This Friday will mark the 29th year of World AIDS Day. This global health day is “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness,” according to the World AIDS Day site. HIV and AIDS research and education campaigns have made great progress but the pandemic is still a very pressing concern.
In 2016, there were around 36.7 million people living with HIV, including 1.8 million newly infected. Every hour, around 205 people are infected with HIV. It’s a particularly pervasive problem in Eastern and Southern Africa, where 43% of the global total of new HIV infections occur. Western and Central Africa also have high numbers of infections and deaths, with 56% of those infected being women.
Governments, health officials, NGOs, and individuals all around the world celebrate World AIDS Day. For 2017, the World Health Organization is using the slogan “Everybody counts” to make the statement that absolutely everybody deserves safe, effective, and affordable treatment. In the UK, the slogan this year is “Let’s end it,” a mission towards ending stigma, isolation, and HIV transmission. The Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange is using the motto “My health, my right” to remember that everyone, including those with HIV and AIDS, have the right “to make decisions about one’s own health and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination.”
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to start or further the important conversation about HIV and AIDS. Social media is used to spread the word. Red is the official color of the day and many wear red and change their social media profiles to red for the day. Fundraising is another big part of World AIDS Day. People raise money for organizations like the National AIDS Trust, AVERT, UNAIDS, and RED. A number of brands have partnered with RED, allowing people to purchase special RED-themed products to raise money for the fight against AIDS. This includes things like the iPhone, the Amazon Echo, and special t-shirts like the Inspi(red) Africa shirt.
There are always special events held around the world to commemorate the day as well. In New York, there will be a candlelight vigil held at the NYC AIDS Memorial. In Maryland, the NIH will be holding a forum on HIV research. In the UK, Prince Harry and his fiancée Meghan Markle will meet with HIV/AIDS patients and visit a World AIDS Day charity fair.