PEOPLE carried a giant red ribbon through the streets and then erupted into dance in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square to mark World Aids Day.
Several landmark buildings – including The Spinnaker Tower, The New Theatre Royal, The Kings Theatre, The Guildhall and the City Museum – were lit up in red at nightfall.
Dozens of people of all ages took part in a flash mob at midday on Saturday, joining together in a long line and weaving through a busy Commercial Road.
There was a sombre pause for silence before an energetic and gravity-defying display of street and break dance by students from the University of Portsmouth.
The international annual campaign, symbolised with a red ribbon, is about increasing awareness of the disease, celebrating breakthroughs in treatment and remembering those who have died as a result.
Yvonne Ward, 57, from Buckland, was on crutches but joined in the parade.
She said: ‘I have got a lot of friends who died of Aids. It’s forgotten and people don’t realise how dangerous it is.’
The event was an emotional affair for some people. One woman, who has been diagnosed with HIV, fought back tears as she stood watching the display with her young daughter.
The Rev Brizz Miles-Knight, from the Community Parish of Holy Angels in Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s very important, particularly in Portsmouth.
‘Everyone is saying HIV is on the increase and I think that’s due to the lack of literature and information about it.
‘On the way down someone made a comment “What the hell’s that about?” which is quite sad to think that a youngster did not have a clue what the red ribbon was about. You used to have the adverts on television, but that’s all stopped now.
‘It’s like the government is sitting on its laurels, but there it is, on the increase.’
Frances Herrera, 21, a student at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘We are promoting Aids awareness.
‘We are representing our age as well – we should use protection. A lot of people, especially our age, don’t think what’s going to happen if they don’t use protection.’
LORD MAYOR LIGHTS CANDLE DURING SPECIAL SERVICE
A FLAME burned brightly as the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Frank Jonas, lit the World Aids Day candle.
The service took place at John Pounds Memorial Unitarian Church in Old Portsmouth on Saturday evening.
Tania Almond, event organiser for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘It’s an issue people do forget about, so I think once a year it does remind people, it’s still out there. In the heterosexual community, people often associate it with the gay community, but it doesn’t discriminate.’
Almost 25,000 people in the UK have HIV and are not aware of it.