As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades. HIV has 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. Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.
We focus on 1994 today, when The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) released 13 hard hitting AIDS advertisements which was a significant move from their more subdue approach. The prevention method was the use of condoms, which were rarely seen or even mentioned on television.
“One of the television ads, entitled Automatic, features a condom making its way from the top drawer of a dresser across the room and into bed with a couple about to make love. The voice-over says, ‘it would be nice if latex condoms were automatics. But since they’re not – using them should be. Simply because a latex condom, used consistently and correctly, will prevent the spread of HIV.’ (Library Reference)
In February, Secretary Shalala announced the eighteen members of the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development, which includes experts in AIDS drug development issues from academia, industry, medicine, the HIV/AIDS-affected communities, and Government. The Chairman of the Task Force is the Assistant Secretary for Health. The FDA (Food & Drug Administration in America) provides administrative and managerial support for the Task Force.
In March, the actor Tom Hanks won an Oscar for playing a gay man with AIDS in the film Philadelphia.
Philadelphia was was the first big-budget Hollywood film to tackle the medical, political, and social issues of AIDS. Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a talented lawyer at a stodgy Philadelphia law firm. Andrew had contracted AIDS but fears informing his firm. The firm’s senior partner, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards), assigns Andrew a case involving their most important client. Andrew begins diligently working on the case, but soon the lesions associated with AIDS are visible on his face.
I won’t tell you more in case you’ve not seen it yet, (spoilers are never nice)! Suffice to say it’s all about prejudice and discrimination in legal setting in the early 90’s. It’s nice to see that laws have since changed but today, 18 years on we still have a long, long way to go in order to stop the ignorance and stigma left behind!
On March 29, The FDA asked condom manufacturers to begin using the air-burst test on all brands of latex condoms. This new test measures a condom’s strength, and may be an indirect indicator of its resistance to breakage during use.
By July 1994 the number of AIDS cases reported to the WHO was 985,119. The WHO estimated that the total number of AIDS cases globally had risen by 60% in the past year from an estimated 2.5 million in July 1993 to 4 million in July 1994.
It was estimated that worldwide there were three men infected for every two women, and that by the year 2000 the number of new infections among women would be equal to that among men.
At the end of July, it was announced that the WHO’s Global programme on AIDS would be replaced. The UN Economic and Social Council approved the establishment of a new “joint and cosponsored UN programme on HIV/AIDS”. The separate AIDS programmes of the UNDP, World Bank, UN Population Fund, UNICEF and UNESCO would have headquarters with the WHO in Geneva. Later in the year it was announced that Dr. Peter Piot, the head of the research and intervention programme within the Global Programme on AIDS, would be the head of the new UN program.
Official statistics for Brazil, with a population of about 154 million, indicated that some 46,000 cases of AIDS had been recorded, but estimates put the actual number at anywhere between 450,000 and 3 million cases. Two thirds of the known cases were in Sao Paulo state where AIDS was the leading cause of death of women aged 20-35.
In early August 1994, the Tenth International Conference on AIDS was held in Yokohama, Japan. It was the first of the International Conferences to be held in Asia. No major breakthroughs emerged, and it was announced that in future the international conference would be held every two years.
An exciting study, ACTG 076, showed that AZT reduced by two thirds the risk of HIV transmission from infected mothers to their babies. It was the most stunning and important result in clinical acquired immunodeficiency syndrome research to date because it was the first indication that mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be at least decreased, if not prevented. And it will provide a real impetus for identifying more HIV-infected women during pregnancies so that they could consider the benefit of AZT treatment for themselves and their children.”
Meanwhile in the Russian Federation, deputies in the Russian Parliament, the Duma, voted at the end of October to adopt a law making HIV tests compulsory for all foreign residents, tourists, businessmen and even members of official delegations.
India by this time had around 1.6 million people living with HIV, up by 60% since 1993 (identical to the global figure). Local and state governments were accused of underusing and misusing HIV prevention funds.
In December, President Clinton asked Joycelyn Elders to resign from the post of US Surgeon General, following a remark during a World AIDS Day conference that children could be taught about masturbation. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and she replied, “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.”
This remark caused great controversy and resulted in Elders losing the support of the White House. White House chief of staff Leon Panetta remarked, “There have been too many areas where the President does not agree with her views. This is just one too many.”
Elders was fired by President Clinton as a result of the controversy in December 1994.
Perhaps this unfolds unhappy memories if you experienced this discrimination first hand but to our younger audience who may not have lived during these times, it’s important to understand that prejudice, stigma and discrimination remained significant obstacles for sex education, HIV prevention and AIDS awareness throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium.
In closing today, someone recently told me that Tim Radford (A freelance Journalist) wrote a special report “the progress being made in the fight against the cleverest and most malevolent virus scientists have ever seen”. The report also examines issues of stigma, discrimination, and the effect HIV/AIDS has on families. – I’m afraid I can’t link to it, but if anyone has a copy, please get in touch!