"Broadly speaking, men are expected to be physically strong, emotionally robust, daring and virile. Some of these expectations translate into ways of thinking and behaving that endanger the health and well-being of men and their sex partners," said the United Nations AIDS agency in a statement.
Campaigners are planning marches, vigils, religious services, promotions and entertainment events to mark the day and bring home the message of the importance of AIDS awareness. This year's theme is "Men make a difference."
According to a U.N. report issued this week, 36.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and there will be 5.3 million new infections during 2000. It is expected that 3 million people will die from AIDS, 80 percent of them in Africa.
"Men can make a particular difference--by being more caring, by taking fewer risks, and by facing the issue of AIDS head-on," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a message for the day.
"Until and unless we grasp that AIDS is our problem, we will be blind to the steps we need to take to protect ourselves and others against it. We will be powerless to reduce its impact. This applies as much to a leader planning the allocation of national resources as it does to a husband planning his future with his wife or a father planning for the future of his child."
Rock concerts are planned in China, Russia, Ukraine, Haiti, Laos and Belize. In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, children from all the schools in the city will attend a gathering in the main stadium.
Sanatha Jayasuriya, the captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team, will be invested as the latest Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS in a ceremony in Colombo. In Oslo, Norway, groups will take part in a torchlight parade to the parliament buildings.
International music channel MTV is broadcasting "Staying Alive," a 30-minute documentary on HIV/AIDS hosted by singing sensation Ricky Martin.
"AIDS continues to be a serious issue, and there is still a lot of work to be done to raise awareness around the world," said Martin.
Other celebrities, including soccer star Ronaldo and rock group UB40, have joined in with messages of solidarity.
"If I am disappointed with a take, we shoot it again," said U.S. actor Danny Glover. "But with AIDS, the movie's over. It's up to you and me to break the silence."
The Czech President Vaclav Havel also plans to auction off a unique book of his speeches, which was published illegally before the fall of communism. The money will be donated to the House of Light, a Prague center offering treatment to people with HIV/AIDS.
Many of the events will stress the importance of responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms, but in a news conference planned to mark International AIDS Day, the Catholic Church repeated its opposition to condoms.
Monsignor Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers, said the Vatican said the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS was "chastity, inside or outside the marriage."