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The Thirty Year Tragedy of HIV and AIDS, 1981 to 2011, – Much is Known and Much More to Be Done

The original MMWR CDC report of June 5, 1981 noted 5 clustered cases of Pneumocystis pneumonia in gay men and a disease known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. On this day, June 5, 2011, 30 years later the intricate, complicated and long story of a retrovirus known as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is still being written. HIV is one of the most secretive, elusive and difficult to treat disease agents ever discovered. Despite 30 intense years of scientific and medical investigation the disease continues to extract a great toll on the health and welfare of the world’s population. As reported by theCenters for Disease Control in Atlanta AIDS is a global pandemic - 33 million people are dead with 600,000 of these as U.S. deaths. In the U.S., with a population of just over 300 million people, about 1.1 million people, almost 4 % of the population, is estimated to be infected and diseased.

Drug treatments for HIV infections and AIDS disease involve therapeutic chemical cocktails, i.e. chemical mixtures, to block and intercept viral messages and the biochemical machinery that are needed to make more viruses inside cells. Nevertheless, the virus tends to mutate rapidly and produce resistant viral strains that may escape these man-made chemical attempts at control. Finally, some thirty years later, no successful and useful, universal vaccine has been produced to protect against the disease.

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Promises are given that the fight will continue and efforts will move forward to make sure that no patient gets left behind and untreated. The passage of these 30 years and the billions spent for treatment and research indicate historically records that science and medicine have gained a reasonable foothold and are fighting better than ever against HIV and the disease of AIDS. The full story of AIDS and HIV continues to unfold and the future total success against the virus and the disease is not guaranteed.