World AIDS Day on Mon 1 Dec is the occasion for the United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and local organisations around the world to celebrate progress made in the battle against the epidemic and to focus on remaining challenges.

Forty-two million people are living with HIV worldwide; half of these are women, and more than half are under 24 years old.

More than two-thirds of the people who die from AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, where in some countries one in three adults has the virus. The epidemic is also spreading rapidly in Asia; according to official figures, over one million people in China are infected, and around four million in India. The fastest-growing rate of infection is in eastern Europe and central Asia, where the virus is spread mainly through intravenous drug use; the number of HIV-positive people almost tripled between 1999 and 2002 to 1.2 million.

This year the campaign has the theme live and let live, drawing attention to the stigma and discrimination that still represent major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care.