World AIDS Day 2023

Today is World AIDS, an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic and commemorating those who have died of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designates World AIDS Day as one of its eleven official global public health campaigns, marking it on 1 December every year since 1988. In the UK, the occasion provided an opportunity to redouble efforts as the initial public shock of the AIDS epidemic waned. The first World AIDS Day in the UK in 1988 saw the official opening of the National AIDS Helpline. Additionally, the National AIDS Trust and King’s Fund Conference took place, and the Health Education Authority issued a charter emphasizing the importance of information and education about HIV infections.

The LSHTM Archives have a number of collections that focus on HIV/AIDS, whether it’s documenting the disease or the work of those involved in the research of the disease.

To mark the day, we are profiling some of the material in the Archive which relates to the promotion of World AIDS Day.


Our Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health collection features over 700 posters, designed to raise awareness of AIDS. The posters were brought together from a wide range of European countries and were intended to prevent the spread of the disease by informing the public of how AIDS can be transmitted.

The European Commission (EC) collected the majority of the posters as part of the ‘Concerted Action on Assessment of AIDS/HIV Prevention Strategies’ project from 1989 to 1991. The project’s purpose was to compare and contrast the various AIDS public health campaigns in European countries. It was during the late eighties and early nineties that AIDS was a major concern to European countries. The number of cases rapidly increased and there was a high degree of anxiety and fear in the general population over this fatal disease. The posters show how public health campaigners and voluntary organisations tried to inform and change behavior within the general community.

The collection also includes a selection of posters designed specifically to promote World AIDS Day’s between year and year.

Red and purple images of abstract figures. 
Caption: AIDS is challenge for all of us let's face it together.
Polish poster designed by the Ministry of Health for World AIDS Day 1992.


The LSHTM Archive also holds UK World AIDS Day newsletters from 1991-1993. The newsletters were edited and produced by the National AIDS Trust and funded by the Health Education Authority. Their focus was on the promotion of HIV/AIDS awareness events around the UK.

UK World AIDS Day October 1992 newsletter. Black text on blue background. Includes information on the WAD92 logo and message from HRH The Princess of Wales, Patron of the National AIDS Trust.
October 1992 issue of UK World AIDS Day Newsletter

A key aim of World AIDS Day is to stimulate discussion and action among people not regularly confronted by AIDS. The newsletters present various ideas for engaging with different groups, such as churches, schools, universities and local communities.

For each World AIDS Day the World Health Organization adopts a specific theme. The theme for 1991 was ‘Sharing the Challenge’. Andrew Dineley of the Liverpool Health Promotion Unit designed a jigsaw logo for the UK’s campaign. It symbolises the pulling-together of disparate agencies and resources to tackled AIDS.

Red Ribbon

The Red Ribbon is synonymous with raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, and those living with the disease.
The New York-based Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus designed the ribbon in 1991 as a symbol to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. The design was not trademarked and was not intended to be a commercial design. This lack of trademarking allowed anyone who wanted to bring recognition to the disease and its impact on lives to use the design freely.

Image of red ribbon on white background.  
Caption: Exposition solidarite.  SIDAIDS. Caption translates to: Solidarity Exhibition.
Poster designed by Stop AIDS Now in Luxembourg for World AIDS Day 1994.

The first red ribbon worn publicly was by Jeremy Irons at the 1991 Tony Awards. The ribbon was formally adopted as an international symbol of AIDS awareness and World AIDS Day not long after its creation. In 1992, 100,000 Red Ribbons were distributed to the audience at the Freddie Mercury Tribute. Today, the ribbon is a universal symbol of support and awareness of the disease.

The symbol of the red ribbon and its importance is evident throughout our AIDS/HIV collections. The UK World AIDS Day newsletter promoted it’s use as a central image for the campaign. They aimed for the ribbon to be “equivalent to the British Legion’s red poppy or the red nose of Comic Relief”.

Ideas for the use of red ribbons from October 1992 UK World AIDS Day Newsletter

To learn more about our HIV/AIDS collections please visit our website or search our online catalogue.

All of the material showcased here is available for you to access in our research room. To make an appointment, please email:

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