A Timelines of AIDS (1981–2011)


1981 In June, the first cases of AIDS are reported in gay men in the U.S. 1982 In September, the CDC establishes the term “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” or AIDS. In New York City, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) is founded. • In San Francisco, the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later evolves into San Francisco AIDS Foundation, is founded. 1983 French scientists discover HIV, the cause of AIDS. • Singer and avant-garde artist Klaus Nomi is one of the first celebrities to die from AIDS-related causes. • Experts agree that HIV is infectious. • “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” is penned by Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz. • The Denver Principles are established. 1984 San Francisco gay bathhouses are closed. • Gaëtan Dugas, a French-Canadian flight attendant who was pilloried by some members of the media as “Patient Zero,” dies. • Singer Diamanda Galás debuts Plague Mass. • The world’s first needle exchange program is established in Amsterdam. 1985 HIV-positive teen Ryan White is denied attendance at a Kokomo, Indiana, public school. • Two major plays about AIDS debut: William M. Hoffman’s As Is and Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart • Rock Hudson dies and his friend Elizabeth Taylor starts fundraising for AIDS research. • An HIV test is licensed for screening the nation’s blood supply. • First International AIDS Conference. 1986 U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop declares AIDS education for children and universal condom use as important prevention tools. • The first panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt are created. • American supermodel Gia Carangi dies. • National Minority AIDS Council is formed. 1987 North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms proposes the Helms Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for AIDS education materials. • The Silence=Death Project is born. • ACT UP is founded. • AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed for the first time in D.C. • Antiretroviral (ARV) medication is introduced. • Fashion designer Willi Smith, Liberace, and Michael Bennett (A Chorus Line) die. • Randy Shilts’s groundbreaking And The Band Played On… is published. 1988 U.S. Surgeon General Koop mails AIDS education materials to every U.S. household. • As The World Turns is the first soap to feature a gay character whose partner is dying from AIDS. • Artists’ collective Gran Fury begins producing work. • Paul Monette publishes Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. • Disco artist and drag performer Sylvester dies. • Elizabeth Glaser cofounds a pediatric AIDS foundation with Susan DeLaurentis and Susie Zeegen. 1989 U.S. Congress establishes the National Commission on AIDS. • Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and dancer Alvin Ailey die; artist Keith Haring announces he has HIV. • Day Without Art launched. 1990 Ryan White dies; U.S. Congress passes what becomes known as the Ryan White CARE Act. • Latino Commission on AIDS is founded. • AZT approved for use in children. • Longtime Companion, the first movie about AIDS to be wide-released, opens. • Red, Hot + Blue, a benefit album of Cole Porter covers by pop singers, helps establish the Red Hot Organization. • Falsettoland hits the stage. • Four of the seven gay male writers of the Violet Quill have died by 1990. 1991 The Red Ribbon becomes the international symbol of AIDS awareness thanks to the work of Visual AIDS two years earlier. • “Magic” Johnson announces he has HIV. • Queen’s Freddie Mercury and movie star Brad Davis die. • Art & Understanding (later called A&U) becomes America’s first nationally distributed HIV/AIDS lifestyle magazine. 1992 CDC expands the definition of AIDS to include women. • Tennis star Arthur Ashe discloses he has AIDS. • Actor Anthony Perkins, actor Robert Reed, artist David Wojnarowicz, writer and scholar Melvin Dixon, and sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov die. • Disclosing she is HIV-positive in a speech, Mary Fisher advocates for AIDS at the 1992 Republican National Convention. 1993 AZT is found to prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to child. • U.S. Congress and President Bill Clinton approve an immigration ban for HIV-positive people from entering the United States. • Tony Kushner’s AIDS opus Angels in America opens on Broadway. • Derek Jarman releases the film Blue. • Holly Johnson, lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, divulges he is HIV-positive. • Singer Héctor Lavoe dies. 1994 Tom Hanks wins the Oscar for best actor for his role as a PWA in the hit film Philadelphia. • Pedro Zamora, a gay HIV-positive Cuban American, joins the nascent reality show The Real World on MTV. • Bill T. Jones debuts Still/Here to rave reviews. • Filmmaker and writer Marlon Riggs and poet Assotto Saint die. • David B. Feinberg publishes Queer and Loathing: Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone shortly before his death. • E. Lynn Harris’s Invisible Life becomes a best-seller. 1995 FDA approves HAART—highly active antiretroviral therapy—a cocktail of drugs that slows the progression to AIDS in HIV-positive patients. • Olympic medalist and swimming star Greg Louganis announces he has HIV. • June 27 is declared the first annual National HIV Testing Day. • Record producer David Geffen donates $4 million to GMHC and New York’s God’s Love We Deliver, making it the largest single cash donation to the AIDS cause to date. • Rap star Eric “Eazy-E” Wright dies. • Mark Doty publishes Atlantis. 1996 Newsweek rather optimistically runs a cover story that—due to HAART therapy—AIDS will soon be over. • Rent opens on Broadway, and ER features the first major recurring character with HIV on television. Poet Essex Hemphill dies. • Sapphire publishes Push (later made into the hit movie, Precious). • Dr. David Ho, pioneer researcher of protease inhibitors, is hailed a hero by Time and other magazines. • The FDA approves several new AIDS drugs. • Triple combination therapy becomes the standard. • HIV-positive skater Rudy Galindo wins the U.S. national title and the bronze at Worlds. 1997 Nigerian Afrobeat superstar Fela dies from AIDS-related complications. • Tony and Emmy-winner Michael Jeter discloses his positive serostatus. • Pearl Cleage publishes What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day. • Edmund White publishes Farewell Symphony. • Brazil is the first developing country to provide free combination therapy to its citizens. 1998 The FDA approves the first human trial of an AIDS vaccine. • The Alliance for Microbicide Development is formed. • BET and the Kaiser Family Foundation partner to form the Rap-It-Up Campaign. • Zackie Achmat cofounds Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa. • The Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act of 1998 is authorized. 1999 AIDS is declared the fifth-leading cause of death for persons aged 25–44. • Origin of HIV-1 discovered. • AIDS activist Reggie Williams dies. • The Black AIDS Insitute launches. 2000 February 7 is named the first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. • President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa breaks ranks with other world leaders and announces his support for AIDS dissidents. • Queer As Folk debuts on American television, featuring a major character who is HIV-positive. • Singer Ofra Haza dies. 2001 At a UN Special Session, the world’s leaders sit down formally for the first time to discuss the gravity of the AIDS situation and to set long-term objectives for dealing with the crisis. 2002 OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 test is approved by FDA. • The Global Fund is established to begin a coordinated global response to the AIDS, TB and malaria crises. • An HIV-positive Muppet joins Sesame Street. 2003 October 1 is declared the First National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. • The “3 by 5” campaign is launched to expedite greater access to AIDS treatments and better healthcare in developing countries. 2004 Erasure’s lead singer, Andy Bell, announces he is HIV-positive. • Green Arrow becomes the first major comic book to feature an HIV-positive character. • America launches a major anti-AIDS initiative called PEPFAR, which is politicized by right-wing religious organzations who tie AIDS funding to abstinence in many parts of Africa. • Housing Works’ Keith Cylar dies. 2005 May 19 is declared the 1st National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/Awareness Day. • South African film Yesterday scores an Oscar nomination. 2006 FDA approves for sale the first effective one-a-day pill (Truvada) for the treatment of HIV infection. • The Gates Foundation—the world’s largest private funding source for AIDS prevention and science—receives a promised gift of $31 billion over ten years from financial wizard Warren Buffet. 2007 March 21 is declared the 1st National Natives HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. • (RED) Campaign is launched. • A promising vaccine fails to deliver. 2008 The Berlin Patient is functionally cured of AIDS. • The United States’ PEPFAR funding program is renewed on July 30th. • Mbeki resigns, bringing to an end an era of denialism in sub-Saharan Africa. • Music legend Annie Lennox launches the SING campaign. 2009 President Obama promises to lift the U.S. ban on HIV-positive immigrants and visitors (paving the way for the first U.S. hosting in decades of the XIX International AIDS Conference in 2012 in Washington, D.C.). • 4 million people in developing nations are on ARVs, while 9.5 million people in those same countries are without any treatment. • Scientists decode the structure of an entire HIV genome. 2010 AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) in over a dozen states face significant shortfalls. • Results from the iPrEx trial shows a significant reduction in HIV infection among men who have sex with men. • The United States, South Korea, China, and Namibia lift travel bans for people living with HIV. • Obama launches the National AIDS Strategy. 2011 Elizabeth Taylor, patron saint of AIDS, dies of congestive heart failure. • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg cuts funding for AIDS housing and nutritional services. • Known as the godfather of rap, Gil Scott-Heron dies.