World AIDs Day

World AIDS Day, celebrated on 1 December every year is an opportunity for the community to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show support for those who have been diagnosed and to remember those who have been lost to the disease[1]

World AIDS Day is not just about raising awareness of global HIV/AIDS statistics (although very important) but it’s about teaching the public the truth about the virus, how its spread, its symptoms and treatments. World AIDS Day is also a solid reminder that we still need to fight the stigmas attached to an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. World AIDs day was founded in December 1 1988. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history[2]

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.7 million people living with HIV[3]

South Africa has the biggest and most high-profile HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7.7 million people living with HIV in 2018[4] 

South Africa accounts for a third of all new HIV infections in southern Africa[5] In 2018, there were 240,000 new HIV infections and 71,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses[6]

South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme. This has been largely financed from its own domestic resources: in 2017, the country was investing more than $1.54 billion annually to run its HIV programmes.[7] The success of South Africa’s ART programme is evident in the increase in national life expectancy from 56 years in 2010 to 63 years in 2018[8]

South Africa is making good progress towards the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, particularly in regards to testing and viral suppression. In 2018, 90% of people living with HIV were aware of their status, of which 68% were on treatment. Of those diagnosed and on treatment, 87% were virally suppressed. This equates to 62% of all people living with HIV in South Africa on treatment and 54% virally suppressed[9]

HIV prevalence remains high, with 20.4% of people (one in five) living with HIV[10] However prevalence varies markedly between regions, ranging from 12.6% in Western Cape to 27% in KwaZulu-Natal[11]

Advantages and Disadvantages of having an HIV test:[12]


  • Having the test may reduce the anxiety of not knowing whether they are infected.
  • They will be in a better position to make decisions about the future (such as whether to become pregnant or not).
  • If they are infected, opportunistic infections can be treated more quickly, and unnecessary tests avoided.
  • If they are infected, they may be motivated to take up a healthier lifestyle.
  • There may be benefits that they become entitled to if they are known to be HIV positive.


  • If others learn that they are HIV positive, the clients may be stigmatized.
  • They may be rejected by their partner or family.
  • Women may lose financial support if their husband learns that they had a positive test result.
  • Travel to other countries may be limited.
  • They may be unable to obtain life insurance or a mortgage.

Ten Useful tips between avoiding and over-helping

(Miller, David)

1. When friends have AIDS or HIV, don’t avoid them. Showing support by visiting helps to instill hope and motivation to carry on and fight. The temptation may be to change the way you speak to the patient, but talk to him/her the way you always have-familiarity and consistency are important for the patient’s self-esteem.

2. Don’t be afraid to touch the patient-a squeeze of the hand or a hug is a simple way of showing that you care.

3. Telephone before you visit, in case the patient is not feeling up to having visitors that day. And don’t be put off if you are asked not to call that day-the patient may be lonely as well as ill.

4. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions when the patient does-sharing tears can be as important as sharing laughs, and demonstrates to the patient that he or she is not alone.

5. Providing ‘treats’ can be a huge morale booster-e.g. bringing a favorite meal around or preparing one together, walking or visiting favorite places, bringing books, videos, tapes, or going to a party or a show together.

6. Include the patient in holiday and festival celebrations-bring cards, pictures, flowers, etc., to

decorate the hospital room or home, organize phone calls, letters and visits from other friends, too.

7. Offer to help with any difficult correspondence or negotiations that may be troubling the patient.

8. Offer to help lovers/spouses/families as well, by giving them ‘breaks’ from the care of the patient, inviting them out, letting them talk, and so on.

9. If the patient has children, offer to take them out or to help care for them for a short while.

10. Don’t be reluctant to ask about the patient’s illness or infection-he or she may need to talk to someone (else) about it and how he or she is managing. Start by asking, ‘Do you feel like talking about it?’


[2] ibid


[4] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo‘ (accessed August 2019)

[5] UNAIDS (2017) ‘Ending AIDS: Progress towards 90-90-90 targets’ [pdf]

[6] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo‘ (accessed August 2019)

[7] UNAIDS (2019) ‘UNAIDS Data 2019’, p62-63. [pdf]

[8] World Bank ‘Data country profile: South Africa’ (accessed September 2019)

[9] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo’ (accessed September 2019)

[10] UNAIDS ‘AIDSinfo’ (accessed September 2019)

[11] HSRC (2018) ‘The Fifth South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2017’ [pdf]

[12] Holmes, Wendy. 2003. Protecting the Future. USA: Kumarian Press. Pg. 72.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *