Sydney’s famous Opera House was turned red as part of this year’s campaign to mark World Aids Day.
Official figures show nearly two million people died from the disease last year as concern grows the financially tough climate is hampering efforts to prevent the virus from spreading.
U2 front man Bono joined Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard to launch the Sydney leg. The Irish rock star warned agencies working to prevent HIV/AIDS were struggling for funding in the developing world.
Infection rates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are a particular cause for concern, having almost tripled in the last decade. In Russia, despite efforts to combat the stigma attached to the disease, it remains taboo.
Roman Litkov, an HIV-infected member of a group in Moscow set up to help those with the virus, said:
‘‘Most of the people I know who are HIV infected are ill-prepared to deal with it, they constantly live in a state of fear that their diagnosis will become public and the worry that people close to them might turn away from them, that they might lose their job and medical aid.
First identified in the early 1980’s, 33 million people are currently thought to be infected with the virus, which has no known cure.