World AIDS Day—An Opportunity to Remember and Raise Awareness

November 29, 2023

by Justin Weitz, Rainbow History Project board member

Photo courtesy of UNAIDS

This Friday, December 1, is World AIDS Day—dedicated internationally to raising awareness about the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. While greater access to testing and treatment has led to improved health outcomes, HIV/AIDS remains a public health crisis. More than 39 million people worldwide are believed to be living with HIV in 2022, per the World Health Organization (WHO), and 630,00 died of AIDS and AIDS-related infections in 2022, also per WHO. In the United States, HIV transmission remains a significant risk, especially in under-resourced communities.

Since the first reports of opportunistic infections in gay men in 1981, HIV/AIDS has been a presence in the lives of LGBTQ people, including in the greater Washington, D.C., region.  In its archives, Rainbow History Project has collected several hundred original items related to the history of AIDS in our region. There’s no better way to mark World AIDS Day than by checking out some of the items available.

Highlights of the archive include an oral history interview with Rev. Jerry Anderson, an Episcopalian chaplain in D.C. during the AIDS crisis and the first openly gay Episcopalian priest in Washington. The archive includes oral histories about everything from the height of the AIDS crisis in D.C. to the experiences of activists in Africa. You’ll also find memories of the AIDS quilt, and the political activism—some of it that blossomed as a reaction to governmental indifference to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Day represents many things: a chance to remember those we’ve lost, celebrate the progress we’ve made and commit to continuing to work for an AIDS-free world. RHP is proud to collect documents, oral histories and mementos that help tell the story of the AIDS crisis. We invite you to commemorate World AIDS Day by diving into the archives and exploring its many AIDS-related items.