It’s ‘in’ to be aware and today, FAB brings to your attention World AIDS Day – a day the whole world acknowledges the disease affecting 34 million people around the world.

A Breif History…

World AIDS Day first began on 1st December 1988 as the first global health day, ever. Each year since, 1st December has been the day of opportunity for the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with the virus and to commemorate people who have died.

The Red Ribbon…

On World AIDS Day, people everywhere join the fight towards an AIDS-free world by holding fundraisers to raise money for charities working to help treat and cure the disease, and by wearing the symbol of support – a red, looped ribbon. The ribbon itself was thought-up in 1991 – a decade after the disease emerged – by 12 artists working on a project for New York arts organisation Visual Aids, an organisation striving to raise awareness of HIV. The artists – photographers, film makers, painters and designers – gathered in a shared gallery space in New York’s East Village to create a visual expression of compassion for people living with, and affected by, HIV – the virus that often leads to AIDS. 

Inspired by the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, they came up with the ribbon idea, beleiving it would fulfilm their initial aim and get people talking about HIV when at the time, people were suffering in  silence due to the virus being highly stigmatised.

Pink and the rainbow colours were rejected due to their close association with the gay community, and the aim was to show HIV’s presence beyond the gay community and how relevant the virus was to people everywhere. Red was finally chosen, not only because it’s bold and visible, but also to symbolise passion, a heart and love. The looped ribbon shape was used as it’s easy to make and replicate; the artists wanted to create something everyone could make by simply cutting out a piece of ribbon, looping it around your finger and pinning it on.

Quickly after its creation, the red ribbon became a globally recognised symbol of support against HIV and AIDS. World-famous actors began wearing the red ribbon to high-profile events like the Oscars, talking about what it meant and why it was important, and the media picked up and further spread the message.

Patrick O'Connell, one of the artists who designed the red ribbon (photo credit: Sheila Anne Feeney)

(Click here to read an interview with Patrick O’Connell, one of the artists who helped create the ribbon)

This Year’s World AIDS Day Theme…

‘Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS Related Deaths.

The HIV Virus…

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system – the body’s defence against diseases, and can lead to disease, AIDS.

HIV is also a retrovirus, which means it is a special type of virus able to reproduce inside the cell and release copies of itself into the blood. It can be challenging to treat as the virus can rapidly mutate (alter) into new strains of virus.

HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids (in particular blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk) and is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sex or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.

There is no cure for HIV but people on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment.  If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective in preventing AIDS.



Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a term used to describe the late stage of HIV. The term is less and less used now that doctors and health scientists are more aware of the HIV virus’ behaviour, instead preferring to use the term ‘advanced or late-stage HIV infection’. 

Previously, AIDS described the late stage of HIV, when sufferers’ immune systems becomes so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope, such as pneumonia.

International Stats…

Although the number (and proportion) of people living with HIV varies from region to region and country to country, here are some statistics about aids in the world today, as collated from last year’s information by UNAIDS (Detailed figures are available from UNAIDS here). NOTE: The below information represents 2010’s statistics, as published on National Aids Trust’s website. 

People living with HIV

  • 34 million people worldwide
  • 50% – 17 million – of people living with HIV worldwide are women

New HIV diagnoses

  • 2.7 million total new HIV diagnoses worldwide
  • 390,000 new infections among children worldwide

AIDS-related deaths

  •       1.8 million AIDS-related deaths in 2010


HIV by Region in 2010

Sub-Saharan Africa


  • 22.9 million adults and children living with HIV
  • 1.9 million new HIV infections among adults and children
  • 5% adult prevalence
  • 1.2 AIDS-related deaths
  • An estimated 68% of all people living with HIV resided in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with only 12% of the global population.
  • South Africa has more people living with HIV (an estimated 5.6 million) than any other country in the world. 
  • Since 1997, the total number of new HIV infections in the region has declined by more than 26%, from 2.6 million to 1.9 million.
  • Still accounts for 70% of all new HIV infections globally.  
  • Nearly half of all global AIDS-related deaths in 2010 occurred in southern Africa.
  • 20% increase in antiretroviral therapy coverage between 2009 and 2010.

South and South-East Asia

    • 4 million adults and children living with HIV
    • 270,000 new infections among adults and children
    • 0.3% adult prevalence
    • 250,000 AIDS-related deaths
    • 40% decline in new HIV infections between 1996 and 2010


East Asia

  • 790,000 adults and children living with HIV
  • 88,000 new infections among adults and children
  • Estimated 0.1% prevalence  
  • 56,000 AIDS-related deaths


  • 54,000 people living with HIV
  • 3,300 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.3% adult prevalence
  • 1,600 AIDS-related deaths
  • 34% increase in people living with HIV in 2010 compared to 2001

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

  • 1.5 million people living with HIV
  • 160,000 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.9% adult prevalence
  • 90,000 AIDS-related deaths
  • 250% increase in the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia between 2001 and 2010.
  • Russia and the Ukraine account for nearly 90% of the regional epidemic.
  • Injecting drug use remains the leading cause of HIV infection in this region.

Western and Central Europe

  • 840,000 adults and children living with HIV
  • 30,000 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.2% adult prevalence
  • 9,900 AIDS-related deaths

North America

  • 1.3 million and children living with HIV
  • 58,000 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.6% adult prevalence
  • 20,000 AIDS-related deaths

Latin America

  • 1.5 million adults and children living with HIV
  • 100,000 new HIV infections among adults and children
  • 0.4% adult prevalence
  • 67,000 AIDS-related deaths
  • 36% of adults living with HIV are women.


  • 200,000 adults and children living with HIV
  • 12,000 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.9% adult prevalence
  • 9,000 AIDS-related deaths
  • Second highest HIV prevalence after sub-Saharan Africa.
  • However, 25% decline in new infections in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica since 2001; 12% decline in Haiti.
  • Unprotected sex remains primary mode of transmission.

Middle East and North Africa

  • 470,000 people living with HIV in 2010
  • 59,000 new infections among adults and children
  • 0.2% prevalence
  • 35,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2010
  • Prevalence in Djibouti and South Sudan is becoming generalized (exceeds 1%)


Preventing HIV…

It is highly reccomended that people always use a condom when having any form of sex, and to avoid ever sharing needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.

Supporting HIV and World AIDS Day…

People all over the world will be supporting World AIDS Day with fundraisers and events to raise awareness. Here are just some of the FAB initiatives for the cause and those stand behind them:


H&M, in collaboration with Designers Against Aids, launch a Fashion Against AIDS collection each year to help raise awareness of HIV and AIDS within the global youth community. This year’s collection sees celebrities such as Selma Blair, Penn Badgley, Keri Hilson, Sky Ferreira, Akon, Nikki Reed, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scissor Sisters, Shiloh Fernandez and The Misshapes among hose involved, which for 2011 is a unisex range available in H&M’s Divided department and online. 25% of sales are donated to Designers Against AIDS (DAA) and various other international HIV/AIDS prevention projects, with the brand’s campaigns so far raising more than 41 million Swedish krona.

Sports giant brand Nike has launched a Nike (RED) x World AIDS Day collection featuring limited edition Cheyenne backpacks, peacoat-style Destroyer jackets and a Nike (RED) Zoom Meriwether shoe – all of which will be available for purchase at select stores only from today and online at


MAC, the boldest brand in cosmetics, is supporting World AIDS Day and raising awareness of the disease and HIV virus with its MAC AIDS Fund (MAF) – an initiative with a mission to serve all ages, races and sexes affected by HIV and AiDS. With all proceeds of MAC’s special Viva Glam Lipstick and Lipglass, purchasing customers are giving a whole lot to sufferers and victims of HIV and AIDS – click here to see exactly how much is given in exchange for the $14.50 each product costs.

Viva Glam lipstick by MAC, $14.50 in support against AIDS

A|X Armani Exchange has partnered with nonprofit organisation dance4life, which helps to educate young people about HIV through dance. Together with model Doutzen Kroes, A|X and dance4life have created an exclusive T-shirt in aid of World AIDS Day – the shirt featuring Doutzen and the words “Dance-Dance-Dance”, and being sold for $35 in all A|X stores and online at (, with proceeds going to support dance4life education initiatives and related programs.


Highstreet retailer Gap (US) has launched a special edition men’s tee called Anchored in Hope, in a modern and versatile charcoal grey, which retails for $24.95 andcan be found online here. Half of the profits from sale of the tee will be donated to The Global Fund – a charity with a mission to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Maleria.


American fashion brand Fidelity Denim has launched a special edition of its signature Ace Skinny jean in a bold ribon red, reflecting the colour of the awareness day. The jeans retial at $205 and can be purchased on the Fidelity Denim website, with 100% of profits being donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation – an organisation dedicated to identifying, funding and conducting basic pediatric HIV and AIDS research.


Here are a just a few celebrities who’ve stepped out or spoken up in support of AIDS awareness:

Keri Hilson and Akon for H&M's 2011 Fashion Against Aids collection, in collaboration with Designers Against Aids


Rihanna modelling for H&M's Fashion Against Aids range for Designers Against Fashion


Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani and Naomi Campbell at amfAR's 2011 fundraiser event


Lady Gaga at last year's amfAR event









Established in 2007 by Tanzanian designer Khadija Mwanamboka, Tanzania Mitindo House (TMH) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which strives to use the fashion industry to reach out to people through charity work. With two campaigns  – Tanzanian Designs for Life and Corporate Cares – TMH gives vulnarable Tanzanian children, orphans infected by HIV and AIDS in particular, better and healthier lives. The organisation’s goal is to improve these childrens’ quality of life by ensuring access to education, affordable housing, nutrition and medical care.

Supported by Vodacom, Premiem Redds Fruit Infusions, I-View Media and Clouds Entertainment, TMH will host its annual Red Ribbon Fashion Gala in commemoration of HIV and AIDS, today on World Aids Day.

Last year's TMH Red Ribbon Gala

Designers Against Aids (DAA) is an international project launched in 2004 by non-profit organisation Beauty Without Irony. The sole aim of the project, founded by Ninette Murk (click here to read an interview with her), is to raise AIDS awareness within the international media and general public, but more specifically within the globe’s youth in the industrialised countries by using elements from pop culture.

The DAA’s messages are: ‘Prevention is the only cure for HIV/AIDS‘ (protect yourself and your partner) and ‘Know your status’ (get tested), which it spreads through celebrities like Akon – who is a ‘friend’ of the project – and brands like MAC and H&M, with whom since 2008 DAA have had an ongoing collaboration with. Highend fashion designers like Marc Jacobs are also affiliated with DAA, with Jacobs creating and showcasing his Marc Jacobs X Playboy tees at this year’s february fashion week in New York, which were sold to 100% benefit Designers Against AIDS. South African designer Clive Rundle has this year collaborated with DAA to create an entire collection from the same roll of fabric in one week, using just one pattern.


Belgian Singer Sandrine modelling Clive Rundle's 2011 collection for DAA


Founded in 1985, amfAR is a charity dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research, playing a key role in accelerating the pace of HIV/AIDS research. amfAR-funded research has increased understanding of HIV and paved the way for major advances in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and since its launch, amfAR has invested more than $340 million in its mission and awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

 So, with the above information and FAB organisations, initiatives and products available throughout the year in support against the epidemic, you’ve no excuse not to be aware of HIV and AIDS, and its relevance to you, the unaffacted population and the estimated 34 million sufering worldwide. Now go wear red and spread the word today, on World AIDS Day 2011.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.