HIV has made us recognize that people express their love for each other in a variety of ways, and sometimes that love is expressed between people of the same gender. There is certainly much more tolerance today than there was 25 years ago, but I hope that we can say at the end of my life that full equality has been reached.
I hope that we can experience a time in the United States when we are realistic about the fact that adolescents are sexual, that some parents or groups might prefer abstinence, but that all adolescents need to know how to take care of themselves if they do decide to have sex.
HIV has focused attention on gender inequity, but inequality still remains and still fuels the epidemic. What will it take to create a truly gender-equal world?
HIV has taught Americans that there is a big world out there, and that our wealth and resources can do a lot of good. I marvel, every time I go to Africa or South America or China to do my AIDS research, at the energy and commitment of the people with whom I am privileged to work. HIV has taught us that we have much in common, and that we can work together for everyone's betterment.
I hope, at the end of my life, that our country recognizes that our fate is tied inextricably with the rest of the world, that we do our best work when we work together with others. I hope we can say that we really stepped up, did our best for our own citizens and the citizens of the world.
Thomas J. Coates, Ph.D., is professor of infectious diseases and director of the UCLA Program in Global Health at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.