World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United state has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements. World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the W.H.O in Geneva, Switzerland. Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS). Dr. Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be 1 December, 1988.
Bunn, a broadcast journalist on a leave-of-absence from his reporting duties at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, recommended the date of 1 December believing it would maximize coverage by western news media. Since 1988 was an election year in the U.S., Bunn suggested that media outlets would be weary of their post-election coverage and eager to find a fresh story to cover. Bunn and Netter determined that 1 December was long enough after the election and soon enough before the Christmas holidays that it was, in effect, a dead spot in the news calendar and thus perfect timing for World AIDS Day.
On 18 June, 1986 KPIX'S "AIDS Lifeline," a community education project, was honored with a Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives presented by President Ronald Reagan. Because of his role as a co-creator of "AIDS Lifeline" Bunn was asked by Dr. Mann, on behalf of the U.S. government, to take a two-year leave-of-absence to join Dr. Mann, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, and assist in the creation of the Global Programme on AIDS for the United Nations' World Health Organization. Mr. Bunn accepted and was named the first Public Information Officer for the Global Programme on AIDS. Along with Mr. Netter Bunn conceived, designed, and implemented the inaugural World AIDS Day observance – now the longest-running disease awareness and prevention initiative of its kind in the history of public health.