15 Years Later: How Well Are We Doing Addressing AIDS (Forbes)

FORBES | This World AIDS Day, we celebrate the astounding progress made in the past 15 years! Thanks to PEPFAR— the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—14.6 million people living with HIV (59%) have access to antiretroviral therapy. More than 2.4 million babies have been born HIV-free. Countless lives have been saved.

This progress was unthinkable when I was a surgical resident in training in the 1980s, studying the latest medical literature and tracking this mysterious new virus. On my annual medical mission trips to Africa, I saw the virus at scale. My clinics overflowed with AIDS patients. I watched the virus hollow out entire societies, taking first the most productive members at the prime of their lives — teachers, police, civil servants, mothers.

I knew there was not much a surgeon could do for a patient dying of AIDS. But in the late 1990s, I wasn’t only a surgeon. I had a new set of colleagues who wielded different tools. I shared stories and photos and data with my fellow Senators. I found allies on both sides of the aisle who grasped the scale of the problem, but also saw—with hope—an opportunity to help. Joe BidenBarbara LeeJohn KerryJesse Helms and others shared my concern.

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