‘The breakthrough is remarkable’: Local infectious disease physician reflects on World AIDS Day

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – News of a deadly virus spreading through our communities has become part of our everyday conversations in this pandemic age, but that wasn’t the case 40 years ago when HIV was first identified in the U.S.  

When the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) first hit the scene in the 1980s, a diagnosis was virtually a death sentence, according to Dr. Dawd Siraj, infectious disease and HIV physician, UW Health, and professor of medicine, UW School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

“The breakthrough is remarkable,” said Siraj. “Turning the tide of this disease that has been once a death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease.”

While the strides made in combating HIV have been extraordinary, World AIDS day serves as a reminder that the coronavirus is not the only pandemic we face.

“It’s also important to remind ourselves that, on average, every year around 1.5 million people get infected with HIV as a new diagnosis,” Siraj pointed out.

Locally, Brown County is one of three counties in Wisconsin that had the most new HIV diagnoses in 2020, according to data from the DHS.  That’s among the thousands living with HIV state-wide.

“Here in the state of Wisconsin we have over seven thousand individuals who are infected with HIV,” Siraj said.

The doctor says it’s important to remember those we’ve lost to HIV, as well as celebrate how far we’ve come in controlling the disease, but we’re not done yet.

“Of course, the Holy Grail of HIV that is left for us is finding a cure,” Siraj said.

This year is the 33rd annual world AIDS day, recognized every year on December 1.

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