World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day

The red ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
Observed by All UN Member States
Date 1 December
Frequency annual
First time 1988 (1988)

World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988,[1] is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. 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 eight 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 and World Hepatitis Day.[2] Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day.

As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981–2012), and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV,[3] making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.[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). Dr. 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][16]

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 put the emphasis on social justice issues, and the advancement of treatments like PrEP.[17]

In the US, the White House began marking World AIDS Day with the iconic display of a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the building's North Portico in 2007.[18] The display, now an annual tradition, quickly garnered attention, as it was the first banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since the Abraham Lincoln administration.

US presidential proclamations of World AIDS Day are issued annually since 1995.[19][20]


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 achieve 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."[21] The US Federal theme for the year 2014 is "Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation".[22]

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.

World AIDS Day Themes[23]

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" on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an awareness campaign for the 2005 World AIDS Day
2016 Hands up for #HIVprevention[24]
2015 On the fast track to end AIDS[25]
2014 Close the gap[26]
2013 Zero Discrimination[27]
2012 Together we will end AIDS [28]
2011 Getting to Zero[29]
2010 Universal Access and Human Rights[30]
2009 Universal Access and Human Rights[30]
2008 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Lead – Empower – Deliver[31]
2007 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Leadership
2006 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise – Accountability
2005 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2004 Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS
2003 Stigma and Discrimination
2002 Stigma and Discrimination
2001 I care. Do you?
2000 AIDS: Men Make a Difference
1999 Listen, Learn, Live: World AIDS Campaign with Children & Young People
1998 Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign With Young People
1997 Children Living in a World with AIDS
1996 One World. One Hope.
1995 Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities
1994 AIDS and the Family
1993 Act
1992 Community Commitment
1991 Sharing the Challenge
1990 Women and AIDS
1989 Youth
1988 Communication

AIDS Awareness Month

Different governments and organizations have declared different months as AIDS Awareness Month. The most popular choices are October and December. December is chosen to coincide with World AIDS Day.

See also


  1. "About World Aids Day". National Aids Trust. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  2. World Health Organization, WHO campaigns.
  3. World Health Organization, HIV/AIDS. WHO Fact sheet N° 360, updated October 2013. Geneva, Switzerland. Accessed 8 April 2014.
  4. "Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), ''Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic 2008,'' (Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS, July 2008)". UNAIDS. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  5. "NPR: How World AIDS Day Began".
  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. 1 2 "Inventors of World AIDS Day: James Bunn and Thomas Netter".
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Speicher, Sara. "World AIDS Day Marks 20th Anniversary Of Solidarity." ''Medical News Today.'' 19 November 2008". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  9. 1 2 "van Soest, Marcel. "Accountability: Main Message on World AIDS Day." Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. 20 Oct 2006". 20 October 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  10. Yearbook of the United Nations 2005. Vol. 59. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Publications, 2007. ISBN 92-1-100967-7
  11. "First World AIDS Day in 1988". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  12. Message for the World AIDS Day
  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". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  16. "Message from the Pope on World AIDS Day".
  18. "Two-Story AIDS Ribbon at White House", ABC News, 30 November 2007,
  21. World Health Organization, World Aids Day 2012: Closing in on global HIV targets. Accessed 8 April 2014
  22. ibtimes, "Aids Day 2014". ibtimes. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  23. World AIDS Day, Minnesota Department of Health
  24. World AIDS Day 2016 UNAids
  25. World AIDS Day 2015 UNAids
  26. World AIDS Day 2014 UNAids
  27. World AIDS Day 2013 UNAids
  28. World AIDS Day 2012 UNAids
  29. World AIDS Day 2011 World AIDS Campaign
  30. 1 2 World AIDS Day
  31. "Dr. Peter Piot, "2008 World AIDS Day statements", Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 30 November 2008". UNAIDS. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
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US Presidential Proclamations for World AIDS Day

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