To the editors:
Dec. 1, 2004 was a critical day for thousands of AIDS victims, activists, doctors, and nurses internationally. This date marked the 17th annual World AIDS Day, a day intended to focus global attention on the disease that kills 8000 people per day and that has ravaged communities and countries worldwide. Specifically, World AIDS Day exists to highlight recent successes in fighting the pandemic, to remember individuals affected by the disease, and to understand the type and amount of work that still needs to be done. It is both sad and unfortunate that few at Harvard were aware of this internationally significant day, as the university’s only daily source of news refused to publish a story detailing the day’s commemoration.
The pinnacle of the week was World AIDS Day itself, when the Harvard AIDS Coalition (HAC) opened “Remembrance and Inspiration: A World AIDS Day Art Show.” This art show, principally organized by HAC vice-president Randall T. Adams ’06, featured beautiful and moving pieces of art created by Harvard students and Cambridge-area artists alike. In addition to understanding the personal nature of the crisis with individual pieces of art, we emphasized the global reach of the pandemic with shocking statistics and an AIDS-related magazine, free for all those who came.
We also challenged students to take action: we handed out male and female condoms, we asked people to write letters to their senators asking to more fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we asked people to write holiday cards to Secretary of the Treasury John Snow asking to cancel debt in developing countries, and we collected donations for Cambridge Cares about AIDS. Two Harvard students (Okechukwu W. Iweala ’06 and Leah H. Pillsbury ’07) performed stirring spoken word pieces, which rounded out the call-and-response tone of the evening.
Overall, HAC received tremendous positive feedback for the event. Approximately 175 people attended the opening on Wednesday night, and most seemed to have been moved by it. Students sensed the hard work and passion involved in planning the art show, and thanked HAC for the inspiration the show provided them. Many were simply unaware of the gravity of the crisis, or of what Harvard students could particularly do to help fight it.
For these reasons, it is especially unfortunate that The Harvard Crimson made little mention of the art opening in the following day’s newspaper. One photographer was sent to take a small picture on the bottom of the front page, but staff members decided that this event did not warrant a news story. The Harvard AIDS Coalition strongly believes that the members of the Harvard community unable to attend the art opening would have benefited from hearing about its existence and effect on those fortunate enough to attend. We also believe that when concerning events of international significance, such as World AIDS Day, it is The Crimson’s duty to inform the Harvard community of the local reaction.
The Harvard AIDS Coalition is committed to fighting the uphill battle for global equality, greater access to life-saving medications and increased financial assistance from the United States government. Over the past four years of our existence, we have held several protests, rallies, panel discussions, letter-writing campaigns, and other necessary advocacy tactics. We have always received due coverage for these events, and thank The Crimson accordingly. However, we were surprised and disappointed that when we specifically attempted to reach out to those who do not consider themselves traditional activists, our University newspaper refused to support this endeavor. We hope and expect for this not to be repeated in the future.
Sarika P. Bansal ’06
Dec. 6, 2004
The writer is the president of the Harvard AIDS Coalition.