World Aids Awareness Day – The first identified case of HIV in a human was in 1959, however, the transfer of the HIV from animal to human likely occurred several decades earlier. The infected individual lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he was unsure, (and research could not identify) how he was infected. While the first cases of HIV in the U.S. date back more than 30 years to 1981. In September 1982, the CDC used the term acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) for the first time when describing the mystery disease. That same year, the first AIDS clinic opened in San Francisco. By 1994, AIDS was the leading cause of death among Americans 25 to 44. Read the narrative timeline at this site.
Two events polarized AIDS in the public eye; the death of 1950’s & ‘60’s heart throb Rock Hudson’s from AIDS related causes on October 2, 1985 and diagnosis of Ryan White, the American teenager who was infected with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December, 1984. Both Hudson and White turned the tide in different ways regarding research and laws in the U.S. regarding AIDS.
At his death, Hudson willed $250,000 to create an organization for the research to treat and cure AIDS. The organization became known as amfAR, with Hudson’s great friend and international movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, becoming chairman and leading fundraiser. Read about amfAR.
Today it’s hard to imagine the full blown hysteria that swept the nation regarding AIDS, but the fear was so great and the disease at that time was a death sentence. For example, once diagnosed, Ryan White was forbidden to return to school and was ostracized from general society in his own hometown. His mother, Jeanne White Grinder, eventually moved the family after receiving money for his made for television story. She rallied national media support and soon, a public speaker regarding AIDS. Read more on Ryan White here.
Medical professionals are still hard at work trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.