In just a few decades, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), is responsible for the largest epidemic in the world paling all those infamous epidemics and pandemics of Influenza, Plague, the Zica virus, Ebola, and more.
This post outlines the historical timeline, the events of its origin, and the epidemic status since its discovery till the hopelessness, man still experiences today.
Today, there is still no cure in sight. The virus is very evasive. Treatment can only control the virus and prevent further damage. But, the virus will stay in your body throughout life.
If left untreated, the virus develops the disease called Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can only kill the patient in a few years due to the complications that set in.
After being infected by the AIDS virus (HIV), the person does not experience any symptoms and remains without symptoms for many years. He gets symptoms only when AIDS develops, which takes years.
During those symptomless years, he becomes a danger because he keeps on passing the virus to others, rapidly spreading it. There are so many like him/her who are doing it around the globe. This is what has made HIV an epidemic.
What is its early history? Where did it originate from? And how did it infect man after all these years? All these theories and facts about the virus and the disease are now well-founded through expert research and make interesting reading.
The virus originated in Africa – Central Africa to be precise. It spread across the continents of the world, made its entry into the United States, and killed its reportedly first victims there in 1981.
This is how the original outbreak of AIDS and HIV virus got discovered in the United States.
HIV history in the United States
It was that year of 1981 that five young gay men in Los Angeles, United States, died of pneumonia due to seemingly harmless viruses, which the body normally easily fights off.
But, in these cases, the body could not do it and those five young men died. It indicated that their immune systems weren’t working.
These five homosexual men were the origin of HIV in the United States and the first cases of AIDS.
Again that year, 234 more people died of diseases, which the doctors treating them considered harmless. Those were among the first cases which marked the arrival of AIDS in the United States.
It was the same year when Ronald Reagan became the President of the United States, Prince Charles married Diana Spencer and Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to become the Chief Supreme Court Justice. It was also the year when IBM made the first personal computer. An eventful year at that!
The death toll rose from these seemingly harmless viruses and the scientists scrambled to find the cause. Such deaths were found to affect homosexual men and drug users and the people of the country of Haiti.
On June 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) describing these cases.
- On June 5, the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times reported the same on its MMWR.
- On June 6, the San Francisco Chronicle covers the same story.
- Within days, doctors from across the country send reports of similar incidences to the CDC.
This disease started rising to alarming proportions and it was in September of 1982, that the CDC first used the word Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) for these confusing diseases, which resulted in deaths.
A year after the scientists identified AIDS (in 1984 to be precise), they discovered the cause: the HIV virus.
In 1982, the American press started referring to AIDS as the disease of the “4 H club”, which comprised people who were at very high risk.
- Homosexual men reported a higher incidence
- Heroin addicts and people who often used other drugs regularly by non-sterile injection syringes
- Hemophiliacs who received contaminated blood transfusions, and
- Haitians because Haiti reported a higher incidence of HIV cases.
In December, the CDC acknowledged that even heterosexuals could get this disease as there were reports of similar deaths of four heterosexual hemophiliacs.
In 1995, AIDS breaks the record to become the leading cause of death worldwide.
Where did HIV come from? Original source
A few theories floated around about the origin of HIV, the AIDS virus.
Today, it is generally accepted that HIV has its origin in Africa.
Scientists, while researching, identified a particular species of chimpanzee in Central Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans.
The virus exists in the chimpanzee as a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIM). In humans, the virus mutated and got transformed into HIV.
HIV origin in humans
From the chimpanzee, the virus was transmitted to humans when they hunted and ate its meat and got infected with the animal’s blood infected with the virus.
Studies indicate that this transmission occurred sometime way back in the late nineteenth or the early twentieth century — to be precise before 1931, most likely during “bush meat trading.”
This virus slowly spread across Africa and in the late 1970s made its presence in the United States.
HIV historical timeline
- The 1900s: the spread of the virus from the chimpanzee to humans
- 1968: The earliest case of AIDS detected in the Midwest of the United States
- The 1980s: HIV attains epidemic proportions in the United States.
From the late 1990s to 2003, the CDC reported that the number of new HIV infections in the United States remains roughly the same at 56,300.
More than half of these carriers do not know that they are infected and remain an ignorant and dangerous source of spreading the infection to others.
HIV drug history
- Azidothymidine, also known as zidovudine, was introduced as the first treatment for AIDS in 1987.
- In 1997, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was introduced as the new therapy for AIDS. It reduced the death rate by 47 percent.
HIV diagnosis history
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first rapid HIV diagnostic test kit for use in 2003. It provided results in 20 minutes with an accuracy of 99.6 percent accuracy.