On June 5, 1981, AIDS was first reported by clinicians at the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In recognition of the 30-year struggle to combat the disease, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued the following statement:
"For three decades, the world has battled HIV/AIDS. Once, a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was seen as a death sentence. Now, with new weapons in our arsenal and better treatment and understanding of the disease, people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives.
"Just in the last few weeks, new evidence has demonstrated that antiretroviral treatment cannot only save the life of a patient but also dramatically reduce the risk of passing on the virus to his or her partner, cutting the chances of transmission by as much as 96 percent. This is wonderful news for millions of people receiving treatment, but 10 million people still lack access to the medication. We must continue to push for new advances in treatment and encourage the spread of proven prevention tools.
"Ultimately, we hope a vaccine will finally bring the epidemic to an end. Until then, we cannot jeopardize the crucial momentum we have built by cutting programs that are saving millions of lives today and saving billions of dollars in future costs."
Senator Kerry was an original cosponsor of the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2008, and he worked with former Senator Frist (R-TN) in 2002 on the comprehensive AIDS bill that laid the foundation for the program that became the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2008, as part of Lantos-Hyde, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation Senator Kerry wrote with former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) that eliminated the travel ban that prevented those with HIV from entering the United States. Kerry then worked with both the Bush and Obama administrations to ensure that new regulations would be written and on January 4, 2010 these regulations went into place so that HIV positive individuals would finally be able to enter the country.