25 Stories: World AIDS DayIf Dr. Woody Myers could ask HIV one thing, it would be this: “Let us into your secrets.” For Myers, as for many other who work in the HIV/AIDS field, HIV’s 31 years have been full of mysteries alongside triumphs, setbacks alongside progress. As former health commissioner of the state of Indiana, Myers has seen firsthand the ebb and flow of the epidemic as it has made its way around Indiana and the United States and across the globe.
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, a day for people from all corners of the world to come together in fighting against HIV, show support those living with HIV, and honor those we’ve lost to this disease. People like Dr. Myers have been doing this for a long, long time. So how far have we come in 31 years? “You don’t have to die from it anymore,” says Meyers. “And that means if you have it, you can extend your life to almost normal by taking your medication and doing good healthy things. It’s not the death sentence that it used to be.”
Nevertheless, Myers shares cautionary words about the state of HIV/AIDS in other parts of the world. “It’s still a major, major public health issue and problem around the world,” he explains. “Although we’ve kind of got our arms around it, so to speak, in the United States, that’s not the case in many other countries, where the battle is far more difficult.” In Mozambique, for example, Myers estimates that only a third to half of HIV+ individuals are being treated and that roughly a third of the adult population is HIV+. “We still have a lot that we need to do and a lot that we need to learn,” he says, “but we’re making progress.”
And some of that progress, he reminds us, is in the form of research being done on HIV and other viruses that work in fascinating and often puzzling ways to interact with human cells. Myers anticipates that treatments like pre-exposure prophylaxis or even a cure or vaccine for HIV are the next wave of development. “The research on HIV has led us to a lot of interesting conclusions and new ideas as a result of understanding much more about how viruses interact with people,” he explains. “It’s also giving us new avenues to attack. The drugs that have been created and the methods used to fight HIV are going to be applicable to other diseases as well. And even though we don’t have a vaccine yet for HIV, we are finding ways to develop vaccines for a lot of other diseases that are viral. So it’s paying off in a lot of other ways.”
This World AIDS Day, we hope you’ll take a moment to think about and act on how you can continue fighting or join the fight against HIV and support those in your life, community, or world who are living with it. Here at The Damien Center, we focus on doing those things right here in Central Indiana, and we invite you to join us. You can read more about what we're doing to carry out our vision for an AIDS-free generation on our website, or find out more about World AIDS Day on aids.gov.