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Indybay Feature
Thu Jun 1 2006 (Updated 06/18/06)
25 Years Of AIDS
Thu Jun 1 2006 (Updated 06/18/06)
25 Years Of AIDS
June 5th 2006 marks the 25th year since AIDS was identified. While issolated cases of what is now known to have been AIDS have been found dating back to the late 1950s, the "official" date for the beginning of the AIDS epidemic is usually marked as June 5, 1981, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report newsletter that unusual clusters of Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia had been discovered in gay men in Los Angeles. As Ronald Reagan's Press Secretary Larry Speaks joked about AIDS in a 1982 press conference, the number of death in the US had already reached several hundred with infections in the thousands. In 1983, scientists led by Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute in France discovered the virus that causes AIDS and by 1986 the virus was named Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The crisis hit San Francisco especially hard and with over 1000 deaths in the city by 1985, the AIDS quilt was started to draw public attention to the crisis. More radical groups also emerged and in 1987 ACT UP was formed at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York following a speech by Larry Kramer. By the end of 1990, 100,813 people had died in the US alone.

In 1996, Dr David Ho developed a multi-drug combination treatment that blocked HIV reproduction and within a few years the numbers of deaths in the US had dropped dramatically. The new treatment prolonged life for those who could afford the drugs, but it was not a cure and even though generic versions of some of the drugs have been produced for use in poorer countries, the need to constantly shift drugs as the virus develops resistance means that most of those in developing countries who contract HIV are no better off than before the multi-drug coctail was developed.
HIV/AIDS - 25 Years and Counting | AIDS History Project | An AIDS History | 25 Years of An Epidemic | Queer Activism in The 80s and 90s | The Gay Men's Health Crisis HIV/AIDS Timeline | APLA Timeline | New Scientist Timeline

As of 2006, AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed 3.1 million (between 2.8 and 3.6 million) lives in 2005 of which, more than half a million (570,000) were children. More than 39 million people around the world are living with HIV. India now has more people living with HIV than any other country. An estimated 5.7 million Indians were infected by the end of 2005, overtaking the 5.5 million cases estimated in South Africa.

On May 31st, protesters gathered outside the UN building in New York to demand that the leaders of rich countries listen to people most directly affected by HIV and fulfill their commitments to fighting AIDS. The protesters chained themselves in the lobby of the US mission around a large poster that featured a blowup of a letter addressed to Ambassador John Bolton. Police used bolt cutters to separate them and made at least 21 arrests. AIDS activists accuse the Bush administration of watering down a declaration to be debated at a UN conference by removing treatment targets and references to prevention measures - such as condoms and sterile injecting equipment - in favor of abstinence.

UN Offers New Global AIDS Strategy | US blocking international deal on fighting Aids | Annan presents grave Aids report at NY meeting | The Role of Pharmaceutical Companies and Access to HIV Treatment in the Developing World | Pills Profits Protest: A Chronicle of the Global AIDS Movement | Wikipedia: AIDS | Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS | AIDS Alliance
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