The world can end AIDS--but this wasn't always the case. Back when the first cases were identified 35 years ago, the outlook was grim. The disease seemed unstoppable. And its ferocious destruction was abetted by hate-filled social stigmas that stood in the way of research.
The world has largely shed that hate and medical advances have made the disease manageable, but the world must remain vigilant if people are to be freed from fear.
As the world reflects on all the men and women who have suffered and persevered, US President Barack Obama is calling for an AIDS-free world by 2030.
He's not the first person to promote this goal, but as far as US Presidents go, Obama has been a unique champion of progress. His administration introduced the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy and he consistently advocates for more work to be done.
In trademark Obama fashion, his statement on the 35th anniversary of the first report of the disease is eloquent.
Today, the world is at a critical juncture. 35 million people live with HIV. More than 2 million people are infected each year and more than 1.5 million die from the disease's progression.
Only 38% of adults and 24% of children receive adequate antiretroviral therapy, according to UNAIDS. But these numbers belie an even harsher reality. Most people with HIV in developed countries, like the US, receive adequate health care.
It's the world's most vulnerable--especially women--who are at the highest risk of contracting and dying from the disease.
Worldwide efforts, led by groups like UNAIDS, are expanding preventative measures and health care and lives are being saved as a result.
Rates of infection are declining. By 2030 it's estimated that nearly 21 million lives will be saved through all this work.
For this to happen, investments have to be made. Programs have to be expanded. And the world cannot be lulled into a false sense of security just because AIDS is no longer dire in wealthy nations.
The "breathtaking quilt" of unity that Obama says was stitched together by millions of people must be shared with the whole world. HIV/AIDS does not have to be a death sentence. And our collective future does not have to be uncertain.
The world can end AIDS and that effort has to continue now.