On Saturday, the New Haven community again pledged to do its part in fighting AIDS.

Over 150 members of the New Haven community attended the World AIDS Day observances held in the Trinity Episcopal Church Saturday on the corner of Temple and Chapel streets. The ceremonies were organized by a New Haven World AIDS Day Committee made up of over 20 local AIDS service agencies.

The idea for World AIDS Day emerged from the World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention in January 1988. The theme for this year’s observances is “Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century, I care — Do you?”

Rosa Biaggi, director of the AIDS Division at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, delivered the keynote address, and Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. delivered the “City of New Haven World AIDS Day Proclamation,” which was then read to those in attendance.

During the ceremony, James Taylor of Guardian Health Association presented a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt received its first patches in 1987, and is viewed by over two million people each year.

“The quilt continues to be the true ambassador for education and raising awareness that we can hope for,” Taylor said. “It reaches out to all people, especially the young.”

During her keynote address, Biaggi discussed the enormity of the undertaking that would be required to stop HIV/AIDS.

“Most experts agree that in 20 years there will still be an AIDS epidemic,” Biaggi said. “If we are determined to control and to eventually eradicate this epidemic, we cannot fall victim to complacency.”

DeStefano encouraged the community to maintain the openness and understanding that has given New Haven strength in its fight against HIV/AIDS.

“I think there is a reason that New Haven has played a lead role in fighting HIV infection in Connecticut,” DeStefano said. “And the reason is because our community is open to everyone.”

AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, was first identified in the early 1980s. Since then, over 22 million people worldwide have died, and over 36 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been over 770,000 reported cases of AIDS in the United States as of December 2000. In fact, the magnitude of the pandemic has reached such a high level that the U.S. government has declared it a national security threat.

In the state of Connecticut there have been 12,077 reported cases of AIDS, and in the New Haven community over 2,000 reported cases.

“From January to Nov. 25 [of this year], 578 cases have been reported [in Connecticut],” Biaggi said. “The message is clear; we record at least one infection per day.”

Among youths between the ages of 15-24 in developing countries, five new infections occur every minute. In the United States, young people between the ages of 13-25 are contracting HIV at the rate of two per hour. There are over 10 million people ages 15-24 worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, 25,000 of whom are estimated to be Americans.

“These details are alarming not only because of their magnitude but also because accurate information about HIV and AIDS have not reached youth around the world, including young people in the United States, in Connecticut, and in New Haven,” master of ceremonies Leif Mitchell said.