The Timeline of an Epidemic


  • Late 1920's, early 1930's -- First case of HIV in humans. Person infected by chimpanzees in Cameroon.


  • 1959 -- Man living in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo infected with HIV. (Infection discovered in 1998 after testing a blood sample taken in '59.)


  • 1969 -- St. Louis teenager dies of what is later identified as AIDS.


  • 1978 -- Homosexual men in the United States and Sweden, and heterosexuals in Tanzania and Haiti, begin showing signs of what will later become AIDS.


  • 1981 -- CDC reports treatment of gay men for specific type of pneumonia and Kaposi's Sarcoma (a skin cancer that causes purple lesions on skin). Both illness become closely associated with AIDS. 234 people known dead of AIDS in U.S.


  • 1982 -- Use of term "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome", or AIDS, to label illness. CDC links illness to blood. First AIDS cases reported in Alabama.


  • 1983 -- CDC warns of possible contamination of blood supply. Institute Pasteur identifies virus that causes AIDS; they label it LAV. First evidence surfaces, in African men in Europe, that heterosexuals can contract HIV just as easily as homosexuals.


  • 1984 -- In U.S. Dr. Robert Gallo identifies AIDS virus, calls it HTLV-III. It is the same virus found by the French researchers. Small needle exchange program started in Amersterdam to combat the spread of HIV in IV drug users.


  • 1985 -- FDA approves first HIV antibody test. Commercial tests clear blood supply of virus. First International Conference on AIDS held in Atlanta. President Ronald Reagan uses the word "AIDS" for the first time during a press conference. 5636 known U.S. AIDS deaths, including actor Rock Hudson.


  • 1986 -- U.S. Surgeon General publishes report on AIDS; calls for sex education. Needle exchange program started in U.K. Cumulative total of known U.S. AIDS deaths: 16,301.


  • 1987 -- AIDS virus becomes "Human Immunodeficiency Virus", or HIV. FDA approves first testing of possible AIDS vaccine in humans. AIDS Quilt begun in San Francisco. WHO notified of 43,880 AIDS cases in 91 countries. AIDS debated on floor of U.N. General Assembly.


  • 1988 -- First anti-HIV drug approved, AZT. Zambian president announces his son died of AIDS. President Regean, after ignoring epidemic, labels it "Public Enemy Number 1" during a speech. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop launches "Understanding AIDS" awareness campaign. First "World AIDS Day" takes place.


  • 1990 -- Indiana teenager, and hemophiliac, Ryan White dies of AIDS. Legistlation named after teen, Ryan White CARE Act, passed setting aside first federal monies to fight the epidemic. President Ronald Reagan apologizes for neglecting AIDS while in office. 18,447 known U.S. AIDS deaths during 1990.


  • 1991 -- The Red Ribbon becomes the international symbol of AIDS Awareness. Pro basketball player Magic Johnson announces he's HIV positive.


  • 1992 -- Tennis pro Arthur Ashe announces he was infected with HIV during a blood transfusion nine years before.


  • 1993 -- First signs of AZT resistance begin to show in longtime users. AIDS cases in South Africa explode. FDA approves female condom. During '93, 41,920 known AIDS deaths.


  • 1994 -- AZT shown to lower risk of an HIV positive mother passing virus on to child. Tom Hanks wins Oscar for his role in "Philadephia". Hanks plays a gay man, dying of AIDS, who fights discrimination in his workplace.


  • 1995 -- Two types of AIDS drugs, protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, shown to dramatically decrease viral load. Whispers of a cure begin.


  • 1996 -- FDA approves first home HIV test. UN creates UNAIDS. Pandemic worsens in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, India and China.


  • 1997 -- Toxic side affects of anti-retrovirals begin to appear. Also some evidence to show resistance develops. Worldwide 6.4 million people known dead of AIDS. 22 million people HIV positive globally.


  • 1998 -- Hopes new drug cocktail an AIDS cure dashed. Discovery of HIV "reservoirs" where virus lies dormant only to rebound later if drugs stopped.


  • 2000 -- South Africa becomes global epicenter of pandemic. Nation's president, Thabo Mbeki, comes under fire for questioning that HIV causes AIDS. Drug companies begin slashing prices for poor countries. 14,499 known AIDS deaths in U.S.


  • 2001 -- Scientific panel confirms condoms are effective in fight against HIV/AIDS. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calls for creation of AIDS "warchest" of up to 10 billion dollars annually. AIDS becomes leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa.


  • 2002 -- The Global Fund for fighting AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria begins passing out money. First fusion inhibitor is found effective in people who've run the gamut of existing treatment.


  • 2003 -- U.S. President George W. Bush announces plan to spend 15 billion dollars over five years to fight AIDS epidemics in Africa and Caribbean. First HIV vaccine trail fails. New WHO director names AIDS top priority. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao becomes first premier to shake hands, publicly, with AIDS patient. Cost of anti-retrovirals falls, making the use of generics possible in the poorest nations.


  • 2004 -- G8 summit calls for Global HIV Vaccination Enterprise to make sharing of information between vaccine scientists easier.


  • 2005 -- President Bush calls for significant amount of new, domestic spending in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to the tune of more than 180 million. Global AIDS funding worries return; thanks in part to large number of natural disasters. WHO and UNAIDS say AIDS killed 3.1 million people in 2005 and five million people became newly infected. The total number of people living with HIV or AIDS globally: 40.3 million.


  • 2006 -- UNAIDS says 25 million people have now died of AIDS. Says number of living with HIV/AIDS now 38.6 million, suggesting the epidemic has stabilized in some countries. 3,792 Alabamians living with AIDS. 5,429 living with HIV, not AIDS.
  • For more information:

    More | AIDS Alabama

    More | Alabama Department of Public Health

    More | CDC HIV/AIDS Statistics

    More | The Body

    More | AIDS Education Global Information System