Since 1988, December 1 has marked a day of awareness for the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), and to commemorate those who have died from the disease. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and was established by the World Health Organization.
AIDS certainly had a sad and profound impact on the Greenwich Village, East Village, and NoHo communities. For many years Manhattan’s Community Board #2 led the city in the number of AIDS cases and AIDS deaths. Many of the locations most strongly associated with the early fight against AIDS were located in the Village, including: St. Vincent’s Hospital, where so many of the first cases of AIDS in New York were treated and the LGBT Community Center (formerly the Gay Community Center) at 208 West 13th Street, where many of the earliest meetings organized in response to the AIDS epidemic were held, including meetings of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). A plan for a new memorial to remember all those who were lost to and those who fought against the AIDS epidemic is being developed near the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. Read more about the history of AIDS in the Village in these past Off the Grid posts.
While the Village is no longer an epicenter of the AIDS crisis, the disease is still considered a worldwide pandemic. According to the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the disease “has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012) and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.”
And while the impact of HIV/AIDS is significantly worse in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, New York City continues to feel the impact of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “New York leads the nation in the number of new HIV cases.” The New York State Department of Health reports that “approximately 129,000 people are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in New York State. Almost 80% live in New York City.”
World AIDS Day is the perfect time to reflect on the AIDS crisis and those living with the disease, to remember those who have died, and to educate yourself about the effects of this global pandemic.