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On Anniversary of First Report, a Change to HIV.gov

Mary Caffrey
The change reflects scientific advances that have converted AIDS from a certain death sentence to a condition that can be managed with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Thirty-six years after CDC published the first report on the cluster of cases that would come to known as AIDS, the government’s website has changed its name from AIDS.gov to HIV.gov. The change reflects scientific advances that have transformed a once-fatal disease to a condition that can be controlled if properly diagnosed and treated.

“Much progress has been made in HIV/AIDS research since the disease was first recognized in 1981,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “Today, lifesaving antiretroviral therapies allow those living with HIV to enjoy longer, healthier lives—an outcome that once seemed unattainable.”

Fauci was among those that read that first case report in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, known as MMWR. When he read a second report a month later on clusters of odd cancers among 41 previously healthy gay men, he instantly knew this was the onset of something major, and against the advice of mentors reorganized his research to work on this strange emerging disease. He soon predicted that what came to be called AIDS would not stay within the populations where it first appeared.

A website called AIDS.gov, representing the acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, represented progress at the time it arrived—by then, the government’s response had matured. In 2016, more than 8 million people visited the site and its social media channels for information about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and related programs and services, including HIV testing, medical care, and treatment. The change also embraces the way people search for information today; in its statement, HHS states that more people now search for “HIV” than “AIDS.”

“The shift to HIV.gov is proactive and inclusive, and its sends a strong, supportive message to the 1.1 million people across America who are living with HIV,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “The number of annual HIV infections in the US fell 18% between 2008 and 2014, but progress has not been the same for all communities. HIV.gov will deliver current science, accurate information, and links to effective resources for the people who need them most.”

According to the World Health Organization, since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have been infected with HIV, and more than 35 million have died.

 
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