April 23, 2014 marks an anniversary that no one wants to celebrate. It has been 30 years since scientists identified HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus as the cause of AIDS.
Since that time, many of us have lived in fear of catching it, living with it, being stigmatized by it, and then dying from it. I, like many others remember the early 1980’s when people, mostly gay men, were getting sick and dying from a mysterious flu-like sickness. Medical experts were perplexed. The average person was even more confused.
It was in April 1984 that Margaret Heclker, the US Health and Human Services Secretary, along with scientist Dr. Robert Gallo, reported the discovery of HIV, the virus found to cause the disease called AIDS.When Dr. Robert Gallo; representing the National Cancer Institute triumphantly announced the causative pathogen of AIDS he also and hinted that a new process to mass produce the virus has been developed. Based on this ability, to produce and study the virus, experts opined that a vaccine for the disease would be available within 2 years. It is 30 years later and we still don’t have one.
The quest for an effective vaccine is still going on but advances in treating the infection has led to a steep fall in AIDS deaths. According to latest data provided by CDC there are 1,144,500 Americans who are living with HIV infection. Since the discovery of the HIV virus 30 years ago, more than 650,000 Americans have succumbed to the disease.
Before researchers figured out that it was HIV that caused AIDS, gay men themselves were often blamed. They were frequently demonized, feared, and ostracized. It remained that way for quite some time, and in some cases continues to this day. It wasn’t until HIV and AIDS began to show up in the heterosexual population that the stigma began to lessen. It wasn’t until people like Magic Johnson revealed their HIV positive status that others began to realize that it wasn’t just a gay disease.
But 30 years later some people still aren’t getting the message. Many young people who didn’t live through those frightening years certainly aren’t getting the message. Some of them still aren’t practicing safe sex. This is demonstrated by the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates more than half of all undiagnosed HIV infections today are among youth ages 13 to 24.
For 27 of the last 30 years Poverello has been responding to the needs of HIV–positive community. Thanks to Father Bill, his vision and his profound sympathy for those living with the virus, Poverello has extended compassion and support to those living with HIV.
Without your help, and the support of our community, we could not have accomplished the goal Poverello set: To provide life-saving food and other basic living essential to people living with HIV/AIDS. This year, we are on track to provide enough food to people with HIV to make nearly 1.5 million meals.
So on this solemn anniversary there is no more fitting way to mark it than by donating your time and or financial support to this important cause.
You can Donate now to Poverello to support this important cause.