In addition to being the birthday of two friends of mine, today is World AIDS Day. So I feel a certain somberness even as I celebrate.
Many advances have been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS since it was first discovered, but the treatments are expensive and inaccessible to millions of poor persons all over the world who are HIV-positive. Knowledge of advances in treatment has led some to engage in risky behavior, unaware of the expense of the treatments and failing to take into account the fact that these treatments are not cures. In spite of scientific progress, HIV is still a deadly disease, and recent efforts to create a vaccine have led to disappointment.
As well, significant stigma still surrounds infection. Some still view HIV/AIDS as a gay disease; thus the stigma surrounding the gay community falls on sufferers of this horrible illness. Although there is less stigma now than there was in the past, it is still a heavy and unfair burden to carry on top of that of the relentless retrovirus.
In light of these facts, defensive pessimism may be the best way to deal with the HIV infection of oneself or of a loved one. There is reason to be cautiously hopeful, though. Scientific research continues, and public health policies are being reevaluated. The idea, based on a mathematical model, that AIDS could be virtually eliminated within ten years, may be unrealistic, but at least one study says that it is theoretically possible.