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World AIDS Day

The United Nations' (UN) World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year to honor AIDS victims. It also focuses on issues surrounding HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

A simple red ribbon is one of the most widely recognized symbols of HIV and AIDS.

©iStockphoto.com/Jill Chen

What Do People Do?

World AIDS Day is the focal point of the World AIDS Campaign, which is active all year round. On December 1, there are many health education campaigns that promote the day. Anti-discrimination activities are also launched on or around this date.

Many people hold events on World AIDS Day to remember people died of AIDS-related conditions. One example is an AIDS Memorial Quilt project, which allows friends and family members of a deceased AIDS sufferer to construct quilt panels, which are then exhibited throughout the United States.

Public Life

World AIDS Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Background

AIDS stands for "acquired immune deficiency syndrome" or "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome" and denotes a condition, which results from the damage done by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) to the immune system. The condition was first identified in 1981 and the name "AIDS" was first introduced on July 27, 1982.

HIV can only be transmitted between people through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the blood stream with a bodily fluid. Hence, there has been a lot of stigma around the spread of HIV and people living with HIV and AIDS. It has been estimated that around 33 million people around the world have been infected with HIV and that around two million people die from AIDS related conditions each year. On October 27, 1988, the UN General Assembly officially recognized that the World Health Organization declared December 1, 1988, to be World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day has also been observed on this date each year since then.

Symbols

A simple red ribbon is one of the most widely recognized symbols of HIV and AIDS and the people who live with these conditions. The symbol was presented by the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus in 1991. The individuals in this group wished to remain anonymous, keep the image copyright free and create a symbol to raise consciousness of HIV and AIDS. The red ribbon was originally intended to be worn as a badge, but is now used in a wide variety of ways.

The symbol of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS consists of the word "UNAIDS". The letters "U" and "N" are in black and the rest of letters are in red. To the left of the word 'UNAIDS' is a red ribbon superimposed on the symbol of the United Nations. This symbol is shown in black and consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole surrounded by olive branches.

The symbol of the World AIDS Campaign consists of a sketched image of a red ribbon and the words "world aids campaign". The words "world" and "campaign" are in black and the word "aids" is in red. The ends of the ribbon merge into splashes of green, blue, purple and orange. The splashes of color can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and often indicate the diversity of people living with HIV and AIDS.

World AIDS Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015TueDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2016ThuDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2017FriDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2018SatDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2019SunDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2020TueDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2021WedDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2022ThuDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2023FriDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2024SunDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance
2025MonDec 1World AIDS DayUnited Nations observance

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