Feature story

Use light to highlight rights this World AIDS Day

25 October 2010

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon speaking at the "Light for Rights" event during the World AIDS Day celebrations in New York City in 2009.

The first Light for Rights: Keep the light on HIV and human rights event was held on 1 December 2009 in New York. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined leaders in the AIDS response and entertainment stars to commemorate World AIDS at the City’s historic Washington Square Park Memorial Arch.

Lights on the arch and other landmarks around the city were turned off to remember family and friends lost to AIDS, and to represent how stigma, discrimination, fear and shame can drive people living with HIV into darkness. Then, the lights were re-lit to show how shining a human rights light on HIV can help people living with HIV emerge from the shadows, to seek the information, treatment, care and support.

Light for Rights was inspired by Night without Light, a project organized by Visual AIDS in the early 1990s in which the skylines of New York and San Francisco were darkened, by turning off the architectural illumination on key landmarks, as a symbolic reflection for the lives lost due to HIV.

The Light for Rights campaign sends a message of hope to the world

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

The Light for Rights campaign compliments the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day: human rights and universal access. The year, it encourages 100 cities around the world to dim the lights on public landmarks to remember the devastating affect AIDS has had, and to turn the lights back on to illuminate the fundamental human rights shared by all but often denied people living with HIV.

“The Light for Rights campaign sends a message of hope to the world,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The power of light can convey the message that human rights are essential to the AIDS response.”

The Lights for Rights initiative is organized by a coalition comprised of  The World AIDS Day campaign, UNAIDS, amfAR, and Broadway cares/Equality Fights AIDS. To find out more about how to organize a Lights for Rights event in your community or city this World AIDS Day visit the Light for Rights web site (www.lightforrights.org).