In a message to mark the day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said success in defeating AIDS will depend on every national leader and politician, as well each individual person, taking responsibility to protect themselves and others against the AIDS threat.
"For far too long, the world was in denial. But over the past 10 years, attitudes have changed. The world has started to take the fight against HIV/AIDS as seriously as it deserves," Annan said. "Financial resources are being committed like never before, people have access to antiretroviral treatment like never before, and several countries are managing to fight the spread like never before. But the spread continues, and we need to mobilize like never before."
UNAIDS, the UN agency that coordinates the global fight against the disease, says there will be an estimated 4.3 million new infections of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, this year across the world.
"We should not and never accept the unspeakable injustices that are at the basis of this epidemic, and above all we need to believe that success is possible, that we can do it, and hold those in power accountable for how they perform on AIDS," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said in New York on November 30.
About 65 percent of the new cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, but the UN agency says some 270,000 people were also newly infected with HIV this year in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, bringing to an estimated 1.7 million the number of people living with HIV in these regions.
AIDS is estimated to have killed 25 million people, and some 40 million are believed to have been infected since the first case of the disease was reported 25 years ago.
An HIV-positive Ukrainian woman and her daughter (epa)
FACES OF THE EPIDEMIC: HIV-infection rates continue to soar in many parts of RFE/RL's broadcast region, from Ukraine and Russia to Central Asia. RFE/RL frequently reports on the problems associated with the pandemic and efforts to combat them.