As HIV/AIDS management moves from acute to chronic care, World AIDS Day is a time to celebrate progress and map out a plan for the future. For primary care physicians, it’s also time to reflect on where they fit in when it comes to managing patients and fighting a resurgence.

“The whole point of World AIDS Day is to think back on the patients that were lost, especially when the epidemic was raging and we didn’t really have any real treatment. That was a horrible time,” John S. Cullen, MD, FAAFP, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and a family practitioner from Alaska, told Medical Economics. “Now, the treatment has gotten so much better that we’re seeing people have medical problems consistent with age.”John S. Cullen, MD, FAAFP

HIV/AIDS is much more of a chronic condition than a fatal disease today, thanks to effective treatment strategies including antiretroviral medications. Although some conditions patients with HIV/AIDS face may be due to the medications they take to manage the disease, Cullen said in a way it’s a miracle that many of these patients are living long enough to have to battle diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol and cognitive issues. In the past, HIV/AIDS patients would not have lived long enough to develop most of these conditions.

World AIDS Day is time for patients and providers to reflect on how far the management of HIV/AIDS has progressed, Cullen said. Observed on December 1 each year, the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Increasing Impact Through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships.” According to the a statement by Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the Department of State, the theme is meant to be a reflection of the nation’s leadership in fighting the AIDS epidemic both at home and abroad.