The theme of World AIDS Day 2019 was “Communities Make the Difference." This is very evident in London and the surrounding counties. This year, a record number of 2,110 Red Scarves were handmade by members of the community throughout London, Perth, Huron and Lambton Counties. RHAC staff and volunteers were at 5 different pop-up events bringing scarves out to communities to help raise awareness and end stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. In the spirit of community, several local businesses also participated with window displays, including: Nova Vita Hair Studio & Esthetics, Wabi Sabi Hair & Body, Grow & Bloom Co., Regency Florists, Starbucks North (Chapters/Indigo Masonville). We were also privileged to once again partner with students from Fanshawe College’s “Prism” group, Brescia University College and Kings University College whose campus pop-ups helped to raise awareness and end stigma. HIV/AIDS is more prevalent in marginalized communities and these events were a fantastic opportunity to start a conversation on campuses about HIV/AIDS and how students can help end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. I attended a Health Fair last week at Western University's main campus and had numerous students stop by our table to say they had seen the pop up and wanted to get more information.
Our World AIDS day Vigils were held again this year, one in London and the other in Stratford. In Stratford, we had the pleasure of being joined by students from St. Mary’s and Stratford high schools who performed songs prior to the Vigil. Most had never attended a Vigil of any sort and were eager to learn more about its significance. It’s a solemn event to remember those who were lost to AIDS-related illnesses. This year, our Red Scarf tags were dedicated in-memory of lives lost to HIV/AIDS. When preparing the church for the vigil, we placed Red Scarves on the end of the pews. I sat at a random pew, at the back of the church, and glanced at the scarf in front of me. This is what I saw:
The tag reads: “This scarf is dedicated in memory of Richard R.” Richard was my cousin and my favourite person in the world. He was a bright, beautiful light that was extinguished at the young age of 32. A brilliant, kind, funny man who loved his family above all else. He was also a teacher, role model and member of a broad community in Toronto. He was so much more than an HIV diagnosis or a death from AIDS. I wasn’t surprised to find Richard’s tag in front of me, he is always looking out for me, guiding me and loving me.
Oh behalf of RHAC and the families, like mine, who have lost a loved one to HIV/AIDS, I thank you. Thank you for giving your time, your talent and a little bit of your community to ours. It truly means the world.
Coordinator of Volunteer Services