World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day

recognized on December 1st of each year, was founded in 1988 by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS UNAIDS as an effort to raise global awareness of the AIDS epidemic.

AIDS is still rampant mostly in populations of lower and middle-income countries, and because of this it is easy for us here in the U.S. to forget that it remains a threat to people of demographic all over the world.

This global campaign gives individuals, world leaders, government organizations, religious groups, and health care practitioners an opportunity to come together for outreach, education, and fundraising in an effort to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS.

Beginning in 2004, the World AIDS Campaign branched into an independent organization, and the theme for World AIDS Day 2005-2010 was chosen to be: Stop AIDS.  Keep the Promise. Subcategories included Accountability (2006), Leadership (2007), and Lead-Empower-Deliver (2008).

Universal Access and Human Rights have been the focus for 2009 and 2010, with the focus being on universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention strategies, treatment regimens, and care.  The fundamental belief that protecting human rights is central to our ability to minimize disease transmission is put in danger when marginalized groups such as drug users, sex workers, and the poor have fewer avenues available for treatment and care.

Don’t be a Statistic

  • Here in the U.S. it is estimated that over a million Americans are HIV positive, with more than 50,000 new HIV infections occurring each year.
  • AIDS kills upwards of 14,000 individuals annually.
  • Up to 20% of those infected with HIV in the U.S. remain unaware of their infection, and can unknowingly transmit HIV to others.
  • Worldwide, UN AIDS estimates that there are 33.4 million people living with HIV – and that includes over 2 million children.  
  • About half of those infected with HIV  contract the virus before age 25, and are killed by AIDS before reaching age 35.

Despite great leaps being made in HIV treatment using antiretroviral drugs – in some cases reducing the death rate by 80% and extending the life expectancy by 20-50 years from the beginning of treatment – these drugs remain expensive and out of reach for millions around the world.  In 2006, the WHO explained that only 2 million people who were HIV-positive in low- and middle-income countries – that’s 28% of the total infected – were receiving antiretroviral medications.

Even for those who able to access the care, it remains a difficult regimen to adhere to because of the number of pills sometimes involved as well as side effects.  Many believe that the only way to stop the AIDS pandemic is to develop an effective vaccine, but with more than 20 years of research being done, HIV still remains an elusive foe.

Take Action

There are a number of simple ways to take action for World AIDS day.

Remember that even exercising your right to make conscious, informed decisions is a way to take action to fight the transmission of HIV.  Other simple things, like getting tested for HIV, making a commitment to avoid high risk behaviors, and practicing safer sex to prevent transmission are helpful as well.

Wear a red ribbon to help raise awareness, or make a donation to an organization that works with people suffering from AIDS.  Beyond that, it is possible to get involved with a local event for World AIDS Day in your community – check listings to find an event in the works, or go ahead and sponsor something yourself!

Some great places to start:

Selected Resources
Avert International AIDS Charity. Accessed June 15,  2010.
Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention.  Accessed 16 June 2010.
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS . Accessed June 15, 2010.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  Accessed 16 June 2010.
World AIDS Campaign Accessed June 15, 2010.