The AIDS epidemic is quickly becoming a crisis of America's youth. Today, half of the 40,000 new HIV infections each year are among people under 25.
The advent of new protease drugs in the mid-1990s ended the automatic death sentence previously associated with an HIV diagnosis. But the new AIDS drugs that gave the gift of prolonged life have also resulted in a misperception of "cure," "end" and "over."
While America's investment in AIDS care and research is paying off through lower death rates, our divestment from HIV prevention is creating a new epidemic for a new generation of Americans.
At the same time, risky behavior has increased and, consequently, so have HIV infections. Equally disturbing, during the same period that infections have increased, there have been no new national investments in prevention.
There is no national voice contradicting some members of a new generation of sexually active young people who think having HIV means simply taking a few pills each day.
At the same time President Clinton calls for an intensive effort to find a medical vaccine for HIV, national support for HIV prevention is stagnant. In fact, the last ambitious national prevention effort occurred in the mid-1980s, when many of today's sexually active young people were too young to even read.
We have to stop this new epidemic so that AIDS doesn't ravage a new generation of Americans the way it did the last generation.
We need targeted prevention efforts that are effective at reaching the diversity of communities and people at risk for HIV and AIDS.
From the streets of Harlem to the barrios of Los Angeles, our nation's AIDS leaders all agree that, until there's a cure, prevention is our only vaccine.
Reinvigorating national HIV prevention is not only a moral imperative, but also a political one. Prevention is the one issue that generates the most support for a strengthened national fight against AIDS.