World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.
Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 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, each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV, 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 government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
This year in the UK there have been the first significant reductions in HIV diagnoses for gay men, thanks to frequent testing, rapid treatment and PrEP. Let’s help grow this success so that it includes everybody at risk.
But the fight is not just about the virus. For the people living with HIV in the UK, ignorance and discrimination can still limit opportunities, preventing them from living full and happy lives. HIV means you are more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to have poor mental health.
This is an exciting turning point. But we need a new burst of energy to end stigma, end HIV transmission and end the isolation experienced by people living with HIV, for good.
Now, let’s end it. This World AIDS Day join the fight to end the negative impact of HIV.
Wear the ‘Red Ribbon’
The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV. Wearing a ribbon is a great way to raise awareness on and during the run up to World AIDS Day.
In 1991, a decade after the emergence of HIV, twelve artists gathered in a gallery in New York’s East Village. They had met to discuss a new project for Visual Aids, a New York HIV-awareness arts organisation.
It was there that they came up with what would become one of the most recognised symbols of the decade: the red ribbon, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV.
At the time, HIV was highly stigmatised, and the suffering of communities living with HIV remained largely hidden. The artists wanted to create a visual expression of compassion for people living with HIV.
They took inspiration from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War. Additionally, they decided that the elegant loop of the ribbon shape was easy to make and replicate. They avoided traditional colours associated with the gay community, such as pink and rainbow stripes, because they wanted to convey that HIV was relevant to everyone. They chose red for its boldness, and for its symbolic associations with passion, the heart and love.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide. You can order a red ribbon through the World AIDS Day online shop, or pick one up in a MAC Cosmetics shop and selected branches of Morrison’s.