Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first formal report of the disease that came to be known as AIDS. The disease baffled doctors and public health officials when it first appeared; described in some places as a “gay cancer,” the HIV virus took three years to be identified and much longer than that for doctors to develop drugs that would effectively tamp down symptoms without debilitating patients.
From a CDC report published two days ago (emphasis mine):
HIV prevention efforts averted an estimated 350,000 HIV infections during 1991–2006 and saved $125 billion in medical care costs (7). However, despite these efforts and widespread knowledge of how to prevent HIV, CDC estimates that 50,000 persons are infected each year in the United States. More than half of the newly infected are MSM, and nearly half are black or African American (3). In addition, the findings in this report indicate that, of the estimated 1,178,350 living with HIV infection in the United States, 20.1% had undiagnosed HIV infections.
Surveillance data show that the proportion of HIV diagnoses occurring in MSM continues to grow. HIV incidence among MSM has increased steadily since the early 1990s (3). In 2009, MSM accounted for 57% of all persons and 75% of men with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 40 states with longstanding, confidential, name-based HIV infection reporting (2).
(note: MSM means “men who have sex with men.”)
The disease has so far claimed an estimated 25 million lives worldwide. For an interesting read, check out Wired’s excerpts of Maryn McKenna’s book about the history of the epidemic.