December 1st is World AIDS Day.

About:

Started on 1st December 1988, World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done. According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children. During 2008 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35. The vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.

Theme:

The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognising these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved. Millions of people continue to be infected with HIV every year. In low- and middle-income countries, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, and too many do not have access to adequate care services. The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalised groups, such as injecting drug usersand sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us – individuals, communities and political leaders – to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care are met.

The Red Ribbon:

The red ribbon is an international symbol of AIDS awareness that is worn by people all year round and particularly around World AIDS Day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment. The red ribbon started as a “grass roots” effort; as a result there is no one official AIDS ribbon manufacturer, and many people make their own. It’s easily done – just use some ordinary red ribbon and a safety pin! If you want to take your awareness raising a step further then try finding a local event to take part in. Around the world there are hundreds of activities taking place to mark World AIDS Day, including candlelight vigils, art shows, marches and religious services. If you can’t find anything in your area then why not organise an event yourself?

Statistically Speaking:

The latest statistics of the global HIV and AIDS were published by UNAIDS in November 2009, and refer to the end of 2008.

  Estimate Range
People living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 33.4 million 31.1-35.8 million
Adults living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 31.3 million 29.2-33.7 million
Women living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 15.7 million 14.2-17.2 million
Children living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 2.1 million 1.2-2.9 million
People newly infected with HIV in 2008 2.7 million 2.4-3.0 million
Children newly infected with HIV in 2008 0.43 million 0.24-0.61 million
AIDS deaths in 2008 2.0 million 1.7-2.4 million
Child AIDS deaths in 2008 0.28 million 0.15-0.41 million
  • More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.
  • Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans.
  • At the end of 2008, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide
  • In developing and transitional countries, 9.5 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 4 million (42%) are receiving the drugs.

The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. Around 67% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Regional statistics for HIV & AIDS, end of 2008

Region Adults & children 
living with HIV/AIDS
Adults & children 
newly infected
Adult prevalence* Deaths of 
adults & children
Sub-Saharan Africa 22.4 million 1.9 million 5.2% 1.4 million
North Africa & Middle East 310,000 35,000 0.2% 20,000
South and South-East Asia 3.8 million 280,000 0.3% 270,000
East Asia 850,000 75,000 <0.1% 59,000
Oceania 59,000 3900 0.3% 2,000
Latin America 2.0 million 170,000 0.6% 77,000
Caribbean 240,000 20,000 1.0% 12,000
Eastern Europe & Central Asia 1.5 million 110,000 0.7% 87,000
North America 1.4 million 55,000 0.4% 25,000
Western & Central Europe 850,000 30,000 0.3% 13,000
Global Total 33.4 million 2.7 million 0.8% 2.0 million

* Proportion of adults aged 15-49 who were living with HIV/AIDS

During 2008 more than two and a half million adults and children became infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS. By the end of the year, an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. The year also saw two million deaths from AIDS, despite recent improvements in access to antiretroviral treatment.

Notes

Adults are defined as men and women aged 15 or above, unless specified otherwise.

Children orphaned by AIDS are defined as people aged under 18 who are alive and have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

All the statistics on this page should be interpreted with caution because they are estimates.

Discrimination and Stigma:

AIDS-related stigma and discrimination refers to prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment directed at people living with HIVand AIDS. They can result in being shunned by family, peers and the wider community; poor treatment in healthcare and education settings; an erosion of rights; psychological damage; and can negatively affect the success of testing and treatment. AIDS stigma and discrimination exist worldwide, although they manifest themselves differently across countries, communities, religious groups and individuals. They occur alongside other forms of stigma and discrimination, such as racism, homophobia or misogyny and can be directed towards those involved in what are considered socially unacceptable activities such as prostitution or drug use. Stigma not only makes it more difficult for people trying to come to terms with HIV and manage their illness on a personal level, but it also interferes with attempts to fight the AIDS epidemic as a whole. On a national level, the stigma associated with HIV can deter governments from taking fast, effective action against the epidemic, whilst on a personal level it can make individuals reluctant to access HIV testing, treatment and care.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination severely hamper efforts to effectively fight the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Fear of discrimination often prevents people from seeking treatment for AIDS or from admitting their HIV status publicly. People with (or suspected of having) HIV may be turned away from healthcare services and employment, or refused entry to a foreign country. In some cases, they may be forced from home by their families and rejected by their friends and colleagues. The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS can extend to the next generation, placing an emotional burden on those left behind. Denial goes hand in hand with discrimination, with many people continuing to deny that HIV exists in their communities. Today, HIV/AIDS threatens the welfare and wellbeing of people throughout the world. At the end of the 2007, 33 million people were living with HIV with 2 million having died from AIDS-related illness that year. Combating stigma and discrimination against people who are affected by HIV/AIDS is a vital ingredient for preventing and controlling the global epidemic.

So how can progress be made in overcoming this stigma and discrimination? How can we change people’s attitudes to AIDS? A certain amount can be achieved through the legal process. In some countries people living with HIV lack knowledge of their rights in society. They need to be educated, so they are able to challenge the discrimination, stigma and denial that they encounter. Institutional and other monitoring mechanisms can enforce the rights of people with HIV and provide powerful means of mitigating the worst effects of discrimination and stigma. However, no policy or law can alone combat HIV/AIDS related discrimination. Stigma and discrimination will continue to exist so long as societies as a whole have a poor understanding of HIV and AIDS and the pain and suffering caused by negative attitudes and discriminatory practices. The fear and prejudice that lie at the core of the HIV/AIDS discrimination need to be tackled at the community and national levels, with AIDS education playing a crucial role. A more enabling environment needs to be created to increase the visibility of people with HIV/AIDS as a ‘normal’ part of any society. The presence of treatment makes this task easier; where there is hope, people are less afraid of AIDS; they are more willing to be tested for HIV, to disclose their status, and to seek care if necessary. In the future, the task is to confront the fear-based messages and biased social attitudes, in order to reduce the discrimination and stigma of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Why is all of this so important to me?:

Why isn’t this important to anyone? Understanding the facts is the key to fighting prejudice and protecting yourself and others. But I digress, My Mother has been living with the virus for 15 years and is still going strong. Before anyone says anything, NO! I do not carry the virus. I make it a point to get tested for HIV/AIDS every six months, as should any responsible human being. We have all, as a family taken extra precautions to keep everyone safe and to also support and love my Mom unconditionally and she knows this. Earlier this year I got an anchor wrapped in a red ribbon to symbolize her strength and resilience and for awareness. I have no shame explaining to people the meaning behind the tattoo. Some people balk and get really uncomfortable, almost as if I look at them, they will get AIDS somehow, which is ignorant and reprehensible behavior. Others offer me condolences and sympathies, which confuses me, because Hello? My Mom isn’t dead yet. She’s a fighter, thats for damn sure, toughest broad I know. In so many ways she is my hero, and I am so proud of her for overcoming all that she has. I love my mom. 

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