Raising Awareness of an Epidemic of Epic Proportions
Every year on the 1st of December, government organizations, health officials, NGOs, and people all over the world observe World Aids Day by raising awareness of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is a pandemic disease caused by an infection called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). According to data supplied by UNAIDS, around 770,000 people around the world died of AIDS-related illnesses during 2018. It is estimated that 37.9 million people across the globe are infected with HIV.
Originally founded by the UN in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day. In 1995, the president of the United States declared that World AIDS Day would be officially recognized, after which several other countries across the world began observing it. Over the years, the day has become one of the most recognized global health days, and several major events have been arranged.
In 2018, the theme was Know Your Status, and the celebrations had two main goals: to urge people to know their infection status by getting tested and to compel governments to advocate a Health for All agenda for HIV as well as other health services. This year, it will be the 30th World AIDS Day and it will be observed across the world with the theme Communities Make the Difference.
A Week of Observance
During the week of World AIDS Day, various activities take place to increase awareness of AIDS and to share the message of the year’s theme. These include:
- Local communities and organizations getting together to arrange activities that may take place at hospitals, clinics, schools, AIDS advocacy groups, or social service agencies.
- Single events or a series of events are arranged and may include health fairs, community events, rallies, parades, faith services, and block parties. Events are generally determined by speakers or exhibitors based on what would create more awareness.
- Red ribbons are distributed and worn to signify hope. Social media outlets may also distribute electronic ribbons.
- Activities such as seminars on AIDS prevention and DVD screenings are arranged at schools, businesses, health care organizations, and local agencies.
- A candlelight vigil may be held at a local park where musicians, storytellers, dancers, and poets could spread the message of AIDS prevention.
- Religious leaders speak about AIDS tolerance.
- Services that provide meals, companionship, shelter, and transportation to people with AIDS are launched at events.
World Aids Day Objectives
Every year, UN member states are supported in building up new and increasingly effective policies and programs to improve health systems to better deal with AIDS through various objectives such as:
- Improving guidance of member states for increasing prevention and control of HIV/AIDS across the globe.
- Providing technical assistance to member states to implement plans for preventing and treating AIDS. These include testing and counseling, antiretroviral therapy, and STI control.
- Creating awareness of antiretroviral medication and other therapies that may help with the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
- Involving peer groups in campaigning for the most effective results
- Encouraging university and school students to contribute in competitions arranged to create awareness of AIDS
- To decrease and control the number of people infected by HIV/AIDS and to encourage the use of condoms
World AIDS Day in Rwanda
This year, the World Health Organization will join forces with the Rwandan government in Kigali to celebrate the day. The focus is to highlight the role that local communities are playing in eradicating the AIDS epidemic. Leaders across the globe recognized this essential role in the UN declaration on universal health coverage and the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All, which was approved by the UN Member States in September this year. The campaign on World AIDS Day in Rwanda will lead to Africa’s 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs (ICASA 2019), which will take place in Kigali from December 2-7.
Observances in the United States
The AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City has been actively working to eradicate the spread, suffering, and stigma of HIV/AIDS in their community. During the week of World AIDS Day, the foundation rallies with the goal of an AIDS-free world. This year, the foundation is presenting two events: the World AIDS Day Community Luncheon and the World AIDS Day Patrons Reception. The events will feature keynote speakers and pay special attention to colored communities.
Other events around the United States held include:
- The 2019 Triple Threat Conference in Minnesota
- Applying 35 Years of HIV Work to the Substance Use Epidemic in Massachusetts
- The 2019 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) Clinical Care Conference
- The Ninth International Workshop on HIV Persistence, Reservoirs and Eradication Strategies Conference in Florida