It was 30 years ago this month that the world was first alerted to the threat of AIDS as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports that five homosexual men from Los Angeles had a rare form of fungus-borne pneumonia known as PCP.
Three decades on, there are some grounds for cautious optimism. The peak year for deaths from AIDS so far was 2005, when 2.1 million people died. The latest figure is down to around 1.8 million.
The rate of new infections in 30 of the world’s poorest countries has fallen by a quarter or more from its peak, while more than 6 million people are now getting anti-retroviral drugs in less prosperous countries against just 2 million five years ago. A new study has shown that these drugs appear to be very effective in preventing the disease spreading.
It is not all good news, though. For every person put on effective medication, there are two newly infected, and as the world’s economy slows down, so has the amount of money being devoted to fighting the disease.
* This is the cover of my new book – Britain’s Worst Military Disasters from the Roman Conquest to the Fall of Singapore. Out soon.