Educating for an AIDS-free world

Many people all over the world use the occasion of World AIDS Day (WAD), 1 December, to raise awareness about the disease and reflect on progress in the response. The theme for this WAD, and all others until 2015, is Getting to Zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. A new World AIDS Day report: Results, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows that in 25 countries, most of them in Africa, new infections have dropped by more than 50% since 2001. In the words of the UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibé, “we are moving from despair to hope” that an AIDS-free World is possible.

  Progress must strengthen our determination to create a world free of AIDS. HIV and AIDS can be conquered through renewed commitment and sustained solidarity. For this, we need to use every resource as best we can and draw on all available evidence.    

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

This success is the result of technological advances, increased access to treatment, and a reduction in stigma and discrimination. Education is central to these efforts. Education is the foundation for the success of all HIV programming. It is only through comprehensive HIV education that young people can learn about HIV risk in their context and develop the skills to understand, access, and use the HIV programmes that can protect them all their lives. UNESCO seeks to promote, develop and support comprehensive education sector responses to HIV and AIDS by building country capacity, advancing gender equality and protecting human rights. 


This December UNESCO will be conducting activities globally in observance of WAD. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia there will be an online prevention campaign that will reach two million young people. In Latin America there will be joint activities to provide tools and resources to governments for national action. There will be a march in Dakar, Senegal to raise awareness and support for UN staff living with HIV. In Cameroon, the UNESCO office is organising an HIV week that includes workshops for teachers and learners and an HIV testing campaign in all Yaoundé schools. In Beijing, a documentary on sexuality education including gender and HIV will be launched. In Thailand, UNESCO is supporting the Day of Sexual Diversity Rights; the Organization will also join the UN exhibition booth at a major World AIDS Day Event in Bangkok organized by the Thai Ministry of Public Health.

This World AIDS Day UNESCO is taking time to reflect on progress made in reducing new infections and promoting the critical role of education in all aspects of the HIV response.  


World AIDS Day, 1 December, is the opportunity to reflect on the impact of HIV and AIDS, raise awareness, demonstrate solidarity, and evaluate progress in addressing the epidemic 30 years on. The first observance of World AIDS Day took place on 1 December 1988, making it the longest-running disease awareness and prevention initiative. The concept came from from members of the Global Programme on AIDS team at the World Health Organization.

The themes have varied over the years and include: Youth, Women and AIDS, Act, I care do you?, Stigma and Discrimination, Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise, and Getting to Zero.

UNAIDS report 2012

700,000 fewer new HIV infections across the world in 2011 than in 2001

In 2011, an estimated:

  • 34 million people globally are living with HIV
  • 2.5 million people became newly infected with HIV
  • 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses

UNAIDS reports a more than 50% drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries as countries approach the 1000-day deadline to achieve global AIDS targets. These reductions have been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries––more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV.

However, there are significant gaps in even basic knowledge about HIV and its transmission. In 26 of 31 countries with generalized epidemic in which nationally representative surveys were carried out recently, less than 50% of young women have comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV. Young women especially lack knowledge about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV transmission. In 21 of 25 countries with nationally representative surveys, young men had less than 50% comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV. Full Report


  • This edition of the eNewsletter highlights a small selection of the many programmes and events being supported by UNESCO’s regional and country offices on this World AIDS Day.

    Previous editions

UNESCO Sida Project

UNESCO HIV prevention project to reach 15 million young Africans

Thirty years into the epidemic and 20 years into the global AIDS response, young people remain at the forefront of the epidemic in terms of infections, vulnerability, impact and potential for change. As highlighted in the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2012, comprehensive and correct knowledge about HIV are still not at the desired level.  

The goal of this new project generously funded by the Swedish international development cooperation agency (Sida), is to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people in Eastern and Southern Africa by strengthening the quality and content of sexuality education in schools.   Read the Full version



Previous Edition:  2011