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Activists Hope World AIDS Day Will Be Record Breaking In St. Louis


Before sunrise on Monday morning Dec. 1, Art Hill in Forest Park will glow with a special message for World AIDS Day.

A group called AIDS on Art Hill plans to work all night setting out and lighting 13,000 candles in bags to spell out the word “AIDS.” Aaron Laxton came up with the idea. He said the effort is designed to draw attention to a disease for which there is still no cure.

“It will be a huge spectacle,” Laxton said.

Laxton, who is HIV-positive, said the Art Hill location has special significance.

“A-R-T is the medication I take, anti-retroviral therapy, so there’s a very symbolic meaning of using Art Hill,” Laxton said. “And it’s the site of the World’s Fair, where we led the world with new discoveries.”

One day, two World’s Records

Laxton said many people have grown complacent about AIDS because it’s no longer a death sentence. But even though there are effective treatments, they’re not available to everyone who needs them.

“Those medications are somewhat expensive, they’re hard to access and there’s a lot of stigma in the community, Laxton said.

Aaron Laxton
Credit Provided by Mr. Laxton
Aaron Laxton

AIDS on Art Hill hopes to cover the costs of the project — candles, paper bags, and the $1,000 permit — through a $3,000 crowdfunding campaign. But the event will take place regardless of how much money is raised.

The group hopes to break a Guinness World Record for the most candles lit in one location. India’s Art of Living Foundation holds the record for its display of 12,135 candles.

The Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd., also hopes to break a record on World AIDS Day.   Beginning at 9:30 a.m., the museum will offer HIV-testing in an effort to set a new record for the number of people tested in one day in a single venue.

One in six of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States is unaware of their status, according to government statistics.

“If you do test positive, treatment is available,” Laxton said. “And the sooner you start treatment, the healthier you will stay throughout your life.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.