Photo Chronicle: The HIV/AIDS Epidemic (1981-2021)

The HIV / AIDS virus is still one of the biggest economic, medical and social problem for modern society. As of 2020, more than 37 million people worldwide are infected with the virus.

The virus spread in the 80s of last century and killed more than 36 million people. HIV / AIDS was particularly harmful to the LGBTQ community and contributed to their marginalization.

Nowadays, in terms of timely diagnosis and treatment, the life expectancy and quality of an infected person and an uninfected person are equal, HIV is no longer a death sentence.

Here is a photo chronicle of the HIV / AIDS epidemic and all the important historical facts surrounding the epidemic:

Circa 1884-1924

Between 1884 and 1924, a hunter killed a chimpanzee in West Africa, the animal’s blood penetrated the hunter’s body through a gun. The blood is safe for monkeys, though it is deadly for humans. The virus rapidly spread to other colonial cities in Africa.

Although the epidemic dates back to the 1980s, many researchers believe that the virus existed long ago in African countries and that the spread of the virus in the United States was facilitated by the export of cheap blood.


In June 1981, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published information about 4 gay men living in Los Angeles who were diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia.

On July 4, another announcement was made about New York men who died of Kaposi’s sarcoma. By the end of the year such cases increased to 337, with 130 deaths.


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the virus AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and it is clear that the virus is transmitted through blood.


The disease also infects women who have sexual intercourse with infected men, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns residents that the disease also spreads to heterosexual couples and may transmit the virus to a newborn during pregnancy or very shortly after birth. The population is in a panic, there are many rumors that the virus can spread in everyday life. Apartment owners in New York are evicting people living with HIV.


Researchers at the Pasteur Institute, Luc Montagnier and François Barre-Sinus, have been actively trying to isolate the virus from the lymph nodes of an HIV-infected person, giving scientists a significant boost in determining the nature of the virus and guiding further processes.


Lisa Minnelli, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, one of the first AIDS philanthropists are shown in the picture.

Actor Rock Hudson is the first American public figure to declare that he was infected with the HIV virus in July 1985. Three months after the actor’s announcement, which further fueled hysteria in the population, the actor bequeathed $ 250,000 to establish the American AIDS Research Foundation. The first chair of the foundation is actress Elizabeth Taylor.

A study by the Los Angeles Times was published by the end of the year, where the majority of Americans support the quarantine of people diagnosed with HIV.


In March 1985, the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the first commercial blood test for the virus, and a month after that event, the first international conference on AIDS was held in Atlanta.

In December, 20-month-old Dwight Bark died of AIDS, Dwight being the first child to die of HIV.


At the opening ceremony of the HIV / AIDS Hospital in London in April 1987, Princess Diana shook hands with a sick patient without a glove, and the ceremony was broadcast on national and international television channels. This act of a member of the royal family helps to defeat stigma, many people in the world still believe that the virus can be transmitted by simple contact with an infected person.


American activist, playwright and producer Larry Kramer founded the international organization ACT UP, which was founded to mobilize forces to defeat the virus.

The organization is holding its first large-scale protest near the FDA headquarters in the United States, demanding that the Food and Drug Administration speed up scientific research into HIV / AIDS. The protest is attended by more than 1,000 activists and their slogan is SILENCE = DEATH. At the protest rally, up to 178 activists were arrested, however activists still reach the outcome and in 10 days the FDA has announced that the process will be accelerated.


THE WHO (World Health Organization) declares December 1 as AIDS Day, the aim of the initiative is to raise awareness about the virus. On December 1, many activists and supporters continue to pay tribute to those infected and those who have died of the virus.


HIV / AIDS virus also reaches Soviet Georgia. The case is recorded in the city of Sokhumi. A few years before the first case was registered, in 1984, the AIDS Service was established on the territory of the Center for Infectious Diseases.


The world loses a basketball player Magic Johnson and the influential face of the pop world, Freddie Mercury.

The deaths of both celebrities raise awareness around HIV / AIDS.


The fight against the AIDS epidemic is entering a new phase


  • . President Clinton creates new policies to fight HIV / AIDS
  • The international organization ACT UP and clothing line Benetton are installing a giant condom in Concorde Square in Paris to remind the world of the importance of safe sex in the fight against the virus.
  • A play with HIV / AIDS themes “Angels in America” wins Prestigious American Pulitzer Prize
  • Film “Philadelphia” comes out on the movie screens, telling us about a lawyer infected with AIDS. The film stars Tom Hanks, who soon won an Oscar.


Revolutionary, antiretroviral HAART drugs are emerging that can reduce the virus in the human body. AIDS researcher David Ho argues that this treatment may completely drive viruses out of the body. Although it is soon established that the virus is going nowhere, it is hidden in dormant cells. However, new therapies reduce mortality by up to 40%.

1998 – 2000

Health organizations are spreading the word that antiretroviral therapy has dangerous side effects, and there is a need to develop new, more powerful medications. The FDA will soon approve new drugs that are safer but do not completely cure the virus.


As the number of deaths from AIDS increases, the problem becomes more widespread and global.

Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Laureate, came out in 2001 with the initiative to establish the International AIDS and Health Fund, whose main goal would be to fight viral diseases. In the same year, at a special session, the UN supported Kofi Annan’s initiative and set up the World Fund.


The 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush announces a presidential plan to fight AIDS. The program is funded with $ 15 billion and supplies antiretroviral drugs to 15 countries.


The FDA, Food and Drug Administration has accredited the daily drug PrEP, which protects 99% of people transmitting AIDS during sexual intercourse. The drug also showed 74% effectiveness during various injections.


In March 2020, an article was published in a medical journal describing how a patient was completely cured of the HIV virus. Adam Castello is the second person in the world to be completely cured of the virus.

The patient was cured as a result of a stem cell transplant, the purpose of the transplant was not to cure HIV, the patient had a diagnosis of cancer and that is why he underwent expensive surgery and as it turned out, the donor was found to be resistant to HIV.

This procedure is quite expensive and can not be used to treat millions of people, but the fact itself will have a positive effect on people living with HIV / AIDS and will allow scientists to investigate such surgical interventions and continue effective scientific work.


The American pharmaceutical company Moderna just a few days ago announced a new vaccine against HIV. The vaccine is made with the latest mRNA system and promotes the production of antibodies against HIV in the body.

The first phase of the vaccine trial will begin in a few days, with 56 HIV-free people taking the test, and the second and third phases of the trials will be needed for the new vaccine to be finally authorized and made available to the general public.

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