Pittsburgh residents and city employees are wearing red clothing and ribbons in commemoration of the city's third annual World AIDS Day effort, (PITTSBURGH) RED. More than 30 organizations are partnering to conduct awareness events and distribute 20,000 educational cards to the public and employees about AIDS/HIV.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said that he never imagined how important this day would become. "Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control reports that just over one million people are living with HIV in the United States. Yhere continues to be roughly 56,000 new cases of HIV each year in the United States," said Ravenstahl. "And what's even more shocking is that about 20 percent of those with HIV are unaware of their diagnosis."
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more than 3,000 individuals in southwestern Pennsylvania are living with HIV/AIDS. Three quarters of those people reside in Allegheny County.
Christine Bryan, is a spokesperson for the Delta Foundation, which coordinates World AIDS Day activities on behalf of the city. She said that AIDS used to be less common in Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh actually was originally chosen as a focus city back in the '80s by the Centers for Disease Control because people were getting the virus in large cities but weren't getting it in small cities, and so Pittsburgh was selected because of its low incidence rate," said Bryan. "Unfortunately, that has changed, and Pittsburgh has now doubled the national average of positive HIV infection rates, and we need to change that."
Some of the (PITTSBURGH) RED events today included the Art Institute of Pittsburgh dinosaur being dressed in red, free HIV testing at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, and the Highmark Spire being lit red. The day will end with a candlelight walk from Carnegie Mellon University to Heinz Chapel at 6:00 PM followed by a vigil and memorial service.