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World AIDS Day, December 1, 2003

Live and Let Live is the theme for this year's World AIDS Day, December 1, 2003. This theme highlights the obstacles that stigma and discrimination pose to the success of prevention and care programs for persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Discrimination against persons with infectious diseases is not new (1), and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) continues to be a stigmatizing health issue for those living with the disease (2).

Stigma and discrimination might pose barriers that keep persons at risk for HIV infection from getting tested (3). In the United States, approximately one fourth of the estimated 850,000--950,000 persons living with HIV are unaware of their infection (4) and thus are not receiving needed treatment and prevention services.

Worldwide, an estimated 42 million persons were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002 (5). As in the United States, stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS remain key challenges to effective public health prevention programs. Information about HIV/AIDS is available from CDC at and, or by telephone, 800-342-2437.


  1. Valdiserri R. HIV/AIDS stigma: an impediment to public health. Am J Public Health 2002;92:341--2.
  2. Herek GM, Capitanio JP, Widaman KF. HIV-related stigma and knowledge in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1991--1999. Am J Public Health 2002;92:371--7.
  3. Chesney M, Smith A. Critical delays in HIV testing and care: the potential role of stigma. Am Behavioral Scientist 1999;42:1162--74.
  4. Fleming P, Byers RH, Sweeney PA, et al. HIV prevalence in the United States, 2000 [Abstract]. 9th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, Washington, February 24--28, 2002.
  5. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). AIDS Epidemic Update 2002. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, December 2002.

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