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World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day was founded in 1988 and takes place every year on 1 December. The National AIDS Trust, a UK charity, describes the day as an “opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness”. This year the global ‘theme’ for World AIDS Day is “Equalize”.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system and their ability to “fight everyday infections and disease”. HIV does this by destroying certain white blood cells (known as ‘CD4 cells’) that tackle infection. While there is currently no cure for HIV, there are effective treatments that enable people with HIV to live a long and healthy life. If HIV is not treated, it can progress through a series of stages and lead to ‘acquired immunodeficiency syndrome’ (AIDS).

Globally, an estimated 38.4 million live with HIV, of whom two thirds live in Africa. In the UK, an estimated 105,200 people were living with HIV infection in 2019, of which 94% were diagnosed.

National HIV Policy

In January 2019, the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, set a goal to eradicate HIV transmission in England by 2030.  This is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The devolved nations also have the same goal to eliminate HIV transmission by 2030. Both England and Wales have published Action Plans, detailing the steps to be taken to reach the 2030 goal, while the Scottish Government is expected to publish an HIV elimination plan on World AIDS Day 2022. The Department of Health and Social Care in England has also adopted an interim target, as recommended by the HIV Commission, of an 80% reduction in new infections, and reductions in AIDS diagnoses and HIV-related deaths by 2025.

International policy

The UK takes steps, through its international development work, to address HIV and AIDS globally. One of the key routes through which the UK Government has supported work to end HIV and AIDS has been through the ‘Global Fund’. The UK was a founding member of the Fund in 2002 and, most recently, in November 2022, it pledged £1 billion for 2023-25. Further information on the Global Fund, including its effectiveness and UK aid commitments to the Fund, can be found in the Commons Library briefing on UK aid and the Global Fund to fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria (November 2022).

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