Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. BlogCatalog, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of HIV/AIDS Policy’s AIDS.gov are teaming up to raise awareness and reduce stigma through Bloggers Unite for World AIDS Day 2008.
I would be lying to you if I said that HIV/AIDS was something that I knew a lot about, something that has affected my life personally. I'm taking this opportunity to educate myself and the readers of my blog on HIV/AIDS, the toll it is taking on the dance community, and what organizations like Dancers Responding to AIDS are doing about it.
What is HIV/AIDS? By definition, AIDS is "a severe immunological disorder caused by the retrovirus HIV, resulting in a defect in cell-mediated immune response that is manifested by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections and to certain rare cancers, especially Kaposi's sarcoma. It is transmitted primarily by exposure to contaminated body fluids, especially blood and semen." In 2007 the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS was 33 million. AIDS caused an estimated 2 million deaths in 2007 alone but has been an international epidemic for the past 25 years. The Youth AIDS and AVERT websites offer more detailed, easy to understand AIDS statistics, both nationally for the USA and globally.
What is Dancers Responding to AIDS? Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA) is a fundraising program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, founded in 1991 by Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez, both former Paul Taylor dancers. DRA has hosted Fire Island Dance Festival, Dance From The Heart, and Dancing at the Crossroads. It raises money and awareness through events like these, audience appeals during performances by many major dance companies, and through a Dance Student Outreach Program. Alvin Ailey, ABT, LINES, BalletMet, Battleworks, Cedar Lake, Complexions, Jazz Tap Ensemble, the Trocks, Mark Morris, Martha Graham, NYC Tap Fest, PNB, Pilobolus, RBS, and Twyla Tharp are just a few of the biggest names in dance, and all DRA supporters.
DRA's National Grants Program "grants money to almost 500 AIDS and Family Service Organizations across the country as well as in Canada, Puerto Rico, and South Africa". Other DRA money is used to fund programs of The Actors' Fund of America. None of the money raised by DRA is used for medical research; it is given to "individuals in need and the organizations that serve them."
Arnie Zane, Michael Peters, Rudolf Nuryev, Roberty Joffrey, Christopher Gillis, Ulysses Dove, Jorge Donn, Michael Bennet, and Alvin Ailey are only a handful of the dancers that have lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS. Organizations like DRA can't bring these people back, but they can provide assistance to those currently living with AIDS and help raise awareness of the effect the disease has on our community.
You can make a donation to DRA at their website. What is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day (WAD) began in 1988 at the World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. WAD is now mainly run by international AIDS organizations and charities, such as the World Aids Campaign (WAC). World AIDS Day is "about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done." Every year since its inception, WAD has had a theme, a list of which can be found here.
From the WAC website:
Leadership is the theme for World AIDS Day 2007 and 2008, promoted with the campaigning slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” Leadership encourages leaders at all levels to stop AIDS. Building on the 2006 theme of accountability, leadership highlights the discrepancy between the commitments that have been made to halt the spread of AIDS, and actions taken to follow them through. Leadership empowers everyone – individuals, organizations, governments – to lead in the response to AIDS.
I really need to bring this all to a point; I hope I don't sound like I'm rambling on. I hope someone learned something from this, because I sure did.