The first day of December is observed the world over as World Aids Day, a special commemoration of the global effects of the HIV/Aids pandemic. Begun in 1988 as a way to fight the stigma of the disease and educate people about prevention and treatment, the ultimate objective of World Aids Day 2015 is: Getting to Zero.

1. The origin of World Aids Day

 The first World Aids Day was held on 1 December 1988, conceived by the Global Programme on Aids initiative to highlight the disease and its effects on the world. It was also held to remove the stigma from the disease and halt false rumours about how Aids was contracted. The day is also used to call for more action from governments, the medical science community, and the private sector to develop and distribute affordable treatments.

2. Getting to Zero

The themes for each World Aids Day aim to highlight not only the disease but also the global social implications of the disease, by twinning the commemoration with human and children rights activism, gender violence prevention and urging accountability by governments and business to play their part in combating the disease.
The day is an opportunity for the voices of those affected by the disease around the world to be heard.
The theme of World Aids Day this year is a continuation of its Getting to Zero objective established in 2011. Getting to Zero is a global effort on all fronts: social, scientific and governmental, to reach zero new infections, zero discrimination based on those with the disease and zero HIV/Aids-related deaths.

3. World Aids Day in South Africa

World Aids Day falls during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign, which is a particularly rigorous initiative in South Africa.
In addition, in the country, the various government and private sector HIV treatment programmes and prevention initiatives fall in line with one of the objectives of the National Development Programme's Vision 2030, namely, to offer a long and healthy life for all, no matter their HIV status, and to improve the quality of life of those afflicted and their families.

4. Nkosi Johnson

Nkosi Johnson was one of South Africa's pioneering HIV/Aids activists. The young boy contracted the virus through mother-to-child transmission, and he became a global voice in the fight against the disease, particularly for children.

Nelson Mandela called Nkosi an "icon of the struggle for life". Nkosi famously addressed the International Aids Conference in Durban in 2000, at which he urged governments to address the pandemic and develop and distribute affordable treatment to those with the disease.

He encouraged those who were HIV-positive to be more open about their status as a way to break down the stigma of the disease and called for equal treatment in the eyes of the world.
Nkosi died at the age of 12 in 2001, but not before leaving a legacy in the form of Nkosi's Haven, a charity that houses HIV-positive mothers and their children.
"Care for us and accept us: we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, and we have needs just like everyone else. Don't be afraid of us, we are all the same." – Nkosi Johnson, 2000

5. Did you know?

According to the World Health Organization, Unicef and UNAids, in 2015:

  • Around the world, 36.9 million people are HIV-positive, including 2.6 million children.
  • In 2014/15, 2 million new infections were reported.
  • In total, 34 million people have died of Aids-related illness and an estimated 1.2 million died in 2014/15.
  • Adolescent deaths have tripled over the last 15 years, with Aids being the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa and second in the world.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest population of HIV-infected people, estimated to be between 21.6- and 27.4 million people; almost 3 million are children younger than 15.
  • In 2001, only 1 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy; in 2015, 15 million are receiving treatment.
  • While only an estimated 51% people with HIV know their status, the global response to the disease has helped to avert 30 million new infections and 8 million deaths since 2000.
  • Cuba is the first country to declare the complete elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission.