Letter: Progress, challenges after 40 years of AIDS

From: Ann Jones, for Granny Connection


2020 goes down in history as the year of the pandemic, but the worst pandemic in recent history is HIV and AIDS. It began in 1981 and continues today without a cure despite great effort. Columbus joins the international community in remembering the more than 36 million people, including 700,000 Americans, who have tragically died from AIDS related illness. Yearly the Granny Connection renews our organizational commitment to stand with the 38 million people now living with HIV worldwide. You saw red scarves within the city commemorating World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 and reflecting the “red ribbon” which has become the universal symbol of AIDS awareness. We thank Mill Race Center and many others who contributed to this project. Please help yourselves if you need a warm scarf this winter.

AIDS is no longer a death sentence as it was in the early 80s thanks to the six classes of anti-HIV drugs now on the market. In fact, the rapid development of vaccines effective against COVID-19 could not have been possible without decades of HIV research. Unfortunately, HIV is vastly more complex and we still have no vaccine or cure for HIV. The recent COVID public health challenge has drained much energy and research funding from HIV and AIDS. The president has reinstated the White House Office of National AIDS Policy to better coordinate efforts and has released an updated National HIV/AIDS strategy to improve access to comprehensive evidence-based HIV prevention. President Joe Biden voices an initiative to end this horrible pandemic as a public health threat by 2030. Working with PEPFAR-supported countries and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, UNAIDS and other regional and local partners, we will watch to see if the 2030 goal is attainable.

The Granny Connection continues to rededicate ourselves in upholding and advancing human rights, supporting research and data-driven solutions, which includes fighting stigma and discrimination. Far too many people continue to experience these very difficult challenges. We ask all people to do what you can to educate yourselves about HIV and AIDS, take action from within a multitude of choices, and continue to imagine a future when AIDS is nothing more than history.