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On July 25, 1985, Rock Hudson, a quintessential tall, dark and handsome Hollywood leading man of the 1950s and 1960s who made more than 60 films during his career, announces through a press release that he is suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). With that announcement, Hudson became the first major celebrity to go public with such a diagnosis. The first cases of AIDS, a condition of the human immune system, were reported in homosexual men in the United States in the early 1980s. At the time of Hudson’s death, AIDS was not fully understood by the medical community and the disease was stigmatized by the general public as a condition affecting only gay men, intravenous drug users and people who received contaminated blood transfusions.
Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., on November 17, 1925, in Winnetka, Illinois. He rose to fame in the 1950s, starring in such films as Giant (1956), for which he received an Academy Award nomination,and A Farewell to Arms (1957). Hudson’s good looks and charm were on display in 1959’s Pillow Talk and several other romantic comedies he made with Doris Day in the early 1960s. In the 1970s, Hudson co-starred in the popular TV series McMillan and Wife. In the early 1980s, he began experiencing health problems and underwent heart bypass surgery. His final TV role was a recurring part on Dynasty from 1984 to 1985.
READ MORE: Why Rock Hudson and Linda Evans' Seemingly Innocent Kiss on 'Dynasty' Made Headlines
In July 1985 Hudson was hospitalized while in Paris. Some media reports indicated he was suffering from liver cancer. However, on July 25, Hudson issued a press release stating he had AIDS and was in France for treatment. Hudson, who had a three-year marriage during the 1950s to a woman who had been his agent’s secretary, was believed to be gay, although he never spoke publicly about his sexuality.
Hudson died on October 2, 1985, at age 59 in Beverly Hills, California. His death was credited with bringing attention to an epidemic that went on to kill millions of men, women and children of all backgrounds from around the world. Hudson’s friend and former Giant co-star Elizabeth Taylor became an AIDS activist and rallied the Hollywood community to raise millions for research. In 1993, Tom Hanks received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in director Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, the first major Hollywood movie to focus on AIDS.
READ MORE: Why Rock Hudson’s Decision to Come Out Marked a Turning Point of the AIDS Epidemic
The Moment Rock Hudson Became the First Face of AIDS
Rock Hudson's death brought national attention to the then-unknown disease.
Exactly 30 years ago, a pale, thin, incoherent Rock Hudson joined Doris Day for a press conference announcing her triumphant return to television. But the event didn’t go well. Hudson showed up late and looked so ill that national news networks took it upon themselves to replay the footage, fueling fans fixation on his dramatic weight loss, which was hard to ignore given that he’d previously been a stocky 200 pounds. Over the next few weeks, curiosity hit fever pitch as he was admitted to the American Hospital in Paris. His press agent told the public he was suffering from inoperable liver cancer. He wasn’t.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had gone public about AIDS only four years earlier, so when Hudson began to visibly deteriorate, the media and his fans didn’t understand what they were watching. They only knew that it was horrible.
Hudson’s visits to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, however, raised suspicions that the actor might have AIDS. The institute was known to offer treatments for AIDS that were not yet available in the U.S. — specifically, an experimental drug known as HPA-23, which had not yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Hudson could have gone quietly, but he didn’t. He announced that he had AIDS, ending the speculation about why he was withering and refocusing the conversation about his “mystery illness.” Several months later, he died, becoming the first American celebrity to die from the disease.
Hudson had actually received his AIDS diagnosis in June 1984, but he kept it a secret for over a year. Going public was an unprecedented move, and he’s now, rightly, lauded for it. Hudson, who starred in major Hollywood films such as Giant and Pillow Talk, was married, briefly, to his agent’s secretary Phyllis Gates, but it was widely known throughout Hollywood that he was gay. After his death, his friend and former Giant co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, began to rally Hollywood to raise millions for AIDS research. She became an activist for a cause with Hudson’s face.
Hudson Hid AIDS to Continue Sex, Companion’s Lawyer Says
Although he knew he was dying of AIDS, actor Rock Hudson purposely concealed his illness from his former lover so they could continue to have sex, the attorney for Hudson’s former companion told a Superior Court jury Friday.
After the actor was diagnosed as having AIDS in June, 1984, “Rock Hudson told Marc Christian that he was fine,” attorney Harold Rhoden told jurors. “When Hudson lost weight and appeared very sickly, he told Marc Christian that he was dieting, that he wanted to ‘look like I did when I made “Pillow Talk” with Doris Day.’ ”
Only shortly before his death the following year did Hudson tell his employers to give assistance to Christian, Rhoden said during opening arguments in the trial over Christian’s $14-million lawsuit against Hudson’s estate.
“Take care of the kid,” Rhoden claimed Hudson told a subordinate. “I may have killed him.”
Christian claims that he suffered extreme emotional distress after learning of Hudson’s illness during a July, 1985, television newscast and that Hudson and others conspired to keep Christian unaware that he had been repeatedly exposed to acquired immune deficiency syndrome through their continued sexual contact. Rhoden told jurors that the two men had anal intercourse about three to five times a week.
But the attorney for Hudson’s estate said Christian, 35, did not immediately seek medical help after finding out that the late actor had AIDS. Christian so far has tested negative for the AIDS virus.
“The evidence will show that he didn’t go to see a doctor or do anything that would indicate a great fear of getting AIDS,” attorney Robert Parker Mills said. Instead, the lawyer argued, Christian went to see a nutritionist seeking “a program that would improve his weightlifting.”
Christian, who fidgeted nervously in his chair, was portrayed by Mills as a promiscuous former bartender who had “high-risk” sex with as many as 15 other men before he met Hudson. Although Mills admitted that the two men shared a relationship, he said the only reason Christian sued Hudson’s estate was that he was left out of the late actor’s will.
“If there was such a close relationship, why isn’t Mr. Christian in the will?” Mills said. “And if he doesn’t have AIDS, why is he suing? The only thing that this is about is a purported fear about getting some disease which he doesn’t have.”
In a countersuit filed against Christian, estate attorneys claim that Christian was a prostitute who blackmailed the former leading man by threatening to expose Hudson’s homosexuality by publishing love letters the late actor penned and sent to Christian while filming a movie in Israel.
But Rhoden said that Christian never made any threats and that Hudson’s secretary, Mark Miller, offered to pay hush money to other estate employees to get them to keep quiet about the late actor’s disease. Rhoden said that even when Christian continued to ask Hudson if he had AIDS, Hudson repeatedly denied it.
According to Rhoden, Miller told Christian that Hudson was going to a Swiss clinic in 1985 to be treated for anorexia, a severe eating disorder. But, in fact, Hudson went to Paris to be treated for AIDS, Rhoden said. Even after Hudson collapsed in Paris, Rhoden said Miller called Christian and told him that Hudson was suffering from inoperable liver cancer. The following day, it was announced that Hudson had AIDS.
“The lies just kept going on,” Rhoden said. “Miller told Marc Christian ‘that if you sue us, we’ll say that you had sex for money. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll say that you were on drugs.’
“What this case is about is the duty to warn. Christian believed that at any moment he would be suffering the same symptoms as Rock Hudson and that the diagnosis would mean a sentence of death. Both Mark Miller and Rock Hudson had to know that Marc Christian would find out that he’d been lied to. But Rock Hudson wanted to continue to enjoy sexual relations, and they conspired to put the young man at risk.”
Rock Hudson Announced He Had AIDS On July 25, 1985
On this day, July 25, 1985, HIV/AIDS was given a global spotlight when it was announced that screen icon Rock Hudson was suffering from the disease.
Looking gaunt and almost unrecognizable, rumors began to circulate about his health earlier in the summer when the actor had made a public appearance to promote a new cable series of his friend and former co-star Doris Day.
After collapsing in Paris in July 1985, he was diagnosed with AIDS and given treatment with the drug HPA-23, which at the time was unavailable in the United States. It was while he was in the hospital that it was announced to the public that Hudson had AIDS:
"According to publicist Yanou Collart, who acted as his spokeswoman in Paris, the decision was Hudson's. 'The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to walk into his room and read him the press release,' says Collart. "I'll never forget the look on his face. How can I explain it? Very few people knew he was gay. In his eyes was the realization that he was destroying his own image. After I read it, he said simply, 'That's it, it has to be done.' "
Hudson passed away at the age of 59, on October 2, 1985, less than three months after the announcement, in his Beverly Hills home. In his last weeks he was visited by many famous friends such as Carol Burnett, Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor, who upon his death was reported as saying "Please God, he did not die in vain."
Hudson's AIDS diagnosis put the disease into the headlines and changed the way the public thought of AIDS patients, as well as gay stereotypes. Before his death he created the Rock Hudson AIDS Foundation, donating the $250,000 he received from an advance of a biography to the foundation.
Hudson's death is also credited with jumpstarting Elizabeth Taylor's fundraising crusade to fight AIDS and Chairman of California's AIDS Advisory Board Committee Bruce Decker said upon Hudson's death: "His illness and death have moved the fight against AIDS ahead more in three months than anything in the past three years."
Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin was quoted as saying: "I'm sure Rock's coming out will stand as a landmark in the gay community."
Below, watch a news report below from 1985 about Hudson's "mystery illness," as well scenes from "Pillow Talk" where Hudson pretends to be gay to get closer to Doris Day.
Rock Hudson was devastated by AIDS diagnosis, wrote anonymously to partners to make them aware, book claims
Actress and singer Doris Day gives a rare interview in Mark Griffin’s new biography on Rock Hudson. In the book, she talks candidly about Hudson, her beloved friend and how heartbroken she was when he died.
Before Rock Hudson was recognized as a Hollywood heartthrob, he was discovering an identity that he had to keep secret for the rest of his life.
The beloved actor is the subject of a new biography by Mark Griffin titled “All That Heaven Allows,” which further explores the complex, fiercely private star. It features over 100 interviews with co-stars, family members, friends and lovers. The Hollywood Reporter shared that Universal Pictures has plans to turn the book into a biopic.
Hudson, celebrated as a romantic idol of the ‘50s and ‘60s, passed away in 1985 at age 59 after suffering for more than a year from AIDS in his Los Angeles home. The New York Times reported that while acquaintances described Hudson as gay, the actor never publicly commented or acknowledged the reports.
Griffin told Fox News Hudson may have realized he was gay after joining the Navy in 1944. He was discharged two years later.
Roy Fitzgerald (Rock Hudson) in the late 1940's. (Courtesy of the author.)
“One of the individuals that I interviewed thought that some of his first same-sex experiences happened when he was in the Navy,” Griffin explained. “Obviously, there wouldn’t have been women around and I think that’s when he realized he had feelings in that direction. It’s been suggested he may have had some same-sex experiences even earlier than that, but I wasn’t able to confirm that in any way.”
The New York Daily News reported it was a boyfriend who reportedly introduced Hudson to Henry Wilson, a talent scout for Selznik Studio. Wilson was impressed by Hudson’s 6-foot-4 physique and chiseled good looks. Wilson took Hudson under his wing in 1947, but his career did not really take off until 1954’s “Magnificent Obsession.” It was 1956’s drama “Giant” alongside Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean that truly catapulted him to stardom.
But fame and fortune prevented Hudson from truly discovering happiness in coming out.
Rock and longtime roommate Bob Preble in the early 1950's. (Photo courtesy of Lou Valentino)
“There was a moral clause in your contract which forbade you from embarrassing your employers, namely your studio, with any sort of ‘inappropriate conduct’ like scandalous behavior,” Griffin explained. “Rock and his agent Henry Wilson and his publicist at the studio would have been very careful about protecting his public image. After all, this was the number one box office attraction in the 1950s and 1960s. So they wouldn’t want anything to sabotage the fact that he’s a big moneymaker for the studio."
Still, Hudson couldn’t deny who he was, which nearly destroyed his career on numerous occasions.
“At the same time his handlers are trying to protect his image, he was also engaging in activity that we would now term as sexual compulsiveness whereby he’s throwing caution to the wind,” said Griffin. “It’s almost like he’s wanting to get caught in an odd way, which may have been on a certain level a great relief for him. … There were a number of instances where he was less than discreet and perhaps too trusting of those he was with."
"A strange romance" is how Photoplay described Rock's close relationship with actress Marilyn Maxwell. (Photo courtesy of Lou Valentino)
“This led to a lot of complications where you had people come back and later try to extort him and blackmail him," Griffin continued.
"I think you have someone who’s dealing not only with the pressures of being the number one box office attraction, but also grappling with the disconnect that exists between his public image and his private life. I was also a bit surprised to realize how often Rock was unfortunately blackmailed or threatened with public exposure throughout his career. Boyfriends who had threatened to sell their stories and out him publicly. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, that would have destroyed his career,” Griffin said.
"Written on the Wind" (1956). Directed by Douglas Sirk Shown: Lauren Bacall (as Lucy Moore Hadley), Rock Hudson (as Mitch Wayne). (Photofest)
Confidential Magazine was also determined to expose Hudson and his escapades with other men. Wilson came up with a plan.
“Henry Wilson knew that there was only one way to silence all the rumors about Hudson’s sexuality,” Griffin wrote. “It was time for Rock to get married. And fast.”
In 1955 Hudson abruptly married Wilson’s secretary, Phyllis Gates, who claimed she didn’t know the star was gay. In 2013, The Hollywood Reporter shared Gates confronted Hudson in 1958, demanding to know if he was gay. In the alleged confrontation, Hudson implied he had been intimate with men and they divorced that same year.
But Griffin said there was a gray area when it came to Hudson’s sexuality.
If Rock Hudson was the boy next door, his future bride had to be a fresh-faced, all-American girl like Phyllis Gates. Some friends were convinced that the relationship was legitimate, while others insist that it was a carefully arranged corporate merger. — Photofest
“I think some of the relationships that Rock had with women, like for example Marilyn Maxwell, to whom he was very close — I think in certain circumstances these close friendships or relationships with women may have veered in a romantic territory as well,” said Griffin. “I think he was predominately gay. But I do think there were instances where he was involved with women as well.”
But Hudson couldn’t stop the rumors. The New York Daily News shared that when “Ice Station Zebra” opened in 1968, some people chanted “f——- “ as he walked the red carpet. Hudson reportedly never went to another premiere. And when a story claimed Hudson and the equally closeted actor Jim Nabors had married, the “terrified” star ditched his friend.
Marilyn Monroe with Rock Hudson at the Golden Globe Awards, March 1962 (Photofest)
However, as Hudson got older he continued to enjoy his life as a gay man. He would reportedly sneak into gay bars and sex clubs. But Hudson struggled to maintain long-term relationships as partners became tired of keeping their romance a secret.
In June 1984, Hudson’s world came tumbling down when he was diagnosed with a death sentence. According to reports, it was first lady Nancy Reagan who noticed Hudson had what appeared to be a cyst on his neck during a White House gala before a doctor diagnosed him with AIDS.
Rock and protege Jack Scalia starred in the ill-fated NBC series "The Devlin Connection," which debuted in 1982. (Photofest)
“I think understandably he was devastated by his diagnosis,” said Griffin. “He told his secretary, one of his closest friends at that time, that he was shamed by the fact that he had been diagnosed with AIDS. There were tabloids out there that would have gone crazy with a story about a major Hollywood celebrity having AIDS. Especially a romantic idol like Rock Hudson. It would have shattered his image.”
“He was very careful about who he did confide in and who he shared this information with. Some of the people I interviewed said he took the initiative when he found out he had been diagnosed to have his very good friend, the actor George Nader, help him write anonymous letters to some recent partners, making them aware that he had AIDS. He was advising them to go to their own physicians and be checked.”
Hudson then did what he knew best — threw himself into work. Despite being sick, Hudson took on the role of Linda Evans’ love interest in the hit series “Dynasty” from 1984 until 1985. It would be his last role.
“Aaron Spelling, who produced ‘Dynasty,’ was also trying to convince Rock to sign on for a spinoff series called 'The Colbys,'” said Griffin. “Spelling was offering Rock the moon and all sorts of star perks, but Rock just wouldn’t have it. … Another project that came along at that time was a sequel to 1959’s ‘Pillow Talk’ with Doris Day. … He thought it was an outstanding concept for this particular film. That may have gone forward if it weren’t for the fact that Rock’s health was deteriorating so rapidly.”
Rock Hudson in 1985. (Getty)
Hudson may still be celebrated as an icon in film history, but Griffin wonders what the star’s life would have been like if he could have freely expressed himself without fear of losing the love of his audience.
“It’s a sad fact, but I think so much of who he was and the most important aspects of himself couldn’t be shared,” said Griffin.
Thirty Years of AIDS: A Timeline of the Epidemic
Thirty years into the fight against HIV/AIDS, UCSF has helped change the course of this deadly disease, which has claimed the lives of 33 million people worldwide. This timeline covers the highlights over the past three decades at UCSF, in the nation and around the world.
Editor's note: This timeline was updated on March 23, 2012.
- AIDS is detected in California and New York. The first cases are among gay men, then injection drug users.
- UCLA’s Michael Gottlieb, MD, authored the first report to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on June 5 identifying the virus that would be known as AIDS.
- UCSF’s Paul Volberding, MD, saw his first HIV-positive patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare cancer later linked to AIDS, on his first day at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) on July 1.
UCSF's Marcus Conant, MD, and Paul Volberding, among the first physicians to diagnose and treat patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), discuss Kaposi's Sarcoma, in 1981. That year, Conant founded a Kaposi’s sarcoma clinic, one of the nation’s first specialized AIDS practices.
- The CDC establishes the term Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
- The City and County of San Francisco, working closely with health professionals at UCSF, SFGH, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and others, develops the San Francisco “model of care,” which emphasizes home and community-based services.
- US Congress convenes first hearings on HIV/AIDS.
- UCSF faculty physicians develop the country’s first outpatient AIDS clinic and inpatient ward at SFGH, which was the first unit of its kind in the US and remains a national model of care.
- Three thousand AIDS cases are reported in the US 1,000 people have died so far.
- UCSF virologist Jay Levy, MD, co-discovers HIV he and his colleagues go on to make many of the first observations in AIDS research, including demonstrating that HIV grew in cells other than in the lymphocytes and isolating the virus in the brain and the bowels.
UCSF's Jay Levy, MD, was one of the first scientists to isolate the virus responsible for AIDS. Photo by David Powers
- Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac from Indiana, becomes infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment.
- UCSF’s Donald Abrams, MD, is instrumental in establishing a network of Bay Area clinicians called Community Consortium, which pioneers a new model of community-based clinical trials.
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses first HIV test for screening blood supplies.
- Movie star Rock Hudson announces that he has AIDS and dies, becoming the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization (WHO) host the First International AIDS Conference in Atlanta. These annual conferences continue today.
- Ryan White is barred from school and becomes a national spokesperson against AIDS stigma and discrimination.
- American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded with the help of movie star Elizabeth Taylor.
- With the awarding of a National Institutes of Mental Health AIDS Center grant designed to boost AIDS prevention research, UCSF’s Center for AIDS Prevention officially opens its doors under the direction of Stephen Hulley, MD.
- The San Francisco AIDS Foundation launches the San Francisco AIDS Walk to raise funds for patient care, research and education. UCSF participates in the walk from the start.
- More than 38,000 cases of AIDS are reported from 85 countries.
- Elected in late 1980, President Ronald Reagan first mentions the word AIDS in public.
- National Academy of Sciences report is critical of US response to the epidemic and calls for $2 billion investment to combat the disease.
- The first clinical trials of antiviral drug azidothymidineor AZT begin.
- US Surgeon General Everett Koop, MD, issues report on AIDS calling for education and condom use.
- Institute of Medicine report calls for expanding education campaign and creating the National Commission on AIDS.
- UCSF’s Donald Abrams, MD, confirms, with the help of the Community Consortium of Bay Area physicians, that giving the drug pentamidine in aerosol form was a more effective way of treating a serious from of pneumonia that typically strikes AIDS patients.
- FDA approves AZT for treating AIDS.
- CDC launches first public service announcements about AIDS.
- AIDS memorial quilt displayed for the first time at the National Mall in Washington, DC.
- US adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration exclusion list
- A group of UCSF researchers, including Diane Wara, MD, design a study that involved treating mothers with AZT from the second trimester onward, as well as at the time of delivery, and treating the infant with oral AZT. The study proved enormously effective, and reduced mother-to-infant transmission from 26 percent to 8 percent.
- WHO declares first World AIDS Day on December 1, which continues today.
- The City and County of San Francisco establishes what becomes the nation’s largest needle exchange program.
UCSF's Diane Wara, MD, was among the first physicians to describe AIDS in children and one of first to show how AIDS was being transmitted from mother to child. Photo by David Powers
Rock Hudson announces he has AIDS - HISTORY
It's clear that Rock Hudson hoped to keep his AIDS diagnosis a secret. The original plan, according to biographer Sara Davidson, was for Hudson to die peacefully in Palm Springs and for the cause of death to be listed as liver disease. Then, while in Paris, Hudson collapsed and was taken to the American Hospital, where officials insisted the actor reveal the truth.
"They didn't accept AIDS cases in the hospital, and they said either he would have to announce it, or they would. When the statement was drafted, Rock"s publicist and his secretary read it to him, and all he said was, 'Go ahead, it"s been hidden long enough,'" she said.
The news of Hudson's diagnosis, announced twenty-eight years ago today, was a watershed moment. It was the first time a celebrity had come out as HIV-positive and showed the world that even Hollywood hunks, even quintessential leading men like Rock Hudson, could contract the disease. (It also helped challenge the stereotype of the gay man.) AIDS wasn't just for junkies and street urchins. It was a disease that impacted everyone.
Hudson died less than three months later, on October 2, 1985. Dale Olson, a publicist who had originally tried to hide the truth, said at the time that Hudson's death "will increase the impact that his dislcosure of AIDS already made, and that is, more attention to how important this disease is. "
Here's video of longtime NBC reporter Sue Simmons reporting on Hudson's Paris hospital stay and a later report on the actor's death. He was only 59.
Garlington says he would sneak over to the Hudson's house (above with friend Doris Day) after work, and leave first thing in the morning
As for social events, he says the two would just each bring a date so people did not know they were in fact dating.
This lasted for three years, from 1962 until 1965, and while their sneaking around seemed to work for awhile, Hudson became concerned after learning that a female fan had broken into his home as he had photos of Garlington, a stockbroker, in his bedside table.
'She didn't find them, but it shook him up,' say Garlington.
'He realized he was vulnerable. He put gates on the house after that.'
Soon after the couple parted ways, but Garlington reveals he had no idea how much the actor cared for him until he read his biography, released after he died of AIDs in 1985, in which he called him his 'true love.'
'I broke down and cried,' he says.
'I just lost it. He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.'
Garlington says Hudson (left with Taylor, right with Marilyn Monroe) would being a female date whenever they went out
Hudson, who was briefly married to Phyllis Gates from 1955 to 1958, would never publicly come out of the closet before his death, though many of his closets friends, including Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, were said to have known about his lifestyle.
The actor, whose breakout role came opposite Taylor and James Dean in the 1956 film Giant, for which he would go on to be nominated for an Oscar, would have other relationships with men over the course of his life, most notably Marc Christian.
Christian, who met Hudson in 1982, would later sue the actor's estate after his death and win $5.5million after claiming he never informed him that he had AIDs, and continued to have sexual contact with him after he was diagnosed.
More of Garlington's interview, as well as one with Hudson's former costar and friend Doris Day, can be found in this week's issue of People.
New Rock Hudson biography reveals the secrets the closeted star tried to hide
Rock Hudson was everything a romantic leading man could be in the 1950s and ‘60s – hunky, clean-cut, extraordinarily handsome – so much so that he ascended to a place where he was considered the “king of Hollywood” and lived in a Beverly Hills mansion nicknamed “The Castle.”
But as author Mark Griffin points out in his exhaustive and empathetic biography “All That Heaven Allows” (Harper, 496 pp., ★★★ stars out of four), the actor paid a heavy personal price for his pre-eminence.
Deeply closeted in an era where an openly gay man could never be a celluloid hero, Hudson – a matinee idol of the first order who wooed Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Gina Lollobrigida and Doris Day onscreen and starred most successfully and famously in films like “Giant” and “Pillow Talk” – spent his life and career hiding in plain sight.
That’s the narrative thrust of this onscreen/offscreen examination of Hudson: “Long before he landed in Hollywood, he understood that if he wanted to be accepted, the very essence of who he was would have to be edited out of the frame.”
And that’s exactly what Hudson did, until the public disclosure of his AIDS diagnosis shortly before his death in 1985 at age 59, cast him in a new role as the face of a global and much misunderstood pandemic.
Griffin fills in what’s left to say in between the lines with an impressive list of interviews with movie star friends, acquaintances and co-stars and digs deep into private journals and correspondence.
Actor Rock Hudson with Doris Day in Hollywood, March 6, 1963 after they were named world film favorites at the Golden Globes that year. (Photo: Harold Matosian, AP)
Among the themes and highlights, most of them known but gaining heft in detail:
1. Hudson’s childhood was brutal.
He was born Roy Scherer Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois, in 1925. Hudson’s biological father abandoned his mother, Katherine, and his stepfather, Wallace Fitzgerald, was physically abusive – including, Hudson once said, when he told Fitzgerald he wanted to be an actor. “From an early age,” Griffin writes, “he learned that you could talk about pretty much anything – except what you truly felt and what you really wanted. Like a father.”
2. His brief marriage to Phyllis Gates was meant to keep scandal sheets at bay.
Gates, secretary to Hudson’s notoriously predatory agent, Henry Wilson – the man who “invented” Rock Hudson – may or may not have known Hudson was gay. What is known is that the public was openly wondering why Rock Hudson wasn’t married and Confidential Magazine was intent on exposing him. “Henry Wilson knew that there was only one way to silence all of the rumors about Hudson’s homosexuality,” Griffin writes. “It was time for Rock to get married. And fast.”
3. Many of the characters Hudson played were deeply conflicted.
Whether Hudson was playing the hero, the lover or even the science experiment, many of the characters were, on some level, conflicted. Griffin speculates that it’s more than likely that Douglas Sirk, who directed Hudson in such films as “Magnificent Obsession,” “All That Heaven Allows” and “Written on the Wind,” “certainly knew the score about Hudson, (and) nudged his leading man toward characters who are in the throes of an identity crisis.”
Rock Hudson joined his friend Doris Day on July 18,1985 in Monterey, Calif. His appearance shocked the world. He died later that year. (Photo: Chris Hunter, AP)
4. He may have fathered a child during his days in the Navy.
In 2014, a woman named Susan Dent sued Hudson’s estate claiming to be Hudson’s daughter and wanting “no financial remuneration but only an order establishing paternity.” According to Griffin, Hudson’s adoptive sister had a letter from Hudson to a friend that “tells his friend everything.” Furthermore, Griffin says, “more than one individual interviewed for this book insisted that while Hudson was in the Navy he fathered two daughters – by two different mothers – though no evidence has been produced to support these claims.”
5. When his AIDS diagnosis was still a secret, Hudson informed former lovers anonymously.
It fell to one of Hudson’s closest friends, George Nader, to deliver the news, which took the form of an anonymous letter sent to four people with whom Hudson had sexual relations before his diagnosis. The letters, which were mailed by Nader from Palm Springs so recipients would not trace them back to Hudson, read as follows: “We recently had sex together and I have been informed by my doctor that I may have AIDS. Please go to your doctor and have a check-up.” According to Nader’s partner, Mark Miller, “Only one person ever responded …” It was a 22-year-old man from New York whom Hudson had a fling with. The man found out the next day he had AIDS, and, having guessed the identity of the correspondent, sold his story to one of the tabloids for $10,000. “He died six months later,” according to Miller, who added, “His name was Tony.”
Marc Christian, ex-lover of Rock Hudson, dies
Marc Christian MacGinnis, who won a multimillion-dollar settlement in 1991 from the estate of his ex-lover, actor Rock Hudson, after convincing a jury that Hudson had knowingly exposed him to AIDS, is dead. He was 56.
The details were confirmed Friday by his sister, Susan Dahl, who said she did not publicly announce his death earlier because of her brother's wish for privacy.
Mr. Christian, who went by his mother's maiden name, made headlines in 1985 when he sued Hudson's estate and Hudson's secretary, Mark Miller, for $10 million, alleging that he had suffered severe emotional distress after hearing on a news broadcast that the former matinee idol and television star had AIDS, which was claiming lives throughout the gay community.
Hudson was diagnosed in 1984 but did not publicly acknowledge his illness until July 1985 he died three months later at age 59.
Mr. Christian tested negative for acquired immune deficiency syndrome several times after learning of Hudson's diagnosis but contended that the star put him at risk of contracting the disease by concealing his illness and continuing to have sexual relations with him.
Mr. Christian included Miller in the suit because he said Miller lied to him when asked whether Hudson had AIDS.
In 1989, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury said Hudson had displayed "outrageous conduct" and awarded Mr. Christian $21.75 million in damages, later reduced to $5.5 million. The $5.5 million award was upheld by a state appellate court, which called it just compensation for the "ultimate in personal horror, the fear of slow, agonizing death."
After the California Supreme Court, citing requests from both sides in the dispute, decided not to hear the case, a private settlement was reached for an amount Mr. Christian later said was less than $6 million.
He was portrayed by Hudson estate lawyers as a gold-digging hustler and criticized in the gay community.
"It was obviously a groundbreaking case," said Tammy Bruce, a former president of the National Organization for Women Los Angeles chapter and an openly gay talk-show host. "It was the first public acknowledgment that gay relationships are complicated, important, and that responsibility is attached to them. . A lot of people owe a great deal to that man and the way he handled it with particular grace, not only at the trial but in the years afterward."
Several years after the sensational case ended, Mr. Christian told People magazine that his purpose was "not to sleaze Rock. It was to say that if you have AIDS you ought to tell your partner, whether you're a movie star or a postman."
He later found himself defending Hudson against those who viewed the late actor's conduct as reprehensible.
"You can't dismiss a man's whole life with a single act. This thing about AIDS was totally out of character for him," Mr. Christian said in the People interview.
Mr. Christian was born in Hollywood on June 23, 1953, and grew up in Orange County. He met Hudson in late 1982 at a fundraiser for then-senatorial candidate Gore Vidal.
"I heard this voice, 'Where the hell's the booze?' I turned and saw Rock Hudson standing next to me," he testified in 1989. By late 1983, they were living together in Hudson's Beverly Hills mansion.
- June 5: The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) publishes an article in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): Pneumocystis Pneumonia—Los Angeles. The article describes cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis cariniipneumonia(PCP), in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. Los Angeles immunologist Dr. Michael Gottlieb, CDC’s Dr. Wayne Shandera, and their colleagues report that all the 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 and the others will die soon after. This edition of the MMWR marks the first official reporting of what will later become known as the AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) epidemic.
- June 5: The same day that the MMWR is published, New York dermatologist Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien calls CDC to report a cluster of cases of a rare and unusually aggressive cancer—Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS)—among gay men in New York and California. Like PCP, KS is associated with people who have weakened immune systems.
- June 5-6: The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle report on the MMWR article. Within days, CDC receives reports from around the nation of similar cases of PCP, KS, and other opportunistic infections among gay men.
- June 8: 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 the as-yet-unnamed syndrome so that CDC can begin national surveillance of new cases.
- June 16: A 35-year-old, white gay man who is exhibiting symptoms of severe immunodeficiency is the first person with AIDS to be admitted to the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He never leaves the Center and dies on October 28.
- July 2: The Bay Area Reporter, a weekly newspaper for the gay and lesbian community in San Francisco, publishes its first mention of “Gay Men’s Pneumonia.” The short item encourages gay men who are experiencing progressive shortness of breath to see their physicians.
- July 3: CDC releases another MMWR, “ Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men — New York City and California,” with information on KS and PCP among 26 gay men (25 white and one black). On the same day, the New York Times publishes an article entitled “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” At this point, the term “gay cancer” enters the public lexicon.
- August 11: Acclaimed writer and film producer Larry Kramerholds a meeting of over 80 gay men in his New York City apartment to discuss the burgeoning epidemic. Kramer invites Dr. Friedman-Kien to speak, and he asks the group to contribute money to support his research because he has no access to rapid funding. The plea raises $6,635—essentially the only new money, public or private, that will be raised to fight the epidemic for the remainder of the year.
- August 28: The latest MMWR article, “Follow-Up on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia,” reports that CDC has received information on 70 additional cases of KS and/or PCP since the July 3 edition. Of the 108 cases reported to date, 107 are male, 94% of those whose sexual orientation is known are gay/bisexual, and 40% of all patients have already died.
- September 15: The National Cancer Institute and CDC cosponsor the first conference to address the new epidemic. Fifty leading clinicians attend the event in Bethesda, MD, to discuss KS and other opportunistic infections and to develop recommendations for further studies in epidemiology, virology, and treatment.,
- September 21: San Francisco dermatologist Dr. Marcus Conant oversees the opening of the nation’s first KS clinic at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. He co-directs the clinic with oncologist Dr. Paul Volberding. The two physicians, with their colleagues Dr. Constance Wofsy and Dr. Donald Abrams will guide much of the early response to AIDS in San Francisco.
- December: At Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubinstein treats five black infants who are showing signs of severe immune deficiency, including PCP. At least three are the children of women who use drugs and engage in sex work. He recognizes that the children are showing signs of the same illnesses affecting gay men, but his diagnoses are dismissed by his colleagues.
- December 10:Bobbi Campbell, a San Francisco nurse, becomes the first KS patient to go public with his diagnosis. Calling himself the “KS Poster Boy,” Campbell writes a newspaper column, “Gay Cancer Journal,” on his experiences living with KS for the San Francisco Sentinel. He also posts photos of his KS lesions in the window of a local drugstore to alert the community to the disease and encourage people to seek treatment.
- By year’s end, there is a cumulative total of 337 reported cases of individuals with severe immune deficiency in the United States—321 adults/adolescents and 16 children under age 13. Of those cases, 130 are already dead by December 31.
- January 4:Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the first community-based AIDS service provider in the United States, is founded in New York City. In May, volunteer Rodger McFarlane sets up a GMHC information and counseling hotline on his home phone—he receives 100 phone calls from worried gay men the first night.
- April 13: U.S. Representative Henry Waxman convenes the first congressional hearings on AIDS at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in Hollywood, California. At the hearing, Dr. James Curran, head of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections, estimates that tens of thousands of people may already be affected by the disease.
- May 9: San Francisco dermatologist Dr. Marcus Conant and gay activist Cleve Jones join together to form The Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation. The goal is to provide information on Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) to local gay men. The organization will ultimately become the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
- May 11: The New York Times publishes the first mention of the term “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), which some researchers are using to describe the new epidemic. The term will deepen the public perception that AIDS affects only gay men.
- May 31: The Los Angeles Times publishes the first front-page story on AIDS in the mainstream press: “Mysterious Fever Now an Epidemic.”
- June 18: CDC publishes “A Cluster of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Homosexual Male Residents of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California”—a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that makes the first connection between a potential sexually transmitted agent and the outbreaks of KS, Pneumocystis cariniipneumonia (PCP), KS, and other opportunistic infections among young gay men.
- June 27: A gay activist group in San Francisco publishes the first pamphlet on “safer sex” and distributes 16,000 copies at the International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade.
- July 16: CDC publishes another MMWR article, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Persons with Hemophilia A.” It is the first report of immunosuppression in patients with hemophilia who have no other known risk factors for AIDS. Two of the three patients profiled in the report have already died by the time of publication.
- September 24: CDC uses the term “AIDS” (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) for the first time in a new MMWR, and releases the first case definition for AIDS: “A disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known cause for diminished resistance to that disease.”
- September 28:Rep. Phillip Burton and Rep. Ted Weiss join together to introduce the first legislation to allocate funding for AIDS research. The resolution dies in committee. Congress will not approve the first dedicated funding for AIDS research and treatment until July 1983.
- November 5: CDC’s “Current Trends Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Precautions for Clinical and Laboratory Staffs” lays out the first set of precautions for clinical and laboratory staff working with people exhibiting signs of AIDS.
- December 10: CDC’s “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Possible Transfusion-Associated Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- California” notes that a 20-month-old white infant who required multiple blood transfusions at birth has developed unexplained cellular immunodeficiency and opportunistic infections. Donor tracing reveals that one of the baby’s blood donors died of AIDS in August.
- December 17: CDC’s latest MMWR, “Unexplained Immunodeficiency and Opportunistic Infections in Infants -- New York, New Jersey, California,” reports another 22 cases of unexplained immunodeficiency and opportunistic infections in infants. The article states “It is possible that these infants had the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),” but stops short of making a definitive diagnosis.
- January 1:Ward 86, the world’s first dedicated outpatient AIDS clinic, opens at San Francisco General Hospital. The clinic is a collaboration between the hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, and it draws staff who are passionate about treating people with AIDS. Over time, the staff develop the San Francisco Model of Care, which emphasizes: treating patients with compassion and respect providing an array of health and social services in one facility and collaborating closely with the local health department and community organizations. The model eventually becomes the global gold standard for HIV patient care.
- January 4: The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) hosts a public meeting to identify opportunities to protect the nation’s blood supply from AIDS. Representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the blood services and hemophilia communities, and gay activists attend, but participants fail to reach consensus on appropriate action.
- January 7: CDC’sMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reports the first cases of AIDS in women: Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- New York.
- March 4: CDC’s MMWR article Current Trends Prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations,” notes that most cases of AIDS have been reported among gay men with multiple sexual partners, people who inject drugs, Haitians, and people with hemophilia. The report suggests that AIDS may be caused by an infectious agent that is transmitted sexually or through exposure to blood or blood products and issues recommendations for preventing transmission.
- March 14: AIDS activist Larry Kramer publishes a blistering assessment of the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the New York Native. The essay, 1,121 and Counting, is a frantic plea for that community to get angry at the lack of government support for sick and dying gay men and the slow pace of scientific progress in finding a cause for AIDS.
- May: Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen—both men living with AIDS—publish a booklet on “safer sex” titled How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach. It advocates condom use for gay men and focuses on self-empowerment for those living with AIDS.
- May 3: The Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation sponsors the first AIDS Candlelight Vigils in San Francisco and New York. It is the first time that people with AIDS come together in a public demonstration. Photos of the event are circulated around the world—shedding some of the first light on the growing health crisis and humanizing those who are affected.
- May 18: The U.S. Congress passes the first bill that includes funding specifically targeted for AIDS research and treatment—$12 million for agencies within the U.S. Department of Healthand Human Services.
- May 20:Dr. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and her colleagues at the Pasteur Institute in France report the discovery of a retrovirus that could be the cause of AIDS. In 2008, she will share the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery with her colleague, Dr. Luc Montagnier.
- May 25: The New York Times publishes its first front-page story on AIDS: “Health Chief Calls AIDS Battle ‘No. 1 Priority’.” The article reports on the federal response to the growing AIDS epidemic. By the time it is published, 1,450 cases of AIDS have been reported and 558 of those individuals have died.
- June 12: Eleven gay men living with AIDS take over the plenary stage at the National AIDS Forum in Denver. They issue a statement on the rights of people living with AIDS to be at the table when policy is made, to be treated with dignity, and to be called “people with AIDS,” not “AIDS victims.” The statement becomes known as The Denver Principles [PDF, 19KB], and it serves as the charter for the founding of the National Association of People with AIDS.
- July 1: The U.S. Public Health Service opens the National AIDS Hotline to respond to public inquiries about the disease. By July 28, the hotline has to be expanded from three phonelines to eight, because 8,000-10,000 callers are phoning daily.
- July 25: After a petition by psychiatric nurse Cliff Morrison, San Francisco General Hospital opens Ward 5B, the first dedicated in-patient AIDS ward in the U.S. Within days, its 12 beds are fully occupied. The ward is run by Morrison and an all-volunteer staff—from nurses to janitors—who offer compassionate, holistic care for AIDS patients.
- August: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases begins publishing an informal newsletter, the AIDS Memorandum [PDF, 1.1MB], through which scientists can share unpublished research findings. This publication lasts for two years, until mainstream scientific journals begin expediting publication for articles on AIDS.
- August 1-2: The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations holds hearings on the federal response to AIDS.
- August 8: AIDS activist Bobbi Campbellappears with his partner, Bobby Hilliard, on the cover of Newsweek magazine for the story, “Gay America: Sex, Politics, and the Impact of AIDS.” It is the first time two gay men are pictured embracing one another on the cover of a U.S. mainstream national magazine.
- September 2: In response to growing concerns about the potential for transmission of AIDS in healthcare settings, CDC publishes the first set of occupational exposure precautions for healthcare workers and allied health professionals.
- September 9: In its latest edition of the MMWR, “Current Trends Update: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- United States,” CDC identifies all major routes of HIV transmission—and rules out transmission by casual contact, food, water, air, or environmental surfaces.
- September 30: After New York City physician Joseph Sonnabend is threatened with eviction from his office building for treating patients with AIDS, the state’s Attorney General and Lambda Legal join together to file the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit.
- November 22-25: The World Health Organization holds its first meeting to assess the global AIDS situation and begins international surveillance.
- April 23: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Hecklerannounces that Dr. Robert Gallo and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute have found the cause of AIDS, a retrovirus they have labeled HTLV-III. Heckler also announces the development of a diagnostic blood test to identify HTLV-III and expresses hope that a vaccine against AIDS will be produced within two years.
- July 13: A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control states that avoiding injection drug use and reducing needle-sharing “should also be effective in preventing transmission of the virus.”
- August 15: AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell dies of AIDS-related illness at age 32.
- October 9: The New York Times reports that new scientific evidence has raised the possibility that AIDS may be transmissible through saliva. It will be another two years before proof emerges that this is not the case.
- October 10: San Francisco public health officials order bathhouses closed due to high-risk sexual activity occurring in these venues.
- January 11: The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) revises the AIDS case definition to note that AIDS is caused by a newly identified virus. CDC also issues provisional guidelines for blood screening.
- March 2: The U.S Food and Drug Administrationlicenses the first commercial blood test, ELISA, to detect HIV. Blood banks begin screening the U.S. blood supply.
- April 15–17: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization host the first International AIDS Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
- April 10: CDC removes Haitians from the list of those at increased risk for AIDS.
- April 22: AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play, The Normal Heart, opens Off-Broadway at the Public Theater. The play covers the impact of the growing AIDS epidemic on the New York gay community between 1981-1984. It highlights the growing rifts between those—like the play’s protagonist, Ned Weeks (Kramer’s alter ego)—who are desperately banging on the doors of government and science in an attempt to stave off the annihilation of gay men, and those who focus instead on building new institutions that will care for the sick and the dying.
- May 1:As Is, the first play about AIDS to make it to Broadway, opens. The plot focuses on a gay couple who have broken up—but when one of them develops AIDS, his ex-partner comes back to take care of him—“as is.” The play gets excellent reviews and runs for 285 performances.
- July 25: Actor Rock Hudson, who played leading roles in over 60 Hollywood films, announces he has AIDS—the first major U.S. public figure to do so. His acknowledgment marks a turning point in public perceptions about the epidemic, and AIDS stories in the major print media more than triple in the next six months.
- August 27:Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, is refused entry to his middle school. His family’s protracted legal battles to protect Ryan’s right to attend school call national attention to the issue of AIDS, and Ryan chooses to speak out publicly on the need for AIDS education.
- August 31: The Pentagon announces that, beginning October 1, it will begin testing all new military recruits for HIV infection and will reject those who test positive for the virus.
- September 17: President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority” and defending his administration against criticisms that funding for AIDS research is inadequate.
- October 2:Rock Hudson dies of AIDS-related illness at age 59. In his will, Hudson leaves $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Actress Elizabeth Taylor serves as the organization’s founding National Chairman.
- October 2:The U.S. Congress allocates nearly $190 million for AIDS research—an increase of $70 million over the Reagan Administration’s budget request. The House Appropriations Committee also urges President Reagan to appoint an “AIDS czar.”
- October 25: The New York State Public Health Council empowers local health officials to close gay bathhouses, bars, clubs, and other places where “high-risk sexual activity takes place.”
- December 4: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors enacts strict regulations on local bathhouses to stop the spread of HIV. Bathhouse owners file suit to stop the regulations from going into effect, and, in August 1986, the court sides with the owners, saying that the venues offer opportunities to provide HIV/AIDS education.
- December 6: CDC publishes a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report with recommendations on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. They include: delaying pregnancy until more is known about the risks of transmission and avoiding breastfeeding. As of December 1, there have been 217 reported cases of AIDS among children under age 13, and 60% of them have died by the time of publication.
- December 13: Pennsylvania toddler Dwight Burk, aged 20 months, dies of AIDS. He is the first child of a hemophiliac to be born with AIDS.
- December 13: The Pasteur Institutefiles suit against the U.S. Government (USG) in the United States Court of Claims in Washington, DC. The suit asks for: recognition that French researchers were the first to discover the virus that causes AIDS permission for companies it licenses to sell the blood test, without being sued by the USG for counterfeiting and the right to share in royalties collected by the USG for sales of blood tests by its licensees.
- December 19: A Los Angeles Times poll finds that a majority of Americans favor quarantining people who have AIDS. By year’s end, the United Nations states that at least one HIV case has been reported from each region of the world.[PDF, 49KB].
- January 16: The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more people were diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 than in all earlier years combined. The 1985 figures show an 89% increase in new AIDS cases compared with 1984. Of all AIDS cases to date, 51% of adults and 59% of children have died. The new report shows that, on average, AIDS patients die about 15 months after the disease is diagnosed. Public health experts predict twice as many new AIDS cases in 1986.
- May 1: The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Virusesannounces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”(HIV).
- July 18: At the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community in Washington, DC, a group of minority leaders meets with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, to discuss concerns about HIV/AIDS in communities of color. This meeting marks the unofficial founding of the National Minority AIDS Council.
- October: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundationcreates the AIDS Health Services Program, providing $17.2 million in funding for patient-care demonstration projects in 11 cities. The goal is to replicate the San Francisco Model of Care nationwide—but with an emphasis on tailoring programs to meet the needs in local contexts [PDF, 244KB].
- October: The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) begins its AIDS Service Demonstration Grants program—the agency’s first AIDS-specific health initiative. In the program’s first year, HRSA makes $15.3 million available to four of the country’s hardest-hit cities: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami.
- October 22: The Surgeon General issues the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS [PDF, 1.98MB]. The report makes it clear that HIV cannot be spread casually and calls for: a nationwide education campaign (including early sex education in schools) increased use of condoms and voluntary HIV testing.
- October 24: CDC reports that AIDS cases are disproportionately affecting African Americans and Latinos. This is particularly true for African American and Latinx children, who make up 90% of perinatally acquired AIDS cases.
- October 29: The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the principal health unit of the National Academy of Sciences, issues a report, Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research. The report calls for a “massive media, educational and public health campaign to curb the spread of the HIV infection,” as well as for the creation of a National Commission on AIDS. The IOM estimates that the effort will require a $2 billion investment in research and patient care by the end of the decade.
- In February, AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to honor his friend Marvin Feldman, who died on October 10, 1986 of AIDS-related illness at age 33. The quilt panels are 3 feet wide by 6 feet long—the size and shape of a typical grave plot.
- February 1: The World Health Organization (WHO) launches The Special Programme on AIDS to: raise awareness formulate evidence-based policies provide technical and financial support to countries initiate relevant social, behavioral, and biomedical research promote participation by nongovernmental organizations and champion rights of those living with HIV. In 1988, it will be renamed the Global Programme on AIDS.
- February 4:Emmy-award winning pianist Liberace dies at his home in California at age 67. His doctor claims that Liberace died of a heart attack, caused by an underlying brain infection. But the county coroner orders an autopsy, which proves that the entertainer died of AIDS-related illness. The case demonstrates the powerful stigma of AIDS and leads to a national discussion about the rights of people living with AIDS to privacy, both before and after death.
- March 12: AIDS activist Larry Kramerfounds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in New York City. Kramer’s goal is to create a political direct-action group that will force governments, elected officials, public health agencies, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and religious institutions to act to protect those at risk of HIV, and those who are sick with AIDS. TIME Magazine calls ACT UP “the most effective health activist [group] in history” for “pressuring drug companies, government agencies and other powers that stood in their way to find better treatments for people with AIDS — and, in the process, improving the way drugs are tested and approved in the U.S.”
- March 19: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first medication for AIDS—AZT (zidovudine) an antiretroviraldrug initially developed to treat cancer.
- March 19: FDA issues regulations that expand access to promising new medications that have not yet been approved or licensed by the agency. This accelerates drug approval by 2-3 years.
- March 24: ACT UP stages its first protest on Wall Street. Protestors demand immediate action on a variety of issues, including: having the FDA immediately release potentially life-saving investigational drugs to everyone with AIDS or AIDS-related complex immediate abolition of government funded double-blind studies availability of drugs at affordable prices a massive public education to stop the spread of AIDS policy to prohibit discrimination in AIDS treatment, insurance, employment, and housing and establishment of a coordinated, comprehensive, and compassionate national policy on AIDS.
- March 31: President Ronald Reagan and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac end an international scientific dispute when they announce that researchers from the two countries will share credit for discovery of the AIDS virus. The countries agree that patent rights to a blood test that emerged from that discovery will also be shared, with most of the royalties to be donated to a new foundation for AIDS research and education.
- April 6-9: The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, hosts a workshop on children with HIV infection and their families. Participants include families affected by HIV, leading HIV researchers and clinicians, mental health professionals, public health officials, and representatives from the insurance, legal, and nonprofit organizations. The workshop report calls for numerous changes in the way the nation addresses pediatric HIV/AIDS [PDF, 7.46MB], including more access to trial medications and support for attending school.
- April 7: FDA declares HIV prevention as a new indication for male condoms.
- April 19: Princess Diana makes international headlines when she is photographed shaking the hand of an HIV-positive patient in a London hospital. She goes on to become a passionate advocate for people living with HIV and to speak forcefully against HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
- April 29: FDA approves a new, more specific test for HIV antibodies: the Western blot blood test kit.
- May 15: The U.S. Public Health Serviceadds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration exclusion list and mandates testing for all visa applicants. The HIV ban will not be lifted until January 4, 2010.
- May 31:President Reagan makes his first public speech about AIDS.
- June 24: President Reagan signs an Executive Order creating the first Presidential Commission on AIDS.
- August 4: A task force of the Society of Actuaries issues a report claiming that the cost of AIDS to insurance companies could exceed $50 billion by the year 2000.
- August 5: A federal judge orders Florida’s DeSoto County School Board to enroll HIV-positive brothers, Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray. The board had refused to allow the three boys, who have hemophilia, to attend. After the ruling, outraged town residents refuse to allow their children to attend school, and someone sets fire to the Ray house on August 28, destroying it.
- August 14: CDC issues Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Public Health Service Guidelines for Counseling and Antibody Testing to Prevent HIV Infection and AIDS.
- August 18: FDA sanctions the first human testing of a candidate vaccine against HIV.
- August 21: CDC issuesRecommendations for Prevention of HIV Transmission in Health-Care Settings. The recommendations call for healthcare workers to practice universal precautions.
- September 30:CDC launches the first AIDS-related public service announcements, America Responds to AIDS, to kick off the newly designated AIDS Awareness Month in October. The campaign is a multipart public-awareness initiative that “focuses on reaching a wide range of audiences variously defined by identity or behavior…” The campaign reaches millions, becoming a central prong in the “everyone is at risk” strategy of AIDS prevention.
- October: A Gallup poll finds that 68% of those polled call AIDS “the most urgent health problem facing the world.
- October 11: The AIDS Memorial Quilt goes on display for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The display features 1,920 4x8 panels and draws half a million visitors.
- October 14: In a 94-2 vote, the U.S. Senate adopts the Helms Amendment, which requires federally financed educational materials about AIDS to stress sexual abstinence and forbids any material that “promotes” homosexuality or drug use.
- October 22: AIDS becomes the first disease ever debated on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The UNGA resolves to mobilize the entire United Nation’s system in the worldwide struggle against AIDS and designates the WHO to lead the effort.
- November: Journalist Randy Shilts’ book about the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, is published.
- November:Debra Fraser-Howze, director of teenage services at the Urban League of New York, founds the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. The organization works to educate, mobilize, and empower black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.
- November 13: The American Medical Association declares that doctors have an ethical obligation to care for people with AIDS, as well as for those who have been infected with the virus but show no symptoms.
- March 3:Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who has become a national spokesperson for AIDS education, testifies about the stigma he has endured as a result of having AIDS before the President’s Commission on AIDS.
- May 26: The U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, launches the United States’ first coordinated HIV/AIDS education campaign by mailing 107 million copies of an 8-page booklet, Understanding AIDS [PDF, 1.1MB], to all American households. An additional four million copies are printed in Spanish and delivered to Latinx organizations to be distributed locally. The pamphlet is the largest public health mailing in history—and the first time that the federal government provides explicit sex information to the public.
- July 23: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces that it will allow the importation of small quantities of unapproved drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS.
- August: The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awards $4.4 million in grants to 11 states and Puerto Rico for the first pediatric AIDS service demonstration projects. The projects are expected to demonstrate effective ways to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV develop coordinated, community-based, and family-centered services for infants and children living with HIV and develop programs to reduce the spread of HIV to vulnerable populations of young people.
- August 9: Drug counselor David Purchase sets up the nation’s first needle-exchange program to combat the spread of HIV on a sidewalk in Tacoma, Washington. Although he has secured support from the mayor and the police chief for his one-man effort, Purchase has to pay for the needles out of pocket. Within five months, he exchanges 13,000 clean needles for contaminated ones. Purchase will go on to form the North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN) and become known as the “Godfather of Needle Exchange.”
- October 11: Over 1,000 members and supporters of the activist group ACT UP engage in a massive sit-in that shuts down FDA’s Rockville, MD, offices for the entire day to protest the slow pace of the federal drug-approval process for treatments for HIV/AIDS. There are 176 arrests. Eight days later, FDA announces new regulations to speed up that process.
- October 18: The Abandoned Infants Assistance (AIA) Act [PDF, 262KB] becomes law it addresses the issue of so-called “boarder babies.” These infants, many of whom have been perinatally exposed to drugs or HIV, have been either been orphaned or left at hospitals indefinitely by their parents. The AIA funds demonstration projects to support moving these children into foster care or other more traditional living arrangements.
- November 4: President Reagan signs the Health Omnibus Programs Extension (HOPE) Act into law. The legislation authorizes the use of federal funds for AIDS prevention, education, and testing. It is the first comprehensive federal AIDS bill, and it establishes the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.
- November 7: The New York City Health Department begins a pilot needle-exchange program to address the growing number of HIV infections among people who inject drugs (PWID). The program is opposed by many African American and Latinx leaders in the city, who see it as an abandonment of PWID of color. They demand a more comprehensive approach, including drug-prevention education, treatment and increased law enforcement.
- November 28:Elizabeth Glaser, an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-positive children forms the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (later renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation). The Foundation funds cutting-edge research that leads to improved treatments for children living with HIV/AIDS and helps to establish protocols to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
- December 1:World AIDS Day is observed for the first time. The date is designated by the World Health Organization and supported by the United Nations. The theme for the observance is “Join the Worldwide Effort.”
- December 16: Singer Sylvester James, Jr., dies of AIDS-related illness at age 41. James is an openly gay, African American entertainer who uses only his first name, and who is called “the embodiment of disco.” His legacy is such that, in 2018, the University of Sussex in England will host an interdisciplinary academic conference on disco and Sylvester's contribution to the genre.
- December 20:Pioneering broadcast journalist Max Robinson dies of AIDS-related illness at age 49. Robinson is the first black network news anchor in the U.S. and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.
- December 27: Gay rights activist and writer Joseph Beam dies of an AIDS-related illness three days before his 34th birthday. He is best known for editing In the Life, the first collection of writings by gay black men on the impact HIV/AIDS is having on their community. Today In the Life is widely regarded as a literary and cultural milestone in gay literature.
- Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe dies of AIDS-related illness on March 9.
- On June 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issue the first guidelines for preventing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an AIDS-related opportunistic infection, and a major cause of illness and death for people living with AIDS.
- On June 23, CDC releases the Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis B Virus to Health-Care and Public-Safety Workers.
- The U.S. Congress creates the National Commission on AIDS. The Commission meets for the first time on September 18.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), endorses giving HIV-positive people who do not qualify for clinical trials access to experimental treatments.
- The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants $20 million for HIV care and treatment through the Home-Based and Community-Based Care State grant program. For many states, this is their first involvement in HIV care and treatment.
- A CDC/HRSA initiative provides $11 million to fund seven community health centers to provide HIV counseling and testing services. This is a precursor to what will be part of the Ryan White CARE Act. .
- On January 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the possible transmission of HIV to a patient through a dental procedure performed by an HIV-positive dentist. This episode provokes much public debate about the safety of common dental and medical procedures.
- On January 26, the U.S. Public Health Service issues a statement on managing occupational exposure to HIV, including considerations regarding post-exposure use of the antiretroviral drug, AZT.
- Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness on February 16.
- On April 8, Ryan White dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 18.
- On May 21, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) protests at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demanding more HIV treatments and the expansion of clinical trials to include more women and people of color.
- In June, the 6th International AIDS Conference meets in San Francisco. To protest U.S. immigration policy that bars people with HIV from entering the country, domestic and international nongovernmental groups boycott the conference.
- In July, the U.S. Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.
- In August, the U.S. Congress enacts the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990 (PDF 8.3 MB), which provides $220.5 million in Federal funds for HIV community-based care and treatment services in its first year. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) manages the program, which is the nation’s largest HIV-specific Federal grant program.
- On October 26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves use of zidovudine (AZT) for pediatric AIDS.
- CDC adopts the HIV-prevention counseling model, a “client-centered” approach that focuses on the patient, rather than the disease.
- The Visual AIDS Artists Caucus launches the Red Ribbon Project to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers. The red ribbon becomes the international symbol of AIDS awareness.
- The U.S. Congress enacts the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) Act of 1991. Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HOPWA grants to states and local communities provide housing assistance to people living with AIDS.
- On July 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend restrictions on the practice of HIV-positive healthcare workers and Congress enacts a law requiring states to adopt the CDC restrictions or to develop and adopt their own.
- In August, the U.S. Congress passes the Terry Beirn Community-Based Clinical Trials Program Act (PDF, 56 KB) to establish a network of community-based clinical trials for HIV treatment.
- The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), in cooperation with the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA) and the National AIDS Interfaith Network, holds the first annual National Skills Building Conference, which will later become the United States Conference on AIDS.
- On November 7, American basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson announces that he is HIV-positive.
- On November 24, Freddie Mercury, lead singer/ songwriter of the rock band Queen, dies of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
- The 8th International AIDS Conference is originally scheduled to be held in Boston, but is moved to Amsterdam due to U.S. immigration restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS. .
- On May 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses a 10-minute diagnostic test kit which can be used by health professionals to detect the presence of HIV-1.
- On December 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launch the Business Responds to AIDS program to help large and small businesses meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and the community. (CDC will start the Labor Responds to AIDS program in 1995.)
- Florida teenager Ricky Ray dies of AIDS-related illness on December 13. The 15-year-old hemophiliac and his two younger brothers sparked a national conversation on AIDS after their court battle to attend school led to boycotts by local residents and the torching of their home.
- President Clinton establishes the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP).
- World-renowned ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev dies of AIDS-related illness on January 6, and tennis star Arthur Ashe dies on February 3.
- On May 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the female condom.
- In June, the U.S. Congress enacts the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Revitalization Act, giving the Office of AIDS Researchprimary oversight of all NIH AIDS research. The Act requires NIH and other research agencies to expand involvement of women and minorities in all research.
- The same act codifies the U.S. HIV immigration exclusion policy into law President Clinton signs it on June 10.
- In August, the Women’s Interagency HIV Study and HIV Epidemiology Study begin both are major U.S. Federally funded research studies on women and HIV/AIDS.
- On December 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expand the case definition of AIDS, declaring those with CD4 counts below 200 to have AIDS.
- In that same MMWR, CDC adds three new conditions—pulmonary tuberculosis, recurrent pneumonia, and invasive cervical cancer—to the list of clinical indicators of AIDS. These new conditions mean that more women and injection drug users will be diagnosed with AIDS.
- CDC institutes the community-planning process to better target local prevention efforts.
- The National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA) convenes the first annual “AIDS Watch.” Hundreds of community members from across the U.S. come to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for increased funding.
- The film “Philadelphia” starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer with AIDS, opens in theaters. Based on a true story, it is the first major Hollywood film on AIDS.
- Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s play about AIDS, wins the Tony Award for Best Play and the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44.
- On February 17, Randy Shilts, a U.S. journalist who covered the AIDS epidemic and who authored And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 42.
- On May 20, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes Guidelines for Preventing Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Through Transplantation of Human Tissue and Organs.
- On August 5, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that pregnant women be given the antiretroviral drug AZT to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV.
- Pedro Zamora, a young gay man living with HIV, appears on the cast of MTV’s popular show, “The Real World.” He dies on November 11 at age 22.
- On December 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves an oral HIV test, the first non-blood-based antibody test for HIV.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues guidelines requiring applicants for grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address "the appropriate inclusion of women and minorities in clinical research."
- On February 23, Greg Louganis, Olympic gold medal diver, discloses that he is HIV-positive.
- In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first protease inhibitor. This ushers in a new era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
- Eric Lynn Wright, a.k.a. rapper Eazy-E, died on March 26 from an AIDS-related illness one month after being diagnosed.
- On June 27, the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA) launches the first National HIV Testing Day.
- On July 14, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issue the first guidelines to help healthcare providers prevent opportunistic infections in people infected with HIV.
- President Clinton establishes his Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). The Council meets for the first time on July 28.
- On September 22, CDC reviews Syringe Exchange Programs -- United States, 1994-1995. The National Academy of Sciences concludes that syringe exchange programs should be regarded as an effective component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent infectious disease.
- President Clinton hosts the first White House Conference on HIV/AIDS on December 6.
- In Vancouver, the 11th International AIDS Conference highlights the effectiveness of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), creating a period of optimism.
- The number of new AIDS cases diagnosed in the U.S. declines for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic.
- AIDS is no longer leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25-44, although it remains the leading cause of death for African Americans in this age group. begins operations. It is established to advocate for global action on the epidemic and to coordinate HIV/AIDS efforts across the UN system.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves:
- the first HIV home testing and collection kit (May 14)
- a viral load test, which measures the level of HIV in the blood (June 3)
- the first non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) drug, nevirapine (June 21)
- the first HIV urine test (August 6)
- The U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act on May 20.
- In October, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety for the last time. It covers the entire National Mall in Washington, DC.
- HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho advocates for a new strategy for treating HIV – “hit early, hit hard,” in which patients are placed on new, more aggressive treatment regimes earlier in the course of their infection in hopes of keeping them healthier longer. He is subsequently named TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Year.”
- The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) forms to speed the search for an effective HIV vaccine.
- In response to the call to “hit early, hit hard,” highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) becomes the new standard of HIV care.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the first substantial decline in AIDS deaths in the United States. Due largely to the use of HAART, AIDS-related deaths in the U.S. decline by 47% compared with the previous year.
- On May 18, President Clinton announces that the goal of finding an effective vaccine for HIV in 10 years will be a top national priority, and calls for the creation of an AIDS vaccine research center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (He dedicates the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center on June 9, 1999.)
- On September 26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Combivir, a combination of two antiretroviral drugs in one tablet, which makes it easier for people living with HIV to take their medications.
- On November 21, the U.S. Congress enacts the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) of 1997, codifying an accelerated drug-approval process and allowing dissemination of information about off-label uses of drugs. estimates that 30 million adults and children worldwide have HIV, and that, each day, 16,000 people are newly infected with the virus.
- As a greater number of people begin taking protease inhibitors, resistance to the drugs becomes more common, and drug resistance emerges as an area of grave concern within the AIDS community.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that African Americans account for 49% of U.S. AIDS-related deaths. AIDS-related mortality for African Americans is almost 10 times that of Whites and three times that of Hispanics.
- In March, African American leaders, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), are briefed on the highly disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS in their communities. They develop a “Call to Action,” requesting that the President and Surgeon General declare HIV/AIDS a “State of Emergency” in the African American community.
- In October, President Clinton declares AIDS to be a “severe and ongoing health crisis” in African American and Hispanic communities in the United States and announces a special package of initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities.
- With the leadership of the CBC, Congress funds the Minority AIDS Initiative (PDF 126 KB). An unprecedented $156 million is invested to improve the nation’s effectiveness in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in African American, Hispanic, and other minority communities.
- On April 20, Donna Shalala, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, determines that needle-exchange programs (NEPs) are effective and do not encourage the use of illegal drugs, but the Clinton Administration does not lift the ban on use of Federal funds for NEPs.
- On April 24, CDC issues the first national treatment guidelines for the use of antiretroviral therapy in adults and adolescents with HIV.
- On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers those in earlier stages of HIV disease, not just those who have developed AIDS.
- On November 12, the U.S. Congress enacts the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act, (PDF 184 KB) honoring the Florida teenager who was infected with HIV through contaminated blood products. The Act authorizes payments to individuals with hemophilia and other blood clotting disorders who were infected with HIV by unscreened blood-clotting agents between 1982 and 1987.
- The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, convenes Congressional hearings on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Latino community.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) announces that HIV/AIDS has become the fourth biggest killer worldwide and the number one killer in Africa. WHO estimates that 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide, and that 14 million have died of AIDS.
- February 7: The first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is launched as a grassroots-education effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment in communities of color.
- In March, VaxGen, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company, begins conducting the first human vaccine trials in a developing country—Thailand.
- On July 19, President Clinton announces the formation of the “Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic” (LIFE) Initiative (PDF 88 KB), which will provide funding to address the global HIV epidemic.
- On December 10, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) release a new HIV case definition to help state health departments expand their HIV surveillance efforts and more accurately track the changing course of the epidemic.
- On January 10, the United Nations Security Council meets to discuss the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa. This marks the first time that the council discusses a health issue as a threat to peace and security.
- In his State of the Union address on January 27, President Clinton announces the launch of the Millennium Vaccine Initiative to create incentives for developing and distributing vaccines against HIV, TB, and malaria.
- On April 30, President Clinton declares that HIV/AIDS is a threat to U.S. national security.
- On May 10, President Clinton issues an Executive Order to assist developing countries in importing and producing generic HIV treatments.
- In July, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other global health groups announce a joint initiative with five major pharmaceutical manufacturers to negotiate reduced prices for HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries.
- On July 23, the leaders of the “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit release a statement acknowledging the need for additional HIV/AIDS resources. G8 members make up most of the world’s largest economies, and include: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- In August, the U.S. Congress enacts the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000. (PDF 2.1 MB)
- In September, as part of its Millennium Declaration, the United Nations adopts the Millennium Development Goals, which include a specific goal of reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB.
- In October, the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act for the second time.
- May 18 is the first annual observance of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.
- On June 25-27, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly holds its first Special Session on AIDS (UNGASS) and passes the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment and the ILO (International Labor Organization) Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace (PDF, 127 KB). The meeting also calls for the creation of an international “global fund” to support efforts by countries and organizations to combat the spread of HIV through prevention, care, and treatment, including the purchase of HIV medications.
- Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reaffirms the U.S. statement that HIV/AIDS is a national security threat.
- After generic drug manufacturers offer to produce discounted, generic forms of HIV/AIDS drugs for developing countries several major pharmaceutical manufacturers agree to offer further reduced drug prices to those countries.
- On November 14, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announces the Doha Declaration, which affirms the rights of developing countries to buy or manufacture generic medications to meet public health crises such as HIV/AIDS.
- The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) begins focusing on individuals with HIV disease who know their status and are not receiving HIV-related services. HRSA instructs its grantees to address this population’s “unmet need” for services.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announce a new HIV Prevention Strategic Plan to cut annual HIV infections in the U.S. by half within five years.
- In January, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership between governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and affected communities, is established.
- On April 25, the Global Fund approves its first round of grants to governments and private-sector organizations in the developing world. The grants total $600 million for two-year projects.
- On June 25, the United States announces a framework that will allow poor countries unable to produce pharmaceuticals to gain greater access to drugs needed to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other public health crises.
- In July, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS) reports that HIV/AIDS is now by far the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, and the fourth biggest global killer. Average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa falls from 62 years to 47 years as a result of AIDS.
- The 14th International AIDS Conference is held in Barcelona, Spain from July 7-12. Dozens of countries report they are experiencing serious HIV/AIDS epidemics, and many more are on the brink.
- In September, the U.S. National Intelligence Council releases Next Wave of the Epidemic, a report focusing on HIV in India, China, Russia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
- On November 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first rapid HIV diagnostic test kit for use in the United States that provides results with 99.6 percent accuracy in as little as 20 minutes. Unlike other antibody tests for HIV, this blood test can be stored at room temperature, requires no specialized equipment, and may be used outside of traditional laboratory or clinical settings, allowing more widespread use of HIV testing.
- Worldwide, 10 million young people, aged 15-24, and almost 3 million children under 15 are living with HIV. During this year, approximately 3.5 million new infections will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and the epidemic will claim the lives of an estimated 2.4 million Africans.
- Side effects and increasing evidence of drug resistance call into question the “hit early, hit hard” strategy.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculate that 27,000 of the estimated 40,000 new infections that occur each year in the U.S. result from transmission by individuals who do not know they are infected.
- On January 28, President George W. Bush announces the creation of the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in his State of the Union address. PEPFAR is a $15 billion, 5-year plan to combat AIDS, primarily in countries with a high burden of infections.
- On February 24, VaxGen, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company, announces that its AIDSVAX vaccine trial failed to reduce overall HIV infection rates among those who were vaccinated.
- On March 31, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards a $60 million grant to the International Partnership for Microbicides to support research and development of microbicides to prevent transmission of HIV.
- On April 18, CDC announces Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic, a new prevention initiative that aims to reduce barriers to early diagnosis and increase access to, and utilization of, quality medical care, treatment, and ongoing prevention services for those living with HIV.
- In early June, the “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit includes a special focus on HIV/AIDS and announcements of new commitments (PDF 854 KB) to the Global Fund. G8 members make up most of the world’s largest economies and include: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- October 15 marks the first annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
- On October 23, the William J. Clinton Foundation secures price reductions for HIV/AIDS drugs from generic manufacturers, to benefit developing nations.
- On December 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) announces the “3 by 5” initiative, to bring treatment to 3 million people by 2005.
- In January, the U.S. Congress authorizes the first $350 million for the United States President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
- In February, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS) launches The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS to raise the visibility of the epidemic’s impact on women and girls around the world.
- On March 26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of oral fluid samples with a rapid HIV diagnostic test kit that provides the result in approximately 20 minutes.
- On May 17, FDA issues a guidance document for expedited approval of low cost, safe, and effective co-packaged and fixed-dose combination HIV therapies so that high-quality drugs can be made available in Africa and developing countries around the world under PEPFAR.
- On June 10, leaders of the “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) call for the creation of a “Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise,” a consortium of government and private-sector groups designed to coordinate and accelerate research efforts to find an effective HIV vaccine.
- During its annual meeting in January, the World Economic Forum approves a set of new priorities, including one with a focus on addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa and other hard-hit regions.
- On January 26, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), the U.S. Government, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria announce results of joint efforts to increase the availability of antiretroviral drugs in developing countries. An estimated 700,000 people have been reached by the end of 2004.
- Also on January 26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants tentative approval to a generic copackaged antiretroviral drug regimen for use under the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
- May 19 is the first annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
- On June 2, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS meets to review progress on targets set at the 2001 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS).
- On July 6-8, the “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit focuses on development in Africa, including HIV/AIDS (PDF, 372KB). G8 members make up most of the world’s largest economies and include: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- June 5 marks 25 years since the first AIDS cases were reported.
- March 10 is the first annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
- March 20 is the first annual observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
- On May 3-6, the Office of AIDS Research, in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sponsors Embracing Our Traditions, Values, and Teachings: Native Peoples of North America HIV/AIDS Conference, in Anchorage, Alaska. The conference involves nearly 1,000 participants from the American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, and U.S. Territorial Pacific Islander communities.
- On May 31, the United Nations convenes a follow-up meeting and issues a progress report on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
- On September 22, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) release revised HIV testing recommendations for healthcare settings, recommending routine HIV screening for all adults, aged 13-64, and yearly screening for those at high risk.
- In December, a University of Illinois at Chicago study indicates that medical circumcision of men reduces their risk of acquiring HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 53 percent. The clinical trial of Kenyan men is supported by the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
- On December 19, the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act for the third time.
- In an attempt to increase the number of people taking HIV tests, on May 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) issue new guidance recommending “provider-initiated” HIV testing in healthcare settings.
- In June, the Rwandan Government hosts the International HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting (PDF). Over 1,500 delegates share lessons on HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Cosponsors include WHO, UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, and GNP+ (the Global Network of People Living with HIV).
- In October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launch Prevention IS Care(PIC), a social marketing campaign designed for healthcare providers who deliver care to people living with HIV.
- CDC reports over 565,000 people have died of AIDS in the U.S. since 1981.
- In June, the International HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting is hosted by the Ugandan Government. Cosponsors include the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, and GNP+ (the Global Network of People Living with HIV).
- On July 31, President Bush signs legislation reauthorizing PEPFAR for an additional five years for up to $48 billion. The bill contains a rider that lifts the blanket ban on HIV-positive travelers to the U.S., and gives the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the authority to admit people living with HIV/AIDS on a case-by-case basis.
- On August 6, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) release new domestic HIV incidence estimates that are substantially higher than previous estimates (56,300 new infections per year vs. 40,000). The new estimates do not represent an actual increase in the numbers of HIV infections, but reflect a more accurate way of measuring new infections. A separate analysis suggests that the annual number of new infections was never as low as 40,000 and that it has been roughly stable since the late 1990s.
- September 18 is the first observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.
- National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is first recognized on September 27.
- Newly elected President Barack Obama calls for the development of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.
- In February, the District of Columbia Health Department’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration reports that Washington, DC has a higher rate of HIV (3% prevalence) than West Africa– enough to describe it as a “severe and generalized epidemic.”
- On April 7, the White House and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launch the Act Against AIDS campaign, a multiyear, multifaceted communication campaign designed to reduce HIV incidence in the United States. CDC also launches the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative(AAALI), to harness the collective strength and reach of traditional, longstanding African American institutions to increase HIV-related awareness, knowledge, and action within Black communities across the U.S.
- On May 5, President Obama launches the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a six-year, U.S. $63 billion effort to develop a comprehensive approach to addressing global health in low- and middle-income countries. The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will serve as a core component.
- June 8 marks the first annual recognition of Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
- On August 17, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) moves to increase the number of veterans getting HIV tests by dropping the requirement for written consent (verbal consent is still required).
- On October 6, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in association with the PEPFAR program, approves the 100 th antiretroviral drug.
- On October 30, President Obama announces that his administration will officially lift the HIV travel and immigration ban in January 2010 by removing the final regulatory barriers to entry. The lifting of the travel ban occurs in conjunction with the announcement that the International AIDS Conference will return to the United States for the first time in more than 20 years. The conference will be held in Washington, DC in 2012.
- On November 24, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) reports that there has been a significant decline (-17%) in new HIV infections in the past decade. East Asia, however, has seen a dramatic 25% increase in infections over the same period.
- In December, President Obama signs the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (PDF, 1.08 MB), modifying the ban on the use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs. When applicable, Federal funds may be used for personnel, equipment, syringe disposal services, educational materials, communication and marketing activities and evaluation activities, and evaluation. Some HHS programs may still contain partial or complete bans on the use of funds for needle exchange programs.
- On January 4, the U.S. Government officially lifts the HIV travel and immigration ban.
- On March 23, President Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , which expands access to care and prevention for all Americans—but offers special protections for those living with chronic illnesses, like HIV, that make it difficult for them to access or afford healthcare.
- On July 13, the Obama Administration releases the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.
- The 18th International AIDS Conference takes place in Vienna, Austria from July 18-23. The biggest outcomes from the conference include:
- The results of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa’s (CAPRISA) 004 study of antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicides are released on July 19. The study shows the microbicides to be safe and effective in reducing risks of new HIV infections among women by 39%. Women who use the microbicides as directed have even higher rates of protection (54%) against HIV infection.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announce the results of the iPrEx study, showing that a daily dose of HIV drugs reduced the risk of HIV infection among HIV-negative men who have sex with men by 44%, supporting the concept of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in a targeted population.
- On September 20-22, the United Nations (UN) convenes a summit to accelerate progress toward the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.
- Also in September, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) publish their annual Universal Access report for low- and middle-income countries. The report shows an estimated 5.25 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2009, and an estimated 1.2 million people started treatment that same year – the largest annual increase yet recorded.
- AIDS Action merges with the National AIDS Fund to form AIDS United.
- Lead Federal agencies release implementation plans in support of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launches the 12 Cities Project (PDF, 427 KB), an HHS-wide project that supports and accelerates comprehensive HIV/AIDS planning and cross-agency response in the 12 U.S. jurisdictions that bear the highest AIDS burden in the country.
- AIDS activist and award-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor dies on March 23. One of the first celebrities to advocate on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS, Taylor was the founding national chairman of amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), a nonprofit organization that supports AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocates for AIDS-related public policy.
- On June 8, HHS Secretary Sebelius hosted “Commemorating 30 Years of Leadership in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS”. Watch the Secretary's speech.
- Over 3,000 people participate in the United Nation’s (UN) High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York from June 8–10. The session recognizes critical milestones, including three decades of the pandemic and the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS and the resulting Declaration of Commitment. At the Meeting, the U.S. joined with other partners in launching a global plan to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keep mothers alive.
- July 13 marks the one-year anniversary of the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The White House release a video: “President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy“ and the “National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Implementation Plan Update“ (PDF, 387 KB).
- On July 13, a new CDC study (TDF2 (PDF 130 KB)) and a separate trial (the Partners PrEP study) (PDF 144 KB) provide the first evidence that a daily oral dose of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV infection can also reduce HIV acquisition among uninfected individuals exposed to the virus through heterosexual sex.
- At the International AIDS Society’sConference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention in Rome (July 17-20), scientists announce that two studies have confirmed that individuals taking daily antiretroviral drugs experienced infection rates more than 60 percent lower than those on a placebo.
- In September, the Office of National AIDS Policy begins to convene a series of five regional dialogues to focus attention on critical implementation issues for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
- On September 30, the first Road to AIDS 2012 Town Hall meeting kicks off in San Francisco. This is the first of 15 meetings to be held across the country, leading up to the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), to be held July 22-27, 2012, in Washington, DC.
- On November 8, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shares the U.S. Government’s bold new vision of creating an AIDS-free generation, and speaks about the remarkable progress made in 30 years of fighting AIDS.
- On December 1 (World AIDS Day), at the ONE Campaign and (RED) event in Washington, DC, President Obama announces accelerated efforts to increase the availability of treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. He challenges the global community to deliver funds to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and calls on Congress to keep its past commitments intact. He calls on all Americans to keep fighting to end the epidemic.
- On December 23, the journal Science announces that it has chosen the HPTN 052 study as its 2011 Breakthrough of the Year.
- March 13: Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia find that people living with HIV who are taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- March 27: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues new HIV treatment guidelines recommending treatment for all HIV-infected adults and adolescents, regardless of CD4 count or viral load.
- July 1: The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post release a joint survey of the American public’s attitudes, awareness, and experiences related to HIV and AIDS. The survey finds that roughly a quarter of Americans do not know that HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass—almost exactly the same share as in 1987.
- July 3: The FDA approves the first at-home HIV test that will let users learn their HIV status right away.
- July 16: The FDA approves the use of Truvada® for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Adults who do not have HIV, but who are at risk for infection, can now take this medication to reduce their risk of getting the virus through sexual activity.
- July 22-27: The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) is held in Washington, DC—the first time since 1990 that the conference has been held in the United States. Conference organizers had refused to convene the event in the U.S. until the Federal government lifted the ban on HIV-positive travelers entering the country.
- During AIDS 2012, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety in Washington, DC, for the first time since 1996. Volunteers have to rotate nearly 50,000 panels to ensure that the entire work is displayed. Microsoft Research, the University of Southern California, the NAMES Project Foundation, and a handful of other institutions collaborate to create a zoomable “map” of the Quilt.
- The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) celebrates its 10th anniversary.
- March 4: NIH-funded scientists announce the first well-documented case of an HIV-infected child, designated as “the Mississippi Baby,” who appears to have been functionally cured of HIV infection (i.e., no detectable levels of virus or signs of disease, even without antiretroviral therapy.
- June 2: The New York Times runs two articles which focus on middle-aged people living with HIV: The Faces of H.I.V. in New York in 2013 and ‘People Think It’s Over’: Spared Death, Aging People With H.I.V. Struggle to Live.
- June 5: The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) releases RISE Proud: Combating HIV Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men (PDF 1.4 MB), an action plan to mitigate the impact of HIV on black gay and bisexual men.
- June 18: Secretary of State John Kerry announces that, thanks to direct PEPFAR support, more than 1 million infants have been born HIV-free since 2003.
- July 3: Researchers report that two HIV-positive patients in Boston who had bone-marrow transplants for blood cancers have apparently been virus-free for weeks since their antiretroviral drugs were stopped.
- July 13: President Obama issues an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to prioritize supporting the HIV care continuum as a means of implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The HIV Care Continuum Initiative aims to accelerate efforts to improve the percentage of people living with HIV who move from testing to treatment and—ultimately—to viral suppression.
- October: The National Latino AIDS Action Network (NLAAN)—a diverse coalition of community-based organizations, national organizations, state and local health departments, researchers and concerned individuals—publishes the National Latino/Hispanic HIV/AIDS Action Agenda (PDF 4.1 MB) to raise awareness, identify priorities, and issue specific recommendations to address the impact of the epidemic in Hispanic/Latino communities.
- November 21: President Obama signs the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, which will allow people living with HIV to receive organs from other infected donors. The HOPE Act has the potential to save the lives of about 1,000 HIV-infected patients with liver and kidney failure annually.
- December 5: Nelson Mandela—South African anti-apartheid leader, political prisoner, and national President from 1994 to 1999—dies at the age of 95. After his son, Makgatho, died of AIDS-related causes in 2005, Mandela spent the remainder of his post presidential career working to address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, which is home to the largest number of people living with HIV (
- January 1: Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) designed to protect consumers go into effect. Insurers are now barred from discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions, and they can no longer impose annual limits on coverage—both key advances for people living with HIV/AIDS.
- January 2: News sources report that the two Boston patients believed to have been cured of HIV after undergoing treatment for cancer have relapsed.
- February 3: amfAR announces the launch of Countdown to a Cure for AIDS, a $100 million research initiative aimed at finding a broadly applicable cure for HIV by 2020.
- March 4: European researchers announce the results of the first phase of the PARTNER Study, an observational study focusing on the risk of sexual HIV transmission when an HIV-positive person is on treatment. The study found that no HIV-positive partner who was undergoing antiretroviral therapy and had an undetectable viral load had transmitted HIV.
- March—The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women releases a report (PDF 563 KB) on the challenges and achievements of implementing the MDGs for women and girls. The Commission concludes that progress on MDG6 (Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases) has been limited, given that the number of women living with HIV globally continues to increase. The report notes several key challenges: adolescent/young women’s particular vulnerability to HIV the need to increase access to healthcare services and the challenges of structural gender inequalities, stigma, discrimination, and violence.
- March 24—Douglas Brooks is appointed as the new Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). He is the first African American and the first HIV-positive person to hold the position.
- April 4: Dr. Deborah Birx is sworn in as Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). She replaces Dr. Eric Goosby.
- July 10: The National Institutes of Health announce that the “Mississippi baby” now has detectable levels of HIV after more than two years of showing no evidence of the virus.
- July 17: Flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is shot down over conflict-ridden Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard, including six prominent scientists and AIDS activists on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia.
- July 20-25: AIDS 2014 draws nearly 14,000 delegates from over 200 nations. One key message of the conference is that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable for all settings (PDF 4.6 MB), especially given the diversity of the epidemic’s geographical hotspots and key populations. Interventions and policies will require target-based strategies and greater support of key populations, especially in countries where discriminatory policies and legislation are hindering prevention and treatment efforts.
- September 9: The Pew Charitable Trust publishes Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
- October 9: CDC releases a new report that finds gaps in care and treatment among Latinos diagnosed with HIV.
- November 25: CDC announces that only 30% of Americans with HIV had the virus under control in 2011, and approximately two-thirds of those whose virus was out of control had been diagnosed but were no longer in care.
- December 23: FDA announces it will recommend changing the blood donor deferral guidelines for men who have sex with men from permanent deferral to one year since the last sexual contact. In 1983, the agency imposed a lifetime ban on donating blood for all men who have ever had sex with another man.
- January 8: A review of multiple studies of South African women indicates that using Depo Provera, an injectable contraceptive, may increase women’s chances of contracting HIV by 40 percent.
- February 5: HHS announces the launch of a new, 4-year demonstration project to address HIV disparities among MSM of color. The cross-agency project, “Developing Comprehensive Models of HIV Prevention and Care Services for MSM of Color,” will support community-based models for HIV prevention and treatment.
- February 23: CDC’s annual HIV Surveillance Report (PDF 2.8 MB), indicates that HIV diagnosis rates in the U.S. remained stable between 2009-2013, but men who have sex with men, young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals living in the South continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV.
- February 23: CDC announces that more than 90% of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by diagnosing people living with HIV and ensuring they receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment.
- February 25: Indiana state health officials announce an HIV outbreak linked to injection drug use (PDF 59 KB) in the southeastern portion of the state. By the end of the year, Indiana will confirm 184 new cases of HIV linked to the outbreak.
- April 15: NIH launches a large, multicenter, international clinical trial to study heart disease in people living with HIV, who are up to twice as likely as HIV-negative individuals to have heart attacks and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
- May 8: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces on May 8 that it will amend the Federal rules covering organ transplants to allow the recovery of transplantable organs from HIV-positive donors. The new regulations will provide a framework for clinical studies on transplanting organs from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients.
- May 27: Results from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study indicate that HIV-positive individuals who start taking antiretroviral drugs before their CD4+ cell counts decrease have a considerably lower risk of developing AIDS or other serious illnesses. Subsequent data releases show that early therapy for people living with HIV also prevents the onset of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other non-AIDS-related diseases.
- June 30: The World Health Organization certifies that Cuba is the first nation to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis.
- July 14: UNAIDS announces that the targets for Millennium Development Goal #6—halting and reversing the spread of HIV—have been achieved and exceeded 9 months ahead of the schedule set in 2000.
- July 20: Researchers report that antiretroviral therapy is highly effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV from a person living with HIV to an uninfected heterosexual partner, when the HIV-positive partner is virally suppressed. The finding comes from the decade-long HPTN 052 clinical trial.
- July 23: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the first diagnostic test that differentiates between different types of HIV infections (HIV-1 and HIV-2). The test can also differentiate between acute and established HIV infections.
- July 30: The White House launches the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 (PDF 2.2 MB). The updated Strategy retains the vision and goals of the original, but reflects scientific advances, transformations in healthcare access as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and a renewed emphasis on key populations, geographic areas, and practices necessary to end the domestic HIV epidemic.
- September 18: The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice announce they will collaborate on a demonstration project to provide housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
- September 26: At a United Nations summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, the United States announces new PEPFAR prevention and treatment targets (PDF 640 KB) for 2016–2017. By the end of 2017, the U.S. will commit sufficient resources to support antiretroviral therapy for 12.9 million people, provide 13 million male circumcisions for HIV prevention, and reduce HIV incidence by 40% among adolescent girls and young women within the highest burdened areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries.
- September 30: The World Health Organization announces new treatment recommendations that call for all people living with HIV to begin antiretroviral therapy as soon after diagnosis as possible. WHO also recommends daily oral PrEP as an additional prevention choice for those at substantial risk for contracting HIV. WHO estimates the new policies could help avert more than 21 million deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
- October 20: Greater Than AIDS launches a new campaign, Empowered: Women, HIV and Intimate Partner Violence, to bring more attention to issues of relationship violence and provide resources for women who may be at risk of, or dealing with, abuse and HIV.
- November 17: Actor Charlie Sheen announces his HIV-positive status in a nationally televised interview. Significant public conversation about HIV follows his disclosure. Earlier in the year, rapper, performance artist, and poet Mykki Blanco took to Facebook to disclose his HIV status, and former child TV star Danny Pintauro told Oprah that he is living with HIV.
- November 24: UNAIDS releases its 2015 World AIDS Day report (PDF 27 MB), which finds that 15.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral treatment as of June 2015—more than doubling the number of people who were on treatment in 2010.
- November 30: amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announces its plan to establish the amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research at the University of California, San Francisco. As the cornerstone of amfAR’s $100 million investment in cure research, the Institute will work to develop the scientific basis for an HIV cure by the end of 2020.
- December 1: The White House releases a Federal Action Plan (PDF 772 KB) to accompany the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The plan was developed by 10 Federal agencies and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and contains 170 action items that the agencies will undertake to achieve the goals of the Strategy.
- December 6: CDC announces that annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19% from 2005 to 2014. There were steep declines among heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African Americans (especially black women), but trends for gay/bisexual men varied by race/ethnicity. Diagnoses among white gay/bisexual men decreased by 18%, but they continued to rise among Latino gay/bisexual men and were up 24%. Diagnoses among black gay/bisexual men also increased (22%), but the increase has leveled off since 2010.
- December 19: Partly in response to the HIV outbreak in Indiana, which is linked to people injecting drugs, Congress lifts restrictions that prevented states and localities from spending Federal funds for needle exchange programs.
- December 21: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will lift its 30-year-old ban on all blood donations by men who have sex with men and institute a policy that allows them to donate blood if they have not had sexual contact with another man in the previous 12 months.
- January 19: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreport that only 1 in 5 sexually active high school students has been tested for HIV. An estimated 50% of young Americans who are living with HIV do not know they are infected.
- January 28: Researchers announce that an international study of over 1,900 patients with HIV who failed to respond to the antiretroviral drug tenofovir—a key HIV treatment medication—indicates that HIV resistance to the medication is becoming increasingly common.
- February 25: At the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), researchers report that a man taking the HIV-prevention pill Truvada® has contracted HIV—marking the first reported infection of someone regularly taking the drug.
- March 3: The White House Office of National AIDS Policy, the NIH Office of AIDS Research, and the National Institute of Mental Health cohost a meeting to address the issue of HIV stigma: Translating Research to Action: Reducing HIV Stigma to Optimize HIV Outcomes. Participants include researchers, policymakers, legal scholars, faith leaders, advocates, and people living with HIV.
- March 3: Pharmacy researchers report finding that women need daily doses of the antiviral medication Truvada® to prevent HIV infection, while men only need two doses per week due to differences in the way the drug accumulates in vaginal, cervical and rectal tissue.
- March 29: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases new guidance [PDF, 960 KB] for state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments that will allow them to request permission to use federal funds to support syringe-services programs (SSPs). The funds can now be used to support a comprehensive set of services, but they cannot be used to purchase sterile needles or syringes for illegal drug injection.
- May 24: The National Institutes of Health and partners announce they will launch a large HIV vaccine trial in South Africa in November 2016, pending regulatory approval. This represents the first time since 2009 that the scientific community has embarked on an HIV vaccine clinical trial of this size.
- June 8-10: The United Nations holds its 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. UN member states pledge to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, but the meeting is marked by controversy after more than 50 nations block the participation of groups representing LGBT people from the meeting. The final resolution barely mentions those most at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS: men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs.
- January 4: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationannounces that it will invest $140 million in a new HIV-prevention tool. The funds will go to develop implants that can deliver HIV-prevention medication continuously over a long period of time—eliminating the need for people to take daily preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
- May 2: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports significant declines in HIV/AIDS death rates for black/African Americans between 1999-2015. Among those aged 18-34, HIV-related deaths drop 80%, and among those aged 35, deaths drop by 79%.
- June 6: The New York Timesreports that, as a group, America’s black gay and bisexual men have a higher HIV prevalence rate than any nation in the world.
- August 27: Muslim-American organization RAHMA (Arabic for “mercy”) launches the first national Faith HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. The goal is to rally U.S. faith communities (including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Baha’i) to take a public stand against stigma in their congregations and raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
- September 9: Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Friedman dies of AIDS-related illness at age 41. He is best known for his work on the play Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. His death is a shocking reminder to many that HIV continues to be deadly—even for well-to-do, white men with good health insurance.
- October 6: With the support of the public health community, California governor Jerry Brown signs a bill decreasing the penalty for knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV or donating blood without disclosing the infection from a felony to a misdemeanor. These laws discouraged people from getting tested and into treatment. The new law takes a public health approach and recognizes the current understanding that with treatment with HIV medicine, people with HIV have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to others.
- November 6:Harvard University awards singer and HIV activist Elton John its Humanitarian of the Year Award. Since 1992, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $385 million to support HIV/AIDS-related programming around the world.
- November 12: Atlanta performance artist, writer, and HIV educator Antron-Reshaud Olukayode dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33. Olukayode had participated in CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign.
- December 4: Gilead Sciences announces the launch of the COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States (COMPASS) Initiative, a 10-year, $100 million commitment to support organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.
- January 15:Dr. Mathilde Krim dies at age 91. Dr. Krim, a geneticist and virologist who turned from studying cancer to studying AIDS, started the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, and then became the founding chairwoman of the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in 1985. She raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, prevention, treatment, and advocacy. In announcing her passing, the New York Times calls her “America’s foremost warrior in the battle against superstitions, fears and prejudices that have stigmatized many people with AIDS.”
- January 24: The National Institutes of Health launches a large international study to compare the safety and efficacy of antiretroviral treatment regimens for pregnant women living with HIV and their infants. It will provide data on the use of newer HIV medications during pregnancy, helping to ensure that women living with HIV and their infants receive the best available treatments.
- January 28:PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) celebrates its 15th anniversary. When PEPFAR began in 2003, only 50,000 people in Africa were on lifesaving HIV treatment. PEPFAR now supports over 14 million people on treatment globally.
- April 16: After a former boyfriend threatens to blackmail her over her HIV status, Austrian singer and Eurovision winner Conchita tells her fans that she is HIV-positive. In a press statement, she notes that she has been in treatment and virally suppressed for many years, and says “I hope to show courage and take another step against the stigmatization of people with HIV.”
- May 3: An international research team finds that early antiretroviral therapy (ART) is key to avoiding brain atrophy for people living with HIV. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, researchers found that the longer people living with HIV went without treatment, the greater the atrophy in several brain regions. Once patients began ART, the atrophy stopped and some brain volume and was restored—demonstrating the importance of early screening and ART initiation.
- June 11: In the first study to focus specifically on the effect of sustained viral suppression on overall cancer risk, researchers find that early, sustained antiretroviral therapy resulting in long-term viral suppression helps to prevent AIDS-defining cancers and—to a lesser degree—other cancers for people living with HIV. But the long-term study (1999-2015), which followed nearly 150,000 veterans, also found that patients with long-term viral suppression still had excess cancer risk compared to HIV-negative patients.
- June 28: In a Northwestern University study, “Keep It Up!”, a novel online HIV-prevention program that targets young men who have sex with men (MSM), between the ages of 18-29, reduces sexually transmitted infections by 40%. The program, which offers video clips, soap operas, and interactive games is the first online HIV-prevention program to show effects on a biological outcome.
- July 18: A global analysis finds that people living with HIV are twice as likely as their HIV-negative counterparts to suffer from heart disease. Based on a review of studies with almost 800,000 people from 153 countries, an international team of experts finds that HIV-associated cardiovascular disease has more than tripled in the past 20 years as more people live longer with the virus.
- August 1: Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory demonstrate that computer simulations can accurately predict the transmission of HIV across populations. The simulations are consistent with 840,000 actual HIV DNA sequences contained in a global public HIV database. The simulations could allow state health departments to track the spread of HIV and provide a powerful new tool to help prevent new HIV infections.
- September 7: The Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), hosts the first in a series of listening sessions to begin updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. The session is held as part of activities at the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Orlando, Florida, and is attended by HIV community leaders, frontline workers, individuals living with and at risk for infection, and other stakeholders from across the nation.
- September 28: A study of MSM in Thailand finds that having a sexually transmitted infection does not affect the ability of people living with HIV to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. The results confirm the generalizability of the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” (U=U ) message.
- October 17: An new study reports that targeted, high-coverage roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was associated with a 25% reduction in new HIV diagnoses in one year. The study followed 3,700 MSM in New South Wales, Australia, who were taking PrEP with high levels of adherence. It is the first empirical study to test PrEP's population-level effectiveness.
- November 20: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, issues a draft recommendation that clinicians should offer PrEP to individuals at high risk for HIV infection. The Task Force gives its “A” recommendation—the strongest endorsement it can give—to PrEP, stating that, when taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV among those at high risk, and concluding with "high certainty" that there is a substantial benefit to the target population.
- December 1: The date marks the 30th anniversary of the observance of World AIDS Day.
- January 30: Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announce they have developed a new tool to measure the success of HIV cure strategies. The tool accurately and easily counts the cells that make up the HIV reservoir, the stubborn obstacle to an HIV cure. This advance will enable researchers who are trying to eliminate the HIV reservoir to clearly understand whether their strategies are working.
- February 5: In his State of the Union address, President Donald J. Trump announces his administration’s goal to end the HIV epidemic in the United States in 10 years. The proposed Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America will leverage new biomedical prevention and treatment options and powerful data to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by 75% in five years and by 90% by 2030. This will prevent an estimated 400,000 new HIV cases over those 10 years, while protecting and preserving the health of people currently living with HIV.
- February 7: In a bid to expand the HIV prevention choices available to adolescent girls and young women, NIH announces the launch of a Phase 2 clinical trial to examine the safety and use of two HIV prevention tools—oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and a vaginal ring—in that population in southern Africa. The REACH (Reversing the Epidemic in Africa with Choices in HIV prevention) trial will enroll 300 girls and young women ages 16–21 at five sites in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
- March 4: At the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), researchers announce the second cure of a person with HIV. Like the 2007 case of the “Berlin Patient” (the first person to be cured of HIV), the “London Patient” has no detectable HIV infection three years after he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who is genetically immune to HIV, despite having been off antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 18 months. Both patients received bone marrow transplants to treat cancer. While the treatment is too dangerous and costly for widespread use, researchers hail the news as further proof that HIV can be cured.
- March 25: Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, perform the first living donor HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant in the United States.
- May 9: NIH announces the launch of a clinical trial to evaluate long-acting ART for maintaining HIV suppression in people who find it a challenge to take daily ART in pill form. The study, called Long-Acting Therapy to Improve Treatment Success in Daily Life, or LATITUDE, will help determine whether a combination of two experimental injectable formulations of ART are better than conventional daily medications in managing HIV infection in this population.
Disclaimer and Acknowledgements
The timeline is presented for informational purposes only. HIV.gov does not endorse any organization or viewpoint represented in entries drawn from non-federal sources.
Where possible, specific dates have been provided and events have been listed in chronological order. Entries without specific dates occurred in the year in which they are listed, but the order of those entries may not reflect the actual chronology of events.