World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988, 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.
Let’s find out some facts about international day and the disease in general!
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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. Rather than focus on a single day, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign in 1997 to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education.
6. In 2004, the World AIDS Campaign became an independent organization.
7. Each year, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have released a greeting message for patients and doctors on World AIDS Day.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. US presidential proclamations of World AIDS Day are issued annually since 1995.
11. Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
12. Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness.
13. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms.
14. As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of common infections like tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have working immune systems.
15. These late symptoms of infection are referred to as AIDS. This stage is often also associated with weight loss.
16. HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.
17. Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV. Methods of prevention include safe sex, needle exchange programs, treating those who are infected, and male circumcision.
18. Disease in a baby can often be prevented by giving both the mother and child antiretroviral medication. There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy.
19. Treatment is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection is 11 years.
20. In 2015 about 36.7 million people were living with HIV and it resulted in 1.1 million deaths.
21. Most of those infected live in sub-Saharan Africa.
22. Between its discovery and 2014 AIDS has caused an estimated 39 million deaths worldwide.
23. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading.
24. HIV is believed to have originated in west-central Africa during the late 19th or early 20th century.
25. AIDS was first recognized by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 and its cause—HIV infection—was identified in the early part of the decade.
26. HIV/AIDS has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination.
27. The disease also has large economic impacts. There are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS such as the belief that it can be transmitted by casual non-sexual contact.
28. The disease has become subject to many controversies involving religion including the Catholic Church’s decision not to support condom use as prevention.
29. It has attracted international medical and political attention as well as large-scale funding since it was identified in the 1980s.
30. As of mid-2016, 18.2 million people were receiving ART worldwide; this represents 46% (43–50%) of the 36.7 million (34.0–39.8 million) people living with HIV.
31. Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).
32. WHO has released a set of normative guidelines and provides support to countries in formulating and implementing policies and programmes to improve and scale up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for all people in need.
33. HIV is the greatest risk factor for developing active TB disease. In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million (11%) of the 10.4 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive. In the same year approximately 390 000 deaths from tuberculosis occurred among people living with HIV. The WHO African Region accounted for around 75% of the estimated number of HIV-related TB deaths.
34. Among famous people that have been infected with HIV are Charlie Sheen, Mykki Blanco, Freddy Mercury, Robert Reed and Gil Scott-Heron.