World Aids Day marks its 30th anniversary on 1 December.
The date has been observed by UN member states every year since 1988, a show of support for those currently living with HIV and a chance to remember those killed by Aids-related illnesses.
The recent release of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody coincided with the 27th anniversary of the death of the band’s much-missed frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991, a timely reminder of the devastating impact of the disease.
The virus was only identified in 1984, when it sparked a huge international scare and was wrongly assumed to only affect members of the LGBT+ community, but has already killed 35m people and infected 78m around the globe.
While significant scientific advances have been made over the last 34 years, sufferers continue to face stigma and discrimination as a result of ignorance about the nature of the condition.
In the UK, approximately 101,000 people currently suffer from HIV out of an estimated 36.9m worldwide, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed in Britain annually.
World Aids Day was first conceived of in August 1987 by World Health Organisation (WHO) publicists James W Bunn and Thomas Netter, but has been run by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) since 1996.
The Pope, the president of the United States and other world leaders all use the occasion to reaffirm their commitment to eradicating the disease, a goal the UN hopes to achieve by 2030.
The White House has proudly displayed a 28-foot red ribbon from its North Portico since 2007, stressing the Oval Office’s commitment to combating Aids in the wake of George W Bush introducing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), providing support for those afflicted around the world.
Events taking place around the world last year included president Emmanuel Macron of France taking an HIV test at the Delafontaine Hospital in Saint-Denis, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Nottingham’s Terrence Higgins Trust while Mariah Carey headlined a concert in Los Angeles. Famous monuments were lit up with red lights in cities from Mexico City to Shanghai.
Every year UNAIDS, the WHO and a collection of grassroots NGOs agree on the theme for the day, drawing attention to different aspects of the condition.
In 2018, that theme is “Know Your Status”, encouraging people to undergo medical testing to ascertain whether or not they have the virus and to ensure anyone with a positive diagnosis is put in touch with the quality care and prevention services they need.
Those wishing to show support for the cause in the UK on World Aids Day can make a donation to the National Aids Trust online or by buying a lapel ribbon online or in MAC Cosmetics stores and select branches of Morrisons and HSBC.