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The Centers for Disease Control has just released a “Dear Colleague” letter noting 40 Years of HIV/AIDS Progress. It was June 5, 1981 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) described the first cases of a rare pneumonia among five men in Los Angeles, California, marking the first official reporting of what would later become known as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Read the full letter here.

There has been much progress, but there is much to do. Here are some highlights from the letter:

In the 40 years since these initial cases were reported, we have witnessed the tragedy of approximately 700,000 lives lost in the United States. Simultaneously, we have also witnessed the triumph of HIV prevention and treatment bringing the number of new HIV infections to all-time lows both in the United States and around the world.

In a new study* published this week in MMWR, CDC authors found that during 1981–2019, estimated HIV incidence in the United States decreased by 73 percent from its peak in 1984 and 1985 (130,400 annually) to its lowest point in 2019 (34,800 annual infections). Reductions in incidence during this timeframe likely reflect increased availability of HIV prevention tools including testing, antiretroviral therapy, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

People with HIV can live long, healthy lives thanks to improved antiretroviral treatment. Powerful prevention tools, such as simple and effective HIV treatment and PrEP, can help prevent HIV transmission if taken as directed by all who need them. However, longstanding, systemic health and social inequities—including discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, stigma, poverty, systemic racism, homelessness, and unequal access to quality healthcare—prevent access to testing, treatment, and other prevention services and further drive inequities.

Samaritan Ministry is proud to have been engaged in fighting this epidemic, and the associated stigma that still drives it, since 1996!