About World AIDS Day


World AIDS Day is one of the most important dates in Waverley Care’s calendar. It is an opportunity to bring HIV back into the people’s consciousness and remind everyone that we cannot move forward without remembering the journey we have come from.

The Origins of World AIDS Day

The first World AIDS Day took place in 1988 as a day dedicated to raising international awareness of HIV, to advocating for better treatment and support for those impacted by HIV and AIDS, and as a day of remembrance for all those who had passed away from AIDS-related illnesses. Since the epidemic’s start, about 85.6 million people have been diagnosed with HIV, and 40.4 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

Conceived and established by James Bunn and Thomas Netter of the World Health Organisation, the day provides an opportunity to challenge misconceptions and stigma around HIV, and emphasises the need for global government action to fund medical research into treatment.

World AIDS Day was established in the context of widespread stigma, misinformation, illness, death, and global panic. In a time when being LGBTQ+ was still deeply stigmatised, the AIDS epidemic added an additional layer of shame and stigma to many who were thrust out of “the closet” because they were dying.

Since 1988, with support from the 1996 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), World AIDS Day has gained global significance. Each year’s theme focuses on aspects like treatment access, human rights and global solidarity. World AIDS Day continues to emphasise the need for action against HIV transmission and for universal treatment access.


Red Ribbon

The red ribbon, recognised globally as the symbol for World AIDS Day, shows support for those living with or at risk of HIV. Originating in 1991 in New York by twelve artists, it was first distributed at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Memorial Concert. The choice of red, distinct from colors associated with the LGBT community, signifies that “HIV is relevant to everyone” and represents “passion, the heart, and love”. Waverley Care introduced the Tartan Ribbon in 1995, adding a Scottish dimension to AIDS awareness. This unique version, celebrated in the Sunday Mercury, emphasises Scotland’s commitment to the cause. Click here to read more about the history of Tartan Ribbon.


Overall impact

World AIDS Day is a complex and nuanced day. While it is primarily a day of remembrance, grief and mourning at the loss experienced at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it can also be characterised as a day of celebration and achievement as we reflect on how far forward this story has come.

Over the years, World AIDS Day has played a crucial role in generating political will, mobilising communities, and resources, alongside raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. It has also been instrumental in promoting access to treatment, prevention efforts, and addressing discrimination associated with this. While major milestones have been reached in the fight against HIV, challenges remain, and World AIDS Day continues to be an important platform for advocacy and action.

This day represents an internationally recognised opportunity to continue to challenge stigma, stay informed and educated about the changing face of HIV, and to support those living with this worldwide. Our goal of reaching zero new HIV transmissions by 2030 will only be possible if we keep the conversation about HIV alive.



World AIDS Day 2017: Inside Story of How the Day Came to Be | Time

Global HIV & AIDS statistics — Fact sheet | UNAIDS

The red ribbon – World AIDS Day

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