December 1 marked the 27th World AIDS Day – a time to remember those lost to the virus, reflect on the medical breakthroughs made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and renew a commitment to creating an AIDS-free world. In Boston, the community gathered for several events marking this important date.
At the Prudential Center, the AIDS Action Committee and presenting sponsor Bank of America celebrated the lighting of the Prudential Tower, which shone bright red in honor of World AIDS Day. This event also served as the official launch of AIDS Walk Boston 2015. During the evening, which was emceed by AAC Executive Director Carl Sciortino, reflections on the AIDS epidemic were made by Boston Chief of Health and Human Services Felix D. Arroyo and Phillip Robinson, Student Support Coordinator for the Boston Public Schools and local poet. The Fiddlehead Theatre Company of Boston’s Strand Theatre performed a heartfelt rendition of “Seasons of Love,” from the musical RENT.
The annual Commitment to Action Awards, which honor businesses and individuals who have been leaders in HIV/AIDS support, were awarded during the Prudential Center event. This year’s recipients were Harvard Pilgrim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Damian M. Ryan, a top fundraiser of the AIDS Walk Boston. At the end of the evening, Harbor to the Bay President Jim Morgrage presented AIDS Action with a check for $76,533 raised from this year’s ride.
One of the most significant medical advances in recent years has been the introduction of PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – a pill that, when taken daily, has been shown to dramatically lower the risk of HIV infection. Despite some controversy around its use, HIV/AIDS experts believe PrEP might hold the key to one day ending the spread of the virus for good. On World AIDS Day, the National LGBT Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute released the below infographic to increase public awareness of PrEP.
The Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health observed World AIDS Day with the discussion “Treatment as Prevention: Can We Treat Our Way Out of the AIDS Epidemic?” This forum featured a number of HIV/AIDS experts, including Dr. Kenneth Mayer, Medical Research Director and Co-Chair of The Fenway Institute; Mark Wainberg, Director of the McGill AIDS Centre at McGill University; Max Essex, Chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative; and Shahin Lockman, Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The speakers explored the use of PrEP and other drug treatments, and whether widespread use of these preventive medicines could reduce new HIV transmissions so much that the virus eventually disappears completely. This discussion also looked at the changes needed in the current standards of HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide. Video of the forum will be posted on the HSPH website.
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