Feature story

World AIDS Day 2010: More than 100 “light for rights” events around the globe showcase vital link between human rights and aids response

01 December 2010

Commemorating World AIDS Day 2010, lights on landmarks all over the world—from New York to Paris and from Ethiopia to Thailand—will be turned off Wednesday, December 1, during more than 100 events to remember those lost to AIDS. Those same lights will then be turned back on to emphasize the importance of human rights for people living with HIV and people at risk of infection.

The events are part of a series of nearly 100 global activities marking World AIDS Day and the LIGHT FOR RIGHTS Campaign, organized by UNAIDS, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and the World AIDS Campaign.

When cities turn back on the lights, they symbolically remind us of the need to shine the spotlight on the human rights of every person affected by HIV.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

“The dimming of lights reminds us of the continued violations of human rights that force marginalized populations and people living with HIV to live in the shadows,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director. “When cities turn back on the lights, they symbolically remind us of the need to shine the spotlight on the human rights of every person affected by HIV.”

Across the world, thousands of people on six continents and more than 100 events are organizing rallies, symposiums, testing days, and memorial services to mark World AIDS Day under the Light for Rights banner.

For example, in New York, Liza Minnelli and United Nations General Assembly President Joseph Deiss will join Kenneth Cole, chairman of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and others at an event in Washington Square Park, and lights on 35 Broadway theaters, the Brooklyn Bridge, Carnegie Hall, and other New York landmarks will be turned off.

In Paris, Brussels, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, Light for Rights coalition partners rang the opening bells of each city’s NYSE Euronext exchanges. Throughout India, the National Council of Churches in India will organize “Light a Lamp, Pledge for Rights” events, honoring those who have been affected by HIV by banding together.

According to data released last week in the UNAIDS 2010 AIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have fallen 20% over the past 10 years. But the update also reported that 33.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV—the highest number ever, as people are living longer due mainly to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy.

The report also noted that 2.6 million people were newly infected in 2009, and nearly 2 million people died of AIDS-related illness during that year.

Inspiration for involving lights on World AIDS Day comes from “Night Without Light,” a project undertaken in 1990 by Visual AIDS, a group dedicated to using the arts to bring attention to the AIDS crisis—and the same group that created the red ribbon symbol for AIDS awareness.

Full list of events at www.lightforrights.org