HIV/AIDS is a relatively newly discovered illness. Other infections like malaria, plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, measles and cholera have affected vast majorities of humanity over centuries.
HIV emerged in the late 20th century. The chronological history of HIV/AIDS can be outlined as follows.
1960s and 70s
These are known as the “silent” decades as it is likely that HIV originated sometime during the 1960s but was unknown or not reported. The spread started in 1970’s when the medical community became aware.
HIV is thought to originate in Africa, where humans caught it from chimpanzees. The virus that affects the apes is very similar to HIV and is called SIVcpz (simian immunodeficiency virus). This virus spread to humans following contact with infected chimpanzee blood during the hunting of chimpanzees.
For many years the human type of HIV was limited to a remote part of Africa. With improved connections the virus began to spread worldwide.
This year was important since there were reported clusters or increased incidences of two conditions, Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of cancer) and Pneumocystis carinii (now known as Pneumocystis jiroveci) pneumonia (PCP) in New York and California.
These conditions usually affect old or those with weak immune system. In this instance several young, otherwise healthy young men developed these conditions. Initially it was thought to be a disease related to the gay lifestyle as the men were gay.
More speculations regarding associations with cytomegalovirus or use of a recreational drug called amyl nitrate (“poppers”) were also put forth.
Cases in intravenous drug users showed it to be a problem not confined to gay men.
This year the disease was given several names such as lymphadenopathy (as it caused swelling of lymph glands), gay compromise syndrome and for the popular press, “gay plague”. However, many of the patients were haemophiliacs.
In July this year the disease was internationally named ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’ (AIDS) or in French and Spanish, SIDA.
Other factors such as blood transfusion related or pregnancy related transmission were noted. Support groups for AIDS patients like Terrence Higgins Trust began.
In 1983, there were reports of HIV in females suggesting sexual transmission. The issue of AIDS was taken up by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A similar associated virus was reported in France and termed LAV (lymphadenopathy-associated virus).
In the US a virus related to AIDS was isolated and termed HTLV-3 (Human T-cell lymphotropic virus 3). The condition in Africa worsened.
LAV and HTLV-3 were shown to be the same virus in 1985. In the same year an antibody test was developed to show if someone has the virus.
Public awareness continued to rise and the first case of breast milk transmission was reported.
In 1986, the first UK government AIDS awareness campaign began and was called “Don’t aid AIDS”. The virus was called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
1986 also saw the development of first anti-HIV drugs called azidothymidine (AZT) or zidovudine. The drug was approved in 1987. Princess Diana dispelled fears of AIDS by visiting and shaking hands with an AIDS patient.
1988 marked December 1st, the first World AIDS day and in 1989 effectiveness of zidovudine in clinical trials was seen. Dideoxyinosine (ddI) was the second drug developed.
In 1991 third drug to slow progression of AIDS, dideoxycytidine (ddC) developed.
1993 saw first resistance to Zidovudine by the HIV.
In 1994 it was noted that Zidovudine could reduce risk of transmission of virus from HIV positive mother to baby.
In 1995 world total of 1 million reported cases of AIDS and estimated total of 18 million HIV+ adults and 1.5 million HIV+ children were reported and AIDS became the main cause of death in 25-44 age group in USA. In 1995 a new type of drug is approved called saquinivir, a protease enzyme inhibitor. Estimate of global death toll from AIDS was 9 million.
In 1996 Nevirapine was approved for HIV. In 1997 it was estimated that 40 million people would be HIV positive worldwide by 2000. In 1998 side effects of combination therapy surface. AIDS was declared 4th biggest global cause of death in 1999.
In 2000, 34.3 million cases of HIV worldwide, with largest number in South Africa, were estimated. HIV Vaccine trials began in Oxford in 2000.
In 2003 in Swaziland and Botswana in Southern Africa, almost 40% of adults HIV+ AIDS vaccine failed. Enfuviride a new drug called fusion inhibitor was approved in the USA.
In 2005 drug companies and makers agreed to make available cheaper generic anti-viral drugs.
In 2006, June 5 marks 25 years since the first AIDS cases were reported. March 10 is the first annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
In 2007, In an attempt to increase the number of people taking HIV tests, on May 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) issue new guidance recommending “provider-initiated” HIV testing in healthcare settings.
In 2008, the International HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting is hosted by the Ugandan Government. Cosponsors include the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, and GNP+ (the Global Network of People Living with HIV).
In 2009, Newly elected President Barack Obama calls for the development of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.
In 2010, On January 4, the U.S. Government officially lifts the HIV travel and immigration ban.
In 2011, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launches the 12 Cities Project (PDF, 427 KB), an HHS-wide project that supports and accelerates comprehensive HIV/AIDS planning and cross-agency response in the 12 U.S. jurisdictions that bear the highest AIDS burden in the country.
In 2012, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues new HIV treatment guidelines recommending treatment for all HIV-infected adults and adolescents, regardless of CD4 count or viral load.
In 2013, March 4: NIH-funded scientists announce the first well-documented case of an HIV-infected child, designated as “the Mississippi Baby,” who appears to have been functionally cured of HIV infection (i.e., no detectable levels of virus or signs of disease, even without antiretroviral therapy.
June 2: The New York Times runs two articles which focus on middle-aged people living with HIV: The Faces of H.I.V. in New York in 2013 and ‘People Think It’s Over’: Spared Death, Aging People With H.I.V. Struggle to Live.
In 2014, Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) designed to protect consumers go into effect. Insurers are now barred from discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions, and they can no longer impose annual limits on coverage—both key advances for people living with HIV/AIDS.
1. January 8: A review of multiple studies of South Africa.
2. February 5: HHS announces the launch of a new, 4-year demonstration project to address HIV disparities among MSM of color. The cross-agency project, “Developing Comprehensive Models of HIV Prevention and Care Services for MSM of Color,” will support community-based models for HIV prevention and treatment.
February 23: CDC’s annual HIV Surveillance Report (PDF 2.8 MB), indicates that HIV diagnosis rates in the U.S. remained stable between 2009-2013, but men who have sex with men, young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals living in the South continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV.
February 23: CDC announces that more than 90% of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by diagnosing people living with HIV and ensuring they receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment.
February 25: Indiana state health officials announce an HIV outbreak linked to injection drug use (PDF 59 KB) in the southeastern portion of the state. By the end of the year, Indiana will confirm 184 new cases of HIV linked to the outbreak.
April 15: NIH launches a large, multicenter, international clinical trial to study heart disease in people living with HIV, who are up to twice as likely as HIV-negative individuals to have heart attacks and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
May 8: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces on May 8 that it will amend the Federal rules covering organ transplants to allow the recovery of transplantable organs from HIV-positive donors. The new regulations will provide a framework for clinical studies on transplanting organs from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients.
3. May 27: Results from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study indicate that HIV-positive individuals who start taking antiretroviral drugs before their CD4+ cell counts decrease have a considerably lower risk of developing AIDS or other serious illnesses. Subsequent data releases show that early therapy for people living with HIV also prevents the onset of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other non-AIDS-related diseases.
4. June 30: The World Health Organization certifies that Cuba is the first nation to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis.
5. July 14: UNAIDS announces that the targets for Millennium Development Goal #6—halting and reversing the spread of HIV—have been achieved and exceeded 9 months ahead of the schedule set in 2000.
6. July 20: Researchers report that antiretroviral therapy is highly effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV from a person living with HIV to an uninfected heterosexual partner, when the HIV-positive partner is virally suppressed. The finding comes from the decade-long HPTN 052 clinical trial.
7. July 23: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the first diagnostic test that differentiates between different types of HIV infections (HIV-1 and HIV-2). The test can also differentiate between acute and established HIV infections.
8. July 30: The White House launches the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 (PDF 2.2 MB). The updated Strategy retains the vision and goals of the original, but reflects scientific advances, transformations in healthcare access as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and a renewed emphasis on key populations, geographic areas, and practices necessary to end the domestic HIV epidemic.
1. September 18: The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice announce they will collaborate on a demonstration project to provide housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
2. September 26: At a United Nations summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, the United States announces new PEPFAR prevention and treatment targets (PDF 640 KB) for 2016–2017. By the end of 2017, the U.S. will commit sufficient resources to support antiretroviral therapy for 12.9 million people, provide 13 million male circumcisions for HIV prevention, and reduce HIV incidence by 40% among adolescent girls and young women within the highest burdened areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries.
3. September 30: The World Health Organization announces new treatment recommendations that call for all people living with HIV to begin antiretroviral therapy as soon after diagnosis as possible. WHO also recommends daily oral PrEP as an additional prevention choice for those at substantial risk for contracting HIV. WHO estimates the new policies could help avert more than 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
4. October 20: Greater Than AIDS launches a new campaign, Empowered: Women, HIV and Intimate Partner Violence, to bring more attention to issues of relationship violence and provide resources for women who may be at risk of, or dealing with, abuse and HIV.
5. November 17: Actor Charlie Sheen announces his HIV-positive status in a nationally televised interview. Significant public conversation about HIV follows his disclosure. Earlier in the year, rapper, performance artist, and poet Mykki Blanco took to Facebook to disclose his HIV status, and former child TV star Danny Pintauro told Oprah that he is living with HIV.
6. November 24: UNAIDS releases its 2015 World AIDS Day report (PDF 27 MB), which finds that 15.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral treatment as of June 2015—more than doubling the number of people who were on treatment in 2010.
November 30: amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announces its plan to establish the amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research at the University of California, San Francisco. As the cornerstone of amfAR’s $100 million investment in cure research, the Institute will work to develop the scientific basis for an HIV cure by the end of 2020.
December 1: The White House releases a Federal Action Plan (PDF 772 KB) to accompany the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The plan was developed by 10 Federal agencies and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and contains 170 action items that the agencies will undertake to achieve the goals of the Strategy.
7. December 6: CDC announces that annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19% from 2005 to 2014. There were steep declines among heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African Americans (especially black women), but trends for gay/bisexual men varied by race/ethnicity. Diagnoses among white gay/bisexual men decreased by 18%, but they continued to rise among Latino gay/bisexual men and were up 24%. Diagnoses among black gay/bisexual men also increased (22%), but the increase has leveled off since 2010.
8. December 19: Partly in response to the HIV outbreak in Indiana, which is linked to people injecting drugs, Congress lifts restrictions that prevented states and localities from spending Federal funds for needle exchange programs.
9. December 21: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will lift its 30-year-old ban on all blood donations by men who have sex with men and institute a policy that allows them to donate blood if they have not had sexual contact with another man in the previous 12 months.