This year marks the 21st World AIDS Day since its establishment in 1988, when James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter—two public health officers at the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS in Geneva—co-founded the day in an effort to destigmatise the disease.
"There was a lot that people felt they did not know about the epidemic and they were afraid," Bunn told NPR in a 2011 interview. "In those days people were being fired from their job. They were being denied Social Security benefits. They were being ostracized by their families. They were being evicted from their homes because they were sick and dying."
Women in Need has been supporting women and children with HIV since 2003 when we encountered a woman with HIV left on the streets to die. One of our supporters, Sylvia Birch has been sponsoring two children with their symptomatic treatment and education for the last 5 years. This remarkable woman has pledged to walk the worlds sixth longest and busiest bridge in Kolkata (Calcutta) on Christmas Day, all in support of Women in Need. Having had two hip replacements, this will be quite a challenge. Here's what she has to say about it:
"Some years past I read the story of a rickshaw boy who was born, lived and died on the Howrah Bridge. The story affected me very much in showing to me both the injustices in the world, and how fortunate and kind life has been to me.
On Christmas day this year I will try and walk the length of the Howrah Bridge. I have had two hip replacements and walk with walking sticks. This will not stop me walking the busiest and sixth longest bridge in the world. I will, I hope with good fortune, join with the other 150,000 pedestrians that crosses the bridge each day.
I have for many years been supportive of a charity in India run by a formidable English woman, Leah Pattison, Women in Need, especially supportive of two young girls, Ananya and Gauri, and their fight against aids unfortunately passed on in the womb. They are at school and with the drugs I help to provide doing well.
I hope you will support me with my walk. £250 will pay for one of them for drugs for 6 months. Thank you - Sylvia"