Historical Perspective. In 1981, an obscure article in The New York Times reported the outbreak of a rare and very fatal form of cancer (Kaposi's sarcoma) among 41 gay men from New York and California.
This unknown disease was called "acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)" in the early 1980's becaused its still "unknown causative agent" suppresses the body's natural defenses, i.e., the immune system, against infection. It was a few years later before this unknown disease was linked to a very virulent "virus" that is responsible for suppressing the body's natural defenses; thus the term "human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)".
Weakening of the immune system sets the stage for the intrusion of several deadly afflictions, including (Kaposi's sarcoma), a rare pneumonia (PCP) and other forms of
opportunistic infections. [Visit "
HIV biology and challenges in fighting the virus
" for a brief discussion of HIV biology.]
Diagnosis of similar
opportunistic infections were soon reported also in many of the large metropolitan areas and states in the
With no known cure, what was then a still "unknown disease" soon spread like a "wild fire" from the points of origin of the outbreak, New York and California. [View figure below for an animated presentation of the spread of the disease in the United States, from the early 1980's to 1997.]
Spread of AIDS in the U.S. (1983-1997): Animated Presentation
The 41 cases, first diagnosed with AIDS, soon increased to 452 cases by the end of 1982.
About 1,000 cases were reported by February 1983 and 3,064 cases reported by December 1983.
There were approximately 10,000 cases by May 1985, about 100,000 cases by July 1989;
about 500,000 cases by December 1995,
about 630,000 cases by September 1997, more than 720,000 cases by 1999, and greater than 770,000 cases by December 2000. [Visit the UNAIDS/WHO report for the latest AIDS Epidemic Update in more developed countries (MDCs).]
AIDS ravages the world. While the AIDS epidemic was first reported in the
, very soon after, major cities and metropolitan areas in other Western countries were reporting similar ailments.
A few years later, diagnosis of similar AIDS-related ailments were being reported in Latin America (especially in some of the Caribbean countries, like Haiti) and Africa. AIDS took a longer time to get a foothold in Asia (initially in Thailand) but became significant by the early 1990's.
Twenty years after AIDS was first reported in the
, a "worldwide AIDS pandemic" is underway. [Visit the UNAIDS/WHO report for the latest AIDS Epidemic Update.]
AIDS at 20. What began in 1981 as an unknown disease, that initially affected men who have sex with men (MSM), has gradually found its way to other sectors of the American society.
Read HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report (US) (pdf format), or visit the different sections in "AIDS in the
" for a brief overview of the changing patterns of HIV infection and AIDS among different ethnic groups, gender, modes of transmission, etc. The "
" sections, included here, provide both graphic and text presentations of the changing demographics of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.
The AIDS epidemic has changed the socio-political fabric of the United States and other Western countries. The legacies of the socio-political struggles, between the opposing political forces in the fight to find cure for AIDS, has changed and continue to shape the political arena and moral struggle of the American people as a society. These socio-political struggles, in the light of the AIDS epdemic, have been instrumental in shaping and continue to evolve US policies on privacy, discrimination, allocation of resources, etc. [Visit the New York Times, AIDS at 20, for a historical news archive of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.]
part two (2)
or visit "
AIDS Trends and Epidemiology
", an introductory graphic and text presentation of how AIDS affected various segments ( age, ethnic groups, gender, etc.) of American society and the different regions of the United States...