WORLD AIDS DAY

Because HIV causes a breakdown of the body's immune system, all areas of the body are susceptible, including the eye. People with HIV who are otherwise in good health are not likely to experience eye problems related to a suppressed immune system. However, an estimated 70 percent of patients with advanced AIDS experience eye disorders. They should have regular eye examinations.

AIDS-related eye problems can include HIV retinopathy (small haemorrhages in the retina); CMV retinitis (a serious eye infection which, left untreated, can cause severe vision loss); detached retina (the retina pulls away from the back of the eye); Kaposi's sarcoma (a noncancerous tumour that can occur on any part of the body, including the eye); and increased risk of various eye infections.

World AIDS Day, a United Nations initiative, is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. World AIDS Day reminds us that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

A number of musicians and artists world-wide have pledged their support in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in various ways. Bono and The Edge are listed among the performers at A Night of Music: Celebrating 10 Years of ONE and (RED), a special concert happening on World AIDS Day at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Other performers already announced include Miley Cyrus, Jessie J and the Choir of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Seventeen years ago, the South African photographer Gideon Mendel received the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his work on H.I.V. and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mendel got his start as a news photographer in the early eighties, documenting the violent resistance to apartheid in South Africa and, later, the country's first free elections. He eventually began photographing the impact of H.I.V. / AIDS in South Africa.

For Mendel's most recent piece, "Through Positive Eyes," which he considers the final chapter of his work on H.I.V. / AIDS, he asked people to photograph their own lives-the result is an acutely intimate portrait that further empowers the subjects to combat the stigma surrounding H.I.V. "Through Positive Eyes" is an attempt to address key themes of the AIDS epidemic: widespread stigma, extreme social inequality, and limited access to lifesaving medication. The project is based on the belief that challenging stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS is the most effective method for combating the epidemic-and that art is a powerful way to do this.

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