Today is World Aids Day. It is a chance for people around the world to join together in the fight against HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. The virus destroys cells that help the body's immune system to work. As the immune system breaks down, people start to get serious infections. This condition is Aids, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Why is World Aids Day important? It is a chance for people to learn the truth about HIV/Aids; for example, the fact that you can't catch it by sitting next to someone with the condition or by sharing a cup with him or her.
How is HIV spread? The most common ways are through unprotected sex and sharing infected needles, such as those used for drugs or tattoos. A very small percentage of babies born to HIV-positive mothers are born with HIV - doctors can usually prevent the spread of the virus before birth.
When was Aids first recognised? The first cases occurred in the US in the early 1980s. Scientists are still not certain where it came from.
Globally, an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV/Aids. Since the start of the epidemic, nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related illnesses. More than 60 million people have been infected with HIV.
Where is the Aids epidemic most serious? Sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 22.5 million people live with the virus. Closer to home, the number of people living with HIV/Aids in China is estimated at 740,000.