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Today Is World AIDS Day

By Joseph Erbentraut in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 1, 2009 8:50PM

2009_12_01_worldaids.jpg Today marks the observation of World AIDS Day, an event recognized annually as part of a global effort to raise awareness of the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, in addition to spreading education, fighting prejudice and raising funds. The day is also one of remembrance, honoring the lives of the more than 25 million people who been killed by the virus since its discovery in 1981. Today, more than 33.5 million people live with HIV, including 2.1 million children, according to UNAIDS estimates. Some 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV during this past year, while an estimated 2 million individuals lost their battles with the deadly virus.

While obviously a dire issue in sub-Saharan Africa, home to over two-thirds of the adults and children infected with HIV, the disease remains a major public health issue here, particularly among at-risk communities including men who have sex with men. In Chicago, a study commissioned by the city's Department of Public Health earlier this year found that half of the gay men and two-thirds of the black men found to have HIV were not aware of their status. According to 2006 estimates, over 20,000 Chicagoans are living with HIV/AIDS.

And, of course, HIV/AIDS is very far from being only a men's issue. HIV is the fifth-leading cause of death for women ages 25-44 in the U.S. And the virus disproportionately affects black and Latina women - while representing 24 percent of all U.S. women combined, they account for 82 percent of AIDS diagnoses (as of 2005). It is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25-34.

Educate yourself, know your status and spread the word because the cliche is true: Silence equals death. Below are some of the events commemorating the day in the city. All are free unless otherwise noted.

  • Candlelight vigil presented by VIDA/SIDA (5 p.m., corner of Division & Western)
  • HIV and the Latino Community, a presentation by Julio Maldonado (5 p.m., Howard Brown Health Center, 4025 N. Sheridan)
  • Voices for Change, presented by the South Side Help Center and Christian Community Health Center, including gospel performances by Kim Stratton, Malcolm Williams and others (6 p.m., Messiah Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 10400 S. Halsted)
  • The Chicago AIDS Quilt Songbook music showcase, presented by the Chicago Opera Vanguard (6:30 p.m. pre-show reception, 8 p.m. curtain, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted) $20 general admission, $40 VIP
  • What Vaginas Want, a discussion of women's health issues facilitated by Christina Santiago and Lisa Katona (7 p.m., Howard Brown Center, 4025 N. Sheridan)
  • A Look at HIV/AIDS and Health Living in Chicago, presented by AIDSCare Progressive Services (7 p.m., Chicago Public Library - John Merlo, 644 W. Belmont)

And below are just a sampling of the many locations where free, anonymous rapid result HIV testing is available today. Beyond today, all offer regular testing, and many more locations are listed here.