Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

As per the World Health Organization, an estimated 76 million people have been infected with the HIV (human immunodeficiency) virus and about 33 million people have died till the end of 2019. While the numbers vary from country to country, a significant number of people worldwide continue to live with HIV till date. The WHO calls HIV/AIDS a 'global epidemic'.

Put simply, this virus causes AIDS, and interferes with the body's ability to fight off an infection. Transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids, it first manifests with flu-like symptoms. Eventually, the AIDS symptoms such as fever, fatigue and recurrent infections comes to the fore. While there are antiretroviral regimens that can slow the progression of the disease, no cure exists for AIDS. As such, creating awareness becomes a crucial part of the efforts to curb the spread of the this particular virus.

December 1 is observed every year as World AIDS Day. It had been first conceived as an idea in August 1987 by two public information officers working for WHO's Global Programme on AIDS, and was eventually taken up as an observance from December 1, 1988. According to reports, the date, falling at sufficient distance from both the US elections and the Christmas break, was believed to be the best time for obtaining coverage.

What is the significance and meaning of the red ribbon?

It is not unusual to see the use of small folded red ribbons in AIDS awareness campaigns. This red ribbon incidentally is a symbol for several issues including the fight for HIV/AIDS. While it has now become a global symbol of sorts, the Red Ribbon Project dates back to 1991 when a group of artists came together to create a symbol to show support and compassion for those with AIDS and their caregivers. They were a part of the Visual AIDS Artists' Caucus and the credit for the concept is given to the entire group as a whole. The image is incidentally free of any copyright restrictions.

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