As people around the globe pause to reflect on World AIDS Day, it's important to highlight that few years since the 1980s dawn of the HIV epidemic have provided as many hopeful headlines as 2010.
To be sure, HIV continues to claim uncountable lives, but the news from 2010 is full of reasons we may, in fact, be okay. Ongoing developments have even prompted some to start using the "c" word—cure.
The coverage of World AIDS Day is justifiably filled with powerful images that can shock, anger, and sadden. But here at TakePart HQ, we think you should keep brighter headlines in mind as well:
- The global HIV spread has begun to reverse. The United Nations now believes the epidemic peaked in 1999, and the number of new infections has fallen by 19 percent since that time. 33.3 million people are now estimated to be living with HIV.
- Deaths from AIDS are falling across the world. In 2009, 1.8 million people died worldwide from AIDS-related illnesses. Just five years earlier, that number was 2.1 million.
- A once-daily pill cut the risk of HIV infection by 70 percent. A drug already on the market—Truvada—was found in November to drastically cut a gay man's risk of contracting HIV. It's the first drug that has been shown to help prevent infection.
- The Pope finally endorsed condom use—in certain cases. Pope Benedict XVI said that male prostitutes—a relatively small community—could be permitted to use condoms. AIDS campaigners saw this concession as a dramatic shift by a pontiff who previously said condom use actually spread HIV. Many hope that the Pope's remarks will encourage wider use of condoms in Africa and other developing areas hard hit by the epidemic.
- A new gel significantly cut a woman's risk of contracting HIV. A study, announced in July, marked the first time researchers had found a way for women to independently protect themselves from contracting the virus.
- A record number of Americans were tested for HIV last year. 82.9 million adults took the test in 2009, 40 percent more than four years ago. The number is significant because it is thought that 200,000 Americans with HIV don't know they have the virus. Testing is the first step in stopping the spread.
- Researchers solved the mystery of why some people appear to be immune to AIDS. The findings can help scientists focus on something that is important in blocking the progression of HIV to AIDS.
- Another team uncovered how the virus actually triggers the death of immune cells. Researchers think this finding can open up a new line of attack against the virus.