VALDOSTA, Georgia – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV today, and only 1 in 7 know it. The Georgia Department of Public Health’s South Health District Infectious Disease Program wants to bring awareness to those fighting HIV and AIDS through by “Painting the Town Red” and recognizing world AIDS Day 2022.
World AIDS Day is a global health event recognized annually on December 1. The recognition offers an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for those living with HIV/AIDS and to commemorate those who have died.
The theme for this year’s events are “Paint the Town Red.” Red ribbons have become the recognized symbol of AIDS awareness. According to UNAIDS, in 1991 a group called Visual AIDS “came together to design a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with HIV and their care givers. Inspired by the yellow ribbons honoring American soldiers serving in the Gulf war, the artists chose to create a red ribbon to symbolize support and solidarity for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. The color red was chosen for its, ‘connection to blood and the idea of passion — not only anger, but love, like a valentine,’ the Project founders say. The project was to become known as the Red Ribbon Project.”
This year, South Health District will host their World AIDS Day luncheon on Friday, December 2 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Turner Center of the Arts, 527 North Patterson Street, in Valdosta. The guest speaker for the luncheon will be Dr. Brian Palmer.
In addition to the annual luncheon, the Infectious Disease Program is also hosting a Paint the Town Red Paint Party. The paint party will be held on Friday, December 2 at Different Strokes Paint and Art Studio, 113 N. Ashley Street in Valdosta. The party will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Seats are limited so registration is encouraged.
“We are excited to expand our events this year and offer multiple opportunities to raise awareness,” said Angela Varnadore, prevention program manager with South Health District. “South Health District understands that awareness and education are our strongest tools to combat public health crisis like HIV/AIDS. We hope that everyone will join us as we paint the town red with HIV/AIDS awareness, not only in December but all year long.”
All county health departments within the South Health District (Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner) provide free HIV testing. Call your local health department to schedule an appointment. South Health District is now offering PrEP services at the Lowndes County Health Department and has a PrEP navigator onsite to provide assistance. PrEP is a pre-exposure prophylaxis that uses anti-HIV medications to keep HIV negative people who are at high risk for contracting HIV from becoming infected.
To register to attend the luncheon or the paint party, visit www.southhealthdistrict.com/hiv.