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A Timeline in the Battle Against AIDS

Graphic of rising toll of AIDS deaths in the past two decades June 1981
The Centers for Disease Control (now called Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) publish an account of five young homosexual men with the same fatal pneumonia, known then as gay-related immune deficiency (GRID).

December 1981
San Francisco Sentinel columnist Bobbi Campbell becomes the first person to publicly admit having the "gay cancer."

July 1982
The New York Times reports that 41 gay men in New York and California have been diagnosed with Karposi's Sarcoma, a very rare form of cancer that is later linked to AIDS.

April 1984
A French research team led by Luc Montangier discovers the virus that causes AIDS, later named the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). An American team at the National Institutes of Health, led by Robert Gallo, confirms the discovery shortly thereafter.

August 1984
A CDC study of hemophiliacs confirms that blood transfusions are spreading the HIV virus.

October 1984
Bath houses in San Francisco, popular places for gay men to find anonymous sexual partners, are ordered closed by the city's health department.

April 1985
The first International AIDS conference is held in Atlanta, Georgia.

October 1985
Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS, drawing increased attention to the disease. By the end of the year, there are 20,470 reported cases of AIDS in the U.S., and 8,161 people have died.

October 1986
U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stirs controversy with a frank report calling for increased AIDS education and condom use.

March 1987
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the first drug to combat the virus, azidothymidine (AZT). But at an average cost of $12,000 a year, few can afford it.

May 1987
After four years of silence on the epidemic, President Ronald Reagan delivers his first speech on AIDS.

October 1987
The Names Project AIDS Quilt is displayed for the first time in Washington, D.C., with 1,920 panels, each in memory of someone who has died of AIDS. By October 2000, the quilt had expanded to 44,000 panels, bearing the names of more than 83,000 people killed by the disease.

November 1988
The number of new cases of HIV infection in New York City linked to IV drug use surpasses new cases linked to sexual transmission.

April 1990
Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through tainted blood products used to treat his hemophilia, dies of the disease. In the six years since being diagnosed with HIV, White fights intolerance to become a spokesman against discrimination against people with AIDS. By the end of the year, there are 161,073 reported cases of AIDS in the U.S., and 100,813 people have died.

November 1991
Basketball star Magic Johnson announces he has HIV, and the news is credited with prompting a record number of people to take the HIV antibody test.

December 1994
AIDS becomes the leading cause of death among American men aged 25 to 44, and the fourth-leading cause for women in the same age group.

November 1995
The FDA approves the first of a new class of antiviral drugs called protease inhibitors. "Cocktails" of different types of these drugs prove to be very effective at combating HIV, in some cases preventing the onset of AIDS. But by the end of 1995, there are 513,486 reported cases of AIDS in the U.S., and 323,213 people have died.

January 1996
The United Nation launches UNAIDS, an umbrella group of six worldwide organizations already fighting the spread of AIDS.

September 1997
The number of new reported cases of AIDS in the U.S. drops for the first time, and the rate of AIDS deaths drops dramatically.

July 1998
Drug-resistant strains of HIV begin to appear, even as the CDC announces that the death rate for AIDS patients dropped 47 percent from 1996 to 1997.

November 1999
The World Health Organization and UNAIDS report that more African women than men are infected with HIV.

July 2000
At the 14th annual International AIDS Conference, UNAIDS reports that in some sub-Saharan African nations, more than one-quarter of the adult population is infected with HIV or has AIDS.

April 2001
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan calls for a "war chest" of up to $10 billion a year to fund AIDS prevention and treatment programs worldwide. It is estimated that the disease now kills 2.8 million people annually.

Sources: SF AIDS Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNAIDS, The AIDS Memorial Quilt