Date of issue: May 8, 1996
Printer: Ashton-Potter Canada
Design: Kosta Tsetsekas
Although the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is thought to have evolved to infect humans in the 1920s, it was not until the early 1980s that the disease it causes – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) – developed into epidemic proportions. In 1983, approximately 3000 cases of AIDS were identified in the United States. The mortality rate at that time was almost 45%, most deaths being related to infections with unusual organisms. The same year, the causative retrovirus was identified, and the first International Conference was held to facilitate discussion of the scientific and social aspects of the disease. Ten years later, it was estimated that there were at least 2.5 million people with AIDS worldwide; by 2013, it was thought that 35 million individuals were HIV positive.
Multidrug treatment – highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) – was introduced in 1995 and has become the standard of care. Although it does not eradicate the virus, it greatly reduces its blood level and has been one of the most important advances in controlling the infection, by decreasing both the incidence of AIDS and the infectivity of HIV positive individuals.
The stamp was issued to mark the XI International Conference on AIDS held in Vancouver in 1996. The theme of the Conference – One World, One Hope / Unis dans l’Espoir – is printed in small letters behind AIDS/SIDA. The stamp’s image is based on a painting by Vancouver artist Joe Average and depicts portions of human faces arranged in a pattern resembling stained glass. The image can be interpreted to symbolize persons of different colors coming together in solidarity to better live with and fight HIV disease.
The first-day cover shows a twisted red ribbon, a symbol worn since 1991 in support of those infected with HIV and in memory of those who have died of AIDS.