World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Communities Make the Difference."

Ottawa (29 Nov. 2019) — World AIDS Day—Every year, December 1 is a day dedicated to commemorate those who have died, and to raise awareness about AIDS and the global spread of the HIV. This is a time for reflection on what we have achieved with regard to the national and global response to HIV, and what we still must achieve.

The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988 after health ministers from around the world met in London, England and agreed to such a day as a way of highlighting the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and the nations’ responsibility to ensure universal treatment, care, and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

In Canada: Aboriginal Aids Awareness Week

In Canada, there will be events organized in every province, and December 1 is also the start of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week.The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) announced that Indigenous leadership and their supporters will celebrate the 21st Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week December 1–6. It will launch in Ottawa with a Parliamentary Tea followed by events across the country (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Happy Valley-Goose Bayand more) "to unite an Indigenous response to HIV and AIDS mirroring the World AIDS Day theme, Communities Make the Difference’."  This series of nationwide events connect Indigenous organizations and leadership, government partners, community health workers, and grass roots activists to raise awareness on the critical role of community to inform culturally safe approaches to holistic HIV testing, care and treatment. It will also address the barriers that stop communities from delivering essential services.

Insufficient progress

Despite the progress we have made, there's still much more work to be done. According to UNAIDS, the United Nations agency responsible for the global HIV/AIDS response, "The pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to treatment and ending AIDS-related deaths is slowing down." The agency reports that "despite the availability of a widening array of effective HIV prevention tools and methods—and a massive scale-up of antiretroviral therapy in recent years—there has been insufficient progress in reducing global new HIV infections, which have fallen by only 16% since 2010."

Sex trade workers most vulnerable

Furthermore, according to UNAIDS, the most vulnerable group is those in the sex trade. The United Nations General Assembly’s 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS calls on countries to ensure that 90% of those at risk of HIV infection are reached by comprehensive prevention services by 2020. "However," the agency explains, "sex workers―and other key populations―often haven’t been accessing the prevention services they need. Country data reported to UNAIDS within the last 3 years show a widely varying coverage of combination HIV prevention services." They add, "With female sex workers having a 21 times higher relative risk of HIV acquisition compared to the general population, access to suitable HIV prevention options is vital."

Over 63,000 Canadians, and 37.9 million people worldwide are still living with HIV

According to UNAIDS statistics in 2018, 1.7 million  people became newly infected with HIV, 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses, and 37.9 million people globally were living with HIV. The commemoration of World AIDS Day "is an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels."

In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated that at the end of 2016 there were 63,110 Canadians with HIV. An estimated 86% of the people in Canada with HIV were diagnosed and aware they had HIV. This means that an estimated 14% of people with HIV were undiagnosed at the end of 2016.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE