It is both fitting and ironic that the official international “days” drawing attention to two of the world’s most enduring problems – AIDS and contemporary forms of slavery – occur in December, a month in which some of the world’s great religions hold festive feasts and celebrations.

World AIDS Day, held on the first day of December since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those millions of people around the world who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, held since 1986 on the second day of December, is dedicated to eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labor, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Both are UN-sponsored initiatives.

So take a moment before the December holiday season kicks off to reflect on what is being done – and what can be done – to address AIDS as a continuing pandemic and all those, in countries around the world, who fall victim to the many forms of human trafficking and exploitation.

For more information on World AIDS Day, go here and here.

For more information on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, go here and here.