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HIV, 30 Years After First Reported Cases


The June 5, 1981 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reported on 5 cases of a disease we now know as AIDS. The 5 cases involved young homosexual men in Los Angeles, California seen at three different hospitals during the period October 1980-May 1981. All 5 young men were being treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.

From those early days of HIV/AIDS 30 years ago, great strides in prevention and treatment have been made. In the early days, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Now there is an estimated 1,106,400 adults and adolescents living with HIV in the United States.

Thirty years after the first reported cases there has been a report of one man who may be the first person ever cured of the deadly disease AIDS. Timothy Ray Brown, 45, tested positive for HIV in 1995. Now know as the “Berlin patient” after he received a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat his leukemia in 2007 which appears to have eliminated the HIV virus completely from his body in what doctors call a “functional cure.”

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Prevention of new infections remains a priority. The CDC reports new infections have dropped more than two-thirds since the height of the epidemic. Today, in the U.S. there are about 50,000 new infections occur each year. Of the more than one million people living with HIV in our nation 21% (one in five) are unaware of their infections.

Even with the advances in treatment, nearly 18,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the U.S.

It is important to know your HIV status so that treatment can begin early. It is especially important to be tested yearly if you participate in any of these behaviors:

  1. Have injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, works) with others
  2. Have had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with men who have sex with men, multiple partners, or anonymous partners
  3. Have exchanged sex for drugs or money
  4. Have been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), like syphilis
  5. Have had unprotected sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions

If you test positive for HIV, the CDC recommends that you be seen by a licensed health care provider, preferably one with experience treating people living with HIV. Your physician will then help you with treatment information and guidance.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pneumocystis Pneumonia --- Los Angeles: CDC MMWR, June 5, 1981 / 30(21);1-3
CBS San Francisco: Apparent Immunity Gene ‘Cures’ Bay Area Man Of AIDS (May 16, 2011)