Multiple medical revolutions have taken place in the decades since 1981, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the first five cases of HIV/AIDS. Millions of lives were sadly lost in the years to follow, many due to ignorance, stigma, medical futility, and bureaucratic roadblocks. Today’s picture is radically different, and much brighter: death rates are down 80%, and there is real hope for an effective vaccine or cure. Breakthroughs such as combination therapies have helped over 35 million individuals live long, relatively normal lives with the once-fatal disease. However, obstacles to treatment, difficulty of access, and social stigma persist. Meanwhile, ongoing medical and research innovations are vastly increasing our understanding of the disease, even if some, such as the much-heralded treatment of the “Mississippi baby,” still pose more questions than answers.
On September 17, The Atlantic discussed the latest medical innovations in the fight against HIV/AIDS, including prevention and treatment methods. Also addressing the comparative cost of medicine worldwide, access to care in the States, and the rate of continued research for new drugs, participants were asked: how far are we from ending an epidemic that has killed millions and, more importantly, how can we get there faster?