|November 29, 2011 -
Since 1998, December 1 has been observed worldwide as World AIDS Day to commemorate people who lost their lives to HIV, applaud progress made in responding to the epidemic, raise public awareness about testing, and recommit to ending the epidemic. This year's theme is "Getting to Zero" and Knoxvillians will be recognizing the occasion with a program of music, skits, light refreshments and a candlelight vigil in memory of those who lost their lives to AIDS. This free event will be held at the Holiday Inn World's Fair Park beginning at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1. The public is invited to attend. Parking is also free.
"Getting to zero means our goal is to achieve zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination against HIV-infected people" says Jack Moore, vice president of Tennessee Association of People with AIDS and the evening's master of ceremonies.
It's a lofty goal. AIDS is now the third leading cause of death for African-American women in their 30s and 40s, and the number of new infections among gay and bisexual black men under 30 increased 48 percent between 2006 and 2009 (the latest U.S. figures available). The U.S. epidemic's epicenter falls in the South, where poverty and lack of affordable health care are thwarting education, testing and treatment. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in one year alone, Knoxville and the East Tennessee region saw 17 AIDS related deaths and 79 newly diagnosed HIV infections (2009, the most current data).
Andy Towe (rhymes with how) will receive the Outstanding Person Award at Knoxville's World AIDS Day ceremony. Towe is being recognized for his commitment and compassion toward people struggling to live with HIV disease. For the past seven years, Towe has worked for Child & Family Tennessee Project Care to provide case management, education and supportive services to HIV-positive people in East Tennessee.
"It has been a privilege and an honor to work in the field of HIV/AIDS. I find it incredibly satisfying to dispel myth, stigma, bigotry and prejudice while promoting equality for all and providing access to care," Towe says. "HIV is a public health issue; however, at its core it remains a human issue."
Related activities planned around World AIDS Day in Knoxville are:
Nov. 29, Samaritan Ministries World AIDS Day worship service, Central Baptist Church of Bearden, 6 p.m.; Pastor Wade Bibb will speak.
Nov. 29, HIV testing at The Edge, 10 p.m. to midnight, sponsored by Helen Ross McNabb.
Nov. 30, HIV testing and presentation, 5 p.m., Knoxville College dining hall.
Nov. 30, HIV testing at the Carousel II, 10 p.m. to midnight, sponsored by Knox County Health Department.
Dec. 1, HIV testing at Pellissippi State Community College, Hardin Valley campus, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., sponsored by Student Government, Samaritan Ministry and Helen Ross McNabb.
Dec. 1, HIV testing at Club XYZ, 10 p.m. to midnight, sponsored by Helen Ross McNabb.
Dec. 2, HIV testing at the University Center, UT, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., sponsored by Lambda Student Union and Knox County Health Department
Dec. 2, HIV testing, Kurt's Bar, 10 p.m.
Planning and sponsorship for World AIDS Day events are provided by Carousel II, Child and Family Tennessee, Club XYZ, East Tennessee Human Resources Agency, The Edge, Helen Ross McNabb Center, Hope Center/Covenant Health, Kurt's, Knox County Health Department, Knoxville CARES, Lambda Student Union, Pellissippi State Community College, Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee, Positive East Tennesseans, Reaching Out Knoxville, and Samaritan Ministry