For the first time since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, several buildings in the city of Rochester will light up red in observance of World AIDS Day, a global event that serves as a yearly reminder of the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS. Rochester City Hall, Rundell Memorial Library, Third Presbyterian Church, One East Avenue, and Xerox Tower will swap their conventional light bulbs for red ones on December 1 as a show of support for those living with HIV in our community, and in remembrance of those who have succumbed to the infection in Rochester and beyond.
Many cities and famous landmarks around the globe light up for the “Red” campaign on World AIDS Day to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to stand in solidarity with those affected by the disease. AIDS was first discovered by University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry alumnus Michael Gottlieb, M.D., and the University is home to one of the nation’s first HIV/AIDS clinical research centers, making Rochester an historic addition to the global “Red” campaign.
According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV or AIDS in the US and New York State has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation. In 2014, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the “End the Epidemic” campaign, which strives to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in NYS from 3,000 to 750 by 2020.
The image of our downtown buildings lit up red will make a powerful and moving tribute to persons living with HIV, and to the need to continue the fight until we end this disease.
Rochester will be an important participant in the “End the Epidemic” campaign, as it has the second highest rate of HIV infection in NYS, trailing New York City. In addition, the percentage of new HIV infections has increased dramatically over the past 5 years in Monroe County, according to Trillium Health, a Rochester-based HIV/AIDS clinic.
Lighting Rochester up red and several other World AIDS Day events taking place over the next few days are supported by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s HIV Vaccine Trials Unit, also known as the Rochester Victory Alliance, the University’s Center for AIDS Research, which spans the Medical Center and the River Campus, and the University’s Susan B. Anthony Center. University Health Services, River Campus Libraries, and several student organizations on the University’s River Campus will also host events.
The Rochester Victory Alliance was one of the first research sites in the United States to conduct HIV vaccine studies beginning in 1988 and continues this important research today. It works in collaboration with many community organizations and with the UR Center for AIDS Research, which supports scientists across the University that are breaking new ground in HIV/AIDS research.
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean of research and director of the UR Center for AIDS Research, and Michael C. Keefer, M.D., director of the Rochester Victory Alliance say that a key mission of their organizations is to build greater awareness of HIV/AIDS. “The image of our downtown buildings lit up red will make a powerful and moving tribute to persons living with HIV, and to the need to continue the fight until we end this disease,” they added.
“The real fight against HIV takes more than just a doctor or a pill,” noted John P. Cullen, Ph.D., Coordinator for Outreach at the Susan B. Anthony Center, which focuses on community engagement, particularly translating research into policies that benefit the community. “It begins with community awareness and education to end stigma and discrimination and getting more people involved in the effort to end the epidemic.”
In addition to lighting the city up red, several other World AIDS Day events will be held on and around the University of Rochester campus:
- The AIDS Education Posters Translation Project will be on display in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library on November 30, 7-9pm. Students in the Modern Languages and Cultures Department of the University of Rochester School of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering translated a selection of German, Spanish, French, and Japanese posters in the AIDS Education Posters Collection for the display. The posters will also be on view at Miner Library, Carlson Science Library, the Physics, Optics, and Astronomy Library, and in the Wilson Commons Bridge during the evening of November 30 and slideshows of the posters and student translations will be viewable throughout the week of November 30 in Wilson Commons.
- On December 1, 10am-2pm, the UR Center for AIDS Research will host a scientific symposium to highlight HIV/AIDS research happening at the University of Rochester and beyond. The symposium will feature talks from Dan Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Stephen Goff, Ph.D, professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics and Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center. University of Rochester students and post-doctoral associates will also present their research in a poster session. The event will take place in the Flaum Atrium at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and is open to the public.
- The Susan B. Anthony Center, Rochester Victory Alliance, and UR Center for AIDS Research will sponsor a screening of the film “How to Survive a Plague” in Dewey Hall, Room 1101 on the UR River Campus on December 1, 6:30-8:30 pm. The film showcases the tenacity of a group of young AIDS activists who fought against ignorance, indifference, and prejudice of the US government and medical establishment to push toward development of effective HIV/AIDS medications. Following the film screening, a candlelight vigil will be held on the UR River Campus Eastman Quadrangle starting at 9:00 pm.
- The local affiliate of the international non-profit organization Grassroot Soccer will hold its annual World AIDS Day silent auction and dinner in the May Room in Wilson Commons on the UR River Campus on December 1, 6-9 pm. The event aims to raise awareness and funds to aid GR Soccer in its initiatives to provide Rochester’s youth with “HIV/AIDS health education, longitudinal academic support, and leadership skills” through soccer.