Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, known commonly as AIDS, is a disease that makes the body extremely susceptible to tumors, infections, and other diseases. This disease is widespread throughout the world, and while it has been a major issue in society since the early 1980s, education about AIDS is still lacking in many areas. AIDS awareness programs have been put in place to educate the public about the disease; such programs are aimed at informing people about how AIDS is transmitted, what research is being done to stop it, and what types of people or groups are most at risk for transmission of AIDS. Many AIDS awareness groups also raise funds for AIDS research.
The deterioration of the human body once it has acquired AIDS is quite rapid, though there are methods available to help slow the progress of the disease. AIDS awareness groups aim to educate the public about such methods, and they raise money to further research that will help develop better methods of slowing or eliminating the disease. On a practical level, AIDS awareness is a method by which society has worked to eradicate the disease, which is considered a pandemic — a disease that spreads across a large region, like a country or even the entire world.
Another important function of AIDS awareness is education in terms of promoting tolerance. Since its prevalence on the world stage, AIDS has been a very misunderstood and feared disease, and AIDS awareness groups and programs seek to educate the public about what the disease is, how it is acquired, and what can be done about it. Early on in its history, AIDS was often known as a "Homosexual's disease" because the spread of the disease was becoming rampant among that population. AIDS awareness groups have clarified the different ways in which AIDS can be transmitted, however, and the reality that other populations could contract AIDS became known after decades of education and awareness.
Many AIDS awareness groups promote safe sex as a preventative measure against AIDS, which can be transmitted sexually. The use of condoms can be used as one preventative measure, though this is not 100% effective. Abstinence is the only surefire way to avoid sexual transmission of AIDS, though there are other ways to contract the disease. Using dirty hypodermic needles has been a common way to contract the disease, so awareness groups have promoted needle exchange programs, which allow people who use syringes regularly — many of whom are drug users — to exchange dirty needles for clean ones at little or no cost.