On Dec. 1, 2022, people around the globe will honor World AIDS Day, which is an international effort to show support for people living with HIV and those who have died. 

Known as the “first ever global health day,” World AIDS Day was founded in 1988, just four years after the virus was first identified. Since then, more than 35 million people have lost their lives to HIV or AIDS-related illnesses, according to the event’s website.

In the 1980s, and even continuing today, stigma and discrimination remain a challenge for many people impacted by the disease. But we now know the facts about how to protect ourselves, and have learned a lot more about other deadly and harmful pandemics that are currently wreaking havoc worldwide, including COVID-19 and monkeypox.

In Delaware, the 36th annual Delaware AIDS Walk in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach held this September raised funding and awareness for the disease. Organizations such as AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium offer many services and resources for those who need them or who want to help.

There is still no cure or vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and public health officials say that minority groups such as people of color and people from the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately impacted by the virus. That elevated risk makes it important to support non-discrimination practices so that people can access the care and resources they need to stay healthy and thrive.

One way to help support World AIDS Day is by showing solidarity with those impacted by the disease, which can be done by supporting local organizations such as AIDS Delaware, wearing HIV awareness red ribbons and fundraising for the National AIDS Trust. People can also support the Project AIDS Memorial Quilts, an effort that started in a San Francisco storefront in 1987. Since then, the quilt has grown to include more than 44,000 memorial patches, each commemorating the life of someone lost. Delaware has not been immune to this international tragedy, and Delawareans are honored on AIDS Quilt patches, as well. To learn more about the history of the quilt, go to www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt-history.

Image of the AIDS Quilt from the National AIDS Memorial website.

In early 2022, data from the Delaware Division of Public Health (DHSS) showed that more than 3,500 Delawareans were living with HIV, according to an article by WHYY. According to DHSS, nearly 3,000 Delawareans died from AIDS between 1981 and 2019. Thousands of Delaware residents, and many more of their friends, families and loved ones have been affected by this epidemic. The Division hopes to look more closely at this important, but tragic, part of history.

At the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, staff are striving to capture the stories of important moments in history, particularly for marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community by capturing their stories and experiences. The most recent example of this ongoing effort is the in-progress “LGBTQ+ Community: A Research & Digital Engagement Project.” To share information that you think will be helpful to the project, contact the team by emailing carolanne.deal@delaware.gov.