World AIDS Day: AIDS pandemic nears 30 years, has claimed 30 million lives


The AIDS pandemic is almost 30 years old, and in that time 60 million people have been infected with HIV, and more than 30 million people have lost their life to the most destructive epidemic in recorded history.

Today is World AIDS Day.

In what has become one of the most recognized international health days in modern history, World AIDS Day is a day to raise awareness and commemorate those who have passed on.

And while there is cause to celebrate victories such as increased access to treatments for AIDS and HIV that can slow the course of the disease, there is still no known cure or vaccine. An estimated 33 million people are currently living with HIV.

Last month, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, announced that while the global epidemic was slowing — there were about 20% fewer new infections last year than in 1999 when the epidemic was at its peak — 2.6 million people became infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, in 2009, or about 7,000 new infections every day.

Of those currently infected, one in five does not know they have the condition, and the majority of new infections are spread by people who are unaware of their own status.

About 41% of new infections last year affected young people aged 15-24, and women accounted for about 51% of new infections.

As infection rates decline, the public’s level of awareness of their very real risk for contracting HIV wanes. Stigma continues to prove as deadly as the disease itself, keeping people from getting tested and treated for HIV/AIDS.

There are many ways you can take action in response to HIV/AIDS:

  • Get tested
  • Practice safer methods to prevent HIV
  • Decide not to engage in high risk behaviors
  • Talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
  • Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS

For a list of World AIDS Day events in your country or region, click here.

This Story Filed Under