DAY is a reminder of how many are affected by pandemic — and that more needs to be done, writes Alf James
World Aids Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people across the globe to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died from the disease. World Aids Day was the first global health day, which was first held in 1988.
Globally, an estimated 33.3-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 understanding has increased about the condition.
But despite this, many 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 the government that HIV has not gone away — there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
People can show their support for people living with HIV on World Aids Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support for those living with HIV. The red ribbon was the first ribbon symbol, inspiring later versions such as the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness.
From 2011 to 2015 World Aids Day has the theme of "Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths".
The World Aids Campaign focus on zero AIDS-related deaths signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has identified the following 10 goals related to HIV/AIDS for 2015:
• Sexual transmission of HIV reduced by half, including among young people, men who have sex with men and transmission in the context of sex work;
• Vertical transmission of HIV eliminated and AIDS-related maternal deaths reduced by half;
• All new HIV infections prevented among people who use drugs;
• Universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment;
• TB deaths among people living with HIV reduced by half;
• All people living with HIV and households affected by HIV are addressed in all national social protection strategies and have access to essential care and support;
• Countries with punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses reduced by half;
• HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence eliminated in half of the countries that have such restrictions;
• HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in at least half of all national HIV responses; and
• Zero tolerance for gender-based violence.
* Insights: World Aids Day