell Crawford, Godfrey Daniels, Jerry Dixon, Amy Engelhardt, The Gregory Brothers, Keith Nelson, Doña Oxford and The Song Birds.
As an added holiday treat, “Christmas Without Tears” EP (extended play), a new collection of original songs was released.
A portion of the proceeds from this World AIDS Day performance will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Last week, high profile, actor Charlie Sheen announced on prime time television that he had been living with the HIV virus.
Reportedly, he kept the news a secret due to a negatively stigma associated with the virus and also because he feared his life’s legacy would shift from talented thespian to AIDS victim.
The overwhelming response to his news was shock and from his female partners, suspicion and concern that the popular celebrity may have infected them.
One of the lone voices from the celebrated fraternity emerged with a message of solidarity.
Former basketball player Earvin Magic Johnson who has been living with the HIV virus said: “I wish Charlie Sheen and his family the best. With the advancement in treatments and medicine he can fight this disease and live a long life. I hope he joins me in educating the world about HIV / AIDS.”
Anyone concerned about their HIV status should get in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Catch You On The Inside!