WHO declared December 1 as the 1st World AIDS Day

On December 1, 1988, the world marked an important step in the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This date was designated as the first World AIDS Day by the World Health Organization (WHO), establishing a day of unity, awareness, and remembrance, aimed at combatting the global spread of HIV/AIDS and mourning those who had died from the disease.

The concept of World AIDS Day was the brainchild of James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Mann liked the concept, approving it and recommending the date December 1 to maximize coverage by western news media, something he felt was crucial in the effort to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the epidemic.The choice of December 1 as World AIDS Day was strategic. Bunn, a former television broadcast journalist, believed that December 1 was far enough from the U.S. elections in November and close enough to Christmas and New Year to have maximum media impact. Indeed, their strategy worked. The day not only served to raise awareness but also ensured that the message of the fight against HIV/AIDS reached a vast audience globally.

The first World AIDS Day in 1988 set the tone for future observances. Under the theme "Communication," organizations worldwide, from community groups to the United Nations, came together to educate the public about the risk of HIV/AIDS and the need for AIDS prevention and education. The initial campaign focused on getting information about the disease to as many people as possible. The WHO played a key role in distributing pamphlets and posters across its member states and explaining how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the devastating health, social, and economic impacts of the disease.

Each subsequent World AIDS Day has had a specific theme, chosen by the WHO or, after 1996, by UNAIDS and the World AIDS Campaign's Global Steering Committee. These themes have been instrumental in guiding the focus of observance activities around the world. Themes over the years have included "Children and AIDS" (1997), "I Care. Do You?" (1998), and "Getting to Zero" (2011-2015), reflecting the evolving priorities in the global AIDS response. The observance of World AIDS Day has grown to include millions of people around the world who participate in events and activities to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Day has significantly contributed to the global understanding of HIV/AIDS. It has provided a platform for advocating for the rights of those living with HIV, remembering those who have died, and celebrating victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services. Moreover, World AIDS Day has helped to bring the HIV/AIDS discussion to the forefront of public consciousness, not just as a health issue but as an issue that affects human rights and social justice. It reminds the public and governments that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight stigma, and improve education.

World AIDS Day remains a critical moment for reflecting on the fight against HIV/AIDS, remembering the lives lost, and advocating for policies that protect and respect human rights and dignity. It's a day when the world unites in the fight against HIV, shows support for people living with HIV, and commemorates those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Through the continued observance of this day, the world keeps the necessary focus on HIV/AIDS as a global public health issue, seeking an end to this epidemic.

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