World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognised international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.
There’s a general sense, even among informed progressives, that the AIDS epidemic has been arrested and no longer represents the vast problem it once did. This may be true for the affluent — the vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries and/or are poor in rich nations. But HIV remains a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are still 33.3 million people living with HIV, including at least 2.5 million children. Moreover, during 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS. Highlighting these horrific numbers and reminding people that there are many things still to be done is the point of World AIDS Day, marked each year on December 1.
The theme for this year’s 12th annual World AIDS Day is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights.’ The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalized groups, like injecting drug users and sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination.