World AIDS Day

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World AIDS Day
Red Ribbon.svg
The red ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
Observed byAll UN Member States
Date1 December
First time1988; 33 years ago (1988)

World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988,[1] is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease. The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The HIV virus attacks the immune system of the patient and reduces its resistance to other diseases.[2] Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.

World AIDS Day is one of the eleven official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day, World Hepatitis Day, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, World Patient Safety Day and World Chagas Disease Day.[3]

As of 2017, AIDS has killed between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV,[4] making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Thanks to recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the death rate from AIDS epidemic has decreased since its peak in 2005 (1 million in 2016, compared to 1.9 million in 2005).[4]


Russian stamp, 1993

World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.[5][6] Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be on 1 December 1988.[7] Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, had recommended the date of 1 December that believing it would maximize coverage of World AIDS Day by western news media, sufficiently long following the US elections but before the Christmas holidays.[7]

In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. While the choice of this theme was criticized at the time by some for ignoring the fact that people of all ages may become infected with HIV, the theme helped alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease and boost recognition of the problem as a family disease.[8]

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day.[8] Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education.[8][9] In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent organization.[8][9][10]

Each year, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have released a greeting message for patients and doctors on World AIDS Day.[11][12][13][14][15]

In 2016, a collection of HIV and AIDS-related NGOs (including Panagea Global AIDS and The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa) started a campaign to rename World AIDS Day to World HIV Day. They claim the change will emphasize social justice issues, and the advancement of treatments like PrEP.[16]

In the US, the White House began marking World AIDS Day with the iconic display of a 28 foot (8.5 m) AIDS Ribbon on the building's North Portico in 2007.[17][18] White House aide Steven M. Levine, then serving in President George W. Bush's administration, proposed the display to symbolize the United States' commitment to combat the world AIDS epidemic through its landmark PEPFAR program.[19] The White House display, now an annual tradition across four presidential administrations, quickly garnered attention, as it was the banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since the Abraham Lincoln administration.[20][21][22]

Since 1993, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation for World AIDS Day (see section #US Presidential Proclamations for World AIDS Day for copies of those proclamations). On 30 November 2017, President Donald Trump proclaimed World AIDS Day for 1 December.[23][24]


All the World AIDS Day campaigns focus on a specific theme, chosen following consultations with UNAIDS, WHO, and a large number of grassroots, national and international agencies involved in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. As of 2008, each year's theme is chosen by the Global Steering Committee of the World AIDS Campaign (WAC).[8]

For each World AIDS Day from 2005 through 2010, the theme was "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise", designed to encourage political leaders to keep their commitment to achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support by the year 2010.[8]

As of 2012, the multi-year theme for World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination."[25] The US Federal theme for the year 2014 was "Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation".[26]

The themes are not limited to a single day but are used year-round in international efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness within the context of other major global events including the G8 Summit, as well as local campaigns like the Student Stop AIDS Campaign in the UK.[citation needed]

World AIDS Day Themes[edit]

A large red ribbon hangs between columns in the north portico of the White House for World AIDS Day, 30 November 2007
A 67 m long condom sculpture on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an awareness campaign for the 2005 World AIDS Day
No Year Theme[27] Aspect of Note
1 1988 Communication[28] The first year celebrated and the first time with UN recognition.
2 1989 Youth
3 1990 Women and AIDS
4 1991 Sharing the Challenge
5 1992 Community Commitment
6 1993 Time to Act
7 1994 AIDS and the Family
8 1995 Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities
9 1996 One World. One Hope.
10 1997 Children Living in a World with AIDS
11 1998 Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign With Young People
12 1999 Listen, Learn, Live: World AIDS Campaign with Children & Young People
13 2000 AIDS: Men Make a Difference
14 2001 I Care. Do You?
15 2002 Stigma and Discrimination
16 2003 Stigma and Discrimination
17 2004 Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS
18 2005 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
19 2006 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Accountability
20 2007 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Leadership
21 2008 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Lead – Empower – Deliver[29]
22 2009 Universal Access and Human Rights[30]
23 2010 Universal Access and Human Rights[30]
24 2011 Getting to Zero[31]
25 2012 Together We Will End AIDS[32]
26 2013 Zero Discrimination[33] Via this day's "Zero Discrimination" campaign, UNAIDS launched the first UN "Zero Discrimination Day" held on 1 March 2014 [34]
27 2014 Close the Gap[35]
28 2015 On the Fast Track to End AIDS[36]
29 2016 Hands up for #HIVprevention[37]
30 2017 My Health, My Right[38]
31 2018 Know your Status[39]
32 2019 Communities Make the Difference[40]
33 2020 Global Solidarity Shared Responsibility[41] Described as "like no other", due to COVID-19.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About World Aids Day". National Aids Trust. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  2. ^ "World AIDS Day 2020: Date, History, Current Theme, Importance, Significance". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  3. ^ World Health Organization, WHO campaigns.
  4. ^ a b Fact sheet – Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic UNAIDS. Accessed 30 November 2017.
  5. ^ Block, Melissa (1 December 2011). "How World AIDS Day Began". All Things Considered. NPR. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  6. ^ U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International News, "World AIDS Day Co-Founder Looks Back 20 Years Later", CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update, 12 December 2007
  7. ^ a b Walter, Eric (30 November 2011). "Inventors of World AIDS Day: James Bunn and Thomas Netter". WHYY-FM. Archived from the original on 5 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Speicher, Sara (19 November 2008). "World AIDS Day Marks 20th Anniversary Of Solidarity". Medical News Today. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  9. ^ a b "van Soest, Marcel. "Accountability: Main Message on World AIDS Day." Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. 20 Oct 2006". 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  10. ^ Jackson, Peter; Magherini, Federigo; Ukabiala, Jullyette; et al., eds. (2007). "Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization". Yearbook of the United Nations, 2005. 59. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Publications. p. 22. ISBN 978-92-1-100967-5. ISSN 0082-8521.
  11. ^ "First World AIDS Day in 1988". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  12. ^ Message for the World AIDS Day Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Gheddo, Piero. "Pope: "I feel near to people with AIDS and their families"". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  14. ^ Message of Caritas Internationalis On Occasion of World AIDS Day 2006
  15. ^ Pullella, Philip. "Pope skirts condoms issue in World AIDS Day statement". Faithworld. Reuters. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  16. ^ Teasdale, Ana (30 November 2016). "The World Has Changed: The HIV Response Must Change Too On World HIV Day" (Press release). World HIV Day. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020 – via PRWeb.
  17. ^ Parker, Jennifer (30 November 2007). "Two-Story AIDS Ribbon at White House". ABC News. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  18. ^ Proclamation 8207: World AIDS Day, 2007 . 29 November 2007 – via Wikisource.
  19. ^ Burger, Timothy J. (July–August 2014). "Inside George W. Bush's Closet". Politico Magazine. Vol. 1 no. 4. pp. 28–36. Archived from the original on 27 May 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  20. ^ "White House hangs red ribbon for World AIDS Day". CBS News. 1 December 2017. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  21. ^ "The White House Honors World AIDS Day 2012". 1 December 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2017 – via National Archives.
  22. ^ "A red ribbon adorns the North Portico of the White House Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, in recognition of World AIDS Day and the commitment by President George W. Bush and his administration to fighting and preventing HIV/AIDS in America and the world. White House photo by Eric Draper". Retrieved 2 December 2017 – via National Archives.
  23. ^ Office of the Press Secretary (30 November 2017). "President Donald J. Trump Proclaims December 1, 2017, as World AIDS Day". Washington, D.C.: White House. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  24. ^ Wong, Curtis M. (30 November 2017). "Trump Excludes LGBTQ People From World AIDS Day Proclamation". HuffPost. New York City: Oath Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  25. ^ World Health Organization, World Aids Day 2012: Closing in on global HIV targets. Accessed 8 April 2014
  26. ^ "Aids Day 2014". ibtimes. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  27. ^ "World AIDS Day". Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), Minnesota Department of Health
  28. ^ "World AIDS Day – December 1, 1998". Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Dr. Peter Piot, "2008 World AIDS Day statements", Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 30 November 2008". UNAIDS. 30 November 2008. Archived from the original on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  30. ^ a b World AIDS Day
  31. ^ World AIDS Day 2011 Archived 1 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine World AIDS Campaign
  32. ^ World AIDS Day 2012 UNAids
  33. ^ World AIDS Day 2013 UNAids
  34. ^ "Gender, equity and human rights". World Health Organization (WHO). Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  35. ^ World AIDS Day 2014 UNAids
  36. ^ World AIDS Day 2015 UNAids
  37. ^ World AIDS Day 2016 UNAids
  38. ^ UNAIDS launches 2017 World AIDS Day campaign-right to health UNAids
  39. ^ Know your HIV status UNAids
  40. ^ Communities make the difference UNAids
  41. ^ Jessi Lewis (1 December 2020). "World AIDS Day 2020". Sydney Star Observer. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  42. ^ "Press Statement - World AIDS Day 2020 message from UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima". UNAIDS. Retrieved 4 January 2021.

External links[edit]

US Presidential Proclamations for World AIDS Day[edit]