A Status Update for World AIDS Day

Photo of AJN editor-in-chief Shawn KennedyIn light of the recent focus on Zika virus and the last few years’ attention to Ebola, there’s been little attention to HIV/AIDS. Today, December 1, World AIDS Day, is a good time to remember that millions still suffer from this disease and thousands contract it annually.

According to the MMWR report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the statistics are still sobering:

  • Globally, over 36 million people have AIDS and 2.1 million were newly infected in 2015; 1.1 million died.
  • In the United States in 2013, approximately 1.2 million people had an AIDS diagnosis; approximately 44,000 were newly diagnosed in 2014.

There is good news, in that global access to treatment has increased greatly—in 2010, 7.5 million had access to antiretroviral treatment; by June 2016, over 18 million had access to antiretrovirals.

It’s been over 35 years since AIDS was first reported by the CDC—you can read an overview of the CDC’s response here. I recall the AIDS epidemic only too well. As I wrote in an editorial in 2010:

In 1975, while attending graduate school, I worked part time as a chemotherapy nurse for a hematologist in New York City. Because of his expertise, he was increasingly being asked to consult on cases involving seemingly healthy young men, most of them gay, who were contracting infections and showing blood profiles usually only seen in patients with immune systems weakened by disease or chemotherapy. We didn’t realize it then, but we were seeing the first cases of AIDS. It wasn’t until six years later, when reports of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, thrush, and Kaposi’s sarcoma began appearing in this population, that the CDC realized we were facing something new, virulent, and deadly.

AJN first reported on the AIDS epidemic in 1985 with an article by Joanne Bennett, a nurse who worked for New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis. At the time, 12,000 cases had been reported and there was concern that as many as 500,000 were already infected. (For a more recent update on where we are, see “Nursing in the Fourth Decade of the HIV Epidemic,” in the March 2014 issue.)

We now know a lot more about the disease and how to treat it, but the numbers living with the disease are also far higher—The World Health Organization estimates that 70 million people worldwide have been infected and 35 million have died from AIDS since the epidemic began. This past week, a major trial of a new AIDS vaccine began in South Africa. Maybe, who knows, the end of AIDS may be in sight—we can only hope.


Editor-in-chief, AJN

One Comment

  1. Kayla D. April 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Recently, as you have pointed out there has been a shift in focus from AIDS to Zika and Ebola since these are current emerging global health issues. Working in healthcare I have personally seen the importance of ensuring treatment is available to all individuals since access to treatment is a problem in many areas. It is amazing that from 2010 to 2016 the amount of people who had access to treatment more than doubled. Although Zika and Ebola are current diseases that pose a risk to many people, we should not forget about the fact that many are still contracting the HIV virus. The numbers of those with the virus are still staggering. Hopefully with the study of medicine there will be new ways of finding a cure and decreasing the amount of people at risk for contracting these diseases.

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