World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st of December each year. It provides an opportunity to draw attention to the HIV epidemic around the world, to unite in the fight against HIV, and to show support for people living with HIV. It’s a time to learn about the disease and to remember those important to us who have died from an AIDS-related illness. I think World AIDS Day is also important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away and that there’s still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education as well.
The idea of Worlds AIDS Day was conceived back in 1988 by two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization—marking it as the first ever global health day. Apparently, the two officers recommended the date of 1 December believing it would maximize coverage of Worlds AIDS Day by western news media, as it is long after the US elections but before the Christmas holidays. Each campaign since the inaugural day in 1988 focuses on a specific theme with the 2017 theme being ‘My Health, My Right.’ The red ribbon that you might see around town on the first of December is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
Some people, including myself, don’t have any friends or family members living with an AIDS-related illness. I didn’t know much about the disease prior to starting this blog post but after some research I’ve learned that AIDS has a long genetic history that dates back to the 1920’s. The pandemic almost certainly originated in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the disease was first officially recognized in 1981 and by the mid 2000’s it caused nearly 30 million deaths. Initially the promiscuous culture and African-American’s only seemed susceptible to the disease but over time we have realized that AIDS doesn’t care if you’re black, white, gay or straight. We also know that AIDS can be transferred without sexual intercourse. For example, scarification, unsafe blood transfusions, poor economic conditions (like dirty needles in healthcare clinics), and a poor state of hygiene and nutrition in some areas may all be facilitating factors in the transmission of HIV-related illnesses. Mother-to-child transmissions also occur while the lack of sexual education is another major factor to consider.
It’s crucial for young, budding children to learn about sex—to understand that yes, it is a beautiful thing when you’re with the one you love, but to also be aware of the consequences when performing without contraception or protection. The topic of AIDS and HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases should be spoken candidly, not just at school but at home. Learning about the disease and its complex nature will not only help kids understand ways to avoid such circumstances, but it will help them sympathize with future friends, colleagues, and lovers who might be affected. It is days like World AIDS Day that reminds the public to get involved in championing the rights of people living with HIV. However, it’s also important to realize that although this day takes places once a year, you can still support people living with HIV all year round.