On Sunday, June 5, 2011, AIDS turned 30.
Thirty years ago in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers first reported cases of a new illness that would later become known as AIDS. Look around the workplace—how many people, now in the midst of their professional careers, were born after that first reported case? Today’s school-age children, college students, and yes, several of our own staff at Danya, have grown up never knowing a time without AIDS. The generations since 1981 have not seen the toll that the epidemic has had on friends and family. The AIDS epidemic they know is post-drug cocktails, a time when, thankfully, more people with HIV infection—the virus that causes AIDS—can live longer, healthier lives. They see Magic Johnson and others who are infected but who still look healthy. The success of treatments has led to people living longer and to HIV becoming, for some, a more chronic but manageable illness.
But people are still being infected. CDC estimates there are 50,000 new HIV infections happening every year. Now that AIDS is 30, prevention and awareness are more important than ever. People of all ages need to know that HIV transmission can be prevented. Teenagers need to know that no sex is still the only safe sex—for HIV and lots of other sexually transmitted diseases. But adults and older people also need to get prevention messages. HIV transmission is still an issue for middle-age and older people, and the statistics show that.
For the first time, we have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The strategy, released by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy in July of last year, lays out three primary goals: reduce the number of people who become infected with HIV, increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reduce HIV-related health disparities. As part of our CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) contract, we help increase awareness of the HIV/AIDS Strategy among CDC’s prevention partners and do our small part to help CDC carry out some of its NHAS tasks.
We encourage you to use this milestone in the HIV epidemic to begin conversations with those you care about. Talk with your partner, spouse, significant other, children, family, and neighbors. If you haven’t been tested or need to get tested again, visit www.hivtest.org to find a location near you. If you’d like to reflect on the 30 years of HIV/AIDS, visit www.cdcnpin.org/communities/hivstory and join the online community that’s been developed for anyone who has been personally or professionally affected by HIV. Together we can make a difference in the future of the epidemic.
Melissa Beaupierre, Senior Director, CDC NPIN