World Aids Day 2020: Everything you need to know about the annual HIV awareness campaign

Sarah Young
·3-min read
An Indian NGO volunteer lights candles placed on the ground in the shape of a red ribbon during an awareness rally on the eve of World Aids Day in Agartala, the capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, on 30 November 2017 (Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty)
An Indian NGO volunteer lights candles placed on the ground in the shape of a red ribbon during an awareness rally on the eve of World Aids Day in Agartala, the capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, on 30 November 2017 (Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty)

World Aids Day falls on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

This is particularly important in 2020 when people have struggled more than ever to reach support groups, and outreach in the community because of the coronavirus pandemic. The theme for 2020 is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.

The date for World Aids Day has been observed by UN member states every year since 1988 in a show of support for those currently living with the condition.

The virus was only identified in 1984, when it sparked a huge international scare and was wrongly assumed to only affect members of the LGBT+ community, but has already killed 35m people and infected 78m around the globe.

<p>An Indian NGO volunteer lights candles placed on the ground in the shape of a red ribbon during an awareness rally </p>Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty

An Indian NGO volunteer lights candles placed on the ground in the shape of a red ribbon during an awareness rally

Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty

In the UK, approximately 101,000 people currently suffer from HIV out of an estimated 36.9m worldwide, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed in Britain annually.

However, not everybody is equipped with the facts on how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a life-changing reality for people living with HIV.

According to the National Aids Trust (NAT) one in five people living with HIV say that they have needed help with loneliness. Meanwhile, three-quarters of people living with HIV who report loneliness and isolation say they haven’t been able to find that help.

As such, the organisation is calling for peer support services to be made available across the UK so that people can access the help they need, when they need it, and wherever they are.

World Aids Day was first conceived of in August 1987 by World Health Organisation (WHO) publicists James W Bunn and Thomas Netter, but has been run by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) since 1996.

The Pope, the president of the United States and other world leaders all use the occasion to reaffirm their commitment to eradicating the disease, a goal the UN hopes to achieve by 2030.

The White House has proudly displayed a 28-foot red ribbon from its North Portico since 2007, stressing the Oval Office’s commitment to combating Aids in the wake of George W Bush introducing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), providing support for those afflicted around the world.

Every year UNAIDS, the WHO and a collection of grassroots NGOs agree on the theme for the day, drawing attention to different aspects of the condition.

In 2020 that theme is "Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact".

You can buy red ribbons from NAT's online shop, request free red ribbons with a display and collection box if you’re planning to fundraise for NAT in the UK, and use posters and images for your social media.

Those wishing to show support for the cause in the UK on World Aids Day can also make a donation to the National Aids Trust online.