History of AIDS

The History of AIDS

The history of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), with timelines, photos, and links to resources on the Internet. Endeavoring to raise public awareness through understanding.

History of AIDS
Sleeping child on mother's lap.
Source: CDC/Dr. Lyle Conrad

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1986: Enter President Reagan

Another actor, who saw the news of Rock Hudson's 1985 death from AIDS, was by then the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). On March 31, 1986, President Ronald Reagan made his first noteable mention of the word "AIDS" publicly at the Third International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.,

History of AIDS
Estimated AIDS-Opportunistic Illness Incidence
by Exposure Category: Line graph showing estimated
AIDS-opportunistic illness incidence
by exposure category, January 1986-June
1996, United States

Image Source:

recommending routine testing for AIDS. With his conservative agenda, fiscal responsibility, not federal intervention would dictate his policies, but by this time there were some 60,000 cases of full-blown AIDS and 30,000 deaths. In the week prior to his State of the Union address, President Reagan said, "While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the surgeon general to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS." Source: AEGIS.org Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (1982-1989) spent the next nine months working on that report, releasing it on October 22, 1986. He followed it with a Public Health Service brochure on CDC guidelines for AIDS -- "Understanding AIDS" -- which he penned himself, and was sent out as the "largest public health mailing ever done" to 107 million households in the United States in 1988. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Koop's pamphlet, "Understanding AIDS," warned in the introduction: "AIDS is one of the most serious health problems that has ever faced the American public." It discussed "What Behavior Puts You At Risk?" The pamphlet classified "Risky Behavior" as: (1) Sharing drug needles and syringes, (2) Anal sex, with or without a condom, (3) Vaginal or oral sex with someone who shoots drugs or engages in anal sex, (4) Sex with someone you don't know well (a pickup or prostitute) or with someone you know has several sex partners, and (5) Unprotected sex (without a condom) with an infected person. Conversely, "Safe Behavior" was stated as: (1) Not having sex, (2) Sex with one mutually faithful, uninfected partner, and (3) Not shooting drugs. Source: AIDS Info BBS

1987: The Touch of a Princess

On March 20th of 1987, AZT (also known as Retrovir®, zidovudine, or ZDV) -- manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline -- became the first anti-HIV drug (a Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor) to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AZT prevents HIV by altering the genetic material of healthy T-cells. It must be used in combination with at least two other anti-HIV drugs. AZT therapy may cause mutations in HIV's structure, which prevent AZT from working against HIV. Source:
AIDSmeds.com The very next month, in April of 1987, Princess Diana affected the public perception of AIDS at the opening of a specially built ward for AIDS sufferers at London's Middlesex Hospital, when she was seen by the press not wearing gloves and shaking hands with people with AIDS, demonstrating that "you can touch an AIDS victim and not catch it." Source: AllFreeEssays.com In retrospect, on November 2, 2002, former South African President Nelson Mandela, when announcing the joining of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund with the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund to assist South Africans with HIV/AIDS, their families, and their orphans, he said, "When she stroked the limbs of someone with leprosy, or sat on the bed of a man with HIV/AIDS and held his hand, she transformed public attitudes and improved the life chances of such people." He continued, "People felt if a British princess can go to a ward with HIV patients, then there's nothing to be superstitious about." Source: The My Hero Project AIDS awareness had a new ambassador in Diana Princess of Wales, whose compassion and actions promoted a better understanding of people with AIDS. The Red Ribbon Foundation -- Educate to Prevent - Research to Cure -- established in 1993, likewise promotes AIDS awareness, raising money for AIDS research, and especially emphasizing their belief: "It is with our youth that the seeds of ultimate triumph over the spread of AIDS will be harvested." Speaking from the vantage point of 2004, they say that 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS (37 million adults and 2.5 million children under age 15). 5 million people acquired HIV in 2003 (4.2 million adults and 700,000 children under age 15). "3 million people from all walks of life, both sexes, young and old, straight and gay, have died of AIDS, including over 500,000 children under the age of 15." Source: The Red Ribbon Foundation

1990: Death of Ryan White

Ryan White, a nineteen year old, white, heterosexual, middle class teenager from Kokomo, Indiana died on April 8, 1990 of AIDS, which he contracted from blood products, as part of his treatment for hemophilia. He came to public attention, when he was expelled from school for being a health risk. Afterwards, his parents, Wayne and Jeanne White, along with Ryan and his sister Andrea moved to Cicero, Indiana, where he was received at Hamilton Heights High School as a celebrity by those, who were more fully educated into the nature of HIV. Source:
Wikipedia In 1989, ABC aired "The Ryan White Story," where Lukas Haas dramatized the role of Ryan. Judith Light played the part of Jeanne White (Ryan's mother). Ryan even had the opportunity to portray his real life friend, Chad. He appeared repeatedly on nationwide television programs as one of America's most visible spokespersons for the AIDS

History of AIDS
This is the contents of the CAPILLUS™ HIV-1/HIV-2 Rapid Test
Kit that tests whole blood, serum, or plasma.

Image Source:
CDC/ Cheryl Tryon; Stacy Howard

crisis. He was befriended by celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson, Greg Louganis, Alyssa Milano, Charlie Sheen, and Elizabeth Taylor, speaking out for the compassionate treatment of AIDS sufferers. Source: Internet Movie Database At the age of sixteen, Ryan testified before the President's Commission on AIDS, under the Reagan administration. Source: Wikipedia If he had survived, he planned to attend Indiana University. Source: Indiana University Just a few months after Ryan's death, the U.S. Congress passed on August 18, 1990, Public Law 101-381, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act to assist local health care delivery systems in providing care for people with AIDS, who do not have adequate health insurance or other resources. As of 1998, as a result of the Ryan White CARE Act, more than $6.4 billion in federal funds have been appropriated, and about 500,000 individuals with AIDS and HIV are served in a given year. Source: FindLaw Ryan emphasized the success of AIDS education in his testimony before the President's Commission on AIDS. HIV testing is the first step in your personal education in determining if you are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV tests look for antibodies to HIV. Those antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system to fight germs. Blood tests are the most common HIV test, but newer tests can detect antibodies in mouth fluid, from scrapings inside your cheek, or from your urine. Rapid HIV tests are now capable of test results within 10 to 30 minutes after a sample is taken. Between three weeks and two months after becoming infected with HIV, your immune system produces antibodies to HIV, so you should wait two months before being tested, after you think you were exposed to HIV. Tests are confidential, though the CDC has proposed keeping track of names -- without any action taken, thus far. Test results are more than 99.5% accurate. Source: New Mexico AIDS InfoNet Good nutrition, in particular extra muscle weight, helps the body fight HIV. Though most people want to lose weight, for people with HIV, it can be dangerous. If you lose too much lean weight, i.e., more than 5% of your body weight, your body chemistry changes. This is called wasting syndrome or cachexia, which can kill you. Talk with your doctor. Suggested reading by the New Mexico AIDS InfoNet for nutrition, HIV, and AIDS: (1) A Clinician's Guide To Nutrition In HIV and AIDS by Cade Fields-Gardner and others, published by the American Dietetic Association, $26 plus $5 shipping and handling: The American Dietetic Association, P.O. Box 97215, Chicago IL 60678-7215; or 800-877-1600, ext. 5000, (2) Eat Up! Nutrition Advice and Food Ideas for People Living with HIV and AIDS by Charlie Smigelski, RD, $10.00, and (3) Nutrition and HIV: A New Model for Treatment by Mary Romeyn, MD, $18.95, published by Jossey-Bass, Inc, telephone 415 433 1740. Source: New Mexico AIDS InfoNet

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