At a gathering Thursday to commemorate World AIDS Day, the culmination of AIDS Awareness Week, Mayor Al McDonald spoke fondly of the Red Scarf Project, now in its fourth year.
Besides proudly sporting his red scarf while taking part in the annual Santa Claus Parade, the Mayor said that his neckwear is also a popular topic of conversation at the Downtown Christmas Walk.
"What I've always done is I always have two scarves. One I wear and then give to someone in the community to promote World AIDS Day and AIDS awareness, and I keep one that I wear. You wouldn't believe the number of people that come up to me at the Christmas Walk and say what a wonderful Christmas scarf it is. But, it's an opportunity to tell the whole story about what the red scarf is all about," said McDonald in his remarks to gathered AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area HIV-Hep C Services (ACNBA) board members and staff, as well as other dignitaries.
Eighty volunteers knitted over 400 scarves that are then tied to lamp posts in the downtown area. Attached to each scarf is literature about AIDS awareness, and a small card recognizing the person or group who knitted the scarf.
The scarves are left tied to the posts, like beautiful Christmas decorations until someone in the community removes it to wear, or to share with someone in need, all in hopes of sharing the message that without a cure or vaccine, education and awareness are the best methods to defeat HIV/AIDS transmission.
In a busy time of year for the ACNBA, just as AIDS Awareness Week concludes, Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week begins, running from December 1-5.
As part of the World AIDS Day activities, the ACNBA also asked North Bay art galleries and tattoo studios to show their solidarity with the movement by taking part in A Day Without Art. By shrouding artwork, these businesses are following in an early-1980s tradition that was originally observed by the arts communities in major centres as a way of recognizing their brethren that were hit hardest by the outset of the AIDS epidemic.
"Actress Sigourney Weaver, upon returning to New York after being away in Europe for a time in the late-1970s, learned of two of her friends who had died of AIDS-related illnesses, and they had been alone and unattended at the time," relayed ACNBA Communications Coordinator Kirk Titmuss after thanking the White Water Gallery for welcoming the group inside this year, so they could stay out of the elements for part of the morning.
Titmuss concluded, citing Weaver's words: "AIDS is here to test us all. Our love. Our character. Our commitment."