A candlelight AIDS memorial in Hyde Park drew its biggest crowd in years, but the wider community response for World AIDS Day last Thursday was mixed.

An estimated 300 people marked the day at the annual 1 December candlelight memorial in Hyde Park North organised by ACON.

That was one of the best turn-outs we have had in years, ACON chief executive Stevie Clayton told Sydney Star Observer.

However, poor weather in the lead-up to World AIDS Day and complacency about HIV/AIDS frustrated ACON fundraising efforts, Clayton said.

ACON struggled to recruit volunteers for its Red Ribbon Appeal this year, and rain on the weekend before World AIDS Day hampered ribbon sales and saw the planned Walk for AIDS event cancelled.

The organisation raised about $25,000 from Red Ribbon Appeal bucket sales, with the total from other Appeal donations still being tallied.

In terms of fundraising it’s really tough, and we made about half the amount of money that we usually do, Clayton said.

It certainly indicates that a lot of people are not seeing HIV as important as they used to.

The AIDS Trust of Australia will receive a donation of about $18,000 from The Body Shop after it sold out of fundraising wristbands. The AIDS Trust’s annual World AIDS Day mail appeal has raised about $18,500 so far.

I’m really moved by the support across the whole Australian community for World AIDS Day, AIDS Trust CEO Terry Trethowan told the Star.

Oxford Street venues added to the fundraising total in the days following 1 December.

Stonewall donated almost $5,000 to ACON from door sales at its Red Party last Friday night. Arq’s Under the Mirrorball event on Sunday generated nearly $13,000 for the same cause.

A G.A.Y. party at Midnight Shift Club on Saturday night brought about $25,000 from door sales and donations for the AIDS Trust. Last Friday’s Dirty Donkey dance party raised about $450 for the HIV/AIDS charity The Luncheon Club.

Internationally, World AIDS Day brought reflection as well as protest.

In the United States, candlelight vigils marked the day, while activists accused the US and other wealthy countries of acting too slowly on the epidemic in the developing world, Advocate.com reported.

US president George Bush used part of his World AIDS Day speech to acknowledge the gay community’s efforts in stemming the disease.

HIV/AIDS remains a special concern in the gay community, which has effectively fought this disease for decades through education and prevention, he said.

In Africa, many countries held World AIDS Day events emphasising the need for Western support to fight HIV.

Activists in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires promoted safe sex by placing a huge condom on an obelisk in the city centre.

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