Today the world marks AIDS day. As well as to raise awareness about this disease, it is also an opportunity to remember those who have been struck down by this deadly malady.
In Toronto, the CN Tower is lit up completely in red as other famous landmarks around the world turn red: London’s Trafalgar Square, the Empire State Building in New York, the Washington Monument. This day of remembrance started in Australia with the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge being symbolically lit up red by the rock star Bono of U2.
According to a U.N. report, as estimated 1.8 million people died of AIDS in 2009, down from a peak of 2.1 million in 2004. Overall, 25 million people have died from AIDS around the world. 33.4 million currently live with the virus.
World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Dr. Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be 1 December, 1988.
Bunn, a broadcast journalist on a leave-of-absence from his reporting duties at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, recommended the date of 1 December believing it would maximize coverage by western news media. Since 1988 was an election year in the U.S., Bunn suggested that media outlets would be weary of their post-election coverage and eager to find a fresh story to cover. Bunn and Netter determined that 1 December was long enough after the election and soon enough before the Christmas holidays that it was, in effect, a dead spot in the news calendar and thus perfect timing for World AIDS Day.
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