Brazil's second city Rio de Janeiro has marked World AIDS Day by lighting 10 of its monuments in red, including its iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer.
"It's a way to remind the population that AIDS has yet to be cured and that condoms are the only way, technically speaking, to fight the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases," said Carlos Tufvesson, Rio de Janeiro's sexual diversity coordinator.
On Saturday, Rio will offer tests to the public to detect the HIV and syphilis viruses at 185 health centers in the city. Results will be provided within 10 days.
Rio's government has invested two million reais ($1.1 million) in the program, the largest city-wide campaign in Brazil seeking to combat ignorance, prejudices and misinformation about AIDS.
An estimated 250,000 Brazilians live with the HIV virus that causes AIDS without knowing it. But Brazil has successfully stabilized the pandemic within its borders, recording a 0.61 percent drop in new cases from 2009 to 2010 according to Health Ministry figures.
Authorities remain concerned about the rise in the number of cases in homosexual males aged 15 to 24 -- which increased from 25.2 percent in 1990 to 46.4 percent in 2010.
The red lights will be on for three nights in Rio. A number of other countries are also participating in the campaign, including Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, South Africa and the United States.
In downtown Buenos Aires in Argentina, a giant red banner was rolled down the side of the city's iconic obelisk, while a group of activists handed out condoms to passers-by. The Casa Rosada government palace was decorated with a big red bow.
Some 130,000 people live with HIV in Argentina, two-thirds of whom do not know they carry the virus, according to activist groups.
In Central America, hundreds rallied for an end to the discrimination and stigma against those affected by HIV/AIDS.
"The goal is zero cases, zero deaths in 2012," Honduran Youth Network Against AIDS volunteer Mario Erazo said during a march in Tegucigalpa.
According to Erazo there are 30,000 Hondurans living with HIV and 21,000 patients who have developed full-blown AIDS, but only 8,000 victims receive antiretroviral treatment.
"Thousands have the virus but have not taken the test because they are afraid to get tested, and the virus gets transmitted from person to person," Erazo said.
In Managua, 300 Nicaraguans marched to raise awareness of the virus, some dressed with condom-shaped hats. They released pink, purple and white balloons and held signs that read "more bread, less AIDS," and "HIV does not kill, discrimination does."
The total number of people living with HIV in Latin America grew to an estimated 1.4 million in 2009 from 1.1 million in 2001, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2009, there were an estimated 92,000 new HIV infections.
The UN program says most of the epidemics in the region "are concentrated in and around networks of men who have sex with men," though "social stigma... has kept many of these epidemics among men who have sex with men hidden and unacknowledged."