Today is World AIDS Day.
According to the World Health Organization, AIDS is responsible for 2.6 million deaths this past year. Another 39.5 million people are living with the virus that will eventually give them AIDS.
I am one floor above the retroviral laboratories here. These are the labs where scientists work on finding the vaccine, the treatment, the cure. These labs are empty. Are the scientists are losing hope in their craft?
Twenty-five years and 25 million people dead, I would not blame them.
I loath to say there will be no cure because I am a scientist, a problem solver. It is hard for me to take, that a biological problem will not have a biological solution. But I still think that I will not live to see an absolute cure for HIV infections.
I am listening to NPR this morning and I hear a man describing the deaths of friends he has lost to AIDS. As I struggle to keep my composure, tears welling in my eyes, I know two things. One, I am right in my decision to pursue a graduate degree in infectious diseases and two, I will likely never find a cure.
And that’s alright because for some things, it is foolish to keep the faith. For some things, there will be no magic bullet.
But I feel there is still hope in these incurables things. Even as we lose hope in our abilities to discover a cure we find hope in our abilities to control the disease. I have hope in condoms, I have hope in sterile needles, I have hope in destigmatizing AIDS and in making HIV testing cheap, easy, and available.
I have hope because for AIDS, prevention isn’t the best medicine. It’s the only medicine.