On Saturday December 1st, 2012 the Puerto Rican Cultural Center commemorated World AIDS Day and remembered all those individuals who have passed from AIDS and who live with HIV/AIDS with a Vigil and Parranda. The event started at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture where the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Bechara Choucair, and PRCC’s Executive Director, Jose Lopez, addressed the community. Jose Lopez reminded the community that everyone has a “God-given right to their sexuality”, while the Commissioner made mention of the health disparities that exist in HIV infections and AIDS related deaths and the importance of working to change that.
On this day we aren’t only remembering those who have died, but we also celebrate life in the midst of this disease that has taken so many of our loved ones. In an effort to bring a festive feel to this important day we were joined by Humboldt Park No Se Vende’s Annual Holiday Parranda and enjoyed music, singing and dancing.
Accompanied by music and song the participants made their way down Division street to La Casita de Don Pedro where the traditional World AIDS Day altar was displayed. Members of Vida/SIDA’s youth program, Generation L, spoke about the importance of working to end the AIDS epidemic through research to find a vaccine that will prevent HIV and what a world Free of AIDS means to them. One youth reflected on how far we have come in the 30 years since the epidemic began:
“Since the 80’s the epidemic of AIDS started to form. In this time period it was deemed a gay disease because only gay men contracted the virus. Fast forward to where we are now in 2012, and you will find that numbers are decreasing. The candid nature of getting testing and having commercials on TV seemed like a pipe dream back in the 80’s, but we live in a new age.”