AIDS, 2031: Controllable but Still a Social Ill

AIDS will still be with us 25 years from now.

The disease will remain widespread in at-risk populations in the United States and continue to be more concentrated among African-Americans and Latinos than whites.

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Sub-Saharan Africa will still hold first place in terms of number of infections and burden of disease.

But, given the advances the medical community is making now, the disease will be somewhat controlled.

The anti-HIV drugs we are using now will be replaced with cheaper and more effective drugs that are more easily tolerated. We might also have the advantage of immune boosters that work from the other side -- not only killing the virus but also boosting immunity.

We will hopefully have a wider variety of prevention strategies, including the use of anti-HIV drugs or immune boosters to prevent infection or reduce infectiousness in those with HIV.

Some of the biggest issues surrounding the future of AIDS remain to be seen. Will we have made progress against the social conditions that fuel HIV? And will the stigma of HIV be reduced, or will those with the disease still be branded?

We certainly will have made great strides in the medical arena. Let's hope that they are matched by gains so that we protect the most vulnerable from this and other diseases.

Thomas J. Coates is associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute and a professor in the department of medicine.