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HIV/AIDS not only represents the most severe epidemic in modern times, but also the greatest public health challenge in history. The response of the scientific community has been impressive and in just a few years, turned an inevitably fatal disease into a chronic manageable although not yet curable condition. The development of antiretroviral therapy is not only the history of scientific advancements: it is the result of the passionate ‘alliance’ towards a common goal between researchers, doctors and nurses, pharmaceutical industries, regulators, public health officials and the community of HIV-infected patients, which is rather unique in the history of medicine. In addition, the rapid and progressive development of antiretroviral therapy has not only proven to be life-saving for many millions but has been instrumental in unveiling the inequities in access to health between rich and poor countries of the world. Optimal benefits indeed, are not accessible to all people living with HIV, with challenges to coverage and sustainability in low and middle income countries. This paper will review the progress made, starting from the initial despairing times, till the current battle towards universal access to treatment and care for all people living with HIV.