In 1988, the World Health Organization established World Aids Day to raise awareness about HIV and to commemorate the lives that have been lost to HIV. December 1 is a day for global citizens to unite in the fight against HIV. It is a day to support those living with HIV by fighting common misconceptions about the virus that contribute to the stigmatization of HIV positive persons. The World Health Organization estimates that 39 million people’s lives have been taken by HIV since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. Today, over 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS with the majority residing in developing countries. Prevention is key to combating the HIV epidemic, and awareness along with education are crucial to prevention efforts.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is a virus transmitted through bodily fluids that attacks the immune system. When left untreated, HIV severely damages the immune system, leading to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) in the final stage of HIV. Thankfully, antiretroviral treatments can control HIV so that HIV positive persons can live healthy, uncompromised lives and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. The number of HIV positive people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased by 5.6 million since 2010 to 12.9 million people in 2013. However, most people living with or at risk for HIV don’t have access to prevention, care, and treatment due to poverty, stigma, and lack of government funding. Despite the progress achieved in combating HIV/AIDS thus far, it is still the fastest growing health threat to development today.
In light of World Aids Day, I invite you to raise HIV awareness by wearing the symbolic red ribbon in solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS. I urge you to further educate yourself about HIV/AIDS in an effort to destigmatize HIV and debunk common misconceptions. You can find out more about the red ribbon here, and more about HIV/AIDS here.
Let’s combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic once and for all.