This year marked three decades since doctors in the United States first began seeing a new, mysterious disease: AIDS. Since it first appeared, more than 25 million people worldwide have lost their lives to AIDS, according to the World Health Organization.
Every year since 1987, Dec. 1 is recognized across the globe as World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness of the deadly disease. For 2011, the theme surrounding World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The hope is to have zero new HIV infections, which cause AIDS. Zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths also lead the cause.
"In this past year, the pre-exposure prophylaxis protocol was found to be very effective in keeping high-risk, HIV-negative people from becoming infected," explains Craig Wilson, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Epidemiology and director of the Sparkman Center for Global Health.
This new approach, Wilson says, can serve as a means to prevent transmission, potentially leading to the goal of zero new HIV infections. However, there are still challenges ahead.
"Sustainability on programs around the world with all of the financial cutbacks is a huge challenge," Wilson explains.
"As financial issues mount - particularly in Europe - we become more dependent on donations to fight this disease," adds Wilson.
Prioritization is something Wilson says will become an issue. The question is do you spend more money on prevention, or more on treatment?
Despite the roadblocks, Wilson believes we've seen the worst of the havoc this disease can wreak. Moving forward, he sees the possibility of even better advances by World AIDS Day 2012.
"There are a lot of positive things on the horizon for prevention," Wilson concludes.