Since the AIDS epidemic was first identified 17 years ago, some 380,000 Americans have lost their lives to this disease. In the same period, we estimate that worldwide AIDS deaths have been 11.7 million.
In recent years, we have had some hopeful developments in the United States and other industrialized nations. New treatments, as well as prevention efforts, have brought about reductions in the number of AIDS deaths in America. But in the developing world, there has been little to report except growing numbers of infected persons and growing numbers of deaths, including the spread of infection from pregnant women to their infants. Treatments that have been proven most effective in the industrialized nations have generally been unaffordable and impractical for countries of the developing world.
Today's news from Thailand is one of the first hopeful signs for countering HIV and AIDS in the developing nations of the world. While we are still far from control or cure of this disease, it now appears we may have a preventive therapy which is affordable and feasible in less developed nations, and which can significantly reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to infant. For tens of thousands of women in developing nations who are pregnant and infected with HIV, this is a vitally important development.
Now, with the leadership of UNAIDS and the cooperation of the leading industrial nations, we must move to translate these findings into effective public policy and health care practices.