Downtown visitors will see a giant banner swaying from the 10th floor of City Hall for the next couple of weeks as part of a statewide campaign to refocus attention on HIV and AIDS.
The mayor, along with representatives from the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and Walgreens, unfurled the 8-by-16 foot banner during an afternoon news conference in El Presidio Park as way to encourage people to get tested for HIV to curb the spread of the disease.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1.14 million people live with an HIV infection and 207,600 of them are unaware they have the infection.
In Arizona, about 4,000 people are infected with HIV but don’t know it.
Mayor Jonathan Roths-child said complacency and ignorance only serve to perpetuate the disease.
He said a sustained public education campaign could put a dent in HIV transmission rates.
“Learn about HIV. Get the facts and tell your kids about HIV, because this epidemic is still with us,”
With improved medications and treatments developed over the years to combat the disease, HIV/AIDS has taken a back seat in the public’s consciousness despite it remaining a public health epidemic, said Ethan Cox, director of development for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.
“There’s a lot of people who think the disease has gone away and others who think it’s a manageable disease and we don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Cox said. “But for organizations like (the AIDS Foundation), that means we’re spending a lot more money and time caring for people who are living with HIV and AIDS rather than people who are dying of HIV and AIDS.”
Cox said while things have improved, a long road remains before HIV is eradicated.
“This is a time when more than ever we really need people to step up and be a part of the fight,” Cox said.
In addition to Tucson, banners will hang at government locations in more than 20 cities statewide, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Sedona, plus every Walgreens in the state as part of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
The banners are also a part of a broader campaign in Arizona to raise HIV awareness and bring attention to hivaz.org, the state’s first comprehensive online resource for HIV and AIDS information.