‘Know Your Status’: World AIDS Day 30 Years On

Film Editor | Graciela Mae Chico

Forty years after the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, an estimated 36.9 million people worldwide are still living with HIV. Despite AIDS-related deaths reducing to more than 51% – since its peak in 2001 – it is estimated that the illness still caused almost a million deaths in 2017. (UNAIDS.org)

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For more info: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2018/unaids-data-2018

This year the fight to defeat  HIV and AIDS lives on through the theme ‘Know Your Status’. 1st December has been marked as World Aids Day since 1988, the day aims to, not only raise awareness of the illness, but also to mourn those who have died of the disease.

The recently released film Bohemian Rhapsody – a biopic on late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury – has faced backlash due to inaccuracies of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis. In ‘’Bohemian Rhapsody’ Is an Insult to Freddie Mercury’, Kevin Fallon argues that the film ‘reduced’ its gay characters ‘to stereotypes’ as well as being “a cruel and manipulative version of tragedy porn that is inaccurate and perpetuates the trope of AIDS as punishment for gay promiscuity.

This is a problem undeniably present throughout the years of campaigning for the awareness of the disease; the stigma surrounding it is still evident despite the growing public understanding. NAM highlights that the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS ‘can often be the worst part of living with the disease’.

It is this stigma that can be the source of many living their lives unaware of their diagnosis. Eradicating this will be essential in attaining UNAIDS’ ambitious ‘90-90-90’ target. The programme proposes that by 2020, 90% of all living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression (UNAIDS).

Photograph: hart-hiv.org.uk


Provided by UNAIDS with the latest data available:

In 2017…

– 36.9 million [31.1 million–43.9 million] people globally were living with HIV in 2017

  • 21.7 million [19.1 million–22.6 million] million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2017.
  • – 1.8 million [1.4 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
  • – 77.3 million [59.9 million–100 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.
  • 35.4 million [25.0 million–49.9 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
  • -940 000 [670 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2017.
  • – 77.3 million [59.9 million–100 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.
  • 35.4 million [25.0 million–49.9 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.

Activists who have had a vast impact on the history of AIDS activism include pop culture icon, Sir Elton John and former NBA star, Magic Johnson – the retired basketball player went public with his diagnosis in 1991; he is often credited for bringing mainstream attention to the AIDS crisis in the 1990s.

Pia Wurtzbach on the cover of Team magazine, championing AIDS awareness through the red ribbon associated with the advocacy.

More recently, 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurztbach used her platform to highlight the Philippines’ growing HIV infection rate – the country having the highest infection rate in the Asia-Pacific region. During one of the pageant’s question and answer portion, Wurtzbach declared, “If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness that is timely and relevant to my country which is the Philippines”.


Just this week, in time with the 30th World Aids Day, Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle shared his HIV positive diagnosis – urging ministers to review the cuts to the sexual health budget during his speech.

While World AIDS day is once a year, it is important that we understand and educate ourselves about it; helping and supporting those who have tested positive with  HIV/AIDS all year round. To learn more about HIV & AIDS, check out the educational links below, as well as links to charities that aim to further the education and awareness of the disease, as well as supporting those who live with HIV & AIDS every day.

This year’s campaign powered by the National AIDS Trust is ‘Rock The Ribbon’, and it is super easy to show your support:


‘We Were Here’

Check out this trailer for David Weissman’s Award Winning documentary, ‘We Were Here’ that revisits San Francisco’s 80’s AIDS epidemic, exploring “what actually happened, what we actually went through as a community.” (D. Weissman, Director)

More information:

UN AIDS: http://www.unaids.org/en

NHS HIV & AIDS information (including how to get tested) : https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/diagnosis/


National Aids Trust: www.nat.org.uk

Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project: http://charlizeafricaoutreach.org/

Elton John AIDS Foundation: https://london.ejaf.org/







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