A Wayne State University School of Medicine student has launched an effort to revitalize campaigns to spread the awareness of HIV and AIDS during the 30th anniversary of the identification of the disease.
Phillip Kucab, a second-year medical student, has launched World AIDS Day Detroit in an effort to call greater attention to the disease. Kucab said that HIV and AIDS, now that they are no longer a certain death sentence, appear to have dropped off the radar screen of many in the United States.
While the media in the last decade has shined the spotlight on AIDS in Africa, Kucab said, the fact that those with the condition can now live extended lives through drug therapy seems to have diminished the attention paid to AIDS in the United States. To remedy that lack of awareness, Kucab has formed World AIDS Day Detroit, which is set for Dec. 1 and coincides with the 30th anniversary of the identification of AIDS.
“It’s so important because so many people think that AIDS has been ‘cured’ because it doesn’t necessarily mean instant death anymore,” Kucab said. “I suspect that many people don’t think, ‘What if I get AIDS?’ We need the Detroit community to stand together to show the world that we care about HIV/AIDS and that it hasn’t gone away and continues to seriously impact many, many lives.”
Many of the events scheduled for the day will feature Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, who became a symbol of HIV/AIDS victims and helped break down the social stigmas related to the disease. Ryan, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, was diagnosed in 1984. He put a different face to the disease, which was largely regarded and dismissed as a disease affecting only gay men at that time. His efforts to be accepted by his community and society at large led to his being befriended by celebrities such as Elton John and Michael Jackson. Ryan died at age 18 in 1990. His mother has continued his legacy of education and compassion for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones.
Kucab, a native of Sterling Heights, also is a hemophiliac. “I have lost a lot of people I know to contaminated blood transfusions,” he said. Among those was a family member, a hemophiliac who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion and died at the age of 17 in 1993, Kucab said.
While Kucab launched the project, he is quick to point out that the effort has attracted the support of many School of Medicine students, as well as community agencies and leaders, including AIDS activist Max Fisher, son of AIDS activist Mary Fisher and grandson of Detroit philanthropist and businessman Max M. Fisher. Organizations supporting the project include the Wayne State University School of Medicine and Medical Library, the Michigan Department of Community Health, Affirmations, AIDS Partnership Michigan, Michigan AIDS Coalition, Community Health Awareness Group, STITCHES Project, Horizons Project and the Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan. Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour and WSU School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., serve on the World AIDS Day Detroit Honorary Host Committee.
The agenda for the day includes a breakfast for mayors of southeast Michigan sponsored by the School of Medicine and featuring President Gilmour, Dean Parisi and White-Ginder. Other events include the Michigan Department of Community Health World AIDS Day Meeting, featuring education sessions and workshops for Detroit area schools and community members; a screening of “Bad Blood,” a film that chronicles how HIV entered the blood supply, with the producer, director at cast members at the Fillmore Theater; and a community program in the evening featuring a keynote address by White-Ginder.
For more information on World AIDS Day Detroit and how you can participate, visit www.worldaidsdaydetroit.com.