The return of the International AIDS Conference to Durban led to much reflection on and comparison with the situation 16 years earlier when the meeting was last held there. AIDS 2000 is now seen as a watershed in the fight against HIV/AIDS, when the human face of the crisis in Africa was recognised inspiring the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Enormous progress has been made since 2000 in terms of treatment options and roll-out of life saving therapy. Of an estimated 38 million people living with HIV, 17 million are receiving treatment—3 million of them in South Africa, which has the largest HIV burden but also the largest treatment programme of any country. But despite this great progress, the mood at the conference was neither celebratory nor congratulatory. New estimates from both UNAIDS and the Global Burden of Diseases Study suggest that HIV incidence has not declined substantially in the past 5 years. When the 18 000 or so delegates reflect on the 2016 conference in 2030—when global targets aim to have ended AIDS—it will be remembered as the point when the global HIV/AIDS community realised just how much of an uphill struggle that target represents.