On December 1st each year AIDS enters public awareness across the globe as World AIDS Day is commemorated. For most, it will be just another day in the runup to the Christmas holiday. For others, it will be a time to remember the dark days of the epidemic’s early years, the 1980s and ’90s when tens of thousands were tragically lost to AIDS.
Long forgotten is the context in which the epidemic unfolded in this country. AIDS was a “gay plague” in the public mind. Gays “got what they deserved” was a common sentiment. Fear and misunderstanding merged with the outright hatred of homosexuals creating a toxic atmosphere of apathy and inaction. President Ronald Reagan never uttered the word AIDS publically until five years into the epidemic. Activists, many in their 20’s and 30’s, rose up to confront the bigotry and government inaction. Art, often outrageous and provocative, drove the movement. Powerful imagery and slogans such as Silence=Death inspired action and galvanized this grassroots movement as they literally fought for their lives. Their efforts ushered in the medical breakthroughs that have saved millions of lives worldwide, forever changing the way drugs are tested and approved in this country.
In 2018 and 2019 Vashon Island, WA, a tiny island community near Seattle, took the bold step to draw attention to the December 1st commemoration by staging a series of events to educate, engage, entertain and inspire the community to action. Of particular emphasis was bringing the story of AIDS to young people with programs and events in the local schools. The World AIDS day programs included: art, music, theater, community forums, and school-based learning experiences.
We invite you to explore this site to discover the scope and range of our programming and the resources we have compiled.