First recognized in 1988, World AIDS Day falls on December 1 each year. World AIDS Day is dedicated to spreading awareness of the AIDS pandemic spread by the spread of HIV infection, and to mourning those who have died of the disease. An estimated 40 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since 1981, and an estimated 37 million are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improvements in treatment, the AIDS epidemic still claims an estimated two million lives each year, of which more than 250,000 are children.
World AIDS Day timeline
“A Functional Cure”
12 of 75 people treated in a French study were “functionally cured” of HIV, not experiencing a return of the virus even after stopping antiretroviral therapy1987
First Antiretrival Drugs
AZT (zidovudine) is the first drug available to treat HIV.1986
1M Americans Impacted
Accordingto reporting in “The New York Times”1981
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on AIDS for the first time1920s
A Pandemic Surfaces
The HIV-1 strain of virus emerged to circulate in Kinshasa, closely related to a virus found in chimpanzees
How to Observe World AIDS Day
- Wear a red ribbonWearing a red ribbon in your lapel is the most broadly recognized way of showing your support on World AIDS Day. Red symbolizes blood, and the pain caused by the disease, anger about global inaction to fight the epidemic, a warning to take the disease seriously, and a symbol of love, passion, and tolerance towards those affected by the disease. Check online to find a ribbon supplier that supports a charitable cause.
- Donate to an AIDS charityThere are a host of national and international nonprofits devoted to fighting the disease and problems associated with its spread. Check online and consider whether you’d like to support an organization in the United States, where deaths have been declining since the mid 1990s but infection continues to affect thousands of people each year, or perhaps an organization focused on infection in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Adult HIV Prevalence has reached 1 in 20 people and 1.2 million people die of HIV/AIDS each year.
- Attend a candlelight vigilMost major cities in the US host candlelight vigils on World AIDS Day as a way of visually commemorating those lost to the disease and vowing to fight it in the future. Check online to find a vigil near you and head along to show your support. Don’t forget to share your experience on social media to ensure that the idea is brought to the front of mind for your friends, and to demonstrate your support.
Why World AIDS Day is Important
- AIDS impacts everyoneIn its early years, some criticized World AIDS Day for focusing on children and young people, but organizers aimed to alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease as primarily affecting gay men, boosting recognition of it as a family disease. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age,globally,and of 1.8 million new HIV infections in 2016, 43 percent were among women.
- Getting to zeroSince 2012, the multi-year theme for World AIDS Day has been achieving zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, and zero discrimination. In 2016, new infections among young women aged 15 to 24 were 44% higher than they were among men in the same age group, which suggests the high profile AIDS-related deaths of male celebrities such as Freddie Mercury, Robert Mapplethorpe and Rock Hudson have continued to overshadow realities of new infection rates amongst women in the public imagination. World AIDS Day seeks to challenge those perceptions and protect everyone.
- Equalizing access to treatmentResearch shows that stigma associated with sex work and LGBT populations, internationally, is a growing factor in unequal access to effective treatment. International AIDS funding began to fall for the first time in 2015, but still, less than half of those suffering with HIV/AIDS have access to anti-retroviral treatment across the world. It’s never been more important to draw attention the inequalities in treatment, in order to stop its spread once and for all.