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Thirty years later AIDS still a growing epidemic: More than 25 million people have died from this dreaded disease since 1981

STATE SEN. JOHN L. SAMPSON | 12/8/2011, 1:15 a.m.

People have become more sensitive to the disease because of ongoing public education. The twin barriers of ignorance and discrimination, although they still exist, have been steadily broken down as people gain a better understanding of the disease and its effects.

However, that's not the case in the developing world, where the disease is still killing millions of people each and every day. As we recognize World AIDS Day, let us also remember the plight of the less fortunate in the emerging nations of the world. An epidemic is both a medical and social occurrence. Medically, it is the appearance of a serious, often fatal disease in numbers far greater than normal. Socially, it is an event that disrupts the life of a community and causes uncertainty, fear, blame and flight.

The epidemic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which was recognized in the United States in 1981, continues today and will continue into the foreseeable future, mirroring epidemics of the past.

Despite the seriousness of the epidemic, particularly in certain geographic areas and among certain demographic groups, America lacked a comprehensive plan on AIDS until 2010. President Barack Obama had promised to rectify this during his election campaign by committing to the creation of a national HIV/AIDS strategy. The strategy, which was launched in July 2010, is structured around three core aims: reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities.

This is a step in the right direction.