December 2012

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.


The red ribbon became the symbol for AIDS aware-
ness in 1991 as a result of the Red Ribbon Project

This December, Ashford University takes a look at World AIDS Day. This day was first recognized in December 1988 in an effort to raise worldwide awareness of a disease that was widely misunderstood and highly stigmatized. World AIDS Day is now recognized globally and is universally acknowledged as an opportunity to raise AIDS and HIV awareness. The creators of World AIDS Day – James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers with the World Health Organization in Switzerland – had a strategy in mind when they chose December 1 as the designated day of acknowledgement. With 1988 being an election year, Bunn and Netter anticipated that December 1 would be long enough after the election and yet early enough before the holidays to get the media attention they hoped for (About World Aids Day, n.d.).

Every year, events are now held across the United States to educate and rally support. Music, art, and education events help to organize communities around the growing challenges the world faces in ending the AIDS pandemic. Increased awareness about the disease is owed to advances in technology such as internet and social media, which have provided platforms for the sharing of information and ideas relating to AIDS awareness. Every five years, World AIDS Day is assigned a theme to help drive the initiatives organizers put forth. The current theme, running from 2011 through 2015, is: “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” Initiatives of this theme include increased education and prevention surrounding the transmission of HIV, reducing myths and stereotypes associated with AIDS, and identifying resources for those living with AIDS (Getting to Zero, 2011).

Innovator for Change -- Alicia Keys

Recording artist Alicia Keys is an AIDS activist lauded for contributing to the cause she so passionately supports. Keys has been a major influence in the AIDS community through involvement with various organizations. As Global Ambassador for the Keep a Child Alive Program (KCA), Keys has been instrumental in helping the organization raise money to fund treatment for children living with HIV. By providing anti-retroviral medication, food, and orphan care, KCA has helped to build futures for children affected by the disease. Learn more about KCA.

View the below clip of the Keep a Child Alive documentary, in which Keys traveled to Africa with five American contest winners to witness firsthand the faces behind the statistics:

For World AIDS Day 2010, Keys kicked off a unique campaign that was dubbed “Digital Death.” Through the use of social media, the campaign called on celebrities to sign off of their Facebook and Twitter accounts until the campaign’s goal of $1 million in donations was met. Participants in the campaign included Jennifer Hudson, Elijah Wood, Justin Timberlake, and Serena Williams. These celebrities signed out of social media on December first, vowing only to “come back to life” once KCA’s goal was met. Keys believed that by “dying a digital death,” fans would be motivated to donate money that could in turn save the lives of those suffering from AIDS. She was right, as the campaign raised $1 million for KCA (About Digital Death, n.d.).

Art and Activism for AIDS -- Mary Fisher

As an activist, artist, and author, Mary Fisher has committed the last twenty years to being a voice for HIV and AIDS. After being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, Fisher decided to make her diagnosis public and be a champion for advocacy and activism. In 1992, Fisher was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention. Fisher delivered her speech, titled “A Whisper of AIDS,” urging the Republican party to handle the AIDS crisis and those affected by the disease with compassion. She touched millions of people by saying, “[HIV] does not care whether you are Democrat or Republican. It does not ask whether you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, young or old... HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human?" Fisher gained notable credit for her speech, and it was recognized by American Rhetoric as one of the most important speeches in 20th century America (Top 100 Speeches, n.d.). View the speech below:

In 2000, the Mary Fisher Clinical AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Fund was started to promote change through research and education. After years of being a voice for HIV and AIDS, Fisher began to realize change cannot come from advocacy alone. Through research and education, the CARE project has set out to change policy for how medical care is given to those living with HIV and AIDS. The research that has been conducted through the CARE Fund has shed light on the most cost-effective approach to comprehensive care for AIDS patients. In 2006, research findings were brought to Congress, and it was determined that providing expensive drug regimens for the treatment of HIV and AIDS was actually more cost-effective in the long run, as it helped keep patients healthier and lowered their overall healthcare costs. Learn more about the CARE Fund.

In addition to supporting health care initiatives for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, Mary Fisher is devoted to using art to express her feelings about being a woman living with AIDS. Through mediums including sculpture, painting, jewelry, and fabrics, Mary has fused art with advocacy and has had her work featured across the world. Fisher created a jewelry line, ABATAKA (a pan-African term meaning community, belonging, and “we are all one”), while in Africa. She has used the line to teach vulnerable, at-risk women how to craft jewelry that is then sold internationally and which promotes empowerment, health, and hope (Make a Difference, n.d.).

Movement Toward Change

Since the world first learned about AIDS in the early 1980s, a lot of work has gone in to understanding the disease that was, for so long, misunderstood. While great strides have been made in treatment and prevention, the AIDS epidemic remains a major public health issue. Worldwide, 34.2 million people are infected with the HIV virus. Cases of AIDS are reported in every region of the world with approximately 50,000 new cases reported every year in the United States. Through awareness, research, and innovative approaches, the AIDS outreach community aims to put an end to this devastating disease. Visit the Center for Disease control and Prevention’s website to learn more about how you can take part!

The Significance of Winter


Many long-held traditions of the winter season are still cherished today.

Regardless of where you live or how you celebrate, this time of year consists of deeply rooted traditions and festivities. Each holiday celebration brings rich history and culture. In addition to music, food, and art, the holiday season is a time for friends and family to gather and reflect on that which brings meaning to their lives.

Historically, winter was heralded much differently. Dating as far back as the Stone Age, winter was mostly associated with survival and uncertainty. Many communities were unsure whether they would survive the winter. Without the ability to predict weather severity and patterns, communities and populations of people had no control over whether or not the crops they had harvested for the year would last them through the winter (Neolithic Astronomy, 2010).

With the uncertainty of the winter months, people would anticipate the end of the winter and celebrate the winter solstice. Occurring this year on December 21, the winter solstice marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated as the gradual return of the sun. The shared experience is evidenced across the world as cultures celebrate the end of the darkest period and the return of the sun. In parts of Scotland, a stump of wood is carved to resemble the evil witch of winter. The wood is burned and symbolizes the darkness being driven away. In Sweden, young girls wear white dresses and carry wreaths with candles to signify the return of light.

Many of these long-held traditions have evolved over time and have roots in the more modern day winter festivities that we observe today (Celebrating Winter Solstice, 1998). For more information about the winter solstice and history of winter celebrations, visit the School of the Seasons.


About World AIDS Day (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2012 from

Getting to zero selected as World AIDS Day theme.. (2011). Retrieved October 26, 2012 from

About Digital Death (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2012 from

Top 100 speeches. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2012 from

Make a difference. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2012 from

Neolithic astronomy. (2010). Retreived October 25, 2012 from

Celebrating winter solstice. (1998). Retrieved October 29, 2012 from