NEW YORK - When AIDS first appeared in the early 1980s, it was called a "mystery illness" and worse. What we now call the HIV/AIDS epidemic is less of a mystery but the quest for a cure — an HIV vaccine — still eludes researchers.
Activists, notable politicians, and even celebrity advocates have come together on what is known as World AIDS Day — Dec. 1 every year since 1988 — to push for advances in treatment, prevention, and in the way we as a society view those who live with the disease.
In many ways, the attitudes remain: "Stigma, discrimination, racism, homophobia, transphobia," said Krishna Stone of GMHC, the world's first service organization for people with HIV. Stone said that beyond a reminder to treat everyone with dignity, the day also serves as an annual wake-up call.
"An opportunity for us to recharge for the work ahead of us," Stone said.
That work includes work toward a vaccine and a cure. Scientists are closer than ever, thanks to advances made during the work toward a COVID vaccine.
In remarks at a World AIDS Day event at the White House, President Joe Biden pledged an end to the stigma and the epidemic in the United States — once and for all.
"We saw entire communities devastated by this disease, particularly among the LGBTQ+ individuals, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups," Biden said. "I want to make sure that everyone in the United States knows their HIV status, that everyone with HIV receives high-quality care and treatment that they deserve, and that we end the harmful stigma around HIV and AIDS."