Twenty-Five Years Since Onset of HIV and AIDS Twenty-Five Years Since Onset of HIV and AIDS
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Nearly 25 years after the first report of a handful of cases of a nameless deadly disease among gay men in New York and Los Angeles, there are still over 1 million persons living with HIV in the United States. About one-fourth of those with HIV have not yet been diagnosed and are unaware of their infection. The “new” syndrome discovered 25 years ago has become one of the deadliest epidemics in human history, killing more than 25 million people around the world, including more than 500,000 Americans. In the last decade, major advances in prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS have prolonged and improved the lives of many, but despite extremely beneficial advances, the epidemic is far from over. An estimated 40,000 Americans still become infected with HIV every year, and many of these are young persons under the age of 25. African American men and women are among the hardest hit populations in the U.S. In 2004, they accounted for half of all new HIV diagnoses in this country and more than a third of AIDS deaths to date. African American men who have sex with men (MSM) are especially hard hit. Recent data show significant declines in HIV diagnoses in nearly every group of African Americans except black MSM. Women also remain a particularly vulnerable population, accounting for 29% of all HIV diagnoses in 2004.

The inescapable truth is that, to defeat HIV and AIDS, we need to reduce the number of people who become infected in the first place. Twenty-five years since the onset of the epidemic, prevention is still the only “cure” we have for HIV/AIDS. A comprehensive approach must be used to prevent the further spread of HIV and AIDS. Comprehensive HIV prevention strategies include monitoring the epidemic to target prevention and care activities, researching the effectiveness of prevention methods, diffusing proven effective interventions, funding the implementation and evaluation of prevention efforts in high-risk communities, encouraging early diagnosis of HIV infection, and fostering linkages between prevention and treatment programs. Many governmental and non-governmental organizations at all levels collaborate to implement, evaluate, disseminate, and further develop and strengthen effective HIV prevention efforts nationwide.