World AIDS Day 2021


World AIDS Day is marked globally on 1 December. 

This is a day to raise awareness about HIV in our community as well as across the world. It is a day when we are mindful of our community members living with HIV, of demonstrating our support for them and commemorating those with HIV who have passed away. 

Wearing a red ribbon on World AIDS Day is one way to show that you remember, and can help to raise awareness and reduce discrimination by demonstrating solidarity with people with HIV.

In 2021 the Australian national theme for World AIDS Day is 40 years of HIV – where to next? 

For the bleeding disorders community this is deeply significant.

This year we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last 40 years and consider the future.

HIV in the bleeding disorders community
In 1981 AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), a new health condition, was first reported in Australian newspapers and the first case of AIDS was formally diagnosed in 1982. In the mid-1980s the bleeding disorders community in Australia and internationally was devastated when many people with bleeding disorders were diagnosed with AIDS after acquiring HIV through their plasma-derived clotting factor treatment products.
Jenny Ross, former HFA Executive Director, recalled the moment when one of the Haemophilia Treatment Centre Directors rang her with the news. She had thought they were going to discuss the success of their recent conference but was stunned by what he had to tell her.

He said, I've got some dreadful news. And he told me then that the stored blood samples that people had given over the years had been taken to America by Ian Gust from Fairfield and had been tested and a third of them had the antibody to the virus HIV.

So, as you can imagine, that was pretty shattering. I went outside in the garden and stood under my magnolia tree and there was some particular piece of music playing. What was going to happen, how many people were going to be affected?

What would the future be? Would they progress to AIDS? And of course, personally, you wonder if it's going to be you as well. It's really hard to describe it. It was just overwhelming.

HFA’s Getting Older report documented the ongoing impact of this epidemic on our community: the trauma and health challenges for those who were diagnosed with HIV and now live with the consequences, and the grief and sadness experienced by those who lost loved ones and friends to HIV. Not to be overlooked is the emotional impact on the health professionals at the Haemophilia Treatment Centres too, who had cared for their patients with HIV over their lifetime and knew them so well. 
A moment to pay tribute
This time remains very painful for many people, families and carers in our community. At our recent conference we paid tribute to those who have passed away and we invite you to watch Andrea McColl from Haemophilia Foundation Victoria reading the poem 4 Candles in remembrance.

How can we support our community members with HIV and those who have loved them and cared for them? They have told us that acknowledging and hearing their experiences is immensely important. Our Foundations are also committed to making sure their community events provide a supportive environment. 
Where to next?
In Australia HIV infection is now usually well-managed with treatment, but while some people with bleeding disorders and HIV are going well, others have more complex needs. HFA has outlined ways of addressing this in our Getting Older report recommendations. For those of you who wish to read and understand more, we encourage you to read the sections on bloodborne viruses in our Getting Older report.

We recognise the very positive contributions people with bleeding disorders and HIV continue to make to our community, in spite of all their experiences: the inspiring optimism and generosity of individuals with HIV, providing empathy, leadership and a way forward into the future.

Community member Anth McCarthy, who has haemophilia and HIV, offered his reflections:
Greetings on this 40th annual World AIDS Day. This is a poignant milestone, evoking mixed feelings for members of the bleeding disorders community. To those for whom the day still stings with pain for loved ones lost, we stand quietly and respectfully beside you. For those of us feeling very fortunate to be here still, overcoming challenges, thriving with children and grandchildren, travelling, getting older, we defiantly thumb our noses at HIV with you. 

For me, World AIDS Day has become a day of solemn remembering, joyous gratitude and proud celebration. 

HIV transmissions are thankfully on the decline in Australia, but there is still a lot of work to do. If HIV, and now COVID, have been unable to focus our attention on existing social inequities, then nothing will. Intersectional communities of poor people, people of colour, women and girls, continue to carry the greatest burden of HIV globally. World AIDS Day is and should be for all of us because HIV is everyone's responsibility, and affects everyone. 

More Information

For more information on World AIDS Day, visit the website:
Date last reviewed: 30 November 2021