World AIDS Day is held on the 1st of December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.
World AIDS Day is important because over 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. World AIDS Day is important because 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.
What should I do on World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show support to and solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is one simple way to do this. You can also follow the CDC’s Act Against AIDS on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @TalkHIV.
But what about after World AIDS Day?
Although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to talk about HIV, it is important to keep the momentum going all year round. Visit www.aids.gov to learn about the President’s Proclamation, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the aids.gov blog and much more.
The Story of the Red Ribbon
The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. In 1991 – a decade after the emergence of HIV – a group of twelve artists gathered to discuss a new project for Visual Aids, a New York arts organization that raises awareness of HIV. They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space in New York’s East Village. After a short brainstorm they had come up with a simple idea that later became one of the most recognized symbols of the decade – the red ribbon, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV.
The HIV Stigma
Being diagnosed with HIV today means something very different than it did 20 or 30 years ago. HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, people’s attitudes can make living with HIV really hard. Some things from the 1980s and 1990s are worth revisiting, but HIV stigma isn’t one of them. One individual diagnosed with AIDS said “The problems that the ‘rest of the population’ create for me makes living with HIV difficult to the point where taking my medication, remaining unemployed and choosing friends carefully appears to be the only comfortable option.” This World AIDS Day, help put HIV stigma firmly in the past where it belongs.