It’s been more than 30 years since the first reported case of AIDS, but nearly one-third of all Canadians who have HIV don’t know it.
And that has prompted the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection to use a novel article to raise awareness about the illness and encourage people to get tested: hand-knit red scarves.
The scarves will hang from signs, lamp posts and metal trees Monday morning along Richmond, King, Clarence and Dufferin streets in London. And volunteers will hand out scarves at Covent Garden Market at noon.
In Stratford, the scarves will be distributed at Market Square.
“This isn’t about fundraising for us. This is a gift to the community,” said Sue Brooks, director of community relations for Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.
Volunteers will also hand out red ribbons, hoping those who keep the scarves will pass them along as a way to keep the conversation going.
In its second year, the London-born project is catching on and spreading to Oxford County, Windsor and North Bay this year.
Volunteers have been hand-knitting the scarves, including one measuring 0.6 metres by 4.6 metres.
“It’s got people talking about it again because many people don’t realize there isn’t a cure for AIDS yet. That’s an important message that we need to get out there, that it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed and that the stigma and isolation still haven’t gone away,” Brooks said.
About 72,000 Canadians have HIV but 30% don’t know it.
Each scarf comes with a tag outlining the “Getting to Zero” campaign, the theme for the United Nations’ UNAIDS vision to eliminate new HIV infections, discrimination or AIDS-related deaths by 2015.
“People need to have a reminder and this is our biggest chance to engage people in conversation about it,” Brooks said.