You might be thinking that there’s so much information out there about HIV and AIDS, that surely everyone must know the facts by now.
Well, not exactly.
While it might seem like you’re constantly bombarded by messaging around this incurable STI, the fact is that millions of people remain uneducated. Even more shocking: infection rates continue to rise in some countries, including South Africa.
Now more than ever, we need to focus on World AIDS Day and recognise it as the powerful educational tool that it’s become over nearly three decades.
World AIDS Day: a little bit of background
World AIDS Day was first commemorated in 1988 in an effort to raise awareness around a disease which, at the time, was still relatively unknown. It also served to commemorate those affected by it.
Today, much more is known about HIV and AIDS. Now, the focus of World Aids Day is more on the immediate and effective management of this STI, and on helping people to understand that HIV and AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was.
Early detection and swift, effective treatment means that people can live long, happy, healthy and productive lives even if they have been infected. You know this, but there are plenty of people who still don’t.
How World AIDS Day became a fully inclusive event
Back in the day, there was a huge stigma around HIV and AIDS. There was a misconception that it was a disease that only gay men or drug users could acquire.
As the campaign developed over the years, it helped to educate people about the facts of the disease – for example, that it can affect anyone, of any gender, race, religion, age or social status. World AIDS Day also widened the focus to families and the impact on children and the youth.
And, while you might know it best as a day that’s marked on 1 December each year, you may be surprised to learn that the campaign is actually active 365 days of the year.
In 1996, when the campaign was commandeered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), it grew to become a year-round campaign focusing on education and HIV/AIDS prevention.
6 Noteworthy things World AIDS Day has helped to achieve (and continues to champion)
- Showing that antiretroviral drugs can be life-extending for HIV-positive people.
- Lifting the stigma surrounding the disease and fighting HIV/AIDS-related discrimination.
- Empowering women and children through proper education.
- Securing sustained international funding from high-income countries to help support HIV/AIDS initiatives.
- Establishing the Getting to Zero campaign, which policymakers founded in an effort to achieve zero discrimination and zero deaths linked to HIV/AIDS.
- Establishing the 90-90-90 strategy and the Access Equity Rights Now campaign. The objective of both initiatives is to stamp out the disease by as soon as 2030.
3 Practical ways you can take charge on World AIDS Day, 1 December
Want to make your impact felt? It’s easy.
- Get tested. Knowing your status helps you to make informed decisions that keep you and your partners healthy and infection-free.
- Use protection every time you have sex, every day of the year.
- Help fight AIDS-related discrimination in your community. Discrimination stems from fear and ignorance, so share your knowledge. Help to educate those around you in order to build a better understanding of the disease and greater tolerance for those affected.
Ready to get tested? Visit your nearest Marie Stopes centre for quick, painless and confidential STI and HIV screening. Knowledge is power, so get empowered by knowing your status! Make your booking now, and for even greater peace of mind, bring your partner along.