Brazil’s second city lit 10 of its monuments in red on Thursday to celebrate World AIDS Day, including its iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer.
“It’s a way to remind the population that AIDS has yet to be cured and that condoms are the only way, technically speaking, to fight the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases,” said Carlos Tufvesson, Rio de Janeiro’s sexual diversity coordinator.
Today, Rio is to offer tests to the public to detect HIV and the syphilis viruses at 185 health centers in the city. Results will be provided within 10 days.
Rio’s government has invested 2 million reals (US$1.1 million) in the program, the largest city-wide campaign in Brazil seeking to combat ignorance, prejudices and misinformation about AIDS.
An estimated 250,000 Brazilians live with HIV, which causes AIDS, without knowing it, but Brazil has successfully stabilized the pandemic within its borders, recording a 0.61 percent drop in new cases from 2009 to last year, according to Brazilian Health Ministry figures.
Authorities still remain concerned about the rise in the number of cases in homosexual males aged 15 to 24 — from 25.2 percent in 1990 to 46.4 percent last year — especially among transvestites.
The red lights will be on for three nights in Rio. A number of other countries are also participating in the campaign, including Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, South Africa and the US.
In downtown Buenos Aires, a giant red banner was rolled down the side of the city’s iconic obelisk, while a group of activists handed out condoms to passers-by. The Casa Rosada government palace was decorated with a big red bow.
About 130,000 people live with HIV in Argentina and two-thirds of them do not know they carry the virus, according to activist groups.
Across Central Americam countries, hundreds also rallied for an end to the discrimination and stigma against those affected by HIV/AIDS.