COPENHAGEN – Thirty years ago, the world got its first inkling of impending catastrophe when five young gay men in Los Angeles were struck down by the illness that became known as HIV/AIDS. Today, the disease has a truly global impact, claiming 1.8 million lives annually – the equivalent of wiping out the population of Washington, DC, three times every year.
Of course, there have been remarkable scientific breakthroughs since 1981. Scientists established that a previously unknown retrovirus was the cause of AIDS, and determined that the virus was primarily transmitted through sexual contact. They created tests that can establish a person’s HIV status or gauge the disease’s progression. They designed antiretroviral drugs that have made it possible for HIV infection to be a survivable chronic condition.