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.
The theme for 2015 is, “On the fast track to end AIDS.”
Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.
Globally there are an estimated 36.9 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.
World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World Hepatitis Day.
World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.
Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist from San Francisco, had recommended the date of December 1 believing it would maximize coverage of World AIDS Day by western news media, sufficiently long following the US elections but before the Christmas holidays.
In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) became operational in 1996, and it took over the planning and promotion of World AIDS Day.
In the US, the White House began marking World AIDS Day with the iconic display of a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the building’s North Portico in 2007. U.S. presidential proclamations of World AIDS Day are issued annually since 1995.
There are an estimated 10 lakh people currently living in India with HIV (PLHIV). In July 2014 replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, the health ministry said that a little over 7.77 lakh PLHIVs in India are currently registered for free ART. ART is therapy administered by using a cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs (HIV is a retro or RNA virus). The free ART programme was started in 2004.