Major events in the international AIDS pandemic, its impact on the gay community, denial by governmental figures and ultimately a treatment.
June 5, 1981
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. These men have other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are not working; two have already died by the time the report is published. This edition of the MMWR marks the first official reporting of what will become known as the AIDS epidemic.
June 6, 1981
Within days, CDC receives numerous reports of similar cases of PCP and other opportunistic infections among gay men—including reports of a cluster of cases of a rare, unusually aggressive cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), among a group of gay men in New York and California.
June 8, 1981
In response to these reports, CDC establishes the Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections to identify risk factors and to develop a case definition for national surveillance.
July 3, 1981
New York Times publishes an article entitled “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” At this point, the term “gay cancer” enters the public lexicon.
December 10, 1981
Bobbi Campbell, a San Francisco nurse, becomes the first KS patient to go public. Calling himself the “KS Poster Boy,“ Campbell writes a newspaper column on living with “gay cancer” for the San Francisco Sentinel. He also posts photos of his lesions in the window of a local drugstore to alert the community to the disease and encourage people to seek treatment.
January 1, 1982
NBC airs the first national news story on AIDS.
September 24, 1982
CDC uses the term “AIDS” (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) for the first time and releases the first case definition of AIDS: “a disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease.”
September 24, 1982
Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Phillip Burton introduce legislation to allocate $5 million to CDC for surveillance and $10 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for AIDS research.
December 10, 2021
CDC reports a case of AIDS in an infant who received blood transfusions. The following week, 22 cases of unexplained immunodeficiency and opportunistic infections in infants are announced.
January 4, 1983
CDC hosts a public meeting with representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NIH, the blood services community, gay activists, and hemophilia specialists to identify opportunities to protect the nation’s blood supply from AIDS. Yet participants fail to reach consensus on appropriate action.