World AIDS Day is designated as December 1 every year and 2021 marks more than 30 years of this worldwide observance. The day is chosen as a time to spotlight the impact of HIV/AIDS, support those who are living with HIV/AIDS, honor the lives that have been affected by the disease, and to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses.

Nurses have seen remarkable changes in the way many cases of HIV/AIDS are diagnosed, treated, and managed from the days in 1988 when World AIDS Day began. And the advances in treatment mean that today, many people are living with HIV. But there are still people contracting HIV/AIDS across the globe, and the inequities in access to healthcare and prevention tools make HIV/AIDS especially difficult to eradicate.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.” The theme highlights how the crisis of the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 crisis share similarities. In both cases, inequity has had a significant impact on health outcomes for different communities worldwide.

In a statement about World AIDS Day, the United Nations relayed the urgency of eliminating disparities by saying, “Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end AIDS by 2030.”  As treatments become more targeted and more effective, living with HIV is now possible in a way that wasn’t in reach when this day began. There is more hope and that’s something that continues to drive people advocate for those living with HIV.

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Even after December 1 has passed, you can show your support by wearing the iconic red ribbon as a symbol that you recognize and are an ally to those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. You can continue to advocate for more research, wide patient protections, and take steps to reduce the stigma around this disease.

As a nurse, you can work with patients to make sure they are aware of HIV prevention, of the treatments and testing that is available today, of mental health supports, and of the legal protections that people living with HIV/AIDS have. You are also in a good position to advocate for patients who want more information and for families and loved ones who want to support those living with HIV/AIDS.

As science continues to make strides in helping people prevent transmission, in treating people, and in reducing the stigma around HIV/AIDS, more will be able to manage living with the disease for decades. Those people become ambassadors for achieving a healthy life and having hope despite a frightening diagnosis.


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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