A Brief History of HIV/AIDS

The following is a timeline of significant dates in the history of HIV/AIDS leading up to the present day.


June 5, 1981
On June 5th the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publishes five cases of a rare lung infection – Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) – in young, gay men living in Los Angeles. By the time the report was released several of the men had died. In a few weeks, newspapers picked up the story about a “gay cancer,” resulting in additional Continue Reading


September 1, 1982
Community-based clinics were formed in New York City and San Francisco to address the health and social support needs of those getting sick. As most cases were among gay men, the initial title given to the illness was gay-related immunodeficiency (GRID). By September of 1982, however, cases of rare illnesses were reported among injection drug users, people receiving blood transfusions, Continue Reading


January 1, 1983
The CDC’s Task Force concluded AIDS was a blood borne infectious disease passed during sex, sharing needles, and blood transfusions; noting no evidence of transmission via casual contact, food, water, or environmental surfaces. The Women's AIDS Network is established. The CDC adds female sexual partners of men with AIDS as a "risk group."


January 1, 1984
Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France along with the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland identified the virus that causes AIDS – what would, in 1986, be titled “human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”


January 1, 1985
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first test to screen for HIV antibodies – the body produces antibodies as part of its response to fight diseases; blood banks begin screening the blood supply for HIV antibodies. Ryan White becomes a national figure and HIV spokesperson when his Indiana middle school blocks him from attending and Rock Hudson – Continue Reading


January 1, 1987
AZT becomes the first drug approved to treat HIV, and the U.S. Congress provides $30 million to help cover costs for those who cannot afford the drug. Congress also passes the Helms Amendment that barred the use of federal dollars to “promote or encourage…homosexual activities,” which prevented the Centers for Disease Control from funding efforts targeting a highly impacted community. Continue Reading


January 1, 1988
U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop mails a report to over 100 million U.S. households encouraging condom use during sex, and an honest talk between parents and their kids about how you can and cannot get AIDS. The first needle exchange programs are set up in Tacoma, WA as well as San Francisco, CA to help prevent HIV infections among Continue Reading


January 1, 1989
100,000 people are reported to have died from AIDS-related causes. Sisterlove, Inc. is founded as the first and oldest organization in Georgia to focus on the needs of women living with and at risk for HIV.


April 18, 1990
Ryan White dies and several months later the U.S. Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act, providing millions of dollars for the care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, Congress passes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes discrimination against people living with or thought to be infected with HIV (as well as host of other Continue Reading


January 1, 1991
The U.S. Congress passes the Housing Opportunities for People Living with AIDS Act (HOPWA), which provides money to states and cities to provide housing for people living with HIV/AIDS – HOPWA continues to provide money for the housing need of people living with HIV/AIDS. Basketball legend, Magic Johnson discloses he has HIV, and Freddy Mercury, front man and lead singer Continue Reading


October 6, 1993
U.S. tennis legend, Author Ashe, dies from AIDS-related causes. The CDC updates the definition of AIDS to include more illnesses specific to women and injection drug users.


January 1, 1994
The FDA approves the first oral HIV antibody test. Pedro Zamora appears on MTV’s “The Real World,” one of the first openly-HIV positive and openly-gay people on TV; he dies from AIDS-related causes later in the year.


March 26, 1995
The FDA approves a class of medication, protease inhibitors, that will revolutionize HIV treatment. Rapper Eazy-E dies from AIDS-related causes, and by the end of the year, 500,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with HIV.


October 1, 1996
Combinations of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) – treating people living with HIV with three medications – becomes the standard in treating HIV. AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death for those aged 25-44, except among African Americans. Newly diagnosed cases drop for the first time since 1981. In October, all 38,000 coffin-sized panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt are Continue Reading


January 1, 1997
Deaths from AIDS-related causes drop by 47%. UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS) estimates 30 million people are living with HIV and 16,000 people are infected every day.


March 1, 1998
The CDC reports that African Americans account for 49% of AIDS-related deaths. AIDS-related deaths among African Americans are almost 10 times that of Whites and three times that of Hispanics resulting in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to put forth a “Call to Action.” The CBC requests the President and Surgeon General declare HIV/AIDS a “State of Emergency” in the Continue Reading


May 1, 2003
President Bush creates the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $15 billion, 5-year plan to combat AIDS, primarily in countries with a high burden of infections.


January 1, 2007
Over 565,000 people have died of AIDS in the U.S. alone.


October 30, 2009
President Obama states he is lifting the HIV travel and immigration ban beginning in January 2010.


January 1, 2010
The Obama Administration releases the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States setting specific goals in reducing HIV infections, increasing access to care and treatment, impacting health disparities, and improving coordination of efforts across federal agencies. The iPrEx study finds a daily dose of HIV drugs reduced the risk of HIV infection among HIV-negative men who have sex Continue Reading


January 1, 2011
Results from the HPTN 052 trial show that early initiation of anti-retroviral treatment (ART) reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 96% among discordant couples – where one partner is HIV and the other is not.


January 1, 2013
UNAIDS reports AIDS-related deaths are down 30 percent globally since their peak in 2005.


June 30, 2015
Cuba becomes the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. The Obama Administration releases the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 setting new goals, including: 90% of those infected knowing their status, reducing new infections by 25%, linking 85% of newly HIV diagnosed people to care within the month of their diagnosis, achieving viral Continue Reading