Candlelight vigils are planned tonight in five Iowa cities that aim to draw attention to the ongoing plight of AIDS. Joan Thompson is a health educator at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, where a vigil is planned for 5:30 PM beside the Maucker Union Fountain.
"It’s four days before World AIDS Day and we would like to have a call for presidential candidates to support a comprehensive plan to fight aids in the United States and around the world," Thompson explains. She hopes tonight’s event will draw more attention on campus since World AIDS Day falls on a Sunday this year.
Thompson wants the presidential candidates, Republicans and Democrats, to commit themselves to a solution. Thompson says: "We need a plan to fight AIDS from each candidate, that includes the necessary steps to end AIDS at home and abroad. That would include medication and reliable access to care and treatment. About three-fourths of one-million people with HIV in the United States do not have consistent and reliable access to care and treatment." She says the latest figures indicate about 18-hundred Iowans have AIDS and about seven in ten of them are men.
Nationwide, more than 38-million people are living with HIV and more than 25-million have died of AIDS since 1981. Thompson admits, outdoors on a college campus during a cold November night, it may be a tough sell.
Thompson says, "HIV and AIDS is not at the forefront of students minds, however with rallies like this and with people passing by, going in and out of the union, they might stop and listen to the message." Vigils are also planned tonight in: Iowa City, Des Moines, Davenport and Decorah.