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A Brief History of AIDS

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AIDS / HIV related image Photo: Getty Images

In tracking any disease, especially one as widespread and potentially fatal as the HIV virus and AIDS, it’s important to understand how, where and why it began. The facts of AIDS are a bit unusual in that the first known people in the United States to acquire this disease were gay males.

In fact, when the first cases of AIDS were identified, it was known as GRID, which stood for Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome. These cases were identified in 1981.

Down the road, scientists discovered that this particular syndrome was not an “American” disease per se, nor was a it a “gay disease” at all.

Upon blood analysis of a Belgian Congo Bantu man who had mysteriously died of an unidentified illness in 1959, it was determined that this was the same disease and that it was HIV. It was further determined that the first cases of HIV1 and HIV 2 as well as AIDS could be traced back to Africa, spreading with intensity right after World War Two.

By 1982, nations worldwide were reporting cases of AIDS and it had become a larger epidemic than anyone could have imagined.

Robert Gallo, an American, and Luc Montagnier, a Frenchman, both claim to have discovered the AIDS virus. While each doctor called his discovery something different (LAV for the Frenchman and HTLV-3 for the American), these were truly the same virus. Eventually it was speculated that Luc Montagnier was the true pioneer in discovering this virus and he eventually won the Nobel prize.

Bill Gates became a huge benefactor to the cause of AIDS research and assistance. He contributed bountifully to form a partnership with governmental agencies in Botswana, which is heavily afflicted with AIDS. He created a foundation to help people get the medical attention necessary to live a better quality of life while wrestling with this virus.

Shocking though it may seem there was a bit of controversy in the 1980s as to whether or not AIDS was really caused by the HIV virus. Some scientists blamed a weakening of the immune systems of people on the development of disease and others just thought it was a different virus. Eventually science was able to prove the validity of the theory that HIV indeed causes AIDS.

Nelson Mandela was also a big proponent of AIDS activism, outreach and education. Unbeknownst to some, George Bush, Jr. was an activist against the spread of the AIDS virus, setting up the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR.

This organization, along with the Global Fund, is one of the most helpful and well-funded organizations for AIDS on the planet. In fact, it is responsible for helping half of the 6.6 million people now accepting and living with antiretroviral drugs.

The History of AIDS
Endeavoring to raise AIDS awareness through understanding.
Retrieved from the internet on September 21, 2011
The history of AIDS
Heroes and villains
The story of AIDS involves many larger-than-life characters, good and bad
Jun 2nd 2011 | from the print edition
Retrieved from the internet on September 22, 2011

Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER

Reviewed September 23, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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