amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Light for Rights: World AIDS Day 2009


December 3, 2009— An international campaign launched on World AIDS Day, December 1, calls on the world to “keep the light on HIV and human rights.” Ceremonies to mark World AIDS Day and the beginning of the Light for Rights campaign—which was organized by a partnership among amfAR, UNAIDS, the World AIDS Campaign, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—involved the dimming of public lights, followed by their return to full brightness.

In New York City’s Washington Square Park, dignitaries and speakers including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, actress and UNAIDS goodwill ambassador Naomi Watts, actress and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Susan Sarandon, amfAR ambassador Cheyenne Jackson, and other special guests watched as the floodlights illuminating the Washington Square Arch were extinguished and then restored. As part of the event, the marquee lights of major Broadway theaters, the Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, and Rockefeller Center were also dimmed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole extinguished the floodlights of the Washington Square Memorial Arch. (Photo credit: Eugene Glogorsky/WireImage) 

Citing the UN’s commitment to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support by 2010, the secretary-general said, “This goal can be achieved only if we shine the full light of human rights on HIV. AIDS responses do not punish people; they protect them.”

Kenneth Cole, who served as master of ceremonies, explained that the dimming of the lights symbolized “the shadow that falls over the AIDS response when the rights of people living with HIV are ignored or violated.”


UNAIDS goodwill ambassador Naomi Watts and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Susan Sarandon watched as the lights were dimmed and then restored. (Photo credit: Eugene Glogorsky/WireImage) 

Similar events took place in other cities around the world, including Paris, where lights on the Eiffel Tower were extinguished for several minutes.

amfAR and its partner organizations have created a website ( that provides facts about HIV/AIDS, descriptions of Light for Rights activities around the world, social networking ideas, and templates for op-eds and letters to the editor.

Since HIV/AIDS was first reported almost three decades ago, the virus has decimated populations around the globe and results in approximately 2 million deaths each year.

In 2008, the last year for which figures are available, 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV, 40 percent of whom were young people between the ages of 15 and 24. The number of new infections continues to outpace the number of people receiving treatment.



World AIDS Day Donation