Concerns about rising national HIV rates and a growing awareness of the epidemic in neighbouring countries saw ACON record one of its highest World AIDS Day fundraising results last Friday.

A year after seeing one of its lowest responses to the annual event, ACON raised about $100,000 from last Friday’s Red Ribbon Appeal and associated events during AIDS Awareness Week.

Around 250 volunteers hit the streets in Sydney and regional NSW to sell red ribbons and wristbands, adding to ribbon sales in businesses and workplaces.

Venues on Oxford Street and in other areas also donated, and over 300 people turned out for the candlelight AIDS memorial in Hyde Park last Friday night.

ACON president Adrian Lovney said growing concern about HIV in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region explained the strong World AIDS Day response this year.

We’ve seen a 41 percent increase in HIV infections in Australia over the last five years and there’s been a bit of discussion about that, Lovney told Sydney Star Observer.

There’s been a lot of media focus on HIV in south-east Asia and also on the rises in Australia.

ACON’s also done a whole lot more education and prevention campaigns than we have in the past and I think that also contributes to greater awareness.

We were extremely pleased by the amount of volunteers we were able to get, the attitude on the street from donors and the amount of money we raised.

ACON hopes to top the $100,000 fundraising figure once donations from outside Sydney are finalised.

The AIDS Trust of Australia also saw an impressive response to its World AIDS Day fundraising.

The Move for AIDS event attended by Elton John and other celebrities last Thursday raised about $35,000 for the AIDS Trust, and at the same event John announced a surprise donation of about $250,000 to the organisation (see above).

The AIDS Trust raised a further $20,000 from cash collections at John’s concerts, red wristband sales through The Body Shop and street collections for ACON on World AIDS Day.

Internationally, activists used World AIDS Day to call for more awareness and government support.

In Bangkok -“ where as much as one-third of gay men have HIV, according to United Nations figures -“ campaigners formed what they believed was the world’s longest condom chain to symbolise the AIDS fight.

The chain of 23,000 condoms was placed on 2.7 kilometres of red ribbon in central Bangkok, Associated Press reported.

In the United States, gay lobby group Human Rights Campaign criticised the Bush government for its grossly inadequate response to HIV/AIDS.

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