30 Years of HIV

Last week, the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS released a report called AIDS at 30: Nations at the crossroads. There have been around 30 million deaths from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the HIV epidemic three decades ago. In 2010, there were around 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. While contracting HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, there is still a lot to be done in prevention and treatment.

Slow Response

In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued the first official report on HIV. However, the seriousness of the epidemic was not yet fully understood and, according to the UN report, it took more than two decades before the global community mounted a real response to the problem. As a result, HIV spread like wildfire.

The report highlights several lessons learned from the first two decades of the AIDS crisis:

  • Political leadership is critically important (and was lacking).
  • Communities and people affected with HIV played a powerful transformative role despite the political leadership vacuum.
  • Scientific knowledge must be leveraged effectively when charting a course of action for dealing with an epidemic. 
  • Stigma and discrimination gets in the way of effective treatment. The countries that had the strongest measures to protect and promote the rights of people with HIV were also the most successful in fighting the disease.

Y2K and Beyond = Significant Increase in Investment, Access to Treatment and Prevention

After the year 2000, the investment in the HIV response in developing countries increased significantly. In low- and middle-income countries, the annual investment was ten times higher in 2009 than it was in 2001, rising from US$1.6 billion to US$15.9 billion annually. However, in the past five years, questions have come up about the efficiency of expenditures on HIV, which has, in turn, resulted in a flattening of donations.

The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries increased almost 22-fold from 2001 to 2010, with the vast majority of recipients being in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the prevention side, the UN reports that the safe sex message is starting to sink in, young people are more knowledgeable about HIV transmission and a greater percentage of people know their own HIV status. However, there is still work to be done, as “only 49% of young females know that using a condom helps to prevent HIV infection, compared to 74% of young males.”

The transmission of HIV from mother to child has also begun to decline. Although targets were not reached on this particular factor, at least the trend is moving in the right direction.

Important Issues

There continue to be numerous important issues that need to be addressed in the battle against the spread of HIV. This includes:

  • Gender issues, such as the need for special attention for young girls born HIV positive, for pregnant women and mothers, and for sex workers. Currently women and girls make up 60% of Africans living with HIV. 
  • Continued discrimination and hate crimes against people with AIDS/HIV.
  • Controversy around the use of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tool.
  • The issues that are important vary from one country to the next. For example, in some countries transmission of HIV via drug-use is a significant factor, whearas in others it is not.

Hope for the Future?

A great deal of progress has been made recently in the fight against AIDS. Some of the findings and goals cited in the UN report include:

  • According to the result of the HPTN052 trial that was released in May 2011, the risk of an HIV positive person transmitting the virus to an uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96% if they adhere to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen.
  • This year, South Africa has plans to cut the rate of new HIV infections in half, provide HIV testing to 15 million people and provide lifesaving drugs to 80% of South Africans who need them.
  • By 2010, 182 countries had implemented the Declaration of Committment on HIV/AIDS.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Greater efficiency and a larger investment is still needed to tackle the HIV epidemic effectively. The UN Report provides many more details on what needs to be done for those who are interested. However, despite all the work that is still ahead of us, for the first time in 30 years it is beginning to look like we are starting to reverse some of the negative trends. Perhaps there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. 

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all data presented in this post is from the UN report 

Related stories:

States Slash Programs Providing HIV/AIDS Meds To Needy Patients

Early Drug Therapy Dramatically Curbs HIV Transmission

Young Gay Men in Serious Relationships Need to Practice Safe Sex Too

Image credit: John Rawlinson on flickr


Annemarie Vidal
Anne-Marie Vidal6 years ago

I think John D's comment reaks of the "aids denier" sydrome. Suffice it to say protease inhibitors don't cause AIDS and program of AIDS prevention are trying to get individuals to take responsibility and not engage in risky behavior.

John Doe
james rico6 years ago

clara M you are either one of those well meaning but gullible people i mentioned earlyer or one of those that our feeding well at throft of aids. the medical profession knows well of the truth of bechamp but they ignor it and instead push pastier phoney theory of catcheing germs viruses ect why because that way it takes away indivsval responsalbilty for disease and gullible people will become complacent and eat anything but just take their toxic drugs for protection. by telling the truth people will have no chioce but to eat foods that do not break down in the body to form germs and viruses. and then they sell no drugs or vaccines. how nice and generus of them.in simple terms when the body gets toxic from bad foods includeing animal foods sugars and processed foods the germs will form its that simple.you choose to believe the lies that crooked corupt people put forth. sugest you do independent research. on this matter in africa it is said that only poor people die from aids because they are the ones that can not get clean water to drink and good heathy food to eat. instead they are given harmfull vaccines and condoms. it seems to me that people are making money off them amd also limiting their population DAH? it takes no rocket scientist to see this but some how you can/t

clara H.
Clara Hamill6 years ago

John Doe your an idiot. One Aids and Hiv do exist and trying to disprove it and push your vegan agenda on people makes you look bad.

John Doe
james rico6 years ago

we must understand that our bodys are weaked by all these things doctors do to us they remove the tonsils and the appendix they give all these vaccines this all weaking the immune systems. when a baby gets infected tonsils is most likely caused by the pasteirized cows milk he is given and the other unnatural dead foods like meat ect. get him off these things fast and the tonsils will heal and he keeps his immune factors that way. all the GM crops and chemical pollution this all takes its toll plus all the unnessary antibiotics that weaked the bodys immune sytem.the same mindset that feeds off the aids dollars and the deaths the MD/s are causeing is the same mindset that has banned supplements and herbs all over the.EU

Howard C.
.6 years ago

I 'know' so little about this condition; everytime I think that I am begining to understand I read something else that makes me doubt this. The one thing that I am sure of that is if any 'drug' company comes up with a 'cure' they are going to make one heck of a lot of money. It wouldn't be appropriate to say that I've enjoyed reading what Care2 members have said regarding this subject, nor would it be true. I have found it really informative however; for me being part of Care2 is principally about supporting the causes that are important to me, this is my principle reason for taking part, but I really enjoy reading what others have to say and learning from them. Hopefully somewhere along the line I give something back.

John Doe
james rico6 years ago

cristine s you are one of the ones that need to read the great aids hoax bad. since you beleive all the lies the medical crooks and their news media cronies tell you sergio got it right as for you elizabeth the same goes for you. and by the way i don/t see you posting your full name. aids is a nutrition disease brought on by years of takeing drugs and alchol and repeated infections. the honest doctors have proved that the virus is harmless. but that does not make money for the corrupt medical crooks. because of this stupitdity many people are being killed every year with these worthless drugs.why can/t some people become street wise and see this years ago alcholics used to get get aids from years of misuse but they did not invent a harmless virus to blame it on and sell drugs and kill many people.is all these people need is a healthy vegan diet lots of good supplements rest and no drugs they will get well but there is no big money in that. instead we tax payers pay for the drugs that kill them. i was just reading in the local news about all the side effects of aids drugs they will most surely shorten life. its a big scam look up pleamorphic cause of disease germs and you will see its not new BECHAMP knew it in the 1700/s he exsplained it very well learn to research things on your own for a change

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

There have been many breakthroughs and advances, but there is still a long way to go in finding a way to totally eradicate this horrible disease.

Christine S., there are also many other causes and ways to transmit the disease. Stop being an ignorant, hateful male basher and get the facts.

Ben D.
Ben D.6 years ago

You are not alone even though you Have an HIV. Find others withg HIV positive singles at site named www.PositiveFishes.com. you may be upset and think your sex life is over. However, once you settle down and learn the facts, you'll realize that having HIV is not the end of the world, and it's not the end of your social life.

beverly gannon
beverly gannon6 years ago

Its horrible. I wonder wherever it derived from. ?. its very scarey.

Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K6 years ago

John Doe,

Pretty obvious why you don't even want to use your real first name.