December 4, 2021

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On the 40th Anniversary of the First Reported Cases of AIDS

18 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Forty years ago, on June 5th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on the first five cases of what later became known as AIDS. At that time, none of us could have imagined that AIDS would still be with us today or that it would have taken more than 32 million lives globally, including 700,000 in the United States. 

Today, we honor the memory of these men, women, and children, many of whom we lost in the prime of their lives to this devastating disease. We also celebrate the more than 38 million people worldwide, including 1.2 million in the United States, who are bravely living with HIV.  

The United States is proud of our longstanding partnership with countries and communities around the world toward ending the global AIDS epidemic. We continue to bring the very best of America to this effort – from groundbreaking scientific discovery and inspired activism to steadfast political leadership and deep diplomatic engagement.  

With bipartisan support across presidential administrations and from the U.S. Congress for nearly two decades, the United States has invested more than $85 billion in the global AIDS response through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and as the leading donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  This is the largest commitment ever by one country to address a single disease.  

Working with our many partners, we have saved more than 20 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and significantly accelerated progress toward achieving HIV epidemic control in more than 50 countries. PEPFAR now supports nearly 18.2 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral therapy – an additional one million in the past six months alone. PEPFAR investments also assist nearly 300,000 health care workers, 3,000 laboratories, 70,000 health care sites, and disease surveillance – strengthening country capacity and resilience to prevent, detect, and respond to other infectious disease threats, including COVID-19.  

Forty years on, we must take this important moment to reflect, recommit, reenergize, and reengage. After decades of progress, our work is not yet finished. To complete this journey – one started by the courageous advocates who marched in the streets of New York City, San Francisco, and across America – we must come together as a nation and as a global community. It is time to end the HIV epidemic everywhere.

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