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Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Weekly News | 0 comments

Over 30 years of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic-World AIDS Day

Over 30 years of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic-World AIDS Day

The HIV/AIDS epidemic started in the United States around 1981. We have lived through over thirty years of an epidemic that has changed this country and the globe forever.

Here’s a look at each year during the epidemic. Take note of the new HIV cases and deaths that occurred as the epidemic grew and changed. Thankfully today, we have treatments that can help people living with HIV have long and healthy lives. We also have revolutionary HIV prevention methods and hopefully we will all live to see a future free of HIV and AIDS. 


Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institute,

1981 (159 cases of the new disease are recorded in the U.S.)

-Unexplained cases of enlarged lymph nodes among gay men are observed in high numbers by physicians and researchers in New York City.  Doctors all over the country are seeing cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a rare cancer, in homosexual men, as well as many reported cases of pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a rare form of pneumonia usually found in immunosuppressed patients.

-The New York Times publishes the first news article about the mysterious new disease.

-Initial use of the term GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency, by the media mistakenly suggests a definitive link between homosexuality and the new disease.

-The first AIDS service organization, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), is founded in NYC.


1982 (771 cases of AIDS reported to date;  618 deaths)

-The Centers for Disease Control call this new disease AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

-Cases of the disease are now found among women, infants, and recipients of blood transfusions.


1983 (2,807 cases of AIDS reported to date;  2,118 deaths)

-The CDC warns the public that AIDS is not just a homosexual disease.

-Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi isolate a virus from an AIDS patient in France. They  call this discovery  lymphadenopathy-associated virus, or LAV.  (Not until 1986 do scientists and physicians agree to call the virus HIV).


1984 (7,239 cases of AIDS reported to date; 5,596 deaths)

-Dr. Mathilde Krim testifies before Congress on the need for AIDS research dollars and issues a plea to protect the rights of people with AIDS.

-The AIDS Medical Foundation distributes the first 18 basic research grants.



1985 (15,527 cases of AIDS reported to date; 12,529 deaths)

-Ryan White, a 13 year old heterosexual boy, who contracted AIDS due to hemophiliac blood treatments, is barred from school in Indiana.

-Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS.

-amFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded by Michael Gottlieb, M.D. and Mathilde Krim, Ph.D. Elizabeth Taylor becomes its Founding National Chairman.

-Larry Kramer’s AIDS play, The Normal Heart, shocks audiences.

-The first International AIDS Conference is held in Atlanta.


1986 (28,712 cases of AIDS reported to date;  24,559 deaths)

-The first panel of the AIDS quilt is created in San Francisco.

-For the first time, President Ronald Reagan publicly utters the word “AIDS.”

-The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans the formation of its AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG).

-The first controlled efficacy trial of AZT is undertaken by the NIH.

-Perry Ellis dies of AIDS.

-amFAR awards $1.5 million in research grants to Dr. Nancy Chang to study an HIV enzyme called protease.

-Elizabeth Taylor appears in amFAR TV ads to heighten AIDS awareness and encourage compassion for people with AIDS.


1987 (50,378 cases of AIDS reported to date; 40,849 deaths)

-Approved in record time, zidovudine (AZT) becomes the first anti-HIV drug approved by the FDA. At $100,000.00 for a one year supply, AZT is the most expensive drug in history.

-ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is formed in NYC to protest the $100,000.00 per year cost of AZT. Their motto reads, SILENCE=DEATH.

-The U.S. forbids immigration by people with HIV from entering the country. (This act was not overturned until 2010 by President Barack Obama).

-Liberace dies of AIDS.

And the Band Played On, a history of the AIDS epidemic by reporter Randy Shilts, is published.


-The CDC launches a new nationwide public information campaign, “America Responds to AIDS.”

1988 (82,362 cases of AIDS reported to date; 61,816 deaths)

-ACT UP demonstrates at FDA headquarters to protest the slow pace of AIDS drug approval. Their protests lead to the shutdown of the FDA. Within a week of the shutdown, the FDA begins a “fast track” policy allowing public access to lifesaving drugs still in clinical trial phases.

-The federal government mails an educational pamphlet, “Understanding AIDS,” to 107 million homes nationwide.

-The World Health Organization designates December 1 as the first World AIDS Day.


1989 (117,508 cases of AIDS reported to date; 89,343 deaths)

-The NIH funds 17 community-based AIDS clinical research units as part of a federally sponsored research program.

-Scientists find that even before AIDS symptoms develop, HIV replicates wildly in the blood. The goal of treatment shifts to keeping HIV at low levels in the body.

-amFAR staff member Bruce Kent dies of AIDS.


1990 (160,969 case of AIDS reported to date; 120,453 deaths)

-Ryan White, an activist whose life become media headlines when he was denied passage to school due to his HIV status, dies of AIDS at the age of 18.

-Congress passes the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects individuals with disabilities, including both people with HIV/AIDS and those suspected of being infected, from discrimination.

-To date, nearly twice as many Americans have died of AIDS as died in the Vietnam War.

-amFAR Program Officer Terry Beirn meets with President Bush in the White House Oval Office to advocate passage of the Ryan White CARE Act.

– Congress passes the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990.

-Life Magazine publishes a photograph of a young man, David Kirby, as he took his final breaths, succumbing to AIDS and surrounded by his family.  This photograph became one of the most powerfully identified images of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

1991 (206,563 cases of AIDS reported to date; 156,143 deaths)

-The red ribbon is introduced as the symbol of AIDS solidarity and hope.

-Freddy Mercury, of Queen, dies of AIDS.

-Congress enacts the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) Act of 1991 to provide housing assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.

-Magic Johnson announces that he is infected with HIV.

-The CDC reports that one million Americans are infected with HIV.


1992 (254,147 cases of AIDS reported to date; 194,476 deaths)

-The FDA licenses the first rapid HIV test.

-The first clinical trial of combination antiretroviral therapy begins.

-President Clinton establishes a new White House Office of National AIDS Policy.


1993 (360,909 cases of AIDS reported to date; 234,225 deaths)

-AIDS patients start to show resistance to AZT.

-A play about the AIDS epidemic, Angels in America, wins the Pulitzer Prize.

-The CDC begins to launch condom ads of TV.

-Tom Hanks wins an Oscar for his role as a gay man with AIDS in the film “Philadelphia.”

-A three year European study shows no evidence that AZT delays the onset of AIDS.


1994 (441,528 cases of AIDS reported to date; 270,870 deaths)

-Dr. David Ho and Dr. George Shaw show that following initial infection, HIV replicates in the body continuously, producing billions of copies each day.

-AIDS Activist Pedro Zamora becomes a cast member on MTV’s “The Real World.”  His HIV status and care become a focal point of the show’s season. One day after the season finale, he dies of AIDS at the age of 22.


1995 (513,486 cases of AIDS reported to date; 319,849 deaths)

-The New York Times reports that AIDS has become the leading cause of death among all Americans, ages 25 to 44.

-The FDA approves the first protease inhibitor (saquinavir).

-President Clinton establishes the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

-AIDS deaths in the U.S. reach an all-time high.


1996 (581,429 cases of AIDS reported to date; 362,004 deaths)

-The FDA approves the first non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (nevirapine).

-A treatment breakthrough occurs; The AIDS drug cocktail, highly active anti-retroviral therapy, or HAART, can cut HIV viral load to undetectable levels in the blood. With this breakthrough, U.S. AIDS deaths decline by more than 40%.

-The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) is established to coordinate a global response to the pandemic.

-The first home HIV test is approved by the FDA.


1997 (641,086 cases of AIDS reported to date; 390,692 deaths)

-President Clinton calls for the development of an AIDS vaccine by 2007.

-AIDS patients continue to live longer thanks to the new HIV drug cocktails. AIDS deaths in the U.S. decline.


1998 (688,200 cases of AIDS reported to date; 410,800 deaths)

-Physicians express growing concerns over lipodystrophy and other side effects of current anti-HIV drugs cocktails.

-amFAR launches a clinical trial comparing two therapies for the treatment of Hepatitis C (HCV) in people infected with HIV. (As many as 40% of Americans with HIV are co-infected with HCV).

-African American leaders declare that AIDS constitutes a “state of emergency” for their communities.



1999 (733,374 cases of AIDS reported to date; 429,825 deaths)

-Experts estimate that at least half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. occur among young people under the age of 25.

-Women now account of 23% of AIDS cases in the U.S., as opposed to only 7% in 1985.

-A new class of anti-HIV drugs, called fusion inhibitors, begins clinical trials.


2000 (774, 467 cases of AIDS reported to date; 448,060 deaths)

-The United Nations Security Council declares AIDS an international security issue because it threatens social, economic, and political structures worldwide.

-Dr. Mathilde Krim is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her leadership in creating the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983 and amFAR in 1985, and her commitment to the fight against AIDS.

-The CDC reports that black and Latino men now account for more AIDS cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) than white men.


2001 (816,149 cases of AIDS reported to date; 462,653 deaths)

-In the U.S., the annual cost of combination therapy averages between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00.

-A new study shows that 14% of individuals newly infected with HIV in the United States already exhibits resistance to at least one antiviral drug.

-AIDS organizations and advocates commemorate the 20th anniversary of a brutal, unrelenting epidemic.


2002 (886,000 cases of AIDS reported to date; 501,669 deaths)

-The FDA approves the OraQuick “finger-prick” Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test.

-AIDS becomes the leading cause of death worldwide among people aged 15-59.


2003 (930,000 cases of AIDS reported to date; 524,060 deaths)

-President George W. Bush announces his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),  a five billion dollar initiative to fight HIV/AIDS, primarily in African and Caribbean nations.

-Fuzeon is approved by the FDA, offering new hope to thousands of patients who are resistance to other anti-HIV drugs.

-AIDSVAX, an experimental AIDS vaccine, fails to block HIV infection among the 2,000 clinical trial participants who were intravenous drug-users.

-There is an outbreak of HIV in the California pornography industry.


2004 (940,000 cases of AIDS reported to date; 529,113 deaths)

-The FDA approves the use of oral fluid samples with a rapid HIV test kit that provides screening results with 99% accuracy in as little as 20 minutes.

-15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.



-The CDC reports that more than one million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS.

-The FDA approves Kaletra as the first once-a-day medication treatment option.

-Circumcision is found to reduce HIV infections in men by around 50 percent.

-HIV treatment is shown to extend life by 24 years, at a cost of $618,900.00.

-New HIV infection rates skyrocket among men who have sex with men.

-Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi are awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of HIV.

-For the first time, global AIDS deaths decline.

-The story of a man who was cured of HIV, to become known as “the Berlin Patient” is reported. The man, who was also suffering from leukemia, underwent a risky and costly stem-cell transplant to eradicate his cancer while also receiving new cells with a naturally occurring, HIV-blocking CCR5 mutation.

Senator Edward Kennedy, who was a champion of AIDS-related legislation that affected so many lives, dies.



-President Barack Obama repeals the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants.

-The number of people receiving HIV/AIDS treatment in low-and middle-income countries reaches a record high of 5.25 million, but universal access remains a distant goal.

-A landmark study shows that taking HIV drugs preventatively could significantly reduce infection among men who have sex with men.

-The White House creates the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is aimed to reduce HIV incidence, increase access to care, and reduce health-related disparities.



-More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS around the world.

-Scientific interest in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS intensifies as the International AIDS Society and the NIH announce plans to launch their own cure initiatives.

-A research study shows that putting healthy people living with HIV on antiretrovirals can limit their transmission of the virus by 96 percent.



-Polls show that most Americans no longer consider AIDS a major problem. However, new infections continue to soar. Over half of the new infections occur in MSM, 31% in heterosexuals, 12% in African Americans.



– African American men—gay, straight, or bisexual—become 6 times more likely than white men to contract HIV in a given year. Despite extensive research from epidemiologists throughout the country, no concrete explanation is made to why this phenomenon is occurring.

-Enrollment into the Affordable Care Act Marketplace begins October 2013 nationwide. People living with HIV in the United States may now enroll in health insurance and cannot be denied based on pre-existing conditions.



-The United Nations AIDS Agency reports to the World Health Organization that there is a chance the AIDS epidemic can be brought under control by 2030. While new infections of HIV are occurring around the world, the number of AIDS-related deaths are decreasing exponentially.


World AIDS Day is December 1st. 

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