As of 2014, approximately 37 million people with HIV. To provide an opportunity to discuss their struggles, the U of T International Health Program (UTIHP) and Global Health Engage — a subgroup of UTIHP — hosted a commemorative panel on World AIDS Day last week.

Last year, U of T commemorated World AIDS day by lighting Hart House up with red lighting. This year, the panel featured talks from various Toronto-based HIV activists and experts, including Dr. Phillip Berger, medical director of St. Michael’s Hospital’s Inner City Health Program; Alison Symington, Co-Director of Research & Advocacy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; and Dr. Ann Stewart, the medical director of Casey House. Other speakers present were Dr. Sumeet Sodhi, a senior scientist at Dignitas International, and Nicci Stein, the executive director of Teresa Group.

One of the more inspiring talks at the event was delivered by the youngest speaker of the group, Muluba Habanyama. Muluba explained during her speech how she lived the first 22 years of her life with the secret that she was born HIV-positive. Muluba lost both of her parents to HIV/AIDS, and after feeling frustrated with having to hide her status, announced to the world her HIV-positive status at a World AIDS Day event last year. Today, she is a public advocate for reducing the stigma around HIV, and is also a journalism student at Sheridan College.

The UTIHP World AIDS Day event also featured musical performances from U of T students, and was preceded by an NGO fair, with representatives from a variety of HIV and global health-related U of T clubs.