"Curing AIDS? Shit, that’s like Cadillac making a car that lasts for 50 years. And you know they can do it, but they ain’t going to do nothing that fucking dumb. Shit, they got metal on the Space Shuttle that can go around the Moon and withstand temperatures of up to 20,000 degrees, you mean to tell me you don’t think they can make an El Dorado with a fuckin’ bumper that don’t fall off?"
- Chris Rock (“Bigger and Blacker”, 1999)
Let’s see what the AIDS timeline looks like, shall we?
1981 — AIDS first reported
1984 — HIV is determined to be the cause of AIDS. Considering that in some cases, it’s taken hundreds of years to determine the cause of illnesses, three years doesn’t sound too bad.
1987 — First treatment, AZT, introduced.
1991 — AZT’s use is expanded for IV doses, earlier use and pediatric use.
1994 — AZT cuts the risk of transmission from mother to infant by TWO-THIRDS.
1995 — First protease inhibitors used. Over the next few years, the death rate from HIV/AIDS drops by 67%. Let me repeat that. SIXTY-SEVEN PERCENT.
1996 — First antiretroviral therapies (ART) introduced. As a result, the life expectancy of some HIV patients begins to approach that of uninfected people.
2001 — First nucleotide analog approved. Nucleotide analogs are antiviral products that keep a virus from replicating, effectively stalling the disease.
2003 — The first fusion inhibitor is created. This class of drugs interferes with the binding, fusion and entry of an HIV virion to a human cell. By blocking this step in HIV’s replication cycle, such agents slow the progression from HIV infection to AIDS.
2006 — The rate of transmission from mother to infant drops to less than 2%.
2006 — The first one-pill-once-a-day treatment is approved.
2007 — The first CCR5 co-receptor antagonist is approved. The CCR5 co-receptor is a molecule that allows HIV to enter cells. The antagonist fights the co-receptor, effectively blocking HIV’s entrance to the cells, preventing further infection.
2011 — U.S. Health and Human Services recommends early treatment, saying, “In stark contrast to the early and mid-1980s, if a person aged 20 years is newly infected with HIV today and guideline-recommended therapy is initiated, researchers can predict by using mathematical modeling that this person will live at least an additional 50 years – that is, close to normal life expectancy.”
2012 — The U.S. death rate from AIDS has dropped more than 80%. Let me say that one again. MORE THAN EIGHTY PERCENT.
AIDS is not what it was. I remember the way it was, and it was scary. Nowadays, people can get treatment and live with it. It’s not gone, not by a long shot…but progress has been made.
You are treating a routine by a comedian who was speaking of AIDS in 1999—
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO—as a statement of absolute truth. But science isn’t a comedy routine, and the world hasn’t stood still since 1999.
Also, ya know, he’s a comedian. Just because what he says is funny doesn’t mean it is particularly insightful or clever. It’s just funny.