"Changes today mean progress tomorrow," read the banner atop an eight-page tabloid filled with articles about living with HIV. It was given to commuters during Tuesday's morning rush.
"I think the biggest misconception about AIDS is that it's over," said Kristen Gallagher, a senior development associate at Philadelphia ActionAIDS.
"Us being out here, telling people it's HIV Awareness Day, it might remind people to get tested, tell a friend to get tested, or, if they have a new partner, to have that conversation, have an open dialogue," she said.
Members of Philadelphia ActionAIDS, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV and assisting AIDS patients, commemorated World AIDS Day by passing out editions of the tabloid at Jefferson Station, Suburban Station, and City Hall.
The group has been handing out publications on World AIDS Day since 1996, executive director Beth Hagan said.
Last year, the group distributed 4,000 editions; this year, in an effort to be eco-friendly and make more use of social media campaigns, it handed out just 450.
"Public health is vital, and we have to prevent the preventable," said Tom Casella, who stood by the top of an escalator at Jefferson Station, handing out editions of the tabloid, called World AIDS Day Supplement.
Many of the commuters waved the publications away as they hurried past; some murmured about running late for meetings or work. Nevertheless, the stack of 60 was gone in less than a half-hour.
Philadelphia ActionAIDS's efforts were a part of a worldwide movement to raise awareness about HIV.
At the White House, a red ribbon hung near the front door to show support. The Empire State Building glowed with ruby lights. In London, the National AIDS Trust set up a kissing booth with the tagline, "Kissing doesn't spread HIV. Ignorance does."
A United Nations AIDS report found that 36.9 million people worldwide carried the HIV virus by the end of 2014. While mortality rates for people diagnosed with AIDS have decreased over the last decade, HIV infection rates remain stable.
According to Philadelphia ActionAIDS, 20,000 people in the region have HIV. AIDSFund Philly reported that Philadelphians are infected with HIV at a rate five times higher than the national average.
"We don't want to be complacent. We don't want other people to be complacent. . . . We want people to acknowledge its power," Hagan said.
Philadelphia ActionAIDS serves more than 4,000 clients locally with initiatives that range from housing counseling to providing tickets to concerts and theatrical productions. The organization focuses on medical case management, which coordinates free medication and access to medical, social, legal, and emergency services.
The organization holds a number of awareness events throughout the year, including Dining Out for Life, a night when participating restaurants donate 30 percent of their profits to ActionAIDS. Dining Out for Life is scheduled for April 14 next year.
One in five people infected with HIV don't know it, according to the organization. Philadelphia ActionAIDS provides free and confidential testing with results in under five minutes at two clinics, in Center City and University City. For information on clinic hours and other subjects, go to at www.actionaids.org.