Today, 1st December is World AIDS Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness of the world’s AIDS epidemic. Other yearly world health campaigns which are marked by the World Health Organization (WHO) include World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day, among others. An estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV. The red ribbon is a symbol of solidarity for those living with the disease and affected by it. Each year, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI release a greeting for patients and doctors on this day.
World AIDS day is planned and promoted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Rather than focusing on a single day, this organisation focuses on communications, prevention and education. However, the day itself is still an awareness day with a different them each year, organised by national and international agencies in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. The themes are then used year round in international efforts to deter the spread of this disease. For example the theme in 2007 was “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Leadership”. Last year, 2013 it was “Getting to Zero”.
The theme this year, 2014, is still “Getting to Zero”. It is called this because HIV scientists now believe that the end of the AIDS epidemic may occur within our lifetimes. It also infers “Zero Discrimination” for those living with HIV. This theme is prevalent now because anti-retroviral therapy and prevention efforts have saved millions of lives. In recent times, HIV infection rates have decreased.
Want to get involved in raising awareness?
Well, there are loads of events that take place across the UK and worldwide. Raising awareness can be through various mediums such as art shows, music, online talks and events in pubs and bars. For example, one such event is “Stand Tall”, which runs until 5th December in St Albans, Hertfordshire. It features photography of 30 people living with HIV telling their story, in their own words. Another interest might be the movie “Pride” which is being shown to raise money for a local AIDS charity. In Southampton, there is the “Cabaret Show”, which is fundraising for a local charity, Positive Action.
So, today is a time to recognize those who are living with HIV or AIDS, honouring those who have died and coming to fight together against the disease. There are excellent anti-viral medicines and treatments out there, however the poorer populations may not have the resources to receive these benefits. So, we can do our best to raise awareness by honouring this day, getting involved in events or just saying a prayer.