World Aids Day Red Ribbon Campaign in Toronto 2009

by Sarah Moore

Dec 2, 2009

Hundreds of young volunteers in the United Youth Initiative were seeing red on Toronto streets Tuesday and encouraged other Torontonians to do the same.

The young people took a break from handing out red ribbons to attend a press conference at city hall later that day where Mayor David Miller declared Dec. 1, 2009 as World AIDS Day in Toronto.

Miller  praised  the efforts of the young people who have been working in conjunction with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research towards finding a cure for HIV-AIDS.

“I would like to thank the young people that are with me today for their leadership,” Miller said. “It’s a privilege to see this kind of energy in our city.”

Miller also said that the young volunteers’ efforts to educate the public about the disease were crucial to the campaign.

“I think it matters that young people are engaged, speaking to Torontonians and handing out red ribbons,” Miller said.

Fred Jackson, 17,  was handing out ribbons to  fuel awareness on the corner of Bay and Queen streets.

“Youth under the age of 24 are among the most affected by HIV-AIDS, so it’s extremely important to me to show my concern with the youth that are suffering from HIV-AIDS around the world,” Jackson said.

Kerry Whiteside, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, said the main goal of Tuesday’s activities was to raise awareness about the role that research plays in finding a cure for the disease, as well as to gather donations.

“You can only tell people to abstain or wear a condom so much and they may not listen,” said Whiteside in an interview. “So the only way that we’re actually going to end this disease is through research.”

Jackson said that Torontonians have been very receptive and generous toward the Red Ribbon Campaign.

“I’d say about 50 per cent of the people that end up supporting us end up making donations,” he said.  “Many others have also just taken ribbons to show their support and awareness.”

Officials hope to bring the Red Ribbon Campaign to the national level by next year.

“The goal for 2010 is [to have] one million red ribbons given out across Canada,” Whiteside said in an interview after the conference.

Miller ended the news conference by urging the citizens of Toronto to take part in World AIDS Day by “giving a little bit and reaching into your pockets.”