Today December 1st is World AIDS Day. As many as 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and there are 80,000 people with HIV in the UK. The aim of World AIDS Day is to raise awareness of the challenges and consequences of the epidemic – ultimately halting the spread of the HIV virus and improving the lives of people living with infection.
The UK theme for World AIDS Day 2008 is “Respect & Protect“. Many people living with HIV face discrimination – this year’s campaign hopes to highlight the responsibility everyone has to transform attitudes to HIV and encourage actions that stop its spread. You can show your support for the campaign by wearing a red ribbon, which you can get your hands on in Gap, H&M, Selfridges and Levi’s stores around the UK, as well as in Red Cross charity shops.
There is a whole selection of events and promotions worldwide to mark World AIDS day. For example, this weekend a flash mob descended on Glasgow town centre, “freezing” while handing each another red ribbons and condoms in the event organized by the British Red Cross.
South Africa is poised to grind to a halt for 15 minutes to talk about AIDS. This weekend the country received £15 million worth of support from the UK to tackle the HIV epidemic. In South Africa, 20–30% of the population is HIV positive and as many as 365,000 people have died unnecessarily thanks to the AIDS denialism of former president Thabo Mbeki.
Online, AIDS.gov has launched the “Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day” campaign. Participants are invited to take a photo of themselves wearing a red ribbon and, on World AIDS Day, put the photo on their social networking site, blog, Twitter page, or website. There is also a Flickr group and a Facebook group where supporters can upload their pictures.
Digital magazine (RED)Wire by Product (RED), the charity run by Bono to engage the private sector in AIDS programmes, launched today. For a monthly subscription fee of £4, half of which will go to the Global Fund to help people in Africa with HIV and AIDS, users can get world premieres of exclusive tracks from the likes of Elton John, Jay-Z and Coldplay.
Bloggers Unite, a movement that aims to “harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place”, has invited bloggers to dedicate their blog posts today to issues related to HIV/AIDS, with the aim of reminding people that HIV/AIDS is still a critical issue and to promote HIV testing. You can follow World AIDS day on Twitter with the tag #WAD08.
There is also a World AIDS day Musical Festival in Second Life, which will feature HIV/AIDS presentations and displays, tours, writing workshops, and virtual red ribbons and t-shirts.
- The Independent has an eyewatering but otherwise fascinating article about the use of circumcision in the fight against AIDS in Africa. The simple procedure has been shown to cut the risk of contracting HIV by about 60%.
- An editorial in the New York Times highlights a thought experiment published last week in The Lancet. The authors used mathematical modelling to predict what would happen if the majority of adults and adolescents were tested for HIV each year and treated immediately with antiretroviral drugs. This strategy could practically eliminate transmission of the virus within the space of a decade.