The University of Birmingham’s iconic clock tower Old Joe and the Library of Birmingham will be turning red tonight (01/12) to mark World AIDS Day and highlight some of the ongoing research taking place at Birmingham.


World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, and it is symbolised by the red ribbons which people wear to raise awareness of the day.

Despite scientific advances in HIV treatments, over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Although the virus was only identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

The lighting up of Old Joe for World AIDS Day was an initiative of the Rainbow Network, in collaboration with the University Equality and Diversity team.

Tom Syder, Chair of the Rainbow Network at the University of Birmingham, said: “HIV and AIDS continues to disproportionately affect LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) communities in the UK.

“I am pleased that the University has recognised World AIDS Day, a global campaign to raise awareness of the pandemic, and as a network we remain committed to supporting and promoting the work of organisations such as the National AIDS Trust who do invaluable advocacy and awareness raising about this serious issue.”

The University Hospitals Birmingham HIV Department and the Clinical Immunology Service at the University of Birmingham, in conjunction with the Whittall Street Clinic, have been carrying out vital research to prevent the spread of HIV and to support those living with the condition.

One of the effects of the HIV infection is that it reduces the ability of the body’s immune system to fight infection. Patients with HIV are particularly susceptible to certain types of bacteria and an increased risk of infections. However, there is also evidence that vaccination can be an effective way of reducing the incidence of infections in patients, and Professor Mark Drayson and Dr Alex Richter have been at the forefront of research to identify the most effective vaccines to achieve this.

Their research groups have carried out the largest vaccine study with HIV infected patients in the UK to date. Over 900 recently diagnosed HIV patients on the study received vaccines against various diseases and infections. The results showed that one vaccine in particular, Menitorix, was particularly effective, with over half of the patients achieving protection against a number of bacterial infections including Meningitis C.

Sian Faustini, PhD student in Professor Drayson’s research group, said of the group’s latest findings: “These results support the concept of early vaccination following a positive HIV diagnosis. They also suggest that vaccination with Prevenar-13 (PCV-13) has a positive impact on reducing hospital admission rates and length of stay, when compared with the vaccine, Pneumovax-23, ( PPV-23), which is currently routinely used. The findings from this study will be published in the team’s second paper – watch this space!”