Feature story

Geneva celebrates positive living on World AIDS Day

01 December 2009


If you are one of the many travellers landing in Geneva airport this week, you will surely notice the gigantic red ribbons at the arrival and departure levels of a city that has chosen to join forces with UNAIDS and the myriad civil society organizations to draw attention to Human Rights and World AIDS Day.

A home for many international organizations, the City of Geneva is an example in its response to HIV in the community. With a rate of almost one person in a hundred living with HIV, Geneva is one of the cities most impacted by the epidemic in Switzerland. The epidemic is mainly driven by injecting drug use and same-sex sex. However, the many HIV prevention programmes in place are showing results: last year not a single new case of HIV infection due to injecting drug use was diagnosed.

Faithfull to its commitment to proactively respond to the epidemic and address the needs of those affected by it, the city, including many private sector companies, responded favourably to the call to collectively mark World AIDS Day.

I am delighted to see so many people from the International and local community coming together to show solidarity and mark this World AIDS Day and I am honoured to mark this day with you.

Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director. Management and External Relations

“We think that AIDS is an important issue for the people of Geneva and we are very happy to join with the United Nations and civil society to show our commitment to address the needs of people living with HIV, but also to sensitize the public about an epidemic that is affecting millions of people around the world,” says Rémy Pagani, Mayor of the City of Geneva.

Geneva activities are led by a World AIDS Day Committee bringing together UN staff and members of international and local organizations such as Groupe sida Genève. They were driven by the desire to share their commitment to the cause of HIV and pulled together their creativity and phone books to mobilize as many people as possible around World AIDS day.

The community came together to form a spectacular human red ribbon made up of approximately 200 people from the UN, international and local networks working on AIDS.

As a result, not only is the Airport of Geneva involved, but also red ribbons with a plaque explaining the symbol of the ribbon were placed by five key monuments around Lake Leman. World AIDS Day posters depicting human rights messages can be seen on local trams and the local hotels offered to place red ribbons and a programme of events at their reception desks.


The Ville de Genève has been a strong partner throughout, illuminating the St Pierre Cathedral and the Phare des Paquis. Local media were also very responsive, giving coverage of World AIDS Day with interviews of local and international community members to illustrate both the reality of living with HIV in Geneva and how the local authorities are responding.

A solidarity lunch was organized in the UNAIDS Secretariat Headquarters to raise funds for children affected by HIV in Cameroon. While Groupe sida Genève took the lead in organizing evening commemorative events around town to remember the friends and family lost to AIDS, but also to celebrate positive living towards a world free from stigma and discrimination.

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