Over the past 25 years, a microscopic and frustratingly complicated form of life-a retrovirus-has fully altered this planet. Billions of dollars have gone into research, treatment and education, driving an enormous segment of medical science. But this tiny replicating fragment of RNA still evades attempts at a cure. Here, we present a series of perspectives on the culture that has arisen to combat HIV/AIDS.

Check back regularly for more reports from around the globe.

OVERVIEW

“In 1981, I was on a sabbatical year in the lab of Dr. Robert Gallo at the NIH. I’d been working on retroviruses, looking at the mechanisms by which they appeared to be causing cancer in animals. One of the things we noticed was that these viruses suppressed the immune system….”

ADVOCACY

Until as recently as the mid-1990s, the Chinese government maintained that AIDS wasn’t a domestic problem; foreigners were required to take HIV tests while citizens were kept in the dark. Seed’s Shanghai Correspondent Mara Hvistendahl reports on what’s changed-and what hasn’t.

THE MEDIA

MTV joined the fight against HIV/AIDS in 1998 when it launched Staying Alive, an international campaign designed to increase awareness, fight discrimination and encourage safe lifestyle choices. Seed spoke with MTV International’s VP of Public Affairs, Georgia Arnold, about how the network’s campaign is evolving alongside the epidemic.

CONFLICT

Hussam lives in Jericho, a West Bank city of just under 40,000 residents. Infected with HIV a decade ago, he copes with medication shortages and security clearances for hospital visits-a set of circumstances perhaps unique to this time and place. Such is the life of a Palestinian with AIDS.

MONEY

The Kenyan Minstry of Health reports that HIV/AIDS infection rates are falling in Kenya, but that’s little comfort to those already infected. Enter Lucy Nduta of Salvation Healing Ministry, who refers to herself as a “prophetess” and claims she can cure a person of AIDS-for a price.

THE VACCINE

Many different strains of HIV exist worldwide. Viruses within a single strain can differ significantly. HIV’s coat, or envelope, is covered in “sugars” and can rapidly mutate. For these reasons, we know that an effective HIV vaccine is going to be very different from any other vaccine we have today.