December 1 was World AIDS Day.  According to the CDC:

The first cases of AIDS were reported more than 30 years ago in the June 5, 1981 issue of MMWR. Since then, the epidemic has claimed the lives of approximately 30 million persons worldwide, and 34.2 million persons are currently living with HIV infection.

Think about that for a moment.  30 million people in 30 years — that’s an average of one million men, women, and children per year — have died of AIDS.

Some data from the U.S.:

In the United States, approximately 602,000 persons diagnosed with AIDS have died since the first cases were reported, and approximately 50,000 persons become infected with HIV each year.  An estimated 1.1 million persons in the United States are living with HIV infection.

Alexandra Sifferlin at wonders whether universal testing is on the horizon:

As World AIDS Day approaches Dec. 1, public health experts are turning the focus on teens and young adults who make up a remarkably high proportion of HIV infections in the U.S.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), too few youth are getting tested for HIV. People ages 13 to 24 make up more than a quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S. each year, and over half of those youth infected with HIV are unaware that they are HIV-positive.

“Given everything we know about HIV and how to prevent it after more than 30 years of fighting the disease, it is just unacceptable that young people are becoming infected at such high rates,” CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a teleconference.

We know what causes AIDS (infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus — HIV), how it is acquired, and who (possibly a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a classmate, a newborn baby) is more likely to get it.  We know which treatments work better than others.  We know the fundamentals of prevention.  Still, there is work to do:

 “All Americans can talk honestly and openly about HIV to help combat the stigma and fear that keep people from seeking prevention and treatment,” Frieden said. “Dramatically reducing HIV among young people is going to require that all of us do our part.” Frieden says the CDC is pushing for more widespread testing and education about the virus both in healthcare settings and in communities since young people often do not seek health care on a regular basis.

While talking to trusted adults about HIV and sexual health is important, Frieden hopes that teens and young adults start to educate themselves. “Young people themselves need to get the facts about HIV, resist pressure to have sex, drink and inject drugs, talk to parents, doctors and other trusted adults about HIV and sexual health and get tested,” he said.

For more on the current status of HIV and AIDS in the U.S., read Alexandra Sifferlin’s two excellent articles at here and here.

Read CDC MMWR here.