Approaching 30 Years of HIV/AIDS in the United States


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Ronald Valdiserri

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri

In less than two months, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of what we now know as AIDS. In June 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a rare form of pneumonia diagnosed in five, previously healthy, gay men from Los Angeles. The report raised concerns that these five men had been exposed to something that caused their profound immune suppression. Now we know that their disease resulted from infection with HIV.

As we mark this significant milestone, we solemnly mourn the more than 600,000 Americans who have lost their lives to HIV disease. But we also honor, with pride, the men, women, and young people who have made important contributions to 30 years of fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and around the world. And certainly we celebrate the substantial advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment that have been made in the past three decades. Although our journey hasn’t finished, we’ve come a very long way since those early days when so much was unknown about this deadly new disease.

Perhaps, most importantly, this observance will prompt each of us to consider how we can extend and enhance our individual and collective responses to the epidemic so that it does not persist for another 30 years. For the first time we have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) that all of us can use as a game-plan to better focus and coordinate our individual and organizational efforts. The Strategy was informed by our 30 years of experience with HIV/AIDS. Achieving its goals — reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to HIV care, improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities — requires the active participation of all sectors of society. This includes not only local, state, tribal and federal governments, but also businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and many others.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to do so, I encourage you to read the Strategy and other information about its implementation available on Being familiar with the details of the Strategy will provide you with an even stronger foundation for engaging in efforts to enhance the HIV prevention, care and treatment, and stigma reduction activities that may be underway in your community. And if these efforts are not taking place in your community, the Strategy can suggest principles and priorities against which to assess current activities as well as opportunities to bring together new partners to help make that happen.

A number of activities are being planned in recognition of this 30-year milestone. Shortly, will post a page so you can follow the commemorative activities planned by various Federal government agencies.

After 30 years of HIV/AIDS, we need to recognize how far we have come but, at the same time, continue to commit ourselves to accomplishing what remains to be done. Then, we will truly achieve the vision of the NHAS:

“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”


  1. Imagine if a National AIDS Strategy had been made 20 yrs. ago, in 1991, the advent of HAART, the energy behind prevention and cure still vital…we would be in a very different place today. I often have the sense that the horse is loose, don’t bother with the gate…The people don’t seem to care the way they once did. We work on though, committed to making a difference.
    Mike, Social Worker, HOPWA

  2. Continuing to recommend male circumcision as an effective preventive measure in the fight against HIV/AIDS is a counter-productive distraction. It draws attention and precious resources away from educational and behavior-changing strategies that have proved to be truly effective in reducing the spread of the disease.
    During the past 30 years, the vast majority of HIV infections in the U.S. have been been acquired and spread by circumcised males. In light of this fact, how can any health care agency seriously contend that male circumcision is of any substantial value in reducing HIV infection?
    Infection with HIV is the result of risky behavioral decisions/choices, not from human anatomy. The solution to reducing the spread of HIV will come from changing behavior, not from surgically altering male anatomy.

  3. Melissa Keetsa says:

    Dr. Ronald Valdiserri,

    Its hard to believe that 30 years has past so quickly. I first found out about AIDS because my mother’s best friend, a heterosexual got it from a blood transfusion. She valantly fought her illness but lost the battle sadly.

    Mel keetsa

  4. CDC has a 30 years of HIV/AIDS online community at:

    Join the community and share your personal and professional stories of hope, photographs of triumph, and videos of the journey.

    Over 350 people have joined so far. Hope to see you there.

  5. Have been positive for over 16yrs…memory issues along with depression..59 yrs old

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