A History of HIV & AIDS

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The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with HIV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are here to to respond to the challenges of HIV, and over the next next few weeks, as we prepare to enter our 25th year, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past 25 years as HIV and AIDS have swept across the globe, touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.

On 5 June 1981, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) published a report describing cases of a rare form of pneumonia among five gay men in Los Angeles. Soon after, there are a number of reports of a rare skin cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, increase among gay men living in California and New York.

In 1982, the term A.I.D.S. (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is used for the first time. Prior to this, it was called G.R.I.D. (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) and was associated with homosexuality because it was first documented among gay men in New York and California.  It was only in 1983 we began to get evidence that AIDS is caused by a virus (sic), this emerges from the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The US reports that more than 1,200 Americans have been affected by AIDS and more than one-third of them have died.

The number of cases doubles each six months, it is officially an epidemic and the deadliest since swine fever ravaged the US at the end of the first world war.
In Geneva, the World Health Organisation convenes the first meeting to discuss the international implications of AIDS, which has so far been found in dozens of countries, and has now been found in both women and men.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus was isolated by scientists in the US and France (though it was not formally named as HIV until 1986). Later, a public controversy erupts over who first discovered HIV, and eventually over who would get the Nobel Prize for it.

Along with the discovery of the virus, the first diagnostic blood test, known as the Elisa test, is developed to screen for HIV infection.

This photo of Ryan White was taken by me (Wild...

This photo of Ryan White was taken in the spring of 1989 at a fund raising event in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ryan White, a haemophiliac teenager who contracted HIV from contaminated blood products in 1985 is barred from school.  He soon becomes one of the most bravest, and well-known advocates for AIDS research and awareness in America.

1985 also marks the year that Hollywood actor Rock Hudson dies of an AIDS related illness. He had recently publicly disclosed his AIDS diagnosis.

The first international Aids conference is held in Atlanta, Georgia and 1986 marks the discovery of a second type of HIV, eventually named HIV-2, it’s discovered by US and French research teams. Jon Parker, a former drug user, starts the first needle-exchange programme in the US to combat HIV among intravenous drug users and The World Health Organisation launches the Global Programme on Aids. The programme will later end and be replaced by UNAids, the UN Aids agency.

Stay tuned over the next few days for more information as we reveal more, of the history of HIV and AIDS.

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