World AIDS Day was first recognized in 1988 to raise awareness about HIV and honor lives affected by HIV. This year’s theme, “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit,” commemorates the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day and provides the opportunity to remember the global struggle to end HIV-related stigma, honor those lost to HIV and AIDS-related illnesses, reflect on progress, and make a collective commitment to ending the HIV epidemic.
U.S. government events and activities to commemorate World AIDS Day 35 are focused on five priorities:
- Increased HIV awareness and an end to HIV-related stigma and discrimination;
- Accessible health care and support services;
- HIV prevention efforts;
- Research and innovation; and
- Community-driven responses.
World AIDS Day, annual observance aimed at raising awareness of the global epidemic of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and the spread of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). World AIDS Day occurs on December 1 and was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988 to facilitate the exchange of information among national and local governments, international organizations, and individuals. When the first World AIDS Day was held in 1988, an estimated 90,000 to 150,000 people were infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. Within two decades more than 33 million people were living with HIV infection, and since 1981, when the first AIDS case was reported, some 25 million people died of the disease. As a result, AIDS awareness became increasingly concerned with educating societies about HIV/AIDS through the unification and monetary support of international organizations.
A primary goal of World AIDS Day activities is the distribution of information. Each country creates and organizes its own agenda for World AIDS Day, and some countries launch weeklong campaigns. In addition, many countries and cities hold ceremonies that serve to commence World AIDS Day activities on international, national, and local levels. For example, in the United States the president delivers an annual proclamation, and in other countries, such as South Africa, Bermuda, and Brunei, ministers of health make annual speeches drawing attention to AIDS concerns. Typical World AIDS Day activities include concerts, rallies, memorials to those who have died from AIDS, discussions, and debates. A major international symbol of World AIDS Day is the red ribbon, worn as a demonstration of commitment to the fight against AIDS. In the United States a symbol commemorating those who have died of AIDS is the AIDS Memorial Quilt, sections of which are displayed in various cities and towns throughout the country on World AIDS Day.
WHO organized World AIDS Day, developing the annual themes and activities, until 1996, when these responsibilities were assumed by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. In 1997 UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign (WAC) to increase AIDS awareness and to integrate AIDS information on a global level. In 2005 the WAC became an independent body, functioning as a global AIDS advocacy movement, based in Cape Town, S.Af., and Amsterdam, Neth. In addition to ensuring the support of leaders and AIDS organizations, the WAC prepares information that is distributed for World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day’s first theme was “Communication.” For 2005 to 2010 the WAC fostered the theme “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise,” which the organization used not only on World AIDS Day but also throughout the year to raise awareness of AIDS.
HISTORY OF WORLD AIDS DAY
Each year, on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. People around the world unite to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Each World AIDS Day focuses on a specific theme, which this year will be Let Communities Lead. As change depends not on a moment but on a movement, the message “Let Communities Lead” will not only ring out one day but it will also be at the core of activities that will build up across November, see the release of the World AIDS Day Report – entitled Let Communities Lead in late November, reach a crescendo on World AIDS Day on 1 December, and continue to echo throughout December and beyond.
This year’s theme joins a growing list of challenges that World AIDS Day has alerted people to globally. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever international day for global health. Every year, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to HIV.
Awareness-raising activities take place around the globe.
Many people wear a red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness of, support for and solidarity with people living with HIV.
People living with HIV make their voice heard on issues important in their lives.
Groups of people living with HIV and other civil society organizations involved in the AIDS response mobilize in support of the communities they serve and to raise funds.
Events highlight the current state of the epidemic.
World AIDS Day remains as relevant today as it’s always been, reminding people and governments that HIV has not gone away. There is still a critical need for increased funding for the AIDS response, to increase awareness of the impact of HIV on people’s lives, to end stigma and discrimination and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.
Data from UNAIDS on the global HIV response reveals that during the last two years of COVID-19 and other global crises, progress against the HIV pandemic has faltered, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk as a result.
Four decades into the HIV response, inequalities still persist for the most basic services like testing, treatment, and condoms, and even more so for new technologies.
Young women in Africa remain disproportionately affected by HIV, while coverage of dedicated programmes for them remains too low. In 19 high-burden countries in Africa, dedicated combination prevention programmes for adolescent girls and young women are operating in only 40% of the high HIV incidence locations.
Only a third of people in key populations— including gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and prisoners—have regular prevention access. Key populations face major legal barriers including criminalisation, discrimination and stigma.
We have only seven years left before the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat. Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be addressed as a matter of urgency. In a pandemic, inequalities exacerbate the dangers for everyone. Indeed, the end of AIDS can only be achieved if we tackle the inequalities which drive it. World leaders need to act with bold and accountable leadership. And all of us, everywhere, must do all we can to help tackle inequalities too.
Activities will build up to World AIDS Day from November. The World AIDS Day report will be released in late November.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds HIV research in each of these areas.
NIH World AIDS Day 35 Event: Achieving Excellence and Equity in HIV Research:
December 1, 2023,11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
During this event, NIH will remember those we have lost to HIV/AIDS, celebrate the progress made in the HIV research response, and consider the research advances that can lead to the end of the HIV pandemic. Discussion topics will include the role of stigma in the persistence of health disparities, challenges in implementing HIV research advances, inclusion in clinical trials, the important role of community, and the next generation of HIV researchers. See the full agenda on the OAR website, and join live on December 1. Learn more about World AIDS Day observances at NIH.
WHAT UNESCO DOES ON HIV AND AIDS
UNESCO supports national education authorities and partners to strengthen their existing curricula and adapt content and approaches to their local context. UNESCO’s work on education and HIV, in particular its strategic priorities of increasing access to quality comprehensive sexuality education and making education safe and inclusive, is a key part of the global AIDS response.
“We can end AIDS – if we end the inequalities which perpetuate it. This World AIDS Day we need everyone to get involved in sharing the message that we will all benefit when we tackle inequalities,” says UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “To keep everyone safe, to protect everyone’s health, we need to Equalize.”