AIDS Attraction

Today is World AIDS Day and it’s time for more feel-good gimmicks. Symbolism does have a place in raising consciousness. However, we do not question the manner in which such symbols are used and their consequences.

The Sydney Opera House in red behind a sculpture commemorating World AIDS Day

This year distinctive landmarks across the world decided to flash red to usher in a goal – to ensure that by 2015 no child will be born with HIV. While the photo-ops are from interesting to monstrous, from Paris’ City Hall and Fountains, the London Eye, Cape Town’s Table Mountain, Niagara Falls to the Sydney Opera House, one wonders at the sagacity of such neon-therapy. Are people going to the opera dressed in condoms or will they dip the prophylactics in the Niagara waters to show the potency of such safety measures? Is the disease, then, only about sexuality or is sexuality emphasised because it is, well, sexy?

This will turn out to be just a light show with sound effects coming in the form of homilies from the likes of U2’s Bono, who held a concert, and said it is a “winnable war”. This is not a war. It is about people who often suffer due to ignorance and negligence. Many of them are not visiting landmark sites or even aware of their existence. How will this ‘red’ alert help?

The deputy executive director of UNAIDS, with the rather unfortunate-in-this-context name, Paul De Lay, said:

"There seem to be secondary and tertiary waves of the epidemic, particularly the sexually transmitted side. You have young people who don't know enough about AIDS, there is less of a fear factor about it.''

Creating fear is counter-productive. I maintain that just as showing skull masks to prevent nicotine abuse works as an attractive proposition, making AIDS into a temptation that ought to be resisted will have an opposite effect. Besides, these monuments bathed in red will not make people afraid or bring about awareness. It is just a sheer waste of light and electricity. Perhaps, there will be another symbol of World Environment Day or Energy Conservation Day.

I am resting my case with Deal With Your Own Demons Day.


  1. There you go again, Farzana: Always turning back to the negative. Why can't you just be funny, like in your previous post treating Ejaz Haider's recent column in the Express Tribune?

    And why does everything have to be red for you?

    The AIDS symbolism of the neon blue car outline in the foreground is quite obvious. AIDS = Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome . . .

  2. Mark, stop whining :D Everything being red for me is unintentional...and just as you saw the symbolism in the blue car, may I say that my negativity here is also symbolic. HIV positive - no good; negative - good, good...


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