Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AIDS: The Thirty Years War

Thirty years ago, the AIDS epidemic began.  I was only a child then and it wasn’t until later that I came to understand what it was all about.  My mother was a public health nurse, and in the rural south there were few cases of it in those early years, though she of course understood (at least to some extent) what was going on. No one really thought it would reach us here, but it did.  I had a cousin who died of it in those early years, though he was gay, he probably contracted the disease from a blood transfusion.  It was shortly after the surgery that he received the transfusion, that he became sick.  He died shortly after that.  In the early days, the disease worked quickly.  His life partner died a year or so later.  It was not something that the family discussed much.  We were told by his parents that he had died of cancer.  However, once my mother heard who his doctor had been, it was no doubt he did not die just of cancer, but of AIDS.  This particular doctor only took AIDS patients and was the only doctor in the area who would. 

A few years later, a man who my aunt worked for contracted the disease.  He was a dentist, and at the time, they no longer allowed him to practice, so he had to retire a young man.  He was also gay, and though as a dentist he had money to allow him to survive for a while, he had one stroke of luck before he died.  He literally won the lottery.  With the treatment he could then afford, he was able to live several more years, but the drugs that now allow HIV positive people to live decades, were not around then.  He ultimately succumbed to the disease as well.  Since those early years, there have been major steps of improvement and life expectancy, but it is still ultimately a fatal disease.  Hopefully, one day it won’t be.  Until then, please remember to use a condom when you have sex, play it safe, and live a long and healthy life.

I saw the timeline below on the and wanted to share it with you. It is a timeline of the thirty years since the AIDS epidemic began in America.  There has been much speculation about when the disease first entered humans.  It is a date yet to be determined if ever.  In fact, we are not even sure that it first began in the US in 1981, but that is when it became known.  It would still be a number of years before healthcare officials really understood what it was they were dealing with, and there is much more work still to be done.


As AIDS enters its fourth decade, we look back at the events that changed the course of history

clip_image001It's not a birthday to celebrate, but the 30th year of AIDS does remind us to appreciate how far we've come. From the early days of panic and paranoia to today's promise, the world has seen monumental advances in not only prevention and treatment but also acceptance and tolerance. A diverse group, including scientists, politicians, and reality stars, helped contribute to these sweeping changes and increased the odds of AIDS not living to 40. Here are some of the people and moments that brought us to now...

June: Due to reports of unusual outbreaks of pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and the rare cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma among gay men in New York City and Los Angeles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention establishes a task force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and opportunistic infections.
September: From his Manhattan apartment, activist Larry Kramer begins to mobilize gay New Yorkers with Kaposi’s sarcoma.

clip_image002June: The CDC reports that there have been several cases of a syndrome involving PCP, Kaposi’s, and other opportunistic infections among gay men in California’s Los Angeles and Orange counties. This suggests the infectious agent may be sexually transmitted.
July: By the beginning of the month, 452 cases of the syndrome, from 23 states, have been reported to the CDC. 

January: The Red Cross and other blood banks propose banning blood donations from gay males.
May: San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (below) declares the first week of the month AIDS Awareness Week
August: Activist Michael Callen (below left) and others testify during the first congressional hearing on AIDS.
September: The ACLU brings attention to an “AIDS Alert,” a list of people with AIDS circulated among Seattle police.

October: In an effort to stop the spread of AIDS, the city of San Francisco shuts down gay bathhouses. In three years, 817 cases of AIDS had been reported in San Francisco.
December: Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac in Kokomo, Ind., is diagnosed with AIDS, having contracted HIV through tainted blood.

Mclip_image003arch: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration licenses the first blood test for HIV antibodies.
April: The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's semiautobiographical play about the AIDS epidemic, premieres at New York City's off-Broadway Public Theater.
July: Ann-Margret and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley participate in the city's first AIDS Walk.
September: The American Foundation for AIDS research is formed with Elizabeth Taylor (left) as founding chairman.
October: Rock Hudson, 59, dies of AIDS complications at his Beverly Hills home.

clip_image004February: The Reagan administration proposes rejecting immigrants who test positive for HIV.
February: A witty look at gay life in 1980s New York, the low-budget but much-loved Parting Glances features Steve Buscemi as an unrepentant rock star losing his battle with AIDS.
June: The federal government commits $100 million over five years to evaluate promising AIDS medications.

clip_image005March: The FDA approves the first AIDS drug, AZT, marketed as Retrovir.
October: Congress overwhelmingly passes the Helms Amendment.
October: During the largest gay rights march in the nation's history, activist Cleve Jones's NAMES Project Memorial Quilt is unveiled to commemorate those lost to AIDS.

May: The Centers for Disease Control and Surgeon General Koop distribute the pamphlet "Understanding AIDS" to each of the 107 million homes in America.
August: Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush endorses protections against discrimination for people with HIV/AIDS.
October: Congress passes an $800 million AIDS research package, with a provision from Sen. Jesse Helms requiring that testing confidentiality be dropped. 

March: Three thousand AIDS demonstrators storm New York's City Hall to draw attention to the problems within the city's hospital system.
April: President George H.W. Bush is heckled for his inaction on AIDS at a nationally televised speech on the bicentennial of George Washington's inauguration.
September: The AIDS charity album Red Hot + Blue is released, featuring reworked Cole Porter classics sung by artists including Annie Lennox, Tom Waits, and Debbie Harry.

February: Artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related complications at age 31.
May: Longtime Companion becomes one of the first American films to focus almost solely on AIDS.
August: Congress passes the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, funding a variety of AIDS-related services.

June: Jeremy Irons is the first celebrity to wear the red AIDS awareness ribbon publicly, at the 1991 Tony Awards. The Red Ribbon Project was conceived by New York's Visual AIDS Artists Caucus.
August: A major research study indicates that AZT can slow progression to AIDS in asymptomatic HIV-positive people.
October: A second anti-HIV drug receives FDA approval—didanosine, sold under the brand name Videx.
November: Freddie Mercury (right), the flamboyant lead singer of Queen, is the latest celebrity to die of AIDS-related causes. He was 45.

January: To prevent the spread of HIV, the Los Angeles Unified School District approves the distribution of condoms in high schools.
August: Mary Fisher, an HIV-positive woman, addresses the Republican National Convention.
December: The Bush White House allows the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track experimental anti-HIV drugs.

May: Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, the first part of his AIDS epic, opens on Broadway. It wins a Tony award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
September: HBO's dramatization of Randy Shilts's groundbreaking book And the Band Played On premieres.
December: The film Philadelphia tells the story of a gay lawyer (Tom Hanks, right, in an Oscar-winning role) who sues his former firm after he's fired for having AIDS.

clip_image008November: A study indicates that AZT can cut mother-to-child transmission of HIV by two thirds.
November: The Real World: San Francisco follows the trials of HIV-positive AIDS activist Pedro Zamora.

June:clip_image009President Clinton establishes the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by executive order.
December: The FDA approves saquinavir (brand name Invirase), the first in a new class of drugs called protease inhibitors, whose use with other drugs becomes known colloquially as a "cocktail." 

clip_image010July: Hopeful news emerges from the international AIDS conference in Vancouver. Scientists report that new drug combinations have dramatically improved the health of many people with AIDS.
September: On ER, heterosexual physician assistant Jeanie Boulet (played by Gloria Reuben, below) learns she has HIV.

January: New York City health officials report the first documented drop in AIDS deaths—the number of city residents dying of the disease declined 30% from 1995 to 1996.
February: CDC officials say there were 13% fewer deaths in the first half of 1996 than in the same period in 1995. The trend is attributed to the new drug therapies.
June: The New York Times reports post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, medication is being offered to those who may have been exposed to the virus but have not tested positive for infection.

February: Scientists announce that they detected HIV in an African man's blood sample preserved from 1959, making it the oldest documented case of HIV infection.
June: The FDA approves the first human trial of an AIDS vaccine, to involve 5,000 volunteers throughout the United States.
November: The Joint United Nations AIDS Programme announces that HIV infections worldwide rose 10% over the past year, with great increases among women and youths.

February: New York City health officials announce that a study of young gay men in the city shows 12% of them are infected with HIV.
May: The World Health Organization's annual report says AIDS has become the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.
August: The CDC reports that deaths from AIDS continue to drop, but at a lower rate than they did immediately after the introduction of drug cocktails. U.S. AIDS deaths declined 42% from 1996 to 1997, but only 20% from 1997 to 1998.

January: The CDC announces that 1998 marked the first time there were more AIDS diagnoses among black and Latino gay men than among white gay men.
February: New research indicates AIDS may have originated as far back as 1930.
November: The World Health Organization reports that new HIV infections rose during the year, but the infection rate stabilized in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time.

February: Results from a study involving six large U.S. cities indicate that 30% of young black gay men are HIV-positive.
June: On the 20th anniversary of the epidemic, the United Nations devotes a special session to HIV and AIDS, the first for a public health issue. All 189 member countries sign a Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS, which includes pledges to reduce HIV prevalence among young people by 25% in the hardest-hit nations by 2005, and to reduce it by 25% globally by 2010. 

February: The American clip_image011version of the British drama Queer as Folk introduces Robert Gant's Ben Bruckner as an HIV-positive love interest to Hal Sparks's HIV-negative Michael Novotny.
April: The World Health Organization outlines steps to make antiretroviral drugs more accessible to people in poor nations.
November The FDA approves an HIV test than can provide results within 20 minutes.

January: President George W. Bush outlines what will become PEPFAR—the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, aimed at fighting AIDS in developing countries.
November: Results from a trial of the AidsVax vaccine show it failed to prevent HIV transmission. The trial was conducted among injection-drug users in Thailand.
December On World AIDS Day, the WHO announces its "3 by 5" plan, to have 3 million people in resource-poor countries on antiretroviral drugs by 2005.

February: The first PEPFAR funds are distributed—$350 million to 14 countries, a month after congressional approval.
July: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announces a $50 million donation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
December Designers Against AIDS launches with the mission of using pop culture components to raise media awareness of HIV/AIDS.

September: GlaxoSmithKline's patent on Retrovir (AZT) expires, meaning any company can produce generic versions without paying royalties, and the FDA approves four generics.
November: The WHO announces that the 3 by 5 plan is far short of its goal, but it estimates that expanded access to treatment saved between 250,000 and 350,000 lives during the year.

July:The FDA approves Atripla,clip_image012the first once-daily single-tablet regimen. From Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences, it combines efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir.
December: Results are in from two African studies that indicate male circumcision can help prevent HIV transmission, although there are fears that some populations may not accept the procedure and that it could lead to a lax approach to prevention. 

January: A large-scale trial of a vaginal microbicide is stopped because the product is not preventing HIV and may even be enabling it.
March: Due to the studies released the preceding December, WHO endorses male circumcision as part of a comprehensive AIDS prevention strategy.
April: WHO reports that 2,000,000 people in low- and middle-income countries are receiving HIV drugs—only 28% of those who need such treatment.

August: The annual report from UNAIDS notes AIDS deaths worldwide dropped.
November: German doctors announce that they have essentially cured an American patient of HIV.

January: Barack Obama is inaugurated as U.S. president. He immediately lifts an executive order that had denied U.S. aid to international family planning organizations.
March: Pope Benedict XVI reiterates the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to condom use, saying it may actually contribute to the spread of HIV.

August: State and federal budget crises threaten AIDS Drug Assistance Programs in several states.
September: Project Runway contestant Mondo Guerra reveals that a design he created, featuring oversize plus signs, was inspired by his HIV-positive status.
November: The secretary of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough, withdraws an edited version of A Fire in My Belly a silent film by artist David Wojnarowicz (who died of AIDS complications in 1992) from the exhibit 'Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture' after complaints from the Catholic League.

clip_image013March: U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon releases a report urging world leaders to take bold action against the AIDS epidemic, warning that recent progress is fragile.
March: Elizabeth Taylor dies of congestive heart failure at age 79.
April: Larry Kramer'slandmark 1985 AIDS play The Normal Heart gets its first Broadway production.


Rebecca said...

wow what a history to think i grew up through all of this and yet some of those facts were new to me makes me wonder how i missed it other then being a child and not paying attention. thank you for the reminded of all the things that have been accomplished and yet we have a long way to go.

Everyday Life

Anonymous said...

I grew up with this, too. It's been a hell of a struggle for anyone and everyone affected with this disease.

There have been many accomplishments, and now HIV/AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence. I can only hope and pray that we make even greater strides in the near future.

Oh, and the blood collection/donation agencies would like to stop excluding gay men from blood donation...but the meducrats keep shooting it down.

Peace <3

Joe said...

Becca, I'm glad that you learned something new. That's part of what this blog is all about. It is also wonderful to have straight allies like you behind us.

Jay, we do still have a long way to go, and hopefully, soon they will change the rules about blood donation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention of our NGO Designers against AIDS-we just opened our education center where we teach young people how to create awareness campaigns using the same pop culture based methods we use. If you'd like to learn more (or apply for a workshop) please check out, particularly IHAEC. The fight is far from over but prevention work can be fun too.
Best regards
Ninette Murk, founder/creative director DAA

Joe said...

You are most welcome, Ninette. You have a great organization, and I think you are doing a much needed job in educating people.