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A brief 30-year history of AIDS


In May 1990 man weeps front makeshift memorial AIDS victims during candlelight memorial San Francisco remember those who died disease

In May 1990, a man weeps in front of a makeshift memorial to AIDS victims during the a candlelight memorial in San Francisco to remember those who died of the disease and those still fighting it. | AP

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Updated: August 3, 2011 4:10PM



June 5, 1981 — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control publishes the first mention of what’s later determined to be a new infectious disease primarily affecting gay men.

July 1981 — The first case in Illinois is reported of the disease that will come to be known as AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The latest figures, through 2009, show there have been a total of 55,085 cases of HIV infections reported in Illinois — and an estimated 20,460 AIDS deaths.

1982 — The term AIDS is formally established by the CDC. Until now, the disease has been widely known as “gay-related immune deficiency” or “gay cancer.”

1985 — The federal Food and Drug Administration approves the first HIV test.

1986 — President Ronald Reagan first mentions the word AIDS.

1987 — The FDA approves AZT, the first antiretroviral drug for treating AIDS.

May 1988 — U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop sends a brochure about AIDS to every American household — the first and only mass mailing of its kind — in an effort to combat rampant misinformation about how the virus that causes the disease is transmittted.

September 1988 — Illinois becomes one of the first states to mandate premarital HIV testing. The law — which ends up being repealed a year later — causes the number of marriages in Illinois to plunge by 22 percent and creates a wedding boom in Kenosha, just across the Wisconsin border.

1990 — The federal Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency (CARE) Act is enacted by Congress, with federal funding to establish state-based AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

1994 — Illinois reports the state’s first year-to-year drop in the number of new AIDS cases.

1996 — The first AIDS drugs known as protease inhibitors are approved by the FDA, ushering in the era of AIDS “drug cocktails,” or highly active antiretroviral therapy.

2004 — Rapid HIV testing begins in labor-and-delivery units at hospitals across Illinois to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

2010 — The Obama administration launches the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the first coordinated plan for dealing with the epidemic.

Sources: Illinois Department of Public Health. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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