The Thirty Years' War


As AIDS enters its fourth decade, we look back at the events that changed the course of history

It's not a birthday to celebrate, but the 30th year of AIDS does remind us to appreciate how far we've come. From the early days of panic and paranoia to today's promise, the world has seen monumental advances in not only prevention and treatment but also acceptance and tolerance. A diverse group, including scientists, politicians, and realitystars, helped contribute to these sweeping changes and increased the odds of AIDS not living to 40. Here are some of the people and moments that brought us to now...

1981-1987

1981

JUNE: Due to reports of unusual outbreaks of pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and the rare cancer Kaposi's sarcoma among gay men in New York City and Los Angeles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention establishes a task force on Kaposi's sarcoma and opportunistic infections. Later, the outbreaks will be seen as the first identified cases of AIDS.

SEPTEMBER: From his Manhattan apartment, activist Larry Kramer begins to mobilize gay New Yorkers with Kaposi's sarcoma.

1982

JUNE: The CDC reports that there have been several cases of a syndrome involving PCP, Kaposi's, and other opportunistic infections among gay men in California's Los Angeles and Orange counties. This suggests the infectious agent may be sexually transmitted. Scientists apply various names to the syndrome, including gayrelated immune deficiency, gay compromise syndrome, and community-acquired immune dysfunction.

JULY: By the beginning of the month, 452 cases of the syndrome, from 23 states, have been reported to the CDC. Later that month, with reports surfacing of cases among hemophiliacs and Haitians (making it clear that it's not an exclusively gay disease), doctors and researchers settle on the name ? acquired immune deficiency svndrome, or AIDS.

1983

Cases of AIDS are now being reported worldwide. In November, the World Health Organization holds a meeting to address the situation. By year's end, the United States has seen 3,064 reported AIDS cases; 1,292 of these people have died.

JANUARY: The Red Cross and other blood banks reject a proposed ban on blood donations from gay men. In 1984, however, the U.S. government will bar gay men from donating.

MAY: San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein (below) declares the month's first week AIDS Awareness Week.

AUGUST: Activist Michael Callen (below, left) and others testify at the first congressional hearing on AIDS.

SEPTEMBER: The ACLU brings attention to an "AIDS Alert," a list of people with AIDS circulated among Seattle police. The list was eventually destroyed after an order from the police chief.

1984

In the spring, French and American researchers both report the discovery of a virus they believe to be the cause of AIDS. The virus mil later become known as human immunodeficiency virus, or HI\7.

OCTOBER: In an effort to stop the spread of AIDS, the city of San Francisco shuts down gay bathhouses. In three years, 817 cases of AIDS had been reported in San Francisco.

DECEMBER: Ryan White, a 13-vear-old hemophiliac in Kokomo, Ind., is diagrosed with AIDS, having contracted HIV through tainted blood. The community's harassment of White and his family makes national news, and the family eventually moves away.

1985

MARCH: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration licenses the first blood test for HIV antibodies.

APRIL: The Normal Heart, Larry Kramers semiautobiographical play about the AIDS epidemic, premieres at New York City's offBroadway Public Theater.

JULY: Ann-Margret and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley participate in the city's first AIDS Walk.

SEPTEMBER: The American Foundation for AIDS research is formed with Elizabeth Taylor (left) as founding chairman. In its first 25 years the foundation will invest $325 million in its mission. …

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