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World AIDS Day 2009 by Dawn Averitt Bridge

December 1, 2009

Tonight at the grocery store my 7-year old stated definitively that this was the last day of November as she stared at the billboard size calendar in our local Whole Foods.  I jumped on this open door for a teaching moment and asked her if she knew what tomorrow was…to which she replied with some apprehension, “Tuesday?”  This child never makes it easy for me to talk AIDS with her, but I persevered nonetheless. “Yes, it’s Tuesday.  It’s also December 1st, which is World AIDS Day.”   After some lengthy discussion about what that meant and some surface discussion about how people might observe the day (most notably for my daughter, the wearing of red ribbons), my very astute child asks me, somewhat incredulously, “So, all we have to do is wear a red ribbon to make the disease go away?”  Ahhh – out of the mouths of babes…if only that were so. 

After all, that’s how it started.  We began wearing red ribbons with the conviction that the world would take notice of the suffering, and the mounting, countless, unnecessary deaths, the devastated families, the societal burden…and realize that our brothers and sisters were falling prey to an almost entirely preventable disease, and collectively we could, we would, mount the response necessary to fix it.  But it’s 2009, and our work is far from done. 

This year marks the 21st World AIDS Day, both for the global community as well as for me personally as I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, the same year the first World AIDS Day was observed.   This day is always a day of reflection for me – but it is also a day to re-engergize, re-commit, and rally for the fight against AIDS.  Now more than ever, we have work to do!  The Obama Administration has committed to developing and implementing our first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the concerns of women living with HIV must be prominently addressed.  Health care reform is a life or death issue for many of us, and our voices are urgently needed at all levels of the debate.  Poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and violence against women continue to fuel this pandemic domestically as well as globally and we can no longer ignore the problem in our own backyard.  And we must strip HIV of the power to stigmatize us by normalizing public perception of people living with HIV – do I have any takers for the National HIV+ Soccer Mom’s Association??  I know you’re out there!

As the mother of two young daughters, I have a lot of work to do.  As a woman living with AIDS, I have a lot of work to do.  I would like for my daughter to be able to tell her daughter that when she was a little girl, there was something called World AIDS Day, but because of brave women like us, they don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Dawn is the Founder of The Well Project and one of the Founding Advisors of the Positive Women’s Network (PWN).  If you are not already a member of the PWN (either as a positive woman or an ally) please consider lending your voice to our collective strength in this fight.  For more information contact Naina Khanna at or go to

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2009 4:06 pm

    Dawn, it is good to know that you are teaching your daughter early about AIDS
    and that they are the women of the future that will help end HIV/AIDS in the
    future. WOMEN POWER!!!!!

  2. Elizabeth Shepherd permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:55 pm

    Today on World AIDS Day my college did an interview with me and the channel 12 wnct greenville, NC. Tonight it will air and we talked all about women and HIV. We found 2 positive ladies under 19 at testing yesturday. I feel the pain and anger from yesturday as I see the backyards of our homes become graveyards for todays young adults. Why cannot anyone get that this is a totally preventable disease? Do you also believe in the Salutogenesis model of wellness as I do to beat this thing and remain a wonderful mother for my 13 year old to love? This year she lost her ignorance, stigma, and fear of me. This years World AIDS Day I pray we all getinto Arnolds house in SF and get him to turn around his budget cutting. Girls we must do something. Happy world AIDS to us all and bless the rest of you out there. Elizabeth

  3. Jeff Graham permalink
    December 1, 2009 8:08 pm

    Once again a wonderful piece from a true shero in this fight. HIV Soccer Moms unite!

  4. Pete Piliero permalink
    December 2, 2009 12:35 am

    Dawn: you are a true survivor and role model. Thank you for all your efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

  5. Deneen Robinon permalink
    December 2, 2009 1:49 am

    I am a National HIV+ Soccer mom!!!!!

    I join you in this ongoing fight to eradicate HIV.

  6. Kim Reed permalink
    December 2, 2009 7:58 pm

    Dawn, you are an amazing example to us all of seizing the day, living in the moment, and applying all your considerable talent and energy to making the world a better place. I love you lots and am with you in spirit every single day.

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