As the 19th International AIDS Conference opens in Washington, observers note how vastly different the circumstances are compared to 1990, when the IAC met in San Francisco -- its last visit to America for more than 20 years.
With no treatment for AIDS and an HIV diagnosis equating to a death sentence, the outlook for the disease "was about as bad as it could be," said Dr. Paul Volberding, who chaired that meeting and directs the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) AIDS Research Institute.
"In the late 1980s, things were very grim," said Dr. Diane Havlir, co-chair of this year's IAC and chief of the UCSF Division of HIV/AIDS at San Francisco General Hospital. "We had a new disease, we had no treatment, we didn't understand transmission. It was a disease of great suffering."
"Today, a diagnosis of HIV forever changes your life," Havlir said. "But the prospects for a healthy life are much greater than they were a long time ago."
Indeed, so much progress has been made that experts worry that the public and policymakers no longer take HIV/AIDS as seriously as they once did. Observers do not expect any IAC developments as exciting as the 1990s arrival of antiretroviral drugs; rather, much of the conference will focus on how to get those drugs to more people in need. Still, a pre-conference meeting explored progress toward a cure for AIDS, which would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
The IAC's 22-year absence from the United States after the 1990 conference was due to the U.S. ban on HIV-positive travelers, which was lifted two years ago.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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