World AIDS Day is about recognizing how far we’ve come -- and how far we still have to go -- in the fight against a plague that has infected 60 million people and killed half of them.
But today, now 30 years into the epidemic, a series of setbacks threatens to dash hopes for the goal of an “AIDS-free generation.”
“Just when we were beginning to make the most progress, the rug was pulled from under us,” says David Barr, a leading activist with the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition.
Through the efforts of activists and government leaders, 6.6 million infected people around the world are now getting the drugs that stave off death. But just as important as the health effect for individuals is the discovery that the drugs drop the amount of HIV in a person’s blood to near zero so they seldom infect others. As a result of the widespread treatment, the worldwide infection rate dropped 25 percent in the past decade, according to UNAIDS.
In response to the heartening news, the UN pledged in June to raise the number treated to 15 million by 2015.
But that won’t happen. In fact, far fewer people will soon be getting the lifesaving medication.