WASHINGTON -- From dark days to a critical turning point in the AIDS epidemic: The landscape has changed dramatically since the world's largest AIDS conference last met in the United States.

Back in 1990, the first good medicines were still a few years away. Before they arrived, caring for patients with HIV was like "putting Band-Aids on hemorrhages," said the leading U.S. AIDS researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Fast forward: Today's anti-AIDS drugs work so well they not only give people with HIV a near-normal life expectancy, but also offer a double whammy, making those patients less likely to infect other people.

The International AIDS Conference opened Sunday, in the nation's capital, with the goal of "turning the tide" on HIV. Even without a vaccine or a cure, the goal is to finally stem the spread of the virus, using that so-called "treatment as prevention" and other protections.

But the challenge that more than 20,000 scientists, doctors, people living with HIV and policy-makers will grapple with this week is how to get to what the Obama administration calls an AIDS-free generation. Where's the money? What works best in different countries and cultures?

And with HIV increasingly an epidemic of the poor and the marginalized, will countries find the will to invest in the most vulnerable?

Such political commitment must expand to fight laws that are driving some of the populations most at risk -- gay and bisexual men, sex workers and injecting drug users -- away from programs that could help protect them from getting or spreading HIV, said Michel Sidibe, director of UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS program.

"It's outrageous that in 2012, when we have everything to beat this epidemic, that we still have to fight prejudice, stigma, exclusion," he said.

People with HIV marched through Washington Sunday to urge policy-makers to pay attention to a disease that, in this country, doesn't get much publicity anymore. "We're everyday people. Anybody and everybody can catch this," said Ann Dixon, who traveled from Arkansas.

Scientists say they have new tools to add to tried-and-true condoms. Already, Fauci said, regions pushing to get people tested and rushed into treatment are starting to see infections drop, from San Francisco and Washington to South Africa.

East Hampton discrimination … Hempstead housing development … Holocaust survivor learns to dance  Credit: Newsday

Sands Beach Club fire ... LI sharks this summer ... Rangers Game 4 ... Cheap Florida trips

East Hampton discrimination … Hempstead housing development … Holocaust survivor learns to dance  Credit: Newsday

Sands Beach Club fire ... LI sharks this summer ... Rangers Game 4 ... Cheap Florida trips

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