Last November marked the 30th anniversary of one of the most talked-about and certainly one of the most consequential press conferences in pop cultural history.

Magic Johnson, a Los Angeles Lakers and a basketball icon, announced he was HIV positive. The news made shock waves.

Magic was in his prime but no longer seemed invincible.

The virus had entered the NBA and it had a new face. Along with David Stern, then the league’s Commissioner, Johnson became an advocate for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and research.

1991 also marked the year the looped, inverted-V red ribbon made its debut at the Tony Awards. From then on, this symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and of support for those who were affected by the disease, became ubiquitous on the lapels of those gracing every red carpet event under the Hollywood sun.

In the last 30 years, there have been great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The number of infections has declined and those infected can live longer, thanks to medication. The fight against the disease is certainly one of the great unsung successes of this century and an example of the power of collegiality as doctors, scientists, health workers, donors, activists and governments came together to tackle this preventable disease.

Despite the profound progress, HIV/AIDS is still here. And, it’s enough of an ailment for some of the world’s most illustrious doctors, scientists, health workers, donors, activists and government representatives to gather in Montreal, as the city hosts the 24th edition of the International AIDS Conference, July 29 to Aug. 2. On its website, one can read that it’s time to re-engage and follow the science. And it is.

The progress might be profound but it’s fragile. More than one-third of the 38 million people living with HIV today don’t have access to antiretroviral drugs though the cost of a year of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for one person has come down from $10,000 to less than $66 per person per year — an all-time low.

The Global Fund is a movement. Its mission is to defeat three of the world’s most preventable diseases, including HIV. Governments, the private sector and NGOs pledge funds to support its three-year cycles. And it works. Health programs supported by the Global Fund partnership have saved 44 million lives and AIDS-related deaths dropped by nearly 55 per cent.

And because numbers matter, here are some more.

For this year’s replenishment to make sure the Global Fund stays on track and progress continues, $18 billion is needed. The United States has pledged $6 billion. Its contributions must be matched two to one to unlock total funding. Should Canada fall short of a contribution of $1.2 billion - its fair share - money would be left on the table. It’s a waste that would cost lives.

It’s not enough for our country to want the image of being a beacon of benevolence. It has to sustain it with action, often measured in dollars.

Science has given us the tools to finally beat HIV and years of progress have given us the knowledge and skills to them where they are most needed. Do we not owe it to all those who got us thus far to keep the fight and to fund it properly.

Most people living with HIV are on the African continent - that shouldn’t make us care less. Au contraire. Continued support for the eradication and treatment of HIV/AIDS is essential, even if the red ribbon is no longer the accessory-du-jour because the malady, alas, is not a passing trend. But Canada can be part of making it one.

 - Élise Legault is the Canadian director of ONE