June 7, 2011
"Come Sunday, it will be 30 years since the first documented cases of AIDS in America. Nearly 30 million people have died of AIDS since the first five cases were recognized in Los Angeles in 1981. About 34 million people worldwide have HIV now, including 1 million in the United States.
"The HIV/AIDS acronyms ... have been washed of much of the ignorance and fear that once was prevalent. The reduction in new cases and the survival rates of those infected reflect the relentless public education in the United States and around the globe. As a result, HIV infections are no longer assumed to be automatic death sentences.
"Although no 'magic bullet,' such as a vaccine, has been developed, the idea of having a productive, successful life 'with AIDS' is the norm.
"In the U.S., newly diagnosed patients have a life expectancy only a few months shorter than people without HIV. An educated populace and strong political and public pressure to reduce high drug costs and promote safe-sex practices are responsible.
"Still, about 2 million people die from the disease each year, mostly in poor counties. The cost to get existing drugs to these populations remains a problem. In many cases it would take months or years of salary to afford even a week's supplies of medications.
"Even so, at this point, an educated public remains the most effective way to reduce the spread of the disease."