World AIDS Day 2011: Entering the fourth decade of HIV

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From The Huffington Post:

By Robert Klitzman, M.D.

“I’m going to be in the New England Journal of Medicine,” a patient once told me proudly. “Not me exactly, but my X-rays.” It was the happiest I had ever seen him. He was the first AIDS patient I had ever treated. Fevers raged through his body, pneumonias wracked his lungs, and purple splotches covered his skin. Yet he tried to stay cheerful and look for scientific advances and signs of hope. He tried yoga and a macrobiotic diet. But we had no effective treatment to give him.

Sadly, he died shortly thereafter.

I still think of him — of how little we could help.

This week, we celebrate World AIDS Day — and for once, there is a lot of good news. Coincidentally, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of gay men dying of rare opportunistic infections — symptoms of what would later become known as AIDS. Thus, it is an important time to reflect on how far we have come, and where we have left to go.

For years, international AIDS conferences were very somber. A chill would run up my spine as I sat in dark vast lecture halls, hearing more bad news. The numbers of patients rose ever higher around the world. Prevention was failing. No treatment worked. AIDS quilts would hang around us — grim reminders of our losing battle.

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