A red ribbon is hung from the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 30, 2012, to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Much progress has been made, but the need for ways to educate people about HIV / AIDS is still very real, as is the need for ongoing research. World AIDS Day 2012 is themed “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation.”

At WorldAIDSDay.org:

World AIDS Day is … an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.

The disease is still a “pandemic,” in spite of many advances in understanding, prevention and treatment.

From the United Nations:

A new World AIDS Day report: Results, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people. …

The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children. …

The report shows that antiretroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the number of people accessing treatment has increased by 63% globally. …

The report shows that countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate. …

The numbers, though, are still staggering. From the same report:

In 2011, an estimated:

34 million … people globally were living with HIV
2.5 million … people became newly infected with HIV
1.7 million … people died from AIDS-related illnesses

More, from the U.S. Center for Disease Control:

More than two-thirds of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are in developing countries, and nearly three-fourths of the 2.5 million new HIV infections in 2011 occurred in these countries. …

Looking domestically, the CDC notes this ongoing reality:

In the United States, stigma, fear, and discrimination remain barriers to accessing testing and treatment.

Still. Sigma, fear and discrimination are still factors in the spread and treatment of HIV / AIDS. For all the progress made since the first World AIDS Day in 1988, in 2012, those dynamics remain. It’s great, that the Red Ribbon appears at federal buildings, and that so many more people, including in positions of power and influence, speak out in ways that do help reduce those factors. But lots of work remains.

And so the need for the Day continues. From the World Health Organization:

The day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in high prevalence countries and around the world.

Between 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of “˜Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths’. The World AIDS Campaign focus on “˜Zero AIDS related deaths” signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now.

The Red Ribbon can be worn today, as a small way to join in the needed recognition of the continuing presence of HIV / AIDS. It can also be worn on other days. Reminders are good.

(World AIDS Day Red Ribbon via Ask.com
World AIDS Day Red Ribbon at White House via AIDS.gov)