"The virus causing AIDS was discovered in 1983, and soon it was learned that infection with HIV was lifelong and universally fatal. Furthermore, millions of people throughout the world had already been infected without knowing it. Complacency turned into panic, and activism confronted individual denial and the scarcity of governmental attention and funding.Advertisement
"... By 1995, combination therapy for HIV had reduced death rates in the United States by 80 percent. Despite extensive costs, these treatment benefits have been extended to over 5 million HIV-infected persons worldwide.
"Time to relax and count our blessings? Hardly!
"In the United States, more than 1.1 million people are infected with HIV and will require lifelong therapy if they are diagnosed in time. CDC estimates that more than 50,000 people are newly infected each year in the United States and that more than half acquire their infection from the estimated 225,000 HIV-infected persons who have not been tested and are unaware of their own infection.
"Denial and complacency have returned as many people have unprotected sex in this sea of ignorance about HIV. And the global epidemic is of even greater concern.
"We need continued strong science to seek an effective vaccine, curative therapy, and more effective prevention methods. Since approximately 4 million people are having sex for the first time each year in the United States, education and prevention efforts must be renewed.
"We can't forget the lessons from 30 years ago about AIDS.
"The epidemic is still with us. Be informed. Get tested. Be safe."
The author is the former director of CDC's HIV/AIDS Division and also served as assistant U.S. surgeon general. Currently the dean of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, he received the 2011 Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award for his lifetime contributions to AIDS prevention.
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