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Timeline of AIDS

This is a timeline of AIDS, including some discussion of early AIDS cases (especially those before 1980).

Additional recommended knowledge




  • A 25-year-old printer from England named David Carr, who had served in the Royal Navy between 1955 and 1957, contracts a series of mysterious ailments including Pneumocystis carinii. He dies early the next year (1959). In 1990, tests by a hospital in Manchester reveal HIV in Carr's tissue samples, and he is briefly recognized as the first known AIDS death. Subsequent, more sophisticated testing at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at New York University Medical School reveals the HIV to have been a laboratory contaminant. The source reference for this item has been removed from the CDC's website. [2]


  • The first known case of HIV in a human occurs in a person who died in the Congo, seemingly later confirmed as having HIV infection from his preserved blood samples (Zhu et al., 1998). However, according to the authors of the 1959 discovery, they never found, nor alleged to have found, HIV, or anything like a full virus. According to these authors, even “attempts to amplify HIV-1 fragments of >300 base pairs (bp) were unsuccessful, . . . However, after numerous attempts, four shorter sequences were obtained” that only represented small portions of two of the six genes of the complete AIDS virus. Citation: Zhu T, Korber BT, Nahmias AJ, Hooper E, Sharp PM and Ho DD. An African HIV-1 sequence from 1959 and implications for the origin of the epidemic. Nature 1998;391(Feb. 5):594-597.
  • In New York City, a 49-year-old Haitian-born shipping clerk dies of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a disease closely associated with AIDS victims. Dr. Gordon Hennigar, who performed the postmortem examination of the man's body, has been quoted in numerous publications saying that he believes the man probably had AIDS.[3]


  • HIV-2, a viral variant found in West Africa, is thought to have transferred to people from sooty mangabey monkeys in Guinea-Bissau during this period.[1]


  • Genetic studies of the virus indicate that, in or about 1966, HIV first left Africa, infecting a single person in Haiti. At this time, many Haitians were working in Congo, providing the opportunity for infection.[4]


  • A 2003 analysis of HIV types found in the United States, compared to known mutation rates, suggests that the virus may have first arrived in the United States in this year.[1] The disease spread from the 1966 Haitian strand, but remained unrecognized for another 12 years.[4]


  • A St. Louis teenager, identified only as Robert R., dies of an illness that baffles his doctors. Eighteen years later, molecular biologists at Tulane University in New Orleans test samples of his remains and find the virus that causes AIDS.[5]


  • The first reports of wasting and other symptoms, later determined to be AIDS, are reported in residents of Africa.[6]


  • Norwegian sailor Arvid Noe dies; it is later determined that he contracted HIV/AIDS in Africa during the early 1960s.


  • Danish physician Grethe Rask dies of AIDS contracted in Africa.
  • A San Francisco prostitute gives birth to the first of three children who would later be diagnosed with AIDS, and whose blood, when tested after their deaths, would reveal HIV infection. The mother would herself die of AIDS in May 1987. She was clearly infected by 1977 and perhaps earlier.[7]


  • A Portuguese man known as Senhor Jose dies; he will later be confirmed as the first known infection of HIV-2. He was believed to have been exposed to the disease in Guinea-Bissau in 1966.


  • April 24, San Francisco resident Ken Horne, the first AIDS case in the United States to be recognized at the time, is reported to Center for Disease Control with Kaposi's sarcoma. He was also suffering from Cryptococcus at the time.[8]
  • On October 31, French-Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas pays his first known visit to New York City bathhouses. He would later be deemed "Patient Zero" for his apparent connection to many early cases of AIDS in the United States.[9]
  • Rick Wellikoff, a gay Brooklyn schoolteacher, dies of AIDS in New York City on December 23. He is the 4th American to have died from the new disease.


  • January 15, Nick Rock becomes the first known AIDS death in New York City.[9]
  • May 18, Dr. Lawrence Mass becomes the first journalist in the world to write about the epidemic, in the "New York Native," a gay newspaper. A gay tipster overheard his physician mention that some gay men were being treated in intensive-care units in New York City for a strange pneumonia. "Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded" was the headline on Mass's article. Mass repeated a New York City public-health official's claims that there was no wave of disease sweeping through the gay community. At this point, however, the CDC had been gathering information for about a month on the outbreak that Mass's source was dismissing.
  • June 5, CDC reports a cluster of Pneumocystis pneumonia in five gay male drug users in Los Angeles. [1]
  • July 4, CDC reports clusters of Kaposi's sarcoma and Pneumocystis pneumonia among gay men in California and New York City. [2]
  • By the end of the year, 121 people are known to have died from the disease.[1]
  • First known case in the United Kingdom.[10]


  • June 18, CDC MMWR 1982 31(23);305-7
"Exposure to some substance (rather than an infectious agent) may eventually lead to immunodeficiency among a subset of the homosexual male population that shares a particular style of life. For example, Marmor et al. recently reported that exposure to amyl nitrite was associated with an increased risk of KS in New York City. [3] Exposure to inhalant sexual stimulants, central-nervous-system stimulants, and a variety of other "street" drugs was common among males belonging to the cluster of cases of KS and PCP in Los Angeles and Orange counties." [4]
  • July 9, CDC reports a cluster of opportunistic infections and Kaposi's sarcoma among Haitians recently entering the United States. [5]
  • July 27, The term AIDS (for acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is proposed at a meeting in Washington of gay-community leaders, federal bureaucrats and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). TIME
  • September 24, Current Trends Update on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - United States
CDC defines a case of AIDS as a disease, at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known cause for diminished resistance to that disease. Such diseases include KS, PCP, and serious OOI. [...] Diagnoses are considered to fit the case definition only if based on sufficiently reliable methods (generally histology or culture). Some patients who are considered AIDS cases on the basis of diseases only moderately predictive of cellular immunodeficiency may not actually be immunodeficient and may not be part of the current epidemic.
  • December 10, a baby in California becomes ill in the first known case of AIDS from a blood transfusion.[9]
  • First known case in Brazil.[11]


  • In January, Dr. Francoise Barre, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, isolates a retrovirus that kills T-cells from the lymph system of a gay AIDS patient. In the following months, she would find it in additional gay and hemophiliac sufferers. This retrovirus would be called by several names, including LAV and HTLV-III before being named HIV in 1986.[12]
  • CDC National AIDS Hotline established.
  • March, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues donor screening guidelines. AIDS high-risk groups should not donate blood/plasma products.
  • Australia has first death from AIDS in Melbourne, the Hawke Labor government invests in a significant campaign that ultimately gives Australia one of the lowest infection rates in the World.
  • AIDS is diagnosed in Mexico for the first time. HIV can be traced in the country back to 1981.[13]


  • April 23, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler announces at a press conference that an American scientist, Dr. Robert Gallo, has discovered the probable cause of AIDS: the retrovirus subsequently named human immunodeficiency virus or HIV in 1986. She also declares that a vaccine will be available within two years.
  • September 6, first performance at Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco of The AIDS Show which runs for two years and is the subject of a 1986 documentary film of the same name.
  • December 17, Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS by a doctor performing a partial lung removal as transmitted by casual contact. White became infected with HIV from a blood product, known as Factor VIII, as part of his treatment for hemophilia which was given to him on a regular basis. When the public school that he attended, Western Middle School in Russiaville, Indiana, learned of his disease there was enormous pressure from parents and faculty to bar him from school premises. Due to the widespread fear of AIDS and lack of medical knowledge, principal Ron Colby and the schoolboard assented. His family filed a lawsuit, seeking to overturn the ban.


  • March 2, FDA approves first AIDS antibody screening tests for use on all donated blood and plasma intended for transfusion.
  • October 2, Rock Hudson, the first American celebrity to publicly admit having AIDS, dies of the disease.
  • October, a conference of public health officials including representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organisation meet in Bangui and define AIDS in Africa as "prolonged fevers for a month or more, weight loss of over 10% and prolonged diarrhoea".
  • First officially reported cases in China.[14]
  • The Ryan White vs. School Board lasted for 8 months, ending with White allowed back at the middle school. However, threats of violence and of parents suing remained, and they moved from Kokomo toward the school he eventually transferred to Hamilton Heights School Corporation, in neighboring Cicero, Indiana, where Michael Jackson purchased a home for him and his family. White was received as a celebrity by faculty and students of Hamilton Heights who were more educated regarding HIV.


  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is adopted as name of the retrovirus that was first proposed as the cause of AIDS by Luc Montagnier of France, who named it LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus) and Robert Gallo of the United States, who named it HTLV-III (human T-lymphotropic virus type III)
  • January 14, "By 1996, three to five million Americans will be HIV positive and one million will be dead of AIDS" - NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, New York Times
  • Model Gia Marie Carangi dies of AIDS related illness on November 18th.
  • First officially known cases in the U.S.S.R.[15] and India[16].


  • AZT (zidovudine), the first antiretroviral drug, becomes available to treat HIV sufferers.[1]


  • The television movie "The Ryan White Story" aired. It starred Judith Light as Jeanne, Lukas Haas as Ryan and Nikki Cox as sister Andrea. Ryan White had a small cameo appearance as Chad, a young patient with AIDS.


  • Ryan White - Dies on April 8, 1990 at the age of 19 from pneumonia caused by AIDS complications.
  • Congress enacted The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act or Ryan White Care Act, the United States' largest federally funded program (excluding Medicaid and Medicare).


  • A little over 24 hours after issuing the statement confirming that he has been tested HIV positive and had AIDS, Freddie Mercury (Singer of the British band Queen) dies on November 24, 1991 at the age of 45. The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.


  • In the US, AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for 24 to 44 year old men[1]
  • The first combination drug therapies for HIV are introduced. Such "cocktails" are more effective than AZT alone and slow down the development of drug resistance.[1]


  • Saquinavir, a new type of protease inhibitor drug, becomes available to treat HIV. Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy becomes possible.[1] Within two years, death rates due to AIDS will have plummeted in the developed world.


  • Robert Gallo's discovery that a natural compound known as chemokines can block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS is hailed by Science magazine as one of that year's most important scientific breakthroughs.


  • September 2, "The most recent estimate of the number of Americans infected (with HIV), 750,000, is only half the total that government officials used to cite over a decade ago, at a time when experts believed that as many as 1.5 million people carried the virus." article in the Washington Post
  • Based on the Bangui definition the WHO's cumulative number of reported AIDS cases from 1980 through 1997 for all of Africa is 620,000. [6] For comparison, the cumulative total of AIDS cases in the USA through 1997 is 641,087.


  • December 10, International Human Rights Day, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is launched to campaign for greater access to HIV treatment for all South Africans, by raising public awareness and understanding about issues surrounding the availability, affordability and use of HIV treatments. TAC campaigns against the view that AIDS is a death sentence.


  • January 31, studies suggest that a retrovirus, SIVcpz (simian immunodeficiency virus) from the common chimpanzee Pan troglodytes, may have passed to human populations in west equatorial Africa during the twentieth century and developed into various types of HIV.
F Gao, E Bailes, DL Robertson, Y Chen, CM Rodenburg, SF Michael, LB Cummins, LO Arthur, M Peeters, GM Shaw, PM Sharp and BH Hahn. Origin of HIV-1 in the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes troglodytes. Nature 397, 436-41 (1999).
RA Weis and RW Wrangham. From Pan to pandemic. Nature 397, 385-6 (1999).
  • Edward Hooper releases a book called The River, which accuses doctors who tested a polio vaccine in 1950s Africa of unintentionally starting the AIDS epidemic. The theory receives a great deal of publicity.[1]


  • WHO estimates between 15% and 20% of new HIV infections worldwide are the result of blood transfusions, where the donors were not screened or inadequately screened for HIV.


  • September 21, FDA licenses the first nucleic acid test (NAT) systems intended for screening of blood and plasma donors.


  • January 5, "Individual risk of acquiring HIV and experiencing rapid disease progression is not uniform within populations", says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. [7]


  • January 21, CDC recommends anti-retroviral post-exposure prophylaxis for people exposed to HIV from rapes, accidents or occasional unsafe sex or drug use. This treatment should start no more than 72 hours after a person has been exposed to the virus, and the drugs should be used by patients for 28 days. This emergency drug treatment has been recommended since 1996 for health-care workers accidentally stuck with a needle, splashed in the eye with blood, or exposed in some other way on the job. [8]
  • A highly resistant strain of HIV linked to rapid progression to AIDS is identified in New York City.[1]


  • November 9th 2006, HIV found in Gorillas, HIV-1 and HIV-2


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Timeline: HIV & AIDS," John Pickrell, New Scientist, September 4, 2006
  2. ^ "How scientists discovered false evidence on the world's "first AIDS victim","The Independent (INDT) - One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; Section: Home News, p. 2,3 - March 24, 1995
  3. ^ "Strange Trip Back to the Future - The case of Robert R. spurs new questions about AIDS", TIME Magazine, November 9, 1987
  4. ^ a b "Solved: the mystery of how AIDS left Africa," New Scientist, November 3, 2007, p.20
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "And the Band Played On", Randy Shilts, p.512-513
  8. ^ KQED LGBT Timeline
  9. ^ a b c AIDS in New York, a Biography
  10. ^ Dubois, R.M., Braitwaite, M.A., Mikhail, J.R. et al., (1981) 'Primary Pneumocystis Carinii and Cytomegalovirus Infections', the Lancet, ii, 1339
  11. ^ HIV & AIDS in Brazil
  12. ^ And The Band Played On, Randy Shilts, p.227
  13. ^ AIDS in Mexico, November, 1998
  14. ^ HIV & AIDS in China
  15. ^ AIDS in Russia
  16. ^ Overview of HIV and AIDS in India
  1. ^  Centers for Disease Control. Pneumocycstis Pneumonia-Los Angeles. MMWR 1981 30:250-2. view PDF
  2. ^  Centers for Disease Control. Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocycstis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men - New York City and California. MMWR 1981 30: 305-8. view PDF
  3. ^  Marmor M, Friedman-Kien AE, Laubenstein L., et al. Risk factors for Kaposi's sarcoma in homosexual men. Lancet 1982;1:1083-7.
  4. ^  Centers for Disease Control. Opportunistic Infections and Kaposi's Sarcoma among Haitians in the United States. MMWR 1982 31:353-4,360-1. view HTML see also list of all MMWRs on HIV/AIDS and Kaposi's sarcoma
  5. ^  1993 Revised Classification System for HIV Infection and Expanded Surveillance Case Definition for AIDS Among Adolescents and Adults Centers for Disease Control. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Recommendations and Reports, December 18 1992. See also Statistical analysis of 1993 expanded definition
  6. ^  source Table 79 on page 146 of The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Health Sector: National Survey of Health Personnel, Ambulatory and Hospitalised Patients and Health Facilities 2002.
  7. ^  Alfredo Garzino-Demo, Ronald B. Moss, Joseph B. Margolick, Farley Cleghorn, Anne Sill, William A. Blattner, Fiorenza Cocchi, Dennis J. Carlo, Anthony L. DeVico, and Robert C. Gallo (October 1999). "Spontaneous and antigen-induced production of HIV-inhibitory β-chemokines are associated with AIDS-free status". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 96 (21): 11986–11991.
  8. ^  Clinical efficacy of early initiation of HAART in patients with asymptomatic HIV infection and CD4 cell count > 350 x 10(6) /l. Opravil M, Ledergerber B, Furrer H, Hirschel B, Imhof A, Gallant S, Wagels T, Bernasconi E, Meienberg F, Rickenbach M, Weber R; Swiss HIV Cohort Study. AIDS. 2002 5 July;16(10):1371-81. see related news report
  9. ^  Guidelines for using antiretroviral agents among HIV-infected adults and adolescents. Dybul M, Fauci AS, Bartlett JG, Kaplan JE, Pau AK; Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV. Ann Intern Med. 2002 3 September;137(5 Pt 2):381-433
  10. ^  Guidelines for antiretroviral therapy from the WHO and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidlines
  11. ^  Scientists Discover Key Genetic Factor in Determining HIV/AIDS Risk
  12. [9]HIV like virus found in Gorillas, Sean Markey for National Geographic News, November 9, 2006

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Timeline_of_AIDS". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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