On the 25th anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of AIDS, FRONTLINE examines one of the worst pandemics the world has ever known in The Age of AIDS. After a quarter century of political denial and social stigma, of stunning scientific breakthroughs, bitter policy battles and inadequate prevention campaigns, HIV/AIDS continues to spread rapidly throughout much of the world, particularly in developing nations. To date, some 30 million people worldwide have already died of AIDS.
"It's a very human virus, a very human epidemic. It touches right to the heart of our existence," says Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. "When you think of it, that in let's say 25 years, about 70 million people have become infected with this virus, probably coming from one [transmission]... it's mind blowing."
And the crisis continues: Over the next decade, an estimated 40 million more people will contract HIV. "We cannot continue just to treat patients as they become infected," says Dr. David Ho, AIDS researcher and Time magazine's 1996 "Man of the Year" for his work on the life-prolonging "triple cocktail" treatment. "The real solution to this epidemic is to curtail the spread of the virus."
Why humanity has failed to stop the spread of HIV is the central question of "The Age of AIDS." Over four hours, the series examines one of the most important scientific and political stories of our time: the story of a mysterious agent that invaded the human species and exploited its frailties and compulsions -- sexual desire and drug addiction, bigotry and greed, political indifference and bureaucratic inertia -- to spread itself across the globe.
Filmed around the world in 19 countries, The Age of AIDS features interviews with major players in the battle against HIV/AIDS: scientists, including Dr. Jim Curran of Emory University and formerly with the Centers for Disease Control, and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergic and Infectious Diseases; political figures, including former President Bill Clinton, U2 front man and AIDS activist Bono and evangelist Franklin Graham; and innovative activists, including Cleve Jones, creator of the AIDS Quilt; Noerine Kaleeba, founder of Africa's first AIDS support organization; and Mechai Viravaidya, "the condom king" of Thailand. (Excerpt from pbs.org)