(The Root) — This month marks the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the United States, an occasion that has prompted reflection on advances made in fighting the epidemic. Antiretroviral drug treatments have transformed the virus in this country from a fatal disease to a manageable chronic condition. HIV transmission to newborns has been virtually eliminated. The national infection rate has declined by 60 percent. Of course, the epidemic continues despite the successes — especially among African Americans, who account for nearly half of the nation’s new HIV infections. And recent economic challenges actually threaten to roll back decades of progress, as cash-strapped states reduce access to lifesaving medicine for thousands of HIV patients. Facing budget shortfalls, 17 states have scaled back AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), which help about 174,000 poor or uninsured patients pay for expensive HIV medication. Through lowered income-eligibility thresholds or direct funding cuts, HIV-positive people have been thrown off insurance rolls, and a record high of 8,111 are on waiting lists (pdf) for antiretrovirals and other drugs. The actual need is likely greater, since some states have eliminated waiting lists altogether.