World AIDS Day was first observed on December 1, 1988, with the goal of raising awareness about HIV and commemorating those who have been affected by the disease. It is now widely regarded as the longest-running disease awareness initiative of its kind in the history of public health, having been in operation since 1976.
Since those early years, the epidemic has evolved dramatically, and the global agenda has evolved as well. With approximately 38 million HIV-positive people in the world, universal HIV testing is the most important step toward reducing the number of new infections. Testing will identify all those who require treatment, allowing those living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives as a result of the treatment.
One could argue, however, that with stagnant global contributions and an ever-increasing infection rate in many countries, including Russia and South Africa, that there has never been a more critical time to commemorate World AIDS Day than now.
The Origins of World AIDS Day
Aiming to capitalize on the media vacuum that existed between the 1988 presidential elections in the United States and the holiday season, World AIDS Day was first proposed in 1988. After nearly a year of non-stop campaign coverage, James Bunn, a broadcast journalist who had recently accepted a position at the World Health Organization (WHO), was confident that audiences would be drawn to the story. He and his colleague, Thomas Netter, decided that the first of December would be the best date for the event, and they spent the next 16 months planning and executing the first-ever event.
It was decided to focus the first World AIDS Day on the theme of children and youth in order to raise awareness about the impact of AIDS on families as a whole, rather than just on the groups that are commonly stigmatized by the media (including gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users).
Since 1996, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has been in charge of World AIDS Day operations, which has expanded the scope of the project to include a year-round prevention and education campaign.
World AIDS Campaign
As an independent, non-profit organization with its headquarters in Amsterdam, the World AIDS Campaign was officially established there in 2004.
As part of the global community’s effort to diagnose 90 percent of the world’s HIV population by 2030, World AIDS Day commemorated its 30th anniversary in 2018 with the theme “Know Your Status.”
Themes for World AIDS Day
Throughout the years, the themes of World AIDS Day have mirrored the policy objectives of public health authorities, progressing from awareness and education to the more expansive objectives of the community and global cooperation.
As public awareness of the life-extension potential of antiretroviral therapy grew in the late 1990s, the emphasis gradually shifted away from the family and community to the key barriers stifling the effort of global prevention, like a stigma, discrimination, and the disempowerment of women and children, beginning in the late 1990s.
Because of the establishment in 2002 of the Global Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, the emphasis has shifted even further to the need for sustained international investment from high-income G8 countries, as evidenced by campaigns such as “Keep the Promise” from 2005 to 2010.
Some unknown facts
With the Getting to Zero campaigns, which ran from 2011 to 2015, policymakers attempted to promote the possibility of an end to the epidemic, citing advances in therapy and global drug coverage, as well as breakthroughs in preventive interventions.
After the launch of the Access Equity Rights Now campaign and the launch of UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 strategy, the effort was stepped up even more in 2016, with both campaigns aiming to end HIV by as early as 2030.
According to the United Nations, 38 million people are infected with HIV, with 1.8 million of them being children under the age of fifteen. According to the survey results, 81% know what is going on with them and 67 percent are receiving treatment. Every year, approximately 1.7 million people become infected with the virus, and 690,000 people died as a result of HIV-related complications in 2019. Since the peak of AIDS-related deaths in 2004, the number of deaths has decreased by more than 60%.