Getting to Zero - World AIDS Day
We youth people, living in a paced globalized society, self-evidently conceive HIV as a disease. But have we ever thought that how activists in the late 1980s changed the mentality of people perceiving HIV as a taboo and a label of deviant morality to an epidemic?
While the first signs of HIV virus were observed in prior to 1970s, there was no call to inform people about it and the ways of prevention were obscured. However, the period of silence lasted in the beginning of 1981 when in the US and United Kingdom at the same time, different cases were reported. The disease had not been titled until 1982, and as it was observed at the beginning in the gay people, some linked the epidemic to its origins among homosexuals, the titles like "gay compromise syndrome", GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) or "gay cancer" or "community-acquired immune dysfunction" comes from that. A year later, media started its programs about AIDS but with the concentration on the subject of “gay plague”. This is the time when anxiety arose, and researchers took more serious steps to find out the real causes of HIV throughout the world, including America, Europe and Africa. They confirmed that AIDS was a transmittable disease. But this information did not help the prejudice and the epidemic of fear among public opinion. Meanwhile In 1985, around 2000 people attended the first international Conference on AIDS held in Atlanta. Three major topics of discussion were the new HTLV-III/LAV test, the situation with regards to AIDS internationally, and the extent of heterosexual transmission.
Afterwards, grassroots organizations working on the epidemiology of HIV, initiated to inform civil society in different aspects. The first concerning purpose was to significantly following and supporting medical research. Secondly, raising awareness and responding to the global AIDS epidemic was in target. Moreover, these organizations and campaigns aimed to change the world reaction on this issue as a ubiquitous matter; the main target of the AIDS activists has been media to influence on the mentality.
One of the most effective organizations during the late 1980s was AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), which was formed by the artists in New York, to change the culture of interpretation on this disease. So the ACT UP as one of the initiatives of activists for the aids used visual strategies apposed media and advertising, “ACT UP radically changed the public discussion about AIDS in the media from one of hysteria and blaming the victim to one of recognizing AIDS as a public health emergency”. As the history illustrates, AIDS prejudiced interpretation as a crime which was a result of the deviant behavior changed to a perception of a disease that is more possible through some minority groups. The breaking through in the public opinion happened when the Cosmopolitan magazine in 1988 made efforts to convince the audience that the straight women would not be threaten with the infection of HIV.
Then the ACT UP members reacted by organizing a demonstration and consequently a video of this was broadcasted in TV, changed somehow the implication of AIDS.
Apart from these struggles, World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 1 December every year as World AIDS Day since 1988. This is one of the eight official world campaigns marked by WHO to ‘raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control’. This international day, makes a specific opportunity to speculate profoundly the status of HIV in all around the world by thematizing each year with another major issue. Since 2011, World AIDS Day has been defined as “Getting to Zero” , based on the hope to be vanished wholly and as _ Barak Obama once declared in 2013 that people will face a free aids generation if all the world keep concerning the program to eradicate this disease.
Accordingly, civil society has started to engage with the issue by learning the facts about HIV and putting this knowledge into the action. And youths have made more efforts to build up a real imagination about HIV, the prevention ways and how to live with this epidemic. Thus, these are the actions that contribute to a more safe and healthy society, which all looking for.