Why is this page text-only?




"[T]o uproot the epidemic it will be necessary to deal with its root societal causes—namely a lack of respect for human rights." —Jonathan Mann, 1996

In 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a program to evaluate the scope of the global AIDS pandemic and to plan an international, integrated response. Jonathan Mann, a physician and human rights advocate, led the Global Programme on AIDS (GPA), advising governments and advocacy organizations on ways to prevent the spread of the disease. By 1989, the GPA was working with groups in more than 160 countries around the world. The United Nations now leads ten organizations, including the WHO, to coordinate global AIDS efforts (UNAIDS). As the crisis continues, a new generation will be called upon to join in this work.

Jonathan Mann and members of the Global Programme on AIDS pose in the WHO headquarters garden Jonathan Mann and the Global Programme on AIDS, 1987
Courtesy WHO
In 1987, AIDS became the first disease ever debated at the United Nations General Assembly, when Jonathan Mann delivered a special briefing on the pandemic. As part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the organization acknowledged that everyone has a right to housing, food, medical care, and services needed for health and well-being.
Jonathan Mann speaks at UN podium Jonathan Mann, United Nations General Assembly, 1987
Courtesy UN/DPI Photo by Saw Lwin
Mann believed that protecting the rights of people with HIV was essential and argued that measures such as quarantine or mandatory testing would drive infected people into hiding. He also understood that infringements of rights caused by poverty and exclusion made people more vulnerable to the disease. Mann's focus on human rights helped set the tone for world efforts and, in 1999, the United Nations adopted a resolution against discrimination in health in response to the lessons of AIDS.
Attendees of the World AIDS Day Youth Forum listen to speaker World AIDS Day Youth Forum, World Health Organization, 1988
Courtesy WHO/T. Farkas
Jonathan Mann's speech to the United National General Assembly Jonathan Mann's speech to the United Nations General Assembly, 1987
Courtesy United Nations Photo Library


Student activist Gyawu Mahama describes the reason he joined the global response.



Medical student Hanni Stoklosa talks about her contribution.


"What I did was not controversial; it was necessary..." —Mechai Viravaidya, 2007

Mechai Viravaidya promotes condom use to group of teachers "The Condom King," Mechai Viravaidya, promoting condom use, 1970s
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association
The first case of AIDS was reported in Thailand in 1984. Mechai Viravaidya, who had been distributing condoms since the 1970s to promote family planning, highlighted the risks of an epidemic. He was not supported by the Thai government, however, which saw the disease primarily as a problem for foreigners who might spread the disease to small high-risk groups, but not the wider population.
Education booklet depicting four children running across page Learn English and Be Smart About AIDS, ca. 2000
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association
Mechai Viravaidya speaks while event attendees blow condom balloons AIDS education, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association
Thailand is considered one of the biggest success stories in the fight against AIDS because of the great strides made in the 1990s. However, in recent years funding for HIV prevention efforts has declined. As in all countries, without ongoing efforts to educate people on the ways to protect themselves from infection, the disease will continue to spread.
Mechai Viravaidya distributes condoms to sex workers Mechai Viravaidya, distributing condoms to sex workers, Pattaya, Thailand, ca. 2000
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association
In 1991, Thailand's new Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun made AIDS prevention and control a priority. He appointed Viravaidya to the government, to launch AIDS education in all schools, and to broadcast information every hour on state-owned radio and television. The "100 percent condom program" was developed to distribute free condoms in restaurants, taxis, shops, and brothels.
Mechai Viravaidya and Miss Thailand make rope out of condoms Making a "chain of life" out of condoms with Miss Thailand, World AIDS Day, 2006
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association
AIDS information cards AIDS information cards, ca. 2000
Courtesy Population and Community Development Association