40 Years of Progress – It’s Time to End the HIV Epidemic

Content From: Dr. Angeli Achrekar, Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health, The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and Harold J. Phillips, MRP, Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Officer for Ending the HIV Epidemic, Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: May 17, 20214 min read


40 years of progress

June 5 will mark the 40th anniversary of the first official reported five cases of what later became known as AIDS in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The U.S government and its domestic and international partners will commemorate this important milestone and also observe HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day the same day. The United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS follows these observances June 8–10, where the UN General Assembly will review the global progress made in reducing the impact of HIV and is expected to adopt a political declaration to guide the future direction of the HIV response around the world.


On this 40th anniversary, the U.S government stands alongside the HIV community to reflect on the memory of those we have lost and the work that remains ahead of us. We remember the more than 32 million people, including 700,000 here in the U.S., who have died from HIV-related illness since the start of the epidemic. We also honor the resilience and vital roles played by the 37 million people with HIV around the world, including 1.2 million in the U.S. Remarkable developments in HIV research, prevention, care, and treatment ensure individuals with HIV can live long, healthy lives and those at risk of getting HIV have new and emerging prevention tools.


Over the past four decades, together, we have made tremendous progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths, new HIV infections, and restoring hope to many communities. But we also recognize that, with 1.7 million new HIV infections occurring annually around the globe, including thousands across the U.S., there is still much to do. We recommit to helping end the HIV epidemic at home and abroad by working with a broad range of partners.

The Biden administration has proposed increased investments in global and domestic health programs, including those addressing HIV. A strong, bipartisan coalition of community advocates, health care workers, scientists, and public health and civic leaders domestically and internationally has helped dramatically increase access to revolutionary HIV treatment and prevention tools. The HIV response has also strengthened the response to other infectious diseases and outbreaks such as COVID-19, which will better prepare us for future pandemics. 

Continued strong support for our federal HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs and global research efforts, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative is critical as we progress toward our goal of ending the HIV epidemic.


We must reenergize our HIV response by reinvigorating and diversifying our efforts, while ensuring equitable access to prevention, care, and treatment services and addressing the social determinants of health. Forty years into the HIV epidemic, building on the important progress we have made, we need a renewed, whole-of-society mobilization effort in order to end it. To ensure equity in our programs, research, and policies, we will continue to collaborate with, serve, and support those most impacted by the HIV epidemic, including women and girls, the LGBTQI+ community, people who use drugs, communities of color, and many others. 


The U.S. government recognizes that we cannot end the HIV epidemic alone. We will continue to reengage with our partners around the world to support their critical contributions to the HIV response, optimize coordination, and build on the systems in place to help respond to COVID-19. By further diversifying and supporting our partners on the ground in the communities most heavily affected, we can help maximize and sustain our collective impact. In the U.S., the federal government continues to strengthen our public, private, and community partnerships. Together, we will continue to innovative our response to HIV to address individual, community, and structural factors and inequities that contribute to the spread of HIV, including stigma and social determinants of health such as housing.

The U.S. government is committed to continue working with a diverse and resolute HIV community to reach our shared goal.

The knowledge and resilience built through our collective four-decade fight in HIV prevention, care, and treatment gives us the strength to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to reach our ultimate goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.