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Some Honor World AIDS Day, But Much More Work To Do

The AIDS epidemic continues to worsen in rural areas of the developing world - and as the disease cuts down the workforce, food production is falling and poverty is increasing, a U.N. food agency said Friday on World AIDS Day.

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said that 70 percent of the population in such areas depend on agriculture for subsistence.

Today marks "World AIDs Day," and the 25th year of the fight to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS infections -- now about 40 million worldwide.

"The heavy loss of agricultural labor ... is likely to affect productivity, food production, food security and poverty for decades to come," said Marcela Villareal, the director of the agency's Gender and Population Division.

"By undermining food production, the epidemic also aggravates the vicious circle of hunger and poverty," she said.

The agency did not mention any specific region.

In Washignton, D.C., a week-long photo exhibit called Our Heroes will open on Friday to mark the hope and history of the AIDS fight here.

Our Heroes will open at the city's John Wilson Building and chronicle the city's pioneering fight against the disease. Exhibit creators are also calling for more awareness about the disease.

"So they can look at people who had impact and also to try and impress upon them that there is no reason to become infected," said Barbara Chinn, who runs the Max Robinson Center in Southeast.

Protests in the 80s and 90s forced political and medical attention on the HIV/AIDS crisis, News4 reported. At the time, President Ronald Reagan was refusing to even say the word AIDS.

"I was there the night that he finally did use the word AIDS in his speech," said D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, who headed the anti-AIDS Whitman Walker clinic for nearly 20 years.

"All of the people, organizations and places that are in the exhibit are people who have played a very pivotal role in the fight against the epidemic over the last 25 years," said Chip Lewis of the Whitman Walker Clinic.

Mayor Anthony Williams stopped by for a preview of the exhibit on Thursday. "It's been a long fight, but, you know, a lot of people have played a role and it's good to see them all portrayed here," he said.

"That's an incredible statement -- then and now -- about how people pour out their emotions, their life memories of another loved one," said Graham.

Experts also advised all sexually active people to get tested. "And you know people don't have to become infected, people don't have to die," said Chinn.

The event includes small and large exhibits, such as an AIDS quilt on the National Mall. The exhibit is free and runs through Dec. 8.

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