On December 1, 2014, the Great Hall at Hart House will open its doors for World AIDS Day. The event strives to increase awareness of the devastating effects of AIDS and the need to tackle this prominent issue. The multi-disciplinary event will feature a variety of guest speakers and performers and will showcase leading non-profit organizations and campus groups that are making a difference in this complex area.
World AIDS Day at the University of Toronto is organized by Global Health Engage (GHE), a student-run committee of the University of Toronto International Health Program (UTIHP), that educates students on a number of global health issues.
Trillium Chang, an organizer of World AIDS Day and a member of the GHE, described it as an eye-opening interdisciplinary opportunity for students to be immersed in the challenge of effective AIDS mitigation.
“[World AIDS Day at U of T] is an educational initiative… to get students to take action against HIV/AIDS”, says Chang. “The main message [we want students to take away from the event] is the idea of forgotten narratives… there are a lot of events that have a lot of hype, for example Ebola,” she says, adding, “We frequently forget that there are still a lot of systematic issues going on in the world and not a lot of attention has been paid to them: a great example would be AIDS itself.”
Chang continues, “A lot of medicine has been developed and research has been focused on [AIDS], but we have not been able to lower the rates [of the disease] as well as we could have.” She adds, “Therefore, this event is a celebration of our efforts against the world’s indifference to AIDS.”
When asked about the challenges of effectively communicating the severity of AIDS to the general public, Chang replies, “I think first of all it’s a lot about how the media shapes the issue.”
Chang points out that the vastness of the issue of AIDS may overwhelm students. “A lot of people will look at it and say, ‘it’s not an achievable goal,’” she says. “But that’s not the issue: the issue is that not enough attention has been devoted to it… it is not seen as a huge threat to our society,” she adds.
World AIDS Day will include educational, fundraising, and community outreach components that strive to appeal to a wide range of audiences. The event will feature lectures by professors Peter Newman, Kelly MacDonald, Dan Allman, Carmen Logie, and LaRon Nelson. There will be an Earthtones performance halfway through the event. At the conclusion of the evening, a fair will feature local NGOs and campus groups at the forefront of tackling HIV/AIDS.
Some unique features of the day to look forward to will be that University College the CN Tower be lit up in red in honour of World AIDS Day. As well, the Carillon bells of Hart House will be ringing for the day.
Marking World AIDS Day has been a tradition at U of T since 2004, and every year it has strived to promote dialogue on the difficulties of combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.