On June 5th, 1981, the U.S Centres for Disease control recorded a cluster of Pneumocystis cariniipneumonia, in five men in Los Angeles. Pneumocystosis, as it is also known, is a form of pneumonia. It is one of the most common opportunistic diseases that blights the lives of people living with HIV. Pneumocystosis is very commonly found in the lungs of healthy people but causes infection in people who have weakened immune systems. These five men became the first victims of the disease we now know as AIDS, but they weren’t to be the last.
2011 marks 30 years since those first recognised cases and in that time over 60 million people have been infected with the disease and 30 million lives have been lost to it. 2011 also marks the 15th anniversary of treatment for the disease, giving those burdened with virus new leases of life. It also marks the year when the community of people working on the disease can say with confidence that they know –not believe, not guess, they KNOW- what it will take to stem the tide of the disease and to start to bring it under control. In fact, new scientific breakthroughs and sound economic modelling have for the first time been combined to demonstrate exactly what is needed to bring about the end of AIDS.
So 2011 is key. This could be the year that world leaders stand together, to honour the 30 million that have already died by stepping up and making the pledge to do whatever they can to end the scourge of AIDS. The time to act is now, World AIDS Day is coming up and we must push the UK government to act on this new research by announcing substantial increases in funding the fight against HIV and opportunistic infections like TB