World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body's immune system — the body's defence against diseases. The virus can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
There are two types of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2.
Both types of HIV damage a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.
HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
HIV cannot reproduce outside the human body. It is not spread by:
- Air or water.
- Insects, including mosquitoes. Studies conducted by CDC researchers and others have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from insects.
- Saliva, tears, or sweat. There is no documented case of HIV being transmitted by spitting.
- Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
- Closed-mouth or “social” kissing.
In 2011, an estimated:
- 34 million [31.4 million - 35.9 million] people globally were living with HIV
- 2.5 million [2.2 million - 2.8 million] people became newly infected with HIV
- 1.7 million [1.5 million - 1.9 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses
From its inception until 2004, UNAIDS spearheaded the World AIDS Day campaign, choosing annual themes in consultation with other global health organizations.
As of 2008, each year's World AIDS Day theme is chosen by the World AIDS Campaign's Global Steering Committee after extensive consultation with people, organizations and government agencies involved in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. For each World AIDS Day from 2005 through 2010, the theme was "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise" with a yearly sub-theme. This overarching theme was 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.
Since last year “Getting to Zero” is the theme selected by the World AIDS Campaign (WAC) to commemorate World AIDS Day on 1st December. This new theme, that will be used until 2015, echoes the UNAIDS vision of achieving
“Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.” The decision to choose "Getting to Zero" as the theme came after extensive consultations among people living with HIV, health activists and civil society organizations.
A new World AIDS Day report: Results, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people.
Declining new HIV infections in children
The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children.
Fewer AIDS-related deaths
The report shows that antiretroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the number of people accessing treatment has increased by 63% globally.
The report shows that countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate. The global gap in resources needed annually by 2015 is now at 30%. In 2011, US$ 16.8 billion was available and the need for 2015 is between US$ 22-24 billion.