December 1: World AIDS Day Service (1997)

World AIDS Day takes place on December first of each year. It provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. The day was conceived by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The first observance of World AIDS Day took place on December 1, 1988. Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, had recommended the date of December 1, believing it would maximize coverage by western news media, sufficiently long following the U.S. elections but before the Christmas holidays. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day. Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education. In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent organization.

Epiphany hosted at least two AIDS-related events in the early days of the pandemic. The first was a benefit concert in 1992 sponsored by a local group, “Musicians Against AIDS.” The group was founded “in order for performing artists to contribute their time and talents to assist local nonprofit organizations directly serving persons with AIDS and those who are HIV positive.” The concert featured chorus and orchestra members from the Washington-Baltimore area, with Epiphany’s organist choirmaster, James Buonemani, as one of the conductors. The second event was “An Interfaith Service of Celebration and Healing for persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS,” held in conjunction with World AIDS Day in 1997. Since its inception, each World AIDS Day has a theme. As can be seen in the accompanying photo of the service cover, the theme in 1997 dealt with the impact of AIDS on children. The theme for 2017 is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”

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