One chart from Bill Gates shows how far we've come in tackling AIDS

  • To commemorate World AIDS Day on Friday, Bill Gates tweeted a graph showing the declining number of AIDS-related deaths.
  • As of 2016, the number of lives saved through using medication was higher than the number of deaths.

For years, AIDS used to be a death sentence.

When HIV/AIDS first arrived in the US 36 years ago, the disease quickly spiraled into an epidemic. But medical advances have since made HIV controllable with medication – especially if diagnosed early.

On Friday, Bill Gates tweeted a graphic showing that there were 1 million deaths related to AIDS in 2016, down from a peak of 1.9 million in 2005. At the same time, the deaths averted because of antiretroviral treatments, used to treat HIV, was an estimated 1.2 million.

That means that, for the first time, fewer people died of AIDS than those who were able to avert death using medication.

While there isn’t a cure for HIV, medications have been successful at suppressing the amount of HIV that’s in the body. Keeping the amount of HIV in the blood low is key for suppressing symptoms of the virus.

Antiretroviral treatments are a type of drug used to treat HIV that have been around since the mid-1990s. There are a number of antiretroviral treatments that have been approved since then.

In November, the FDA approved the first two-drug regiment for treating HIV. The hope is that by using fewer drugs, there won’t be as many side effects for patients.

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