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35 years ago, World AIDS Day was created to raise awareness

There’s been much progress in understanding the virus since it was identified in 1981 — back then it was considered a death sentence.
35 years ago, World AIDS Day was created to raise awareness
Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 01, 2023

This is the 35th World AIDS day. AIDS is a chronic immune system disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, known as HIV. Untreated, it stops the body from being able to fight off infections. There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control it. 

On this World AIDS day, 39 million people around the world, including an estimated 1.2 million people in America have HIV. 

The CDC says 1 in 8 of those infected don’t know it. Dr. Robyn Neblett Fanfair is the head of HIV prevention at the CDC.

"Today we are closer than ever to ending the HIV epidemic in this country. We've made remarkable progress over the past four decades. However, the progress is not fast enough and is not reaching all communities equitably," she said. 

There’s been much progress in understanding the virus since it was identified in 1981 — back then it was considered a death sentence. 

New HIV infections have dropped 12% in recent years, but, Dr. Fanfair says progress is slow for Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals because of nonmedical factors.

"The importance of safe and affordable housing, of transportation, of food security, of educational opportunities — all of those can really impact someone's access to HIV testing, prevention and treatment," she said. 

The 35th World AIDS day comes at a time when advocates and prevention programs are looking to Congress, as lawmakers debate 2024 funding for fighting HIV/AIDS.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fanfair pushes ahead, with the CDC sending a letter out to their partners about the urgency to lower numbers and deaths. 

Last year, UN AIDS estimates some 630,000 people across the globe died from AIDS-related illnesses. 

SEE MORE: 450 patients at Mass. hospital possibly exposed to HIV, hepatitis


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