Every year on December 1st people from across the world unite to observe World AIDS Day, in support of those who live with HIV and to commemorate those who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, launched in 1988 to increase disease-awareness, encourage HIV prevention, eradicate prejudice and raise funds for change.
Since the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, many positive scientific developments and discoveries have been made, with a 40-fold increase in access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and better care and support for people living with HIV leading us to the lowest number of global AIDS related deaths.
However, despite the strides that have been made, a 2011 UNAIDS regional report states that HIV/AIDS still poses a grave problem in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Key facts on HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
• Approximately 500,000 people are living with HIV in the MENA region
• Annual estimated new infections among adults and children have substantially increased in the last decade
• This rise in new HIV infections has put MENA among the top two regions in the world with the fastest growing HIV epidemic
• AIDS-related mortality has almost doubled in the past decade among both adults and children
For these reasons World Aids Day 2014 is as important as Worlds Aids Day 1988, as it serves to remind us that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to increase awareness, improve education, fight stigma and raise funds.
This World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization will issue new recommendations to help countries close important gaps in HIV prevention and treatment services.
How to take part in World Aids Day 2014
• Educate yourself, your family and friends on the facts about HIV via the WHO website
• Consider ways to help raise funds for an approved charitable AIDS trust
• Join the World AIDS Day conversation on social media by using the UNAIDS official hashtags: #WAD2014, #closethegap
While World AIDS Day is an opportunity to initiate discussion, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS is a year-round initiative that requires action and support throughout the year.