By Jueseppi B.
World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December every year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. Government and health officials observe the day, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children.
|World AIDS Day|
The red ribbon is the global symbol
with HIV-positive people and those
living with AIDS.
|Observed by||All UN Member States|
(since 1988; 25 years ago)
World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Program on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Dr. Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be 1 December 1988.
Bunn, a broadcast journalist on a leave-of-absence from his reporting duties at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, recommended the date of 1 December believing it would maximize coverage by western news media. Since 1988 was an election year in the U.S., Bunn suggested that media outlets would be weary of their post-election coverage and eager to find a fresh story to cover. Bunn and Netter determined that 1 December was long enough after the election and soon enough before the Christmas holidays that it was, in effect, a dead spot in the news calendar and thus perfect timing for World AIDS Day.
On 18 June 1986 KPIX’S “AIDS Lifeline” (a community education project initiated by Bunn and KPIX Special Projects Producer Nancy Saslow) was honored with a Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives presented by President Ronald Reagan. Because of his role in “AIDS Lifeline” Bunn was asked by Dr. Mann, on behalf of the U.S. government, to take a two-year leave-of-absence to join Dr. Mann, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, and assist in the creation of the Global Program on AIDS for the United Nations’ World Health Organization. Mr. Bunn accepted and was named the first Public Information Officer for the Global Program on AIDS. Bunn and Netter conceived, designed, and implemented the inaugural World AIDS Day observance – now the longest-running disease awareness and prevention initiative of its kind in the history of public health.
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day. Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education.
In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. These themes were strongly criticized at the time for ignoring the fact that people of all ages may become infected with HIV and suffer from AIDS. But the themes drew attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, helped alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease, and helped boost recognition of the problem as a family disease.
In 2007, the White House began marking World AIDS Day with the iconic display of a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the building’s North Portico. The display, now an annual tradition, quickly garnered attention, as it was the first banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since the Abraham Lincoln administration.
Choosing the theme
From its inception until 2004, UNAIDS spearheaded the World AIDS Day campaign, choosing annual themes in consultation with other global health organizations.
As of 2008, each year’s World AIDS Day theme is chosen by the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee after extensive consultation with people, organizations and government agencies involved in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. For each World AIDS Day from 2005 through 2010, the theme was “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.”, with a yearly sub-theme. This overarching theme is designed to encourage political leaders to keep their commitment to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support by the year 2010.
This theme is not specific to World AIDS Day, but is used year-round in WAC’s efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness within the context of other major global events including the G8 Summit. World AIDS Campaign also conducts “in-country” campaigns throughout the world, like the Student Stop AIDS Campaign, an infection-awareness campaign targeting young people throughout the UK.
World AIDS Day Themes, 1988–present
AIDS Awareness Month
Different governments and organizations have declared different months as AIDS Awareness Month. The most popular choices are October and December. December is chosen to coincide with World AIDS Day.
Be sure to visit The World Aids Day website
Why is World AIDS Day important?
Around 100,000 are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
What should I do on World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to learn the facts about HIV and put your knowledge into action. Find out how much you know by taking our online quiz: Are you HIV aware? Test your knowledge and awareness by taking the quiz and act aware by passing the quiz on and sharing it with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.
If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today – you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others, and ensure you treat everyone living with HIV fairly, and with respect and understanding. Click here to find out the facts.
You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.
World AIDS Day is also a great opportunity to raise money for NAT (National AIDS Trust) and show your support for people living with HIV. If you feel inspired to hold an event, bake sale or simply sell red ribbons, click here to get started. If you’d like to see what other events are taking place —click here and find out more.
But what about after World AIDS Day?
Although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to get the public talking about HIV and fundraise, we need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round. That’s why NAT has launched HIVaware— a fun, interactive website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV. Why not use what you have learnt on World AIDS Day to Act Aware throughout the year and remember, you can fundraise at any time of year too — NAT is always here to give you suggestions and ideas.
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