World AIDS Day 2013 – Canada

It was no more than a 15 second interaction.  The woman walked up to a volunteer, and pressing a $50 bill into her hand and said, “my brother died of AIDS.”  She then walked away. 15 seconds.  But 15 seconds of meaningful, heartfelt contact.  Later on the same day an elderly man strode up.  He asked for condoms and pamphlets so he could have an informed conversation with his grandson.  Another woman sat for an hour near volunteers, confiding the raw loss of her step-daughter, who had only reached school-age.

Durex partnered with AC-AF in 2013 as a part of their campaign, “Someone Like Me”.

These and other commuters stopped in during the course of the two days, revealing the profound impact HIV and AIDS had on their lives and thanking volunteers for the work they were doing.  However, not all results were so positive, as many felt the need to negatively comment on the distribution of condoms, while others demanded that donations would support only the “innocent” victims of AIDS – helping children rather than adults.

World AIDS Day began in 1988 as a way to unite the world in conversation on the subject, show support for those affected, and remember those who have passed on.  This is the third year AC-AF has partnered with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to fundraise and spread awareness to commuters.  Approximately 1.01 million passengers traverse the subway each day, and many are completely unaware of the effects of HIV and AIDS in the world.  Canada has a prevalence rate of 0.3%, meaning that the majority of Canadians are not directly impacted.  However, Toronto has approximately 500 newly diagnosed cases each year, and approximately one-quarter of Canadians who have HIV do not know they are affected.

World AIDS Day 2013On a global scale, approximately 34 million people have HIV and AIDS.  A shocking statistic when one realizes its comparison to the population of Canada.  Tanzania, where AC-AF does much of its work, has a prevalence rate of 5.1%, and approximately 1.2 million children aged 0-17 have been orphaned.  As commuters listened to these figures, many were impacted by the information, often donating with a simple, “I didn’t know.”

AC-AF went bigger and better for 2013, resulting in our best outcome ever.  Partnering with Durex and their campaign, “Someone Like Me,” and garnering support from Pattinson, AC-AF was equipped with advertising, bright new t-shirts, and well-executed posters.  All of these factors made this World AIDS Day a much more visible campaign, and this had an impact on our interactions with TTC travellers.  We were also aided by an influx of volunteers – 81 people offered up their free hours to promote this very important cause.  After 24 hours of hard campaigning, AC-AF came away with $13,268 in donations for our programming – a $4000 increase from last year’s result!

Beyond the financials, the emotional impact we had – reflected by the stories above – offer the sense that our World AIDS Day event started a conversation in the lives of many.  For this, we would like to thank all that contributed to the event: the Toronto Transit Commission, Durex, Pattison, Maverick, Starbucks, Purdy’s Chocolates, the donors on the TTC, and especially all of our fantastic volunteers.  We could not have done this without you!

Click here for more photos of the event.

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