World AIDS Day goes virtual

World AIDS Day activities focus on learning from past pandemics while planning for the future. Several virtual events have been held to raise awareness, discuss advances in care and reflect on lessons learned.

  • Advances in treatments are changing the prognosis of millions of people with HIV/AIDS.
  • The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be shown in a virtual exhibit for the first time.
  • During the pandemic, it’s critical to manage your disease to reduce your risk of complications from COVID-19.


Nearly 40 years ago, the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States—marking the beginning of a global pandemic that has caused the loss of more than 700,000 lives to date. Fast forward several decades and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is making its mark on the nation’s health. What have we learned? Sponsors of World AIDS Day say the knowledge gained has been significant. They set up a series of virtual events to discuss the details.

In March, we shared information about HIV/AIDS Awareness Days for women and girls and Native Americans. This month we're looking at World AIDS Day and how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people with HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Day

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed on December 1 by people worldwide who want to raise awareness, challenge stigmas and improve global response to this devastating disease. This year’s theme is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact.” Several virtual events took place to mark the occasion, including an online tribute to doctors and researchers making an impact in treatment development and disease management.

A National Conversation

World AIDS Day 2020 — A National Conversation” brought together experts from both the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics to discuss health justice, social activism and hope. Offerings included guest speakers, video storytelling, musical tributes from a virtual choir and conversation about healing the nation. During the festivities, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Dr. David Ho, Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University, received the National Recognition Leadership Award from the National AIDS Memorial. Long before Dr. Fauci became a household name for his involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic, he was working to treat infectious diseases and viruses like HIV/AIDS through research and treatment development.

AIDS Memorial Quilt

More than 10,000 quilt panels representing the United States and its territories are shown in a virtual exhibit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. In the past, displays of the quilt took place across the country. Restrictions prompted by COVID-19 prompted organizers to hold the annual event virtually for the first time. The exhibit is free and runs through March 31, 2021. Attend the exhibit.

HIV and COVID-19

More than a million people in the U.S. are HIV positive with nearly 39,000 more diagnosed every year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. If you’re one of the people living with this chronic autoimmune disease, the COVID-19 pandemic may bring an additional level of stress and anxiety about the risk it presents to your health.

If you are effectively managing your HIV, your risk of catching COVID-19 and developing complications is the same as someone who does not have HIV.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19 and the ways the virus affects people diagnosed with HIV. Based on preliminary research, if you are effectively managing your HIV, your risk of catching COVID-19 and developing complications is the same as someone who does not have HIV.

To maintain your health even during the pandemic, the CDC recommends you:

  • Continue taking all your medication as directed.
  • Take basic precautions like wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying physically distanced when around others.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, plenty of sleep and as little stress as possible.

Advances in treatment

When AIDS was first diagnosed nearly 40 years ago, good news was seldom delivered with positive test results. Although there is still no cure, treatment advancements and clinical innovation have made the illness a manageable health condition for many people living its effects on their lives.

Advances in antiretroviral drugs, the primary treatment for HIV, are making it easier and more convenient to adhere to a regular prescription drug regimen. Some are taken in 4 to 8-week intervals instead of daily. Others are given by injection and provide an alternative form of treatment if the current HIV treatment becomes ineffective.

There is no HIV vaccination currently, but researchers are working to develop ways to improve HIV/AIDS care worldwide.


Find a doctor

If you are currently living with HIV or AIDS, or know someone who is, you’ll want to take extra precautions during the pandemic to stay safe. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Swedish remains committed to the safety of our patients, caregivers and the community at large. In response to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections throughout the Puget Sound, Swedish is taking extra precautions in safeguarding patients and caregivers from risk of infection by restricting our regular visitor policy until further notice.

Related resources

Bring awareness about HIV to those at risk

Nurses week profile: Margo Bykonen, Chief Nursing Officer

Centers for Disease Control HIV/AIDS & STD Resources

World AIDS Day

National AIDS Memorial

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Our philosophy for well being is looking at the holistic human experience. As such, the Swedish Wellness & Lifestyle Team is committed to shining a light on health-related topics that help you live your healthiest life. From nutrition to mindfulness to annual screenings, our team offers clinically-backed advice and tips to help you and your loved ones live life to the fullest.

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