World AIDS Days

After 21 years the red ribbon remains a potent symbol for World AIDS Day (WAD), which began as the first international health day in December 1988.

WAD gives us a chance to reflect on how to tackle the challenges and consequences of HIV/AIDS on one day. Throughout the entire year NHS Lothian works to address the challenges for those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and ultimately aims to prevent the spread of HIV.

This year, more people than ever before will be living with HIV in Scotland. Since the onset of the epidemic in the 1980’s, more than 2,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Lothian. The vast majority of new diagnoses are in two groups: men who have sex with men and heterosexuals with a connection to sub-Saharan Africa. Heterosexual contact is also a predominant mode of transmission however, most heterosexuals diagnosed are thought to have acquired their infection out with Scotland (HPS, 2008). With no cure for HIV and increasing numbers being diagnosed it is essential that we all:

  • Know the facts about HIV
  • Understand how HIV is transmitted
  • Know how to avoid transmission and protect ourselves
  • Support those affected by HIV

Respect & Protect in Lothian
NHS Lothian aims to spread the National AIDS Trust message “Respect & and Protect: Together we can stop the spread of HIV”. We encourage you to do the same.

What role can YOU play?
You can help to transform attitudes to HIV, and help to prevent its spread if you:


  • yourself and partners by always practising safe sex to protect your sexual health
  • people living with HIV by treating them fairlyv


  • yourself by knowing the facts about HIV
  • yourself by talking to all new sexual partners about using condoms

Wear a red ribbon to show your support for World AIDS Day

What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. The virus attacks the immune system which then becomes weakened and unable to get rid of everyday viruses. In the absence of a cure for HIV/AIDS there is very effective drug treatment for HIV, which controls the virus and helps people to live a normal life. These drugs have to be taken for life and can have nasty side effects. They work best and have fewer side effects if they are started while the person is well. It is very important that treatment is started before the immune system is seriously damaged, so being diagnosed with HIV sooner rather than later is best.

How is HIV passed on?

  • Unprotected sex with someone who has HIV/AIDS
  • Sharing infected needles, syringes or injecting equipment
  • From mother to baby via pregnancy, birth or breast milk if the mother is HIV positive.

How can I protect myself from HIV?

  • Always use a condom during vaginal or anal sex
  • Never share injecting equipment with other people
  • If you feel that there is a strong possibility that you have been exposed to HIV, a treatment called PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) is available from your local sexual health clinic, which can reduce the possibility of becoming infected with HIV if taken within 72 hours.

If you have any worries about HIV/ AIDS or wish to take an HIV test you can contact your GP or attend your local GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) clinic.

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Last Reviewed: 13/06/2011