World AIDS Day is held on the 1st 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, held for the first time in 1988.
Fewer people died of HIV in 2015 than at any point in almost 20 years, while new HIV infections are at the lowest point since 1991, the World Health Organization noted in its 2016 progress report. That may be, in part, because at least two million new people began taking antiretroviral therapy in 2015, the largest annual increase ever in the history of the disease. There are however an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and governments that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.