World AIDS Day – 1st of December 2015

by isvolunteers on Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Each year on December 1, we recognize World AIDS Day – and this year ISV’s South Africa Project Manager, Jaclyn Stephenson, discusses the importance of this commemorative event and the myths versus facts of the virus. 

World AIDS Day was created in 1988 to bring awareness to the global effects of the pandemic, to highlight its seriousness, to unite in the fight against AIDS globally, and to commemorate all the lives that have been lost to the disease. This recognition has helped to remove stigmas and myths that are attached to the virus, and put to rest false information often surrounding the causes and symptoms of AIDS.


The theme of World AIDS Day is ‘Getting To Zero’ – the goal of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero new deaths.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is a continuation of the Getting to Zero objective established in 2011. Getting to Zero is a global effort on all fronts: social, scientific and governmental, to reach zero new infections, zero discrimination based on those with the disease, and zero HIV/AIDS-related deaths by the year 2030. Through education, medication and support structures in place globally and locally, rates of infection have decreased dramatically in the past 15 years.

This year’s day of awareness falls during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign in South Africa, one of the worst infected and affected countries in the world. It is important as travelers and global citizens to be aware of the facts, the risks, and some of the misinformation prevalent in the countries that you are visiting, and to educate yourselves about a global pandemic such as HIV/AIDS.


Myth: I can get HIV by being around people who are HIV positive.

  • The evidence shows that HIV is not spread pic_1through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva.
  • You cannot contract HIV from a toilet seat, doorknob, drinking from the same cup, hugging or kissing someone that is infected with HIV.

IMPORTANT: HIV/AIDS is contracted from infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid or mother’s milk.

Myth: I can get HIV from mosquitoes

  • Because HIV is spread through blood, people have worried that biting or bloodsucking insects might spread HIV. Several studies, however, show no evidence to support this — even in areas with lots of mosquitoes and cases of HIV. When insects bite, they do not inject the blood of the person or animal they have last bitten.
  • Also, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect.

The Red Ribbon has became one of the most recognised symbols of the decade, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV.

Myth: I took a test and I am HIV negative – I’m in the clear!

  • People with HIV do not get diagnosed right away. There is a 3 month window period where if a test is taken, will reflect negative, even though they are positive.
  • 1 in 8 people around the world who have HIV don’t realize it and despite all the advances in HIV treatments—antiretroviral drugs, condoms, behavioral therapy—if people don’t know they have the virus, they can transmit it to others.

Myth: HIV/AIDS spreads mostly because of poor moral choices.

  • Women are often infected by their husbands. Children most often contract HIV by being born to HIV positive mothers. It isn’t helpful or meaningful to determine who is at fault or who is an innocent victim.

Myth: HIV is a homosexual disease.

  • Although the disease was first recognized in the United States among gay men, it is also significantly spread among IV drug users. Internationally, it is more often a disease of heterosexuals and is primarily spread by heterosexual sex.

Being aware and educating ourselves is the most important step in protecting our health and well being, and spreading a powerful, positive message to others. Rather than being fearful and unaware, we stand together for global health, social justice and supporting communities that have been crippled by this pandemic.

For more information, check out the links below:

To learn more about ISV, our responsible travel principles and volunteer projects please visit our website at


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