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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

FLASHBACK: World Health Organization Organizes The First World AIDS Day (December 1, 1988)

December 1, 1988: Today in LGBTQ+ history…

World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV or AIDS, and remember those who have died from an HIV-related illness. 

A primary goal of World AIDS Day activities is the distribution of information. Each country creates and organizes its own agenda for the event, and some countries launch week-long campaigns, including ceremonies and activities. 

The first World AIDS Day – which was also the first-ever global health day – was held on December 1, 1988. It was organized by the World Health Organization in an effort to raise awareness of the spreading pandemic. At the time, an estimated 90,000 to 150,000 people were infected with HIV. Within two decades, more than 33 million people were living with HIV infection, and since 1981, when the first AIDS case was reported, some 25 million people have died of the disease.

WHO organized World AIDS Day, developing the annual themes and activities, until 1996, when these responsibilities were assumed by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. In 1997, UNAIDS created the World AIDS Campaign (WAC) to increase AIDS awareness and to integrate AIDS information on a global level. In 2005, WAC became an independent body, functioning as a global AIDS advocacy movement, based in Cape Town, South Africa, and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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