This article was published on November 26th, 2020
World AIDS Day, held on December 1st each year, is the day when the world unites in the fight against HIV, supporting those that continue to live with the disease while also commemorating those that have died. Launched in 1988, World AIDS Day is recognized as the first global health day.
The History of World AIDS Day
First observed on December 1st, 1988, World AIDS Day began as a way to educate the general public worldwide about HIV, while also putting a name to the faces of those affected by the disease. Currently, it is the longest-running disease awareness initiative of its kind in the history of public health.
There has been tremendous change since the early years of the epidemic, which has led to a change in how it is approached globally. With more than 38 million people all over the world that have HIV, universal testing is regarded as the primary way in which to decrease the number of new infections. Testing identifies those that need access to treatment, which results in people with HIV living longer, more healthy lives.
World AIDS Day was devised as a way to take advantage of the media gap that existed between the U.S. presidential elections of 1988 and Christmas. Journalist James Bunn, who at the time was working at the World Health Organization (WHO), surmised that audiences would be drawn to the story after a year of incessant media coverage on the presidential campaign. In partnership with his colleague, Thomas Netter, they both decided that December 1st would be the ideal date, so they spent the 16 months before then laying the groundwork for the inaugural event.
The inaugural World AIDS Day focused on children and youth to underscore how AIDS impacted families, not only gay and bisexual men and drug users, which were the most stigmatized by the media. From 1996, World AIDS Day operations were taken over by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). This decision expanded the scope of the project that led to a year-round prevention and education campaign. In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent, non-profit organization based in The Netherlands. World AIDS Day turned 30 in 2018, using the theme ‘Know Your Status, with the mission to diagnose 90% of the world’s HIV population by the year 2030.
The Importance of World AIDS Day
Despite its identification in 1984, HIV has taken the lives of more than 35 million people, marking it as one of the biggest pandemics in history. Today, there have been huge scientific advances in HIV treatment, with laws to protect those living with HIV and enable them to better understand about the condition. World AIDS Day reminds the general public and government that HIV is still relevant, there is still money needed to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and elevate education on the subject.
How to Support World AIDS Day
With millions of people living with HIV worldwide, it is important to show support and solidarity with them. This can be done simply by wearing a red ribbon on December 1st. Red ribbons can be ordered online through LGBTQ+ sites, and at partners that support the movement, including MAC Cosmetics, and HSBC.
World AIDS Day is only one day a year, which means that on the other days, people living with HIV still need support. This can be done by signing up to the National AIDS Trust’s mailing list in order to get the latest news on developments in HIV, learning how to get involved as an activist, or volunteer. Additionally, you can support World AIDS Day by donating to the National AIDS Trust. These are measures that ensure that every year, the disease impacts fewer people worldwide.