December 1st is World AIDS Day, commemorating those who died from the virus as well as those who are living with it.
First commemorated in 1988, during the height of the AIDS crisis, World AIDS Day marked the first-ever globally recognized health day. It’s a day to show support for those living with AIDS, and to remember the lives lost.
This year, amid the ongoing Covid pandemic, continuing the fight against AIDS remains as important as ever, especially as certain populations remain at high risk. “Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many of the populations most at risk were not being reached with HIV testing, prevention, and care services,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement released by the organization. “The pandemic has made things worse, with the disruption of essential health services, and the increased vulnerability of people with HIV to Covid-19. Like Covid-19, we have all the tools to end the AIDS epidemic, if we use them well.”
WHO also reports that at the current rate of infections, the world is “off track” to meet its shared global commitment of ending AIDS by 2030. The organization reports that in 2020, there were 37.7 million people living with HIV. WHO also reports that there were 1.5 million new infections and 680,000 AIDS-related deaths last year. Key demographics at risk of contracting the HIV virus, WHO reports, are sex workers, gay men, those who inject drugs, and transgender individuals.
“We are issuing an urgent warning. Only by moving fast to end the inequalities that drive the AIDS pandemic can we overcome them,” said Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, a WHO World AIDS Day partner. “World leaders must work together urgently to tackle the challenges head-on.
“I urge you: be courageous in matching words with deeds,” she added. “It is outrageous that every minute that passes, we lose a precious life to AIDS. We don’t have time to waste.”