By Ritu Singh 

Ritu Singh

December 1 marks World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the battle against HIV, one of the most destructive pandemics in history. People worldwide show support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.

World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. Since then, numerous events and campaigns have been organised around the world to spread awareness about this disease.

This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

History of World AIDS Day

James Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organisation are credited for conceptualising this idea in August, 1987. Bunn and Netter then seeked approval of Dr Jonathan Mann, the former head of the Global Programme on Aids (now known as UNAIDS). It was then decided to observe the first World AIDS Day on 1, December 1988.

In 1996, UNAIDS took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day. The White House began marking the day with a display of a 28-foot Aids ribbon in 2007, as the first symbol to hang on the building since the Lincoln administration.

Importance of this day:

This day is important because an estimated 34 million persons are living with HIV infection and more than 35 million have died from the disease. World AIDS Day is meant to draw attention to the current status of the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epidemic worldwide.

The current situation is not completely grim though.A leading campaign group fighting HIV has observed that the world is finally reaching the “the beginning of the end” of the AIDS pandemic. A lot still needs to be done.

Social stigma attached to HIV/AIDS poses a bigger threat and that has to be won. Despite all efforts, AIDS continues to be a word that generates more anxiety than awareness. Even now, the average person still fears touching or kissing someone with HIV, even though we have been taught for years that neither of these activities can infect someone else. HIV is infectious, not contagious.

In this age of education, it is important to keep our knowledge on HIV up to date and bust common myths and misconceptions. We also need to modify our disposition and temperament, challenge our beliefs, take a stand, get rid of prejudices and accept those people with love, care and support .

So, on this World AIDS day, let’s all take a pledge to actualize more empathy within us and pray for an AIDS free world!