Young Legislative Aide Steers AIDS Policy in California

Gay activist Stan Hadden joins the Office of California Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti.  Legislative staffers soon regard the 25-year-old policy wonk as the “unofficial AIDS czar,” and Hadden goes on to author much of the state’s AIDS-related legislation.

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As fierce fighter for HIV/AIDS policy, Haddon would be credited with shepharding the creation of the California AIDS Advisory Committee in 1983 and 1985 legislation which brings a coordinated approach to local HIV/AIDS programs and services.

Hadden was one of only a few in Sacramento who were open about their LGBT identity, journalist Karen Ocamb would later write in The Pride.  Scores of administrative and political aides to California legislators remained in the closet, fearful that open knowledge of their sexual identity would end their professional careers.  Elected officials and potential candidates who identified s LGBT also remained silenced by the very real fear of ruination.

January 4, 1982
Gay Men’s Health Crisis Opens in NYC

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC ) becomes the first community-based AIDS service provider in the U.S.

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A few months later, GMHC volunteer Rodger McFarlane sets up an information and counseling hotline on his home phone — and receives 100 phone calls the first night.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman
April 13, 1982
First Congressional Hearings on AIDS Begin in Hollywood

Congressman Henry Waxman, whose district includes West Hollywood, convenes the first congressional hearings on AIDS at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center (now called the Los Angeles LGBT Center).

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“I want to be especially blunt about the political aspects of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS),” said Rep. Waxman, according to the Washington Blade.  “This horrible disease afflicts members of one of the nation’s most stigmatized and discriminated-against minorities…. There is no doubt in my mind that if the same disease had appeared among Americans of Norwegian descent or among tennis players — rather than among gay males — the responses of the government and the medical community would have been different.”

There was otherwise very little press coverage of the hearing, and what did appear was within the LGBTQ press.

The gay San Francisco newspaper The Sentinel published a very short blurb three days later, titled “House Holds Cancer Hearings.”  The paper would quote an unnamed subcommittee staffer saying the Centers for Disease Control “should not have to nickel and dime” for research funding.

The short article appeared next to a column written by gay nurse Bobbi Campbell, who wrote about going to the Shanti Project to get emotional support for his KS.

Speaking at the hearing, Dr. James Curran, head of the Center for Disease Control’s Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections, estimates that tens of thousands of people may already be affected by the disease.

On the 40th Anniversary of the CDC’s first report on what would become known as AIDS, reporter Karen Ocamb wrote the Washington Blade article “AIDS @40: White House laughs as gays try to save themselves,” recalling the House hearing chaired by Rep. Waxman.

“Like so many others in California, lesbian feminist Ivy Bottini had high expectations for the federal government to finally intervene in the growing AIDS crisis after the first congressional committee hearing on the mysterious new disease,” Ocamb wrote.  “She was upset. Her friend Ken Schnorr had died just before the hearing and Bottini had to explain to Ken’s distraught mother that he had not been abused at the hospital — the purple bruises on his body were KS lesions.”

Ocamb goes on to cite perhaps one of the most egregious examples of the Reagan administration’s homophobic callousness toward people with AIDS, which happened just weeks after Reps. Waxman and Phillip Burton (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill to fund AIDS research.

On Oct. 15, 1982, White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes was holding a press conference, during which reporter Lester Kinsolving asked Speakes about the new disease called AIDS.  After indicating that he didn’t know what AIDS was, Speakes dismisses the question and makes light of it, saying, “I don’t have it. Do you?”

When this response elicits chuckles from the members of the press corps, Speakes continues in this vein (“There has been no personal experience here, Lester”) to draw more laughter.

“The exchange goes on like that.  For another two years,” Ocamb writes.

May 9, 1982
Genesis for San Francisco AIDS Foundation is Launched

Bay Area dermatologist Dr. Marcus Conant and gay activist Cleve Jones found the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later becomes the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

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The Foundation’s goal is to provide information on Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) to local gay men.  Still active today, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation continues to promote health, wellness, and social justice for communities most impacted by HIV, through sexual health and substance use services, advocacy, and community partnerships.

May 11, 1982
Stigmatizing Label ‘GRID’ (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) is Coined

The New York Times publishes the first mention of the term “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), deepening public perceptions that HIV/AIDS is solely gay related.

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The Times picked up the terminology from some researchers who were using it to describe the new epidemic.  While the article identifies 13 cases of the disease in heterosexual women, it goes on to state, “Most cases have occurred among homosexual men, in particular those who have had numerous sexual partners, often anonymous partners whose identity remains unknown.”

September 24, 1982
CDC Introduces the Term ‘AIDS’

In a report, CDC coins the term “AIDS” / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  The report also includes 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.”

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Today, AIDS is defined as a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by the HIV virus. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced.

September 28, 1982
AIDS Research Bill Introduced (and Dies) in Congress

Congressmen Phillip Burton and Ted Weiss introduce the first legislation for the allocation of funding for AIDS research. The resolution dies in committee.

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The first dedicated funding for AIDS research and treatment will be approved by Congress almost a year later, in July 1983.

October 15, 1982
Question about AIDS Draws Laughter at White House Press Briefing

At White House Press briefing, a reporter asks Press Secretary Larry Speakes: “Does the President have any reaction to the announcement — from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta — that AIDS is now an epidemic and has over 600 cases?”

Speakes: “What’s AIDS?”

Reporter: “It’s known as the ‘gay plague.’”

Everyone laughs.

“I don’t have it,” Speakes replies. “Do you?”

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The transcript of the press briefing, which is in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, is a sharp reminder of how governmental officials and journalists viewed the LGBTQ community.

On Dec. 1, 2015, Vanity Fair debuted a short documentary by Scott Calonico about this now-infamous exchange.

President Reagan would not mention AIDS until 1985, in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference.  He would not give a major speech about the epidemic until mid-1987 — at which point 20,849 people were already dead of the disease in the U.S.


January 4, 1983
CDC Shares Data on AIDS & Hemophilia with Red Cross

The Public Health Service hosts a meeting convened by the CDC and attended by 200 members of the blood services community to address opportunistic infections in hemophiliacs.  At the meeting, the Red Cross and other blood supply organizations receive preliminary data on the indication of the AIDS virus within the blood supply.

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At the conference, scientists from the CDC recommended that blood banks begin implementing donor screening measures, such as questioning donors about risk behaviors and running blood donations through a series of tests.  Faced with daunting data and the same uncertainties, the blood banks and the plasma companies came away from the conference with different plans..

Playing down the extent of the risk, leaders of the blood banks would decide that the CDC’s evidence did not show conclusively that HIV was a blood-borne disease, and they would decline to screen out potentially infected donors.  The blood bank physicians questioned the validity of the CDC data, which correlated of anti-HBc to AIDS cases among a cohort of homosexuals who attended an STD clinic.

By contrast, the plasma companies concurred with the CDC that there was a good chance HIV was being transmitted by their products.  They moved very quickly to switch the source of their supply and introduced new methods to inactivate viruses in plasma derivatives.  However, they also decided to keep older product batches on the market, and commercial plasma ended up infecting more people than did donated blood.

Getting blood or plasma out of one person and safely into another is a complex process.  Blood banks, such as the Red Cross, obtain almost all of their supply from voluntary donors.  They process and then distribute freely donated blood to hospitals, which they charge for their services.

Every year, about 14 million units of blood are donated in the U.S.  The American Red Cross collects about 45% of the total, blood banks about 42%, hospitals 11%, and the small remainder is imported.  About 3.6 million people receive transfusions of these products every year.

In the 1970s, blood collection and transfusion had a number of risks associated with it, in particular the prevalence of hepatitis in the supply.  In late 1982, when evidence began to show that a new disease might be spreading through blood products, things became more complicated.

The blood bank scientists accepted that HIV/AIDS appeared to be a threat to the blood supply, but found it difficult to measure the risk.  U.S. surveillance systems were ill-equipped to identify diseases with a long incubation period such as AIDS.

January 7, 1983
APLA Elects Founding Board of Directors

AIDS Project Los Angeles elects its first board of directors, which include Dr. Michael Gottlieb and political organizer Peter Scott.  Dr. Joel Weisman and attorney Diane Abbitt serve as the organization’s first co-chairs.

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APLA moves into a converted motel built in 1955, located at 937 Cole Street in Hollywood.

HIV and the Blood Supply
January 26, 1983
Opposing Views in CDC & Red Cross Lead to Blood Screening Delays

Following a meeting hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opportunistic infections in hemophiliacs, an American Red Cross interoffice memo is released that indicates strong opposition to a widespread screening of blood supply products.

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An American Red Cross interoffice memo blasts the CDC after its January 4 meeting, stating, “CDC is likely to continue to play up AIDS.”

The memo goes on to say;  “It has long been noted that CDC increasingly needs a major epidemic to justify its existence.  To the extent the [blood supply] industry sticks together against CDC, it will appear to some segments of the public at least that we have a self interest which is in conflict with the public interest, unless we can clearly demonstrate that CDC is wrong.”

Donor screening issues arose in mid to late 1982, when cases of AIDS in hemophiliacs were first reported, including the first transfusion-associated AIDS case in an infant.

Between December 1982 and December 1983, there were two critical events that presented opportunities for the blood services community to enact new donor screening and deferral policies to reduce the threat of HIV transmission through blood and blood products.

The first, which occured on January 4, 1983, was at the Public Health Service meeting convened by the CDC.  This meeting was widely publicized, and over 200 people attended, including representatives of the FDA, NIH, the National Hemophilia Foundation, the National Gay Task Force, blood banks, and the plasma fractionation industry.

This was where the blood services community first received data on the possibility of a transmissible agent within its blood supply.  CDC scientists recommended that blood banks implement specific donor screening measures (such as questioning donors about their risk behaviors and running blood donations through a series of tests).

Some participants in the Atlanta meeting and others in key decision-making roles expressed reservations about the validity of the CDC data and indicated that they did not believe the CDC to be a credible source of information regarding AIDS.  Following the conference, American Red Cross officials would encourage colleagues to resist recommendations from the CDC.

The ensuing resistance by blood banks to implementing the CDC’s donor screening measures is now viewed as a critical failure on their part in the effort to limit transmission of HIV early on in the epidemtic.

The second critical event would occur in December 15-16, 1983, when the Blood Products Advisory Committee of the FDA would convene a meeting to discuss all possible options of surrogate marker tests for HIV.  This meeting is notable for being the CDC’s second attempt to address the need to implement blood screening as a means to implement safeguards to the blood supply.

In the year between the two meetings, blood banks would continue to collect donations from unscreened members of the public.

February 11, 1983
MECLA Briefing on AIDS Delivers Troubling News

An AIDS briefing hosted by the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles draws hundreds eager for more information on the epidemic. Speakers include Rep. Henry Waxman, who tells attendees, ““I believe that much of the lack of federal research on AIDS has arisen from discrimination intent and self-righteous neglect.”

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Held at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, the MECLA breakfast event also features presentations by Dr. Joel Weisman (APLA Co-Chair), Dr. Michael Roth of UCLA’s Department of Allergy and Immunology, Assemblymember Burt Margolin, and Mark Feldman, founder of the “Phooey on AIDS” emergency healthcare fund, according to a report from Pat Rocco.

May 18, 1983
Congress Passes Bill with AIDS Research Funding

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 Health and Human Services.

Pat Buchanan column (4)
June 23, 1983
Reagan Staffer Patrick Buchanan Vilifies Gay Men in Op-Ed

Patrick J. Buchanan, President Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter, publishes an op-ed in the New York Post, writing: “The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.”

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In his op-ed in the New York Post, Pat Buchanan repeats the Moral Majority position that the AIDS epidemic was God seeking revenge against gay people.

Buchanan concludes his essay by saying homosexuals should be banned from food-handling jobs, and that the Democratic party’s decision to hold its 1983 convention in San Francisco will endanger delegates and their families.

Visitors to the city, he writes, will be at the mercy of “homosexuals who belong to a community that is a common carrier of dangerous, communicable and sometimes fatal diseases.”

July 1, 1983
Stanford Blood Bank Begins Screening Donations

Stanford Blood Center institutes the first blood testing program specifically intended to reduce the risk of transfusion transmission of AIDS.

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Between July 1983 and June 1985, a total of 33,831 blood donations were screened by Standord.  Of those donations, 586 were shown to have low CD4 counts and were discarded as possibly infected.

Stanford retained the serum samples from the 586 donations and years later, when a test became available, screened them specifically for HIV.  Dr. Engleman found that 1.9% of these donations were HIV positive — which translates to approximately 33 HIV-infections that were avoided.

As the first blood bank in the U.S. to screen donated blood for HIV/AIDS indicators, the new policy eliminated donations from people with low CD4 T cells.  The loss of CD4 T cells in AIDS is what renders patients susceptible to a wide range of infectious diseases.  Thus, the screening was considered a surrogate test, not necessarily identifying the presence of HIV/AIDS but instead identifying indicators of possible HIV/AIDS infection.

The new screening system came about due to an increasing awareness in the San Francisco medical community of AIDS and a skeptical view toward existing blood protection practices.  In the spring of 1983, Stanford Hospital treated two patients with AIDS.  Both had received transfusions at Bay Area institutions and neither had been identified as being in a high-risk group.

“At this point, my colleagues and I at Stanford Blood Center felt that the presence of the presumed etiologic agent for AIDS in the local blood supply could not be ignored,” recalls Ed Engleman, MD, of the Stanford Blood Center.  “Because of the potential lethality of this infection, we felt that self-deferral should not be relied upon as the sole means of protecting the blood supply.”

The self-deferral practice that Dr. Engleman refers to is the U.S. Public Health Service’s then-recommendation of relying on donors to voluntarily identify themselves as a member of a high-risk group.  Blood centers around the country commonly implemented the PHS recommendation with an information sheet provided to prospective donors that described AIDS risk groups and requested that donors exclude themselves if they met the definition of risk.

“It was predictable that this approach wouldn’t work very well,” says Dr. Engleman.  “First, it relied entirely on donor self-deferral.  Second, the PHS definition of homosexual AIDS risk behavior was vague, making it possible for a prospective donor with a history of homosexual activity to feel that he personally was not at risk for AIDS and to proceed with blood donation.”

Stanford University Blood Bank’s screening procedure was costly and had to be performed manually, but Stanford found it relatively easy to implement because it was already conducting immunological research and had access to a flow cytometer and the appropriate laboratory setting.

Around this time, the American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks, and the Council of Community Blood Centers released a joint statement estimating the risk of getting AIDS from transfusion as “one in a million.”  This was an overly optimistic view, it turned out.

Just a few years later, when the first HIV antibody test was made available in 1985, an estimated one in 700 units of blood donations in U.S. metropolitan areas were found to be infected with HIV.  In San Francisco, the frequency was closer to one in 100.

“We estimate that the total number of transfusion-related HIV transmissions that occurred from 1983 to 1985 was at least 10,000-20,000,” Dr. Engleman says.  “It seems evident that most of these cases could have been avoided had our test been used.”

August 1, 1983
Congress Holds Hearings on U.S. AIDS Reponse

The Congressional Subcommittee on Government Operations holds hearings to examinethe federal response to AIDS.  It would take another four years before the Reagan Administration finally acknowledges the demands of AIDS activists.

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Statement of Michael Callen of New York to Congress
(born April 11, 1955, died December 27, 1993)

In December of 1981 I had some blood testing done by my private physician, and those tests indicated that I was immune deficient. In December of 1981, there was very little known about this disease, but there was in the gay press beginning to be reports of increased instances of very unusual diseases, and they outlined some of the symptoms. I was very concerned because I had some of these symptoms — fevers, night sweats, general lymphadenopathy, swelling of the lymph nodes, malaise, fatigue.  So I had myself tested and, as I indicated, in December of 1981, I was told I was immune deficient.

The effect of being told that I was immune deficient was devastating.  I called my parents and said, “I am going to die.”

I was not hospitalized until the summer of 1982, when I was diagnosed with cryptospordiosis, which is one of the qualifying opportunistic infections, according to the CDC definition of this syndrome.

I was hospitalized for over a week with what is known as the wasting syndrome.  It was the lowest point of my life.  I was convinced from everything I read and heard that I was going to die.

But I recovered from that specific infection, and I was rehospitalized in the fall of 1982.  They suspected pneumocystis pneumonia. I had a bronchoscopy performed and other tests.  It turned out to be bronchitis.  But my story really illustrates one of the consistent stories for people who have this syndrome.  So little is known.

When my doctor indicated to me in December of 1981 that I was immune deficient, I said, “What does that mean?”

And he said, “We don’t know.”

So now a lot of people who are being told they are immune deficient are simply waiting, waiting for the next infection.

Now, I have come to believe that I am going to beat this disease.  I no longer think that I am going to die.  But it is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years.

So I guess that is my story — waiting around for infections, checking myself every morning for Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions and waiting for information about this disease to be forthcoming.

Statement of Roger Lyon of San Francisco to Congress
(born September 30, 1948, died November 4, 1984)

I was diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma on February 3 of this year.  Prior to that time, I was having absolutely no AIDS-related symptoms whatsoever.  On physical exam at that time, three lesions were found internally.  Prior to that, I was being treated for an amoebic disorder, no real symptoms of AIDS.

February 3, basically 100, I think more exactly 180 days ago, I became aware I had a life-threatening disease.  On February 4, I entered UC, I went to University of California without an appointment, at the suggestion of my doctor, and started what is called their staging process — a battery of tests to determine the extent of this disease.

At that time, I was basically numb.  I had no feeling.  I was just moving.  UC has been — they have been very kind and helpful.

However, it is a matter of day-to-day waiting, waiting for something to happen, living in constant fear that I am going to wake up one morning to find lesions, waking up finding that I have some other opportunistic infection, cryptospordiosis, possibly pneumocystis pneumonia.

At this time, I am basically living in fear of what is to come. Other than that, it is a day-to-day wait-and-see process.

Statement of Anthony “Tony” Ferrara of Washington, DC to Congress
(born in 1954, died June 4, 1984

The first idea there was something wrong with me was last summer.  I had lymphadenopathy, swollen lymph glands especially around the jaws and throat and under the arms.  That continued for a few months, but the whole time I felt quite good.  I continued to run and jog, and I experienced no fatigue, no night sweats, no fevers.  In fact, in November, I finished the Marine Corps marathon, when I was supposedly very, very ill.

The lymphadenopathy went away.  So I thought nothing further of it.  But all along, I had been reading about AIDS, and of course, as every conscious gay man should be, was very worried about it.

In February, I saw two small purple lesions, one on the inner aspect of each of my lower thighs, and I knew what they were, or I knew what they could be, and I said I would wait a month, and if they were still there in a month, I would seek treatment or seek a diagnosis.  Well, in the beginning of March they were still there.

I belong to the George Washington University HMO.  I went there and told them that they really should biopsy one of these lesions to see what it was, gave them my sexual history, and told them that there was a good chance I did have AIDS.  They biopsied it, and the diagnosis was Kaposi’s sarcoma. That was March 8.

Obviously, the first day I was very, very upset, and I went into a deep depression for about a month.  I came home that night and my significant other held me in his arms, and I said to him, “Why do I feel like Ali McGraw, it is just like a movie, it is really terrible, it is the most horrible thing that ever happened.”

My depression lasted a month, and I decided if there was any chance I was going to get over this, if I had any chance of surviving at all, I would have to have a more positive attitude and just continue on, live my life as best I can, and try not to worry about it too much.

I was very lucky. I had the choice of being treated at GW by a very good cancer specialist there, who instilled a great deal of confidence in me, or I had the choice of being treated at the National Institutes of Health.

I think it was an easy choice, because I think — NIH wanted me, because I was so healthy at that point.  I was a good specimen for research I think.  And also, I felt that if I have the disease and no one knows anything about it, the best place to be treated would be where they are doing the research.


March 6, 1984
Blood Supply Task Force Opposes Test for Screening Virus

The task force created at the December 1983 FDA/CDC conference with the blood services community issues a report with a majority opinion that opposes the implementation of incorporating hepatitis B anti-core testing into the routine screening of plasma, presenting another roadblock to the protection of the country’s blood supply.

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The task force reviewed several pilot tests performed at blood banks in areas with donors at high risk for hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc), which appears at the onset of symptoms in acute hepatitis B and persists for life.  Scientific data suggested that anti-HBc was found commonly in HIV-infected individuals.

Data showed:

  • 5-18% of blood and plasma donors had a positive test for anti-HBc;
  • 84% of homosexual males tested positive for anti-HBc; and
  • 96% of IV drug users tested positive for anti-HBc.

The discussion at the December BPAC meeting had stipulated that ”cost-benefit analysis and disease prevalence must be considered in the decision regarding whether or not to use the test,”  However, the task force could not agree upon the true cost of the test, with estimates as low as $2.50 per test for plasma collectors and as high as $12.00 per donation for whole blood collections

Additional costs were the blood that would be discarded and the recruitment of new donors.  With the task force unable to agree on the costs and the benefits of using the anti-core test as a surrogate for high-risk donors, the majority decided to oppose the adoption of screening procedures.

October 10, 1984
City of San Francisco Closes Bathhouses

San Francisco ordered bathhouses closed  due to the potential of high-risk sexual activity occurring in these venues.

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In the mid-1980s, controversy emerged in a number of American cities over the roles gay bathhouses and sex clubs might play in the spread of AIDS, and in raising safe-sex awareness.  In 1984, San Francisco became the first city where political debates broke out over AIDS-related policies for bathhouses and sex clubs. These debates were dominated by questions of public health and gay civil liberties,

San Francisco’s Director of Public Health ordered the closure of 14 bathhouses in the city. Within six hours of the order, two had already re-opened.  An additional 10 had re-opened within 24 hours.

April 5, 1985
Atlanta Hosts International AIDS Conference

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization  host the first International AIDS Conference  in Atlanta, Georgia on April 15-17.

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More than 2,000 researchers gathered at the conference to share information and assess prospects for controlling the disease, not yet realizing that the worst was yet to come.

The Atlanta conference featured 392 presentations and generated considerable excitement among participants eager to learn about how this new disease was playing out within specific populations in the U.S.

Much of the news was discouraging, however, as presenters introduced new data that showed that many of those dying in 1985 had been infected before 1981, and that within especially vulnerable populations, the epidemic was becoming entrenched.

At a side meeting before the day the conference opened, gay activists protested Reagan administration proposals to implement mandatory HIV testing policies, arguing that this would do little to halt the spread of the disease and would only intensify discrimination against vulnerable groups.

August 31, 1985
Pentagon Announces Testing of Military Recruits

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.

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Two Pentagon officials, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition they not be identified, said the new directive was promoted most vigorously by top Army officials, out of concern about the potential high cost of treating soldiers who are found to have the disease. Pentagon officials said about 50 soldiers are being treated in military hospitals for the disease.

The U.S. military does not universally test potential recruits for any other disease or disorder as a condition of enlistment, although new recruits are usually tested for syphillis and German measles soon after they enlist.

The announcement was condemned by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which asserted that the testing would unfairly stigmatize many people who have been exposed to the virus but who do not have the disease.

Timothy Sweeney, executive director of Lambda Legal, also contended that military testing for HIV might become a precedent for AIDS screening in private industry.

September 17, 1985
Reagan Finally Mentions ‘AIDS’ in Public Remarks

President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority” and fending off criticism that funding for AIDS research is inadequate.

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By the end of 1984, AIDS had already ravaged the United States for a few years, affecting at least 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. Scientists had identified the virus that caused AIDS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified all of its major transmission routes.

This is why it is notable that it took until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, for Reagan to first publicly address the subject of AIDS.

Exchanges between the Reagan administration and journalists in the early 1980s demonstrate that Reagan and his staffers didn’t take the epidemic very seriously, for which the Reagan administration is still heavily criticized.

Reagan’s successors in the White House eventually acted, albeit often very slowly, on the crisis — leading to much more research, programs like the Ryan White CARE Act that connect people to care, and the development of antiretroviral medication that increases the life expectancy of a person living with HIV by decades.


October 2, 1985
Congress Allocates $190M for AIDS Research

 Congress allocates nearly $190 million for AIDS research — an increase of $70 million over the Reagan Administration’s budget request.

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The House Appropriations Committee also urges President Reagan to appoint a coordinator for the AIDS effort, “in other words, an AIDS czar.”

“Nine agencies have been engaged in this effort. … What we need is a well-coordinated, well-planned effort, with one person running the show,” said Rep. Silvio Conte, (Mass), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

The National Institutes of Health would receive $140.6 million, the Centers for Disease Control would receive $45.6 milion and $3.5 million would go to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

During debate on the appropriations bill, the House accepted an amendment by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), that would allow the surgeon general to use some funds to close bath houses “that may be responsible for transmitting AIDS.”

New City of West Hollywood Launches AIDS Response

About one year after West Hollywood is officially incorporated as an independent city, it begins actively addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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HIV/AIDS had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men, which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths among the city’s population.

Following the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city on November 29, 1984, elected officials and city staff begin working on a plan to address the epidemic in their own backyard.

In October 1985, the city launches an AIDS awareness campaign, one of the first in the country.  The City of West Hollywood also becomes one of the first government entities to create a program for awarding social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations.  The city’s response to the AIDS crisis would go on to be recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Also during its first year of cityhood, West Hollywood would adopt landmark legislation to establish rent control and prohibit the discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.  Today, many of the city’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.

October 25, 1985
NY Moves to Close Gay Bars & Bathhouses

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.”

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The Public Health Council resolution went beyond recommendations made by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Health Commissioner David Axelrod by defining “high-risk sexual activity” to include oral sex.

Mayor Edward I. Koch announced that the new regulation takes effect immediately and is to be enforced by NYC Health Department inspectors who will enter bathhouses in uniform and undercover.

The National Gay Task Force opposes the regulation, citing discriminatory practices.

“This appears to be an unequal application of law” because many experts say AIDS can be transmitted by heterosexual activity, said Ron Najman, a spokesman for the National Gay Task Force. “They are concentrating on the homosexual aspect.”


December 4, 1985
LA County Imposes Regulations on Bathhouses

Los Angeles County enacts strict regulations on local bathhouses to stop the spread of HIV, and bathhouse owners file suit to stop the regulations from going into effect.

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The LA County Board of Supervisors introduced new county regulations that could put patrols inside bathhouses to ensure that patrons don’t participate in sex acts considered to be unsafe.

“If someone showed me data substantiating a correlation of the spread of this disease and my club, I would deliver the keys to City Hall tomorrow. But so far it’s only been speculation, hysteria and panic, ” Silver Lake bath house owner Steve Downard told the Los Angeles Times.

“The sexual activity at the club is the same as at the Biltmore Hotel, but there are no health posters, no monthly health screening and no free condoms at the Biltmore.”

Under the new County rules, unsafe sex is defined as anal and oral intercourse between men, with or without a condom. Clubs with repeated violations could face closure.

The fact that the county rules make no mention of heterosexual acts, which also can spread AIDS, is proof, Downard says, that homophobia, not health concerns, are behind the regulations.

December 13, 1985
France Sues U.S. for Credit for Discovery of AIDS Virus

The Pasteur Institute files a suit against the U.S. Government in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, DC., seeking recognition that French researchers were the first to discover the virus that causes AIDS.

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The long-simmering transatlantic feud over who will receive royalties on a test for the AIDS virus has erupted into a legal battle, with French scientists seeking recognition in the U.S. courts for their claim that they discovered the virus before their American counterparts.

The Pasteur Institute ‘s suit also seeks the right to grant permission to sell the blood test without being sued by the U.S. for counterfeiting, and the right to share in royalties collected by the U.S. for sales of blood tests by U.S. licensees.

The French scientists were the first to publish a paper on the virus, said Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the U.S. scientist credited with discovering HIV. But he asserts in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I was the first to suggest it was a retrovirus.”

“We had this virus in 1982. We didn’t publish on purpose because we didn’t understand it well enough to stick our necks out. To me, ‘discovery’ is a complicated word. Who first reported discovery of a virus?  They did.  But if the idea comes first — that was us.”

In July 1994, U.S. health officials would concede for the first time that American researchers used a virus obtained from French competitors to make the first American AIDS test kit. At that time, the U.S. would announce the signing of an agreement that would give the French a bigger share of royalties from worldwide sales of AIDS tests.

The contract would end the long-standing and sometimes acrimonious dispute that strained relations between the two countries.


June 30, 1986
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Georgia Sodomy Law

Bowers v. Hardwick was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld, in a 5–4 ruling, the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults.

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The majority opinion, by Justice Byron White, reasoned that the Constitution did not confer “a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”  A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger cited the “ancient roots” of prohibitions against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone’s description of homosexual sex as an “infamous crime against nature,” worse than rape, and “a crime not fit to be named.”

The case arose on August 3, 1982, when a police officer who had been admitted to the home of Michael Hardwick in Atlanta witnessed him and a male companion in a bedroom engaging in sex.  The officer had been executing a warrant for Hardwick’s arrest for failing to appear in court on a charge of public drinking (it was later determined that the warrant was invalid because Hardwick had already paid the $50 fine).  The officer promptly arrested both men for violating Georgia’s antisodomy statute.

In its decision, the Court ruled that while the “right to privacy” protects intimate aspects of marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing from state interference, it does not protect gay sodomy because “no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated.”

The Supreme Court decision would stand for 17 years until 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas would overturn Bowers.

Roy Cohn (2)
August 2, 1986
Notorious Lawyer Roy Cohn Dies

Roy Cohn, best known for his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s investigation of alleged Communist sympathizers, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 59.

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A graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of 20, Cohn quickly made a name for himself in his first job with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, prosecuting cases of people with alleged ties to the Communist Party.

Impressed with Cohn’s performance at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would recommend that Cohn be hired as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McCarthy, who chaired the panel, hired the 24-year-old Cohn in January 1953.

“People born in the 1940s or earlier remember Cohn and his master performing on television,” writes Mary Ellen Clark in her 1988 book The Snarling Death of Roy M. Cohn.  “They remember coming home to be hushed by a mother or aunt who was watching the hearings; they remember a father’s opinion, expressed at the family table when families still ate together.”

“For younger people, however, Roy Cohn was simply another name for a très smart lawyer, for Disco Dan, for the international, I-go-by-private-plane man,” writes Clark.

Throughout his later life, Cohn was well known for his lavish Washington parties, with wealthy and famous friends among his guests.

“He was a figure very tough and in on things, a champion of the underdog, though definitely running with the overdog pack,” Clark writes.  “He nested on the nighttime radio call-in shows; he spread his wings over Koppel on Nightline.  He appeared to be able to avoid all taxes and all penalties, maybe because he was connected, or on the A list, or known to the headwaiters and hostesses of New York.”

Cohn would be indicted four times from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s — for stock-swindling, obstructing justice, perjury, bribery, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail, and filing false reports.  He is acquitted in three of the cases, and in the fourth, he would escape with a mistrial.  This experience would give him “a kind of sneering, sinister sheen of invulnerability,” writes Michael Kruse in Politico.

Cohn would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984 after having a doctor examine a small cut from shaving that wouldn’t stop bleeding.  During the visit, the doctor would re­move two suspicious growths and the tests would reveal Cohn is HIV positive.

Cohn’s lover Peter Fraser, a New Zealander roughly half Cohn’s age, reported that, “When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears.”

Cohn would publicly deny that he was HIV positive and would keep his sexuality closeted for the rest of his life.  According to Robert E. Bauman, who says he first meets Cohn on the day McCarthy dies in 1957, Cohn paradoxically had a reputation for “fag bashing” and loudly opposed laws that protected gays from discrimination.

In his last months of life, Cohn would be disbarred from law practice in New York for old fraud charges and he would lash out at the bar ethics committee, calling members “a bunch of yoyos.”

Cohn once said he wanted the first line of his obituary to read: “Roy M. Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.”

“Cohn didn’t quite get his wish,” writes Bauman.

When Cohn dies, the headlines would trumpet the fact that he died from complications of AIDS.  The mention about McCarthy would come second.

U.S. Grant Program Feeds Growing Healthcare Needs

The U.S. launches the AIDS Service Demonstration Grants program, allocating $15.3 million in available funding to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

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The grant program is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  As the HRSA’s first AIDS-specific health initiative, program focused its funding on cities hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS.

In the years to come, the HRSA would create the HIV/AIDS Bureau and develop a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medications, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV.

The HIV/AIDS Bureau will oversee the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and play a critical role in helping diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond as part of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative.

Koop report (2)
October 22, 1986
Surgeon General Releases Report on AIDS

The Surgeon General issues the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS. The report makes it clear that HIV cannot be spread casually.

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The report, issued by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., also calls for a nationwide education campaign that includes early sex education in schools, increased use of condoms, and voluntary HIV testing.

“By the end of 1991, an estimated 270,000 cases of AIDS will have occurred with 179,000 deaths within the decade since the disease was first recognized,” Dr. Koop states in the report’s preface.

“In the year 1991, an estimated 145,000 patients with AIDS will need health and supportive services at a total cost of between $8 and $16 billion.”

October 29, 1986
Report Calls for Nationwide Education Campaign

The National Academy of Sciences issues a report calling 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.

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The report, titled  Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research,  is issued by  the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the principal health unit of the NAS.  The IOM anticipates that the cost of the public health campaign will reach $2 billion by 1990.

The mission of NAS is to provide scientific advice to the government “whenever called upon” by any government department. The Academy receives no compensation from the government for its services.

February 1, 1987
Global Response Begins with WHO Program

The World Health Organization (WHO) launches the Special Programme on AIDS to serve as the architect and keystone of a global AIDS plan.

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The mission of the Special Programme is 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.

With the technical and financial support of the Special Programme, AIDS programs rapidly begin to be established in nations throughout the world.  The program recogizes that AIDS affects both the developing and the industrialized worlds; and, therefore, every country will need a national AIDS program.

WHO puts forth the idea that a global response is vital not only for national interests but also because “ultimately AIDS cannot be stopped in any one country unless it is stopped in all countries.”

At the global level, the Special Programme is responsible for strategic leadership, developing consensus, coordinating scientific research, exchanging information, assuring technical cooperation and mobilizing and coordinating resources. By the end of 1988, the Special Programme would support every country in the world that requests collaboration.

In 1988, it will be renamed the Global Programme on AIDS.

March 19, 1987
U.S. Approves AZT, First Medication for AIDS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first medication for AIDS — AZT (zidovudine), an antiretroviral drug initially developed to treat cancer.

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FDA directors approve AZT treatment, even though they have serious concerns about the toxicity of the medication.

As the only medication available to treat HIV, AZT becomes a highly sought-after treatment, one fraught with side effects.

AZT therapy can lead to the damage of muscle tissues, including the heart, and also suppresses the production of red blood cells, neutrophils, and other cells in the bone marrow, causing symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, and anemia.

Many patients taking AZT experience gastrointestinal intolerance, nausea and vomiting. Rarer side effects include lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis.

The drug’s approval remains controversial to this day, but in a world where treatment options are so far advanced, it can be hard to imagine the sense of urgency permeating the medical community in the 1980s.

Today, if someone is diagnosed with HIV, he or she can choose among more than 40 drugs that can treat the disease. And there’s a good chance that with the right combination, given at the right time, the drugs can keep HIV levels so low that the person never gets sick.

March 24, 1987
FDA Accelerates Drug Approvals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues regulations that expand access to promising new medications that have not yet been approved or licensed by the agency. This accelerates the approval of drugs by two to three years.

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In a few months, the FDA would go on to issue treatment IND (investigational new drug) regulations on May 22 to permit new drugs to be used to treat patients before clinical trials are completed where no alternative therapy exists for a “serious disease.”

In its explanation of the regulations, the FDA mentions advanced cases of AIDS as the first example of an immediately life-threatening disease, but did not include AIDS in its list of examples of serious diseases.  It explained that some diseases, like multiple sclerosis, are not serious at earlier stages, and that the Treatment IND regulations would not apply to drugs intended to treat those earlier stages of disease.

March 31, 1987
American & French Researchers Share Credit for Discovery of Virus

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.

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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.

This settles a years-long rift between the two countries, each laying claim to the valuable patent for the first HIV-antibody test.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed virologist Robert Gallo first developed the test, while the Pasteur Institute claimed it was French virologist Luc Montagnier.

Gallo had won the prestigious Lasker Award in 1986 for his share of the work (his second Lasker, having won in 1982 for his work on retroviruses).

Years later, the National Institutes of Health would conduct an investigation that proves Gallo and his colleagues first had isolates of HIV with the exception of one sample that originated from the Pasteur Institute’s lab (which was requested by the Gallo lab and sent to them from Paris).

Gallo and Montagnier later agree to share the title of co-discovers of the virus and they write several papers together describing their work in Science (Dec. 29, 2002) and the New England Journal of Medicine (Dec. 11, 2003).

However, in 2008 when Stockholm would call with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, it was only for Luc Montagnier.  The scientific world would be shocked to learn that the Nobel Committee was snubbing Gallo’s work, but because those archival records are locked up until 2058, we will not know the precise argument behind this decision for many years.

April 6, 1987
Dr. Koop Focuses on Children with AIDS, Calls for Sex Ed

At a four-day workshop at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop draws attention to the plight of the growing number of children who acquire AIDS from their mothers or through blood transfusions.

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The workshop kicks off with a large press conference, where Dr. Koop announces that AIDS is a growing menace to the nation’s children and reiterates his call for early sex education as part of the general effort to halt its spread.  He recommends that sex education start in kindergarten and include information about AIDS.

”It’s the responsibility of parents, and it should begin before children go to school,” Dr. Koop says.

He mentions that parents are often reluctant to discuss sex with their children, and so the burden falls upon schools, churches and synagogues to teach children and youth about sex and AIDS.

“If parents don’t do it, they’ve abrogated their responsibility and somebody else has to do it,” Dr. Koop says.

Dr. Koop’s stance for early sex education puts him at odds with some of his fellow conservatives.

The workshop brings together families affected by HIV, leading HIV researchers and clinicians, mental health professionals, public health officials, and representatives from the insurance, legal, and nonprofit organizations.

In the last week, the number of children under 13 years old diagnosed with AIDS reaches 471, double the number of cases reported a year ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, there are 139 cases among teen-agers.

But Dr. Koop says these figures do not include as many as 2,000 children who have some AIDS symptoms but who do not meet the strict Federal definition of the illness, and he says the number of infected children is expected to continue to increase ”dramatically.”

Dr. Koop also notes that a disproportinate number of children infected with AIDS are members of minority groups: about 50% are black and 33% are Hispanic.

”We have, therefore, a segment of society that is very difficult to reach,” Dr. Koop says.

gold condom
April 7, 1987
FDA Declares HIV Prevention as Indication for Condoms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes the sale of male condoms to include HIV prevention as an indication for use, marking a major stride in public health communication and safe sex and HIV/AIDS transmission.

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AIDS brings condoms back to the forefront for sexually active people of all sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, condom use does not equal 100% protection from HIV, and its effectiveness largely depends on correct and consistent use.  Also, some people are allergic to the latex, lubricants, and perfumes.

The FDA also begins to test latex condoms for leaks, resulting in an improvement in the overall  quality of condom products.

May 15, 1987
U.S. Bans HIV-Positive Immigrants & Travellers

The U.S. Public Health Service adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration and travel exclusion list. The HIV ban will not be lifted until 2010.

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“It was not the discovery of HIV alone, but the economic and political climate of the 1980s that led to the introduction of the ban,” writes Dr. Susanna E. Winston and Dr. Curt G. Beckwith in AIDS Patient Care STDS.

In the early 1980s, a worldwide economic recession drove immigrants to enter the U.S., fueling American fears of foreigners taking jobs and becoming a burden on the health and welfare systems.  This coincided with the explosion of the AIDS epidemic, with fear and misunderstanding about the disease feeding into the growing xenophobia.

It is in this environment that HIV/AIDS is added to the U.S. list of dangerous contagious diseases.

At first, only individuals whose illness advanced to AIDS are excluded from U.S. travel (based on the argument that AIDS affects a person’s wage-earning capacity). But then, under pressure to demonstrate efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, President Reagan moves to require all immigrants be tested for HIV, and that HIV infection (with or without AIDS) be included as a disease of public health significance.

This adds HIV to the list of dangerous diseases that includes leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis and gonorrhea.

The U.S. starts mandatory AIDS testing of the 500,000 applicants seeking permanent residence.  The ban includes travellers from other countries who test positive for HIV.

The ramifications of the HIV immigration and travel ban would come to light both domestically and internationally with the case of Hans Paul Verhoef.  While traveling to San Francisco to attend the 1989 National AIDS Forum, Verhoef, an HIV-infected Dutch citizen and rising chair of the Dutch HIV Foundation, would be detained and arrested when Immigration and Naturalization Service agents find AZT in his luggage.

Verhoef’s arrest sets off an outcry from the international AIDS community in objection of the ban, with protests and threats of boycotts of the two upcoming international conferences, planned for San Francisco (1990) and Boston (1992).  For the 1990 International AIDS Conference (IAS), President George H.W. Bush issues an executive order temporarily waiving the ban for all attendees.  But IAS organizers decide to hold no further conferences in the U.S. until the ban is revoked, and the 1992 IAS conference is relocated from Boston to Berlin.

The travel ad immigration ban would be lifted 22 years later, on January 4, 2010.  A new federal rule under President Barack Obama’s administration would be heralded as a monumental achievement, accomplished through the hard work of advocates.


May 31, 1987
President Reagan Makes His First Public Speech about AIDS

President Ronald Reagan makes his first public speech about AIDS at the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) Awards Dinner.

At the event, attendees shout out their opposition to parts of President Reagan’s speech.

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Event attendees “boo” Reagan when he says he asked the Department of Health and Human Services “to add the AIDS virus to the list of contagious diseases for which immigrants and aliens seeking permanent residence in the United States can be denied entry.”

Attendees also voice their opposition when he goes on to say he is directing the testing of Federal prisoners, those seeking care at veterans’ hospitals, active members of the military, and applicants for marriage licenses.

Among the event attendees are amfAR Founder and National Chairperson Elizabeth Taylor and amfAR President Dr. Mervyn Silverman.

After Reagan speaks, Taylor tells the audience, “While there are differences of opinion on AIDS testing,” Reagan’s remarks are ”basically in concurrence with what we all hope and pray for,” namely a cure for the disease.

AmfAR advocates for voluntary, confidential testing accompanied by intense counseling, adds Dr. Silverman.

After the event, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop said he ”found no fault with the speech” and that he considered it reasonable to test Federal prisoners and immigrants and to offer the test to marriage applicants.  He also said he was embarrassed by the reaction of some in the audience.

“I never heard anyone boo the President before,” he said.

June 24, 1987
President Reagan Creates Commission on AIDS

President Reagan signs an Executive Order creating the first Presidential Commission on AIDS

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On June 26, Reagan would appoint Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to chair the commission.  Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force would object to the appointment of someone with no experience with the disease, but others praise Mayberry’s experience in both medical research and clinical services.

The president also appoints commissioners:

  • Dr. Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of nursing at Vanderbilt University
  • John J. Creedon, CEO of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • Dr. Theresa L. Crenshaw, a sex educator and opponent of condoms as a means of preventing the spread of HIV
  • Richard M. DeVos, president of Amway
  • Dr. Burton J. Lee III, a physician at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Dr. Frank Lilly, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Lilly served on the board of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and is “one of the first openly gay Presidential appointees”
  • Dr. Woodrow A. Myers Jr., an African American, the health commissioner of Indiana, and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers
  • Cardinal John O’Connor, an opponant of including instruction about condoms in AIDS education programs in schools
  • Penny Pullen, an Illinois legislator. advocate of mandatory premarital HIV testing who would go on to found the conservative Christian organization Illinois Family Institute
  • Corinna “Cory” SerVaas, editor of the Saturday Evening Post
  • Dr. William B. Walsh, president of Project HOPE, a medical relief organization
  • James D. Watkins, a retired admiral

Dr. Lilly of the GMHC is considered to be the most controversial appointment, opposed by conservaties including Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-New Hampshire).

“The President should strive at all costs to avoid sending the message to society – especially to impressionable youth – that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle,” Sen. Humphrey tells The New York Times.

At the commission’s first meeting, Lilly finds himself seated next to Cardinal O’Connor, and they would be observed “chatting cordially.”

August 5, 1987
Florida Schools Ordered to Enroll HIV-Positive Brothers

A federal judge orders the DeSoto County School Board in Florida to enroll HIV-positive brothers Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray.

The board had refused to allow the three boys, who have hemophilia, to attend the district’s schools in their hometown of Arcadia, Florida.

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After the court ruling, some town residents would refuse to allow their children to attend school, many would anonymously call the Ray home with threatening messages, and ultimately someone would set fire to the Ray house, destroying it and forcing them to move.

“Arcadia is no longer our home,” their father, Clifford Ray, tells the press the day after the fire. “That much was made clear to us last night.”

Ricky, Robert and Randy, who were 10, 9 and 8 at the time, were all born with hemophilia, a condition that required them to receive blood transfusions.

Ricky would go on to become an activist in the fight against AIDS.  President Bill Clinton reaches out to him and thanks him for his work raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The young teenager allows camera crews to document his declining health and states he wants America to see what AIDS did to people.  Ricky Ray dies in 1992 at age 15.

Robert would die of AIDS-related causes in 2000 at the age of 22.  Shortly thereafter, their father would attempt suicide but survives.

Randy Ray would marry in 2001 and settle in Orlando, Florida, managing his HIV through medication.

August 18, 1987
Human Testing of HIV Vaccine Begins

FDA sanctions the first human testing of a candidate vaccine against HIV.  While the clinical trials do not lead to a vaccine, the FDA approval marks an important milestone in the development of HIV/AIDS treatment options.

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Manufactured by MicroGeneSys of West Haven, Conn., the vaccine will move forward to clinical trials supervised by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Just months ago, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the FDA was considering several candidate vaccines and that human trials could begin in 1987.

In early 1993, MicroGeneSys would pull the vaccine, called VaxSyn, from National Institutes of Health trials because the pharmaceutical company could not agree with the NIH over the dosing schedule. The vaccine has already been selected for inclusion in a $20 million U.S. army trial program.

Today, there is no vaccine available to prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it.

However, scientists are working to develop one. NIH is investing in multiple approaches to prevent HIV, including a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine. These research efforts include two late-stage, multinational vaccine clinical trials called Imbokodo and Mosaico.


leather man
October 11, 1987
Helms Amendment Imposes Restrictions on AIDS Education

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.

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The Helms Amendment is incorporated into the $129 billion Labor, Health and Human Resources and Education appropriations bill for fiscal 1988, containing $310 million for AIDS education efforts overseen by the Centers for Disease Control.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) initially proposed that none of the money allocated to the CDC be used for material or activities that promote, encourage or condone homosexuality, illegal drug use or any sexual activity outside marriage.

During floor debate, Sen. Helms exhibited sex-positive comic books created by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York and announced that federal money helped to pay for GMHC’s education program.

″If the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt,″ Helms said.

Helms says he showed the comic books to President Reagan at the White House, and told him the group had received $674,679 in federal funds. According to Helms, Reagan looked at a couple of pages, ″shook his head and hit the desk with his fist.″

Helms then admitted that the comic books were not paid for with federal funds, but said taxpayer dollars did pay for a series of educational sessions he contended were equally offensive.  He said the sessions included assignments to write a personal ad for publication in a gay newspaper and list alternatives to high-risk sex, as well as instruction in the use of safe sex photos.

″I may throw up,″ Helms said.

Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Connecticut) and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) are the only two Senators to vote against the Helms Amendment.

Weicker lectured Helms for moralizing and said his amendment ″means unnecessary lives lost.″

″We don’t have time to get into philosophical or academic or moralistic debates. We’d better do what the experts have told us to do — put our money into research and put our money into education.″

The response from Lori Behrman, spokeswoman for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is: ″Jesse Helms, first of all, is playing with the lives of thousands of Americans. It sends a message that the gay community is expendable in this epidemic.″

The Helms Amendment will have a chilling effect on CDC’s ability to stop the spread of AIDS among drug addicts, homosexuals and sexually active heterosexuals, particularly young people.

This is the latest in a long conflict among lawmakers about what federal AIDS education materials should say and how graphic they should be.

October 22, 1987
Worldwide Impact of AIDS Tops Concerns at United Nations

At the 42nd convening of the United Nations, AIDS becomes the first disease ever debated on the floor of the General Assembly.  The UN resolves to mobilize in the worldwide struggle against AIDS.

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“AIDS is one of those critical issues, like nuclear weapons, global development, and environmental pollution, which affects the future of all peoples in all countries,” says UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in his address.

“It is, in many senses, a global combat, and it threatens us with all the consequences of war – not only of massive death tolls and even greater an numbers of disabled,” he said, “but of orphans, of mass displacements, of loss of productivity, of overwhelming and bankrupting demands on financial, administrative and human resources, of fear, anger and panic, and of social instability.”

In closing, Pérez de Cuéllar says:  “We must combat fear with knowledge, panic with reason and isolation with compassion. We must affirm through solidarity that we are but one human family.”

After the World Health Organization gives a presentation on the global status of AIDS, the UN General Assembly designates WHO to lead the worldwide effort to end HIV/AIDS.

March 3, 1988
Teen Ryan White Testifies before President’s Commission on AIDS

Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who has become a national spokesperson for AIDS education, testifies before the President’s Commission on AIDS about the stigma he has endured.

Understanding AIDS
May 26, 1988
Surgeon General Launches Nationwide Education Campaign

C. Everett Koop, the U.S. Surgeon General, launches the nation’s first coordinated HIV/AIDS education campaign.  It is the largest public health mailing in history.

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Between May 26 and June 30, 1988, the Centers for Disease Control mail the pamphlet Understanding AIDS to every U.S. household.  Approximately 126 million copies were distributed, reaching at least 60% of the population.

The brochure was produced in Spanish as well as English, and its purpose was 3-fold: to clarify how AIDS is transmitted; to emphasize that behavior, not identification with risk groups, put people at risk; and to stimulate informed discussions about AIDS at all levels of society.

In conjunction with the mailing, the CDC initiated contacts with state health departments and manufacturers of AIDS testing kits.  In anticipation of increased requests for information that the brochure would generate, the CDC added up to 1,000 operators to the National AIDS Information Line.

The impact of the campaign on AIDS-related behavior was not fully assessed.  Extensive message pretesting and other marketing techniques designed to improve the effectiveness of the brochure, however, helped Understanding AIDS achieve an increase in awareness and concern about AIDS nationwide.

During the process of the campaign, the CDC learned a number of lessons, including the importance of setting a deadline, doing formative research, and achieving a consensus on scientific knowledge.

July 23, 1988
FDA Approves Importation of Experimental Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will allow the importation of small quantities of unapproved drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS.

August 1, 1988
U.S. Announces Pediatric AIDS Service Grants

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awards $4.4 million in grants to 11 states and Puerto Rico for the first pediatric AIDS service demonstration projects.

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The HRSA-funded 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.
October 18, 1988
U.S. Passes Abandoned Infants Assistance Act

The Abandoned Infants Assistance Act becomes law, addressing 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.

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The AIA funds projects to support moving the children into foster care or other more traditional living arrangements.

November 4, 1988
President Reagan Signs Comprehensive HOPE Act

President Ronald Reagan signs the Health Omnibus Programs Extension (HOPE) Act into law, authorizing the use of federal funds for AIDS prevention, education, and testing.

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As the first comprehensive federal AIDS bill, it establishes the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

November 7, 1988
NYC Pilots Controversial Needle-Exchange Program

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

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The program is opposed by many of the city’s black and latinx leaders, who see it as an abandonment of IV-drug-using people of color.

The leaders demand a more comprehensive approach to the issue, proposing more resources for drug-prevention education, addiction treatment, and law enforcement.

World AIDS Day 3 (2)
December 1, 1988
Initial World AIDS Day is Observed

December 1st is designated by the World Health Organization as “World AIDS Day.”

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Supported by the United Nations, World AIDS Day is observed for the first time with the theme “Join the Worldwide Effort.”  Today, World AIDS Day continues to be observed.

In 2020, there was a reported 37.6 million people across the globe with HIV.  Of these, 35.9 million were adults and 1.7 million were children.

An estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide would acquire HIV in 2020.  This marks a significant decline (30%) in new HIV infections since 2010, but there is still much work to do.

January 2, 1989
California Legislature Enacts Laws to Criminalize HIV

Eight AIDS bills signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian during 1988 take effect in California, including three that criminalize HIV and one that weakens rules around doctor-patient confidentiality.

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The legislation, proposed by anti-gay Republican Sen. John Doolittle, include:

  • Penalties — SB 1007, which adds three years to prison sentences of those convicted of some sex crimes if they know they are HIV-positive when they commit the crime;
  • Prostitutes—SB 1007, which makes it a felony for a prostitute to continue working after knowing he or she has been exposed to the AIDS virus; and
  • Donors—SB 1002, which makes it a felony to donate blood, semen, breast milk or body organs to another person if the donor knows that he or she is infected with the AIDS virus.

Also going into effect is Democratic Sen. Gary K. Hart’s bill, SB 2847, which allows physicians to tell other medical personnel if a patient has AIDS so they can protect themselves.

January 10, 1989
LA County Prohibits Discrimination against People with HIV/AIDS

On a 3-2 vote, the LA County Board of Supervisors tentatively approves an ordinance prohibiting employers, landlords, schools and businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas from discrimination based on AIDS.

February 7, 1989
Senate Hearings Examine Governmental Response to HIV/AIDS

Sen. Ted Kennedy, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, holds a series of five oversight hearings to examine how the federal government is combating AIDS.

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Education, care, and drug development for HIV/AIDS are key areas of focus of the hearings.

The FDA, CDC, HERSA and Samuel Thier, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, all testify.

West Hollywood Settles HIV Discrimination Lawsuit

The City of West Hollywood settles an HIV/AIDS discrimination case brought by Paul Jasperson, who filed suit against the city and Jessica’s Nail Salon two months earlier, alleging HIV discrimination.

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Jaserson’s civil action against the salon, a test case for the West Hollywood’s new HIV discrimination ordinance, is on appeal, with support from Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the American Civil Liberties Union.

September 19, 1989
National Commission on AIDS Convenes

The National Commission on AIDS meets for the first time at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

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At the meeting, witnesses testify on the problems facing AIDS patients and what the government is doing in response.

The meeting is facilitated by June Osborn, M.D., who would chair the commission from its inception through 1993.  Dr. Osborn, who serves on WHO’s Global Commission on AIDS, has extensive experience advising the CDC and the FDA on vaccines for diseases such as influenza, hepatitis, and polio.  Osborn would go onto write numerous articles and give many speeches on AIDS and HIV public healthcare policy.

The National Commission on AIDS consists of 15 members: five appointed by the Senate, five by the House, two by President George W. Bush, and the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense, and the Veterans Administration.

Perhaps the most recognizable member of the National Commission on AIDS, is former NBA star Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson.  However, Johnson would resign from the commission in September 1992, writing to President Bush:  “I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on a commission whose important work is so utterly ignored by your administration.”

Johnson’s resignation is preceded by another six months earlier of Harlon D. Dalton, a Yale Law School professor who is the only other African American appointed to the commission.  In March 1992, Dalton would complain about the lack of action from black politicians, saying, “Any high-visibility politician can point to the one time a year where [AIDS] is mentioned. But there haven’t been any votes there. Gay black men don’t exist, black men don’t vote and babies don’t vote.”

At its first meeting, Chair Osborn gives recognition to Rep. J. Roy Rowland, who she refers to as “the Father of the Commission.”  Rep. Rowland is the principal sponsor of the legislation that created the commission on Nov. 4, 1988.

Other members include:
  • Dr. David E. Rogers, head of the New York City Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS and New York State’s AIDS Advisory Council
  • Diane Ahrens, Minnesota local government official
  • Rev. K. Scott Allen, a Baptist minister, coordinator of the AIDS Interfaith Network in Dallas
  • Don C. Des Jarlais, a NY physician who advocates for needle-exchange programs
  • Eunice Diaz, community affairs director of White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles
  • Mary D. Fisher, appointed by Bush to replace Magic Johnson in October 1992
  • Donald S. Goldman, New Jersey attorney, author on ethical issues involved in AIDS treatment
  • Larry Kessler, executive director of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
  • Charles Konigsberg, Jr., director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
  • Belinda Mason, journalist who dies of AIDS-related illnesses in September 1991

The commission was established by a statute enacted November 4, 1988, with the aim of “promoting the development of a national consensus on policy concerning AIDS.”. It produced several reports over the next 4 years.

The commission approaches its work through numerous hearings, covering the following topics:

  • healthcare, treatment, and international aspects of the HIV epidemic;
  • Federal, State, and Local responsibilities;
  • the Southern California epidemic;
  • social and human issues;
  • Executive and Legislative branch issues;
  • current research and clinical trials;
  • HIV epidemic in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
  • African American communities;
  • Pediatric and Adolescent HIV;
  • Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual communities among Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders;
  • Women and HIV disease and civil rights;
  • religious communities response; and
  • risks of transmission in healthcare settings.
HRSA Funds States with $20M for HIV Care & Treatment

The U.S. grants $20 million for HIV care and treatment through the Home-Based and Community-Based Care State grant program, introducing HIV care and treatment to many states that have no programs.

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In its supporting report, the Health Resources and Services Administration notes that only six states have Medicaid program waivers for the treatment and care of people with HIV/AIDS: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio and South Carolina.  The waiver services cover case management, personal care and adult day care in five of the six states.

States with these programs report that the AIDS-specific waiver enables them to establish a uniform system of services, a network of treatment options, and greater access to home and community-based care for people with AIDS, the report states.

Perhaps most importantly, the programs expand financial eligibility for those needing care and treatent.

The newly announced HRSA grant program provides funding so that all states can adopt and strengthen programs that target AIDS-specific services to those who need them.

U.S. Launches Precursor to Ryan White CARE Act

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.

July 26, 1990
Congress Passes Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

August 18, 1990
U.S. Enacts Ryan White CARE Act with $220M in Funding

The U.S. Congress passes legislation providing $220.5 million in federal funds for HIV community-based care and treatment services.

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Titled the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the legislation is named for the Indiana teen who became infected through treatment for his hemophilia and died in April 1990.

This creates the nation’s largest HIV-specific federal grant program, and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration is charged with managing the resources,

Blood screening
September 16, 1990
Lawsuits Filed against Blood Agencies over Tainted Transfusions

The blood services industry braces itself against more than 300 lawsuits regarding people infected with the AIDS virus through blood transfusions.

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A small number of the medical negligence lawsuits have been settled for large amounts of money, and another 300 lawsuits are headed to trial, mostly in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While eight years has passed since the first medical reports made connections between transfusions and AIDS, legal cases are only beginning to surface because of the lag time between becoming infected with HIV and onset of physical symptoms.  An estimated 26 million people received transfusions between 1977 and 1985, years when the AIDS epidemic spread largely unchecked.

Legal experts expect thousands more cases to be filed in the courts over the next few years as more people discover that they were given tainted blood during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

In one case, a 5-year-old Arizona boy was awarded $28.7 million — believed to be the largest such award — and several other jury verdicts have been in the range of $12 million.

“These awards are far higher than in other types of cases, because the jury tries harder because of the disease, because they have all personally felt that fear,” attorney Duncan Barr told the LA Times.  Barr had defended San Francisco’s Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in several cases.

Plaintiffs have argued that the blood banks ignored scientific warnings about the threat of HIV-contaminated blood, failed to screen out high-risk donors through questionnaires that identified high-risk behavior, and refused to perform tests for other diseases that were often present in HIV-infected donors.

In Los Angeles County, health officials said 194 adults and 36 children have contracted AIDS through transfusions.

The American Red Cross, which collects half the nation’s blood supply, would not comment to the LA Times on how many lawsuits have been filed against it over allegedly tainted blood transfusions.

The Blood Council of Community Blood Centers released a statement saying that most centers were insured only for $2 million to $5 million a year for the years in question, and if the centers run out of insurance funds, they may be forced to increase the cost of blood sales to hospitals or go bankrupt.

January 1, 1991
HOPWA: Federal Housing Assistance Program Launched

Congress enacts the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Act of 1991, the first and only federal housing program solely dedicated to providing rental housing assistance for persons and their families living with HIV/AIDS.

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Approved as part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, HOPWA funds short-term and permanent housing, together with supportive services, for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

A report by the Congressional Research Service titled “Housing for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS,” describes HOPWA as a way to address the financial vulnerability and likelihood of homelessness associated with AIDS.

“Research has indicated that individuals living with HIV who live in stable housing have better health outcomes than those who are homeless or unstably housed, and that they spend fewer days in hospitals and emergency rooms,” the report states.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged with the administration of the funding, working with state and local community housing programs.

July 21, 1991
U.S. Pushes States to Restrict HIV+ Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends restrictions on the practice of HIV-positive healthcare workers, prompting Congress to enact a law requiring states to adopt the CDC restrictions.

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The CDC’s report ecommends that healthcare workers who are HIV-positive “should not perform exposure-prone procedures unless they have sought counsel from an expert review panel and been advised under what circumstances, if any, they may continue to perform these procedures.”

The CDC goes on to say that HIV-positive healthcare workers should notify prospective patients of the worker’s HIV status before they undertaking exposure-prone invasive procedures.

The report cites the case of Dr. David Acer, a dentist with AIDS who likely transmitted HIV to five of his 850 patients.

Although this was the only cluster of health care worker-to-patient transmissions of HIV in the U.S., the report concerning Dr. Acer immediately set off public debate on the effectiveness of existing safeguards of the public’s health, whether it was appropriate for HIV-positive health care workers to practice, and the public’s right to know the HIV status of their physicians.

August 14, 1991
U.S. Creates Network of Clinical Trials, Expanding Treatment Options

Congress passes legislation to create a network of community-based clinical trials for HIV treatment.

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The Terry Beirn Community-Based Clinical Trials Program Act establishes a network of community clinical trials to complement the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ university-based research in order to provide increased access to experimental therapies.

The legislation is named for Terry Beirn, a program officer for amfAR who worked on the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources on AIDS legislation.

Known as a fierce AIDS activist, Beirn com­pil­ed quar­terly direc­to­ries of AIDS treat­ment for doc­tors and patients, fundraised for AmFAR and other research orga­ni­za­tions, and pushed leg­is­la­tion to fund clin­i­cal tri­als of exper­i­men­tal treat­ments and drugs.

Following his diag­nosis with AIDS in 1984, Beirn began his advocacy work on AIDS policy with Sen­. Ted Kennedy, and in 1986, Beirn joined the staff of the U.S. Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Labor and Human Resources. Dur­ing his time there, Beirn gar­nered sup­port for the first com­pre­hen­sive piece of AIDS leg­is­la­tion, the HIV Organ Pol­icy Equity Act of 1988, which mod­i­fied rules regard­ing organ dona­tion between HIV-pos­i­tive indi­vid­u­als.  In 1990, Beirn would be instru­men­tal in the pas­sage of the Ryan White Care Act, for which he advo­cates directly with Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush.

Beirn dies of AIDS-related illness in 1991 at the age of 39.

August 16, 1991
U.S. Travel Ban Causes Int’l AIDS Conference to Move to Amsterdam

The 8th International AIDS Conference is originally scheduled to be held in Boston in 1992, but conference planners decide to move it to Amsterdam due to U.S. immigration restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS.

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Harvard University, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the World Health Organization, announces that because of “continuing uncertainty” of the country’s policy toward HIV-positive individuals, it will not hold the 1992 conference in Boston.  Weeks later, Harvard would announce that the next conference would be held in Amsterdam.

The Boston site of the meeting is canceled, because of Bush Administration requirements that short-term visitors to the U.S. declare whether they are infected with the AIDS virus.  The policy bans travel to the U.S. by foreigners infected with the virus, unless they get a waiver.

Two months earlier, the 1991 International AIDS Conference in Florence closes with officials and participants marching to the U.S. Consultate to protest the American travel ban.

Almost 20 years later, the ban on HIV-positive immigrants and travelers to the U.S. would be lifted by an executive order by President Barack Obama.

December 1, 1992
CDC Extends HIV Education Programming to Business Community

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiates a long-term, primary prevention program for HIV education directed at business owners and the labor community.

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The Business Responds to AIDS program is designed to help large and small businesses meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and the community.

In an interactive teleconference originating at its Atlanta headquarters, the CDC introduces business leaders to the BRTA program and releases resources to assist them with initiating their own HIV-education programs in the workplace.

Participants in the teleconference include the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the New England Corporate Consortium on AIDS, and the business and labor communities from several sites throughout the U.S.

The CDC encourages businesses to develop written HIV policies and provide employee education about preventing HIV transmission.

In three years, the CDC would follow up BRTA with the Labor Responds to AIDS program in 1995.

January 23, 1993
President Clinton Establishes Office of National AIDS Policy

As one of his first acts in the White House,  President Bill Clinton establishes the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

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The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is designed to oversee U.S. efforts to implement the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

ONAP’s scope would grow over the next twenty years to include coordinating national and global efforts with the National Security Council and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.  The group would work closely with international bodies to ensure that the U.S. response to the global pandemic is fully integrated with other prevention, care, and treatment efforts around the world.

ONAP would be featured in the press again in January 2017, when under the new Trump administration, the office’s website would become inaccessible.  It is then reported that the office closed with the departure of the previous director, Obama-appointee Amy Lansky, with no clear plans if or when President Trump would reopen it.

When President Trump fails to appoint a new ONAP director by June 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS file letters of resignation, citing that above all things the Trump administration “simply does not care” about the HIV/AIDS situation in the U.S.

Then in late December 2017, Trump would fire the remaining members of the council with a form letter sent via FedEx.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden would restore ONAP with the appointment of Harold Phillips, a Black man living with HIV, as Director.  News of Phillips’s appointment would arrive June 5, the 40th anniversary of the first reports of AIDS.

June 10, 1993
U.S. Expands Scope for Women/Minorities as Research Subjects

Congress enacts the NIH Revitalization Act and directs the National Institutes of Health to expand involvement of women and minorities in all research.

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The Act gives the Office of AIDS Research primary oversight of all NIH AIDS research and requires the NIH and other research agencies to increase the role of women and minorities as research subjects.

The statute calls for outreach to women and members of minority groups for recruitment as subjects in clinical research projects.  For clinical trials in which women or members of minority groups are included as subjects, trials must be designed and executed in a manner that allows for researchers to determine whether the variables being studied in the trial affect women or members of minority groups differently than other subjects in the trial.

June 10, 1993
U.S. Immigration Ban Codified into Federal Law

Slipped into the NIH Revitalization Act is an amendment that codifies the U.S. HIV immigration ban into law, which President Bill Clinton signs.

AIDS Quilt - Keeston Lowry
August 29, 1993
Portland Legislative Aide Keeston Lowery Dies

Keeston Lowery, an aide to Portland Commissioner Michael Lindberg,  dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.

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Lowery was a tireless and supremely effective advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights from inside the Portland government.  He also worked as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital and served on the Board for the Right to Privacy PAC (predecessor to Basic Rights Oregon).

In 1967-68, Lowery worked on Sen. Robert Kennedy’s campaign for President, and shortly afterward, graduated from Mississippi State University’s five-year occupational therapy program. He continued his higher education and earned another degree from the University of Arkansas. He then worked in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, Arkansas, and in the mid-1970s, he took a job with then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton.

Lowery moved to Portand, Oregon in 1977 to take a job as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital, and quickly became a leader in the local queer community.  He became an aide to Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg, and immediately used his role in inter-governmental relations and film policy to cultivate advocates for equal rights in all levels of local and state government.

Lowery crafted Portland’s first civil rights ordinance, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and several other categories.

“His beaming smile, southern drawl and good will were infectious,” writes the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest in its tribute to Lowery.  “He was an astute political observer who could intuitively plot winning strategies.  His manifold contributions continue to this day, not only in the policies he crafted on behalf of marginalized people, but in memories of all the powerful and empowered people whose lives he touched.”

Lowery’s work on the city’s film production policies and the good will he established with film crews led to his receiving a “thank you” credit on the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, written and directed by Gus Van Sant.

When Lowery in late August of 1993, Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Vera attended his funeral, held on Sept. 2 in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park, along with numerous members and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community.  Lowery’s ashes were scattered on Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.

The City of Portand’s archives store Lowery’s papers and artifacts.

AIDS Quilt - Michael Callen
December 27, 1993
Pioneer of AIDS Activism Michael Callen Dies

AIDS movement pioneer Michael Callen dies of AIDS-related illness at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 38.

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Callen was diagnosed early in the epidemic — 1982 — and he responded by becoming involved in every way he could in promoting the self-empowerment of People With AIDS.  In fact, Callen is credited with coining the term “People With AIDS,” and insisted on this term instead of the passive and negative-sounding phrase “AIDS victim” commonly used at the time.

Callen was born in Rising Sun, Indiana and raised in Hamilton, Ohio.  He graduated in 1977 from Boston University, which he attended on a music scholarship, and then moved to New York, where he sang in cabarets and with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

He grew into political advocacy after receiving a diagnosis of AIDS in 1982.  He became an early proponent of safer-sex practices, writing How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach with Richard Berkowitz, Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend, and Richard Dworkin in 1983.

Among the very first publications to recommend the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs in men having sex with men, the pamphlet was distributed at gay social establishments throughout New York City — 5,000 copies in its first run.

That same year, Callen was a plaintiff in the nation’s first AIDS discrimination lawsuit, when Dr. Sonnabend, his physician, successfully fought eviction from a Greenwich Village co-op for treating people with AIDS.  Also in 1983, Callen was a founding board member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in Greenwich Village.

On August 1, 1983, Callen was one of three PWAs who testified before a Congressional subcommittee examining the U.S. government’s response to the AIDS crisis.  In his statement before Congress, Callen described how he began to feel ill in 1981 and then was diagnosed in the summer of 1982 after being hospitalized with cryptospordiosis.

“It is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years,” he said.

A talented writer, Callen became the first editor of the PWA Coalition Newsline and edited the two-volume set Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the Persons With AIDS Coalition in 1988.  From 1988-1989, he was editor of AIDS Forum, and his book, Surviving AIDS, published by Harper/Collins in 1990, received honorable mention from the American Medical Writers Association.

Callen wrote extensively on the subject of the politics of sexuality, his essays regularly appearing in magazines, journals, books, and newspapers, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek.  He was among the first to give AIDS a human face, by making courageous appearances on TV shows such as Nightline, Good Morning America and 20/20.  He also appeared on the talk shows Phil Donahue and Geraldo.

Callen moved from New York to West Hollywood to keep up with his busy TV and film schedule.  He can be seen in several films and documentaries, including Philadelphia, Zero Patience, and the HBO documentary Why Am I Gay?

Throughout the years of his illness, Callen had a devoted and caring partner in Richard Dworkin, whom he met in June 1982, when Dworkin answered his classified ad seeking gay musicians.

“I called and Michael answered and said, ‘I happen to be getting together with a bass player tonight, do you want to come over?’  So I said OK and went to his house on Jones Street, and there was the bass player, and Michael had made sorbet,” Dworkin told Tim Murphy of The Body.  “And we fell in love that night, and I stayed over.  He had a piano and books, and to me that was a draw.  He moved in with me in the fall of ’82.”

“Michael accomplished so much in the 11 years between his diagnosis and his demise,” Dworkin wrote in his tribute to Callen on Callen-Lorde, the website for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City (named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde).

Dworkin listed Callen’s many achievments, including the founding of the People with AIDS Coalition, the Community Research Initiative, and the People with AIDS Health Group.  He also mentioned that Callen performed with The Flirtations, “the world’s first gay male politically correct a cappella group,” plus Dworkin helped Callen record and release two solo albums.

Callen also wrote, along with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Malamet, the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason”  Callen would go on to sing this at numerous events, including AIDS walkathons in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights.

Shortly before his death, Callen completed vocal tracks for 48 new songs, 29 of which were released as a double album, Legacy (winner of four Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards).

July 28, 1995
President Clinton Creates Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

President Bill Clinton establishes his Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to provide advice, information, and recommendations to his administration regarding HIV/AIDS.

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The Council meets for the first time on this day in 1995.

PACHA focuses on programs, policies, and research that address HIV/AIDS, including the consideration of common co-morbidities of those infected with HIV as needed to promote effective HIV prevention and treatment.

The Council continues to exist and provide advice for each successive Presidential Administrations.

December 6, 1995
President Clinton Holds White House Conference on HIV/AIDS

The President and Vice President convene the first White House Conference on HIV/AIDS in the history of the epidemic, bringing together more than 300 experts, activists and citizens from across the country for a discussion of key issues.

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During the conference, President Clinton shows the country the human face of AIDS and the toll the epidemic is taking on parents, families and communities.

The President also introduces steps and goals to accelerate progress toward a vaccine and a cure.  He urges Congress to maintain the Medicaid safety net; Medicaid pays for the care of nearly half of Americans living with AIDS, including more than 90% of children with AIDS.

Some conference attendees were disappointed, however, that the President did not voice support for government-sponsored needle distribution and exchange programs.

More than 250 participants from 37 states and Washington D.C. are invited to attend the White House conference. In the morning, participants assemble into nine working groups for in-depth discussions on research, substance abuse treatment, transmission prevention, international issues, discrimination, housing and services.

Following lunch, participants gather to observe a plenary session in the Cash Room of the Treasury Building, the focus of which is a roundtable discussion with the President.  One representative from each of the morning’s working groups join the President at the roundtable, along with Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Patsy Fleming, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and Dr. Scott Hitt, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Also joining the roundtable are two Americans personally impacted by the AIDS crisis: Sean Sasser of Atlanta, who tested positive for HIV at age 19 (best known for his relationship with activist and reality TV star Pedro Zamora) and Eileen Mitzman of New York, who lost her 26-year-old daughter Marni to AIDS in 1991.

January 1, 1996
UN Creates Joint Program to Strengthen AIDS Response

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS is launched to strengthen the way in which the UN is responding to AIDS.

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UNAIDS takes an innovative approach, bringing together various UN organizations to coordinate advocacy for global action on the epidemic.

The launch of UNAIDS involved “a long series of meetings, reports, working groups, whispered conversations and angry confrontations in corridors and telephone calls around the world,” according to UNAIDS: The First 10 Years.

With a staff of 91 in the Geneva-based Secretariat and 10 in various regions, the fledgling organization
quickly learns how to act on its ambitious agenda.

Political advocacy was high on UNAIDS’ list of priorities.  By June 1996, UNAIDS staff had met with political, economic and social leaders in more than 50 countries to brief them on UNAIDS’ mandate and work.

Sally Cowal, Director of External Relations at UNAIDS, would be worried about not having a medical background.

“But as I came to understand more about the epidemic,” Cowal says, “it became clear to me that the political motivation around it, the need to overcome denial and complacency, were probably as important as anything we could do.”

FDA Accelerates Approval of HIV Tests & Therapies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves several new tests and HIV treatments in a three-month period.

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Among its fast-track approvals are:

  • 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)
May 20, 1996
Congress Reauthorizes Ryan White CARE Act

Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act, continuing federal funding for primary medical care, essential support services, and medications for low-income people with HIV/AIDS.

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The legislation grants the funding needed for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to continue its public health response to HIV.

May 18, 1997
President Clinton Sets Goal of HIV Vaccine by 2007

President Bill 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.

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President Clinton would dedicate the new Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center on June 9, 1999.

September 26, 1997
FDA Approves First Antiretroviral Drug Combo

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Combivir, the first one-pill combination of the two most widely used antiretroviral medications for AIDS and HIV infection.

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A combination of Retrovir (zidovudine or AZT) and Epivir (lamivudine or 3TC), Combivir decreases the number of pills people with HIV have to take daily.

As the first combination agent, the medication significantly simplies HIV therapy.  Combivir becomes the gold standard nucleoside “backbone” until the mid-2000s, when the introduction of newer fixed-dose combinations with improved tolerability and toxicity arrive.


November 21, 1997
Congress Pushes FDA to Accelerate Drug Approval Process

Congress enacts the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997, codifying an accelerated drug-approval process and allowing dissemination of information about off-label uses of drugs.

April 20, 1998
Federal Funding Continues to be Withheld from Needle-Exchange Programs

Donna Shalala, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, determines that needle-exchange programs are effective and do not encourage the use of illegal drugs, but the Clinton Administration refuses to lift the ban on use of Federal funds for these programs.

June 25, 1998
SCOTUS Rules ADA Covers People Living with HIV

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Americans with Disabilities Act covers those in earlier stages of HIV disease, not just those who have developed AIDS.

October 12, 1998
Congress Approves Funding for Hemophilia Relief

Congress enacts the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act, honoring the Florida teenager infected with HIV through contaminated blood products.

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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.

President Clinton Declares Crisis in Minority Communities

President Clinton declares AIDS to be a “severe and ongoing health crisis” in black and hispanic communities in the U.S. and announces a special package of initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities.

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The initiative invests an unprecedented $156 million to improve the nation’s effectiveness in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in minority communities.

The funding is spread across three broad categories: technical assistance and infrastructure support; increasing access to prevention and care; and building stronger linkages to address the needs of specific populations.

November 12, 1998
Congress Allocates $156 Million for Minority AIDS Initiative

With the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congress funds the Minority AIDS Initiative.

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An unprecedented $156 million is dedicated to improving the nation’s effectiveness in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in minority communities.

Congress Examines HIV/AIDS Impact on Hispanic Community

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, convenes hearings on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Latino community.

July 19, 1999
U.S. Funds Program to Address Global Epidemic

President Clinton announces the formation of the “Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic” Initiative, which will provide funding to address the global HIV epidemic.

AIDS Becomes Number One Killer in Africa

The World Health Organization announces that HIV/AIDS has become the fourth biggest killer worldwide and the number one killer in Africa.

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WHO estimates that 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide, and that 14 million have died of AIDS.

January 10, 2000
UN Addresses AIDS as Global Peace & Security Threat

he 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.

January 27, 2000
President Clinton Announces Global Vaccine Initiative

In his State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton announces the launch of the Millennium Vaccine Initiative to create incentives for developing and distributing vaccines against HIV, TB, and malaria.

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In his address, President Clinton calls for concerted international action to combat infectious diseases in developing countries.  The President asks for foundations, pharmaceutical companies, international agencies, and other governments to join in this task.


April 30, 2000
President Clinton Declares HIV/AIDS a National Security Threat

President Clinton declares that HIV/AIDS is a threat to U.S. national security.

May 10, 2000
U.S. Begins Importing HIV Treatments to Developing Countries

President Clinton issues an Executive Order to assist developing countries in importing and producing generic HIV treatments.

Global Pressure Results in Reduced Drug Cost for Developing Countries

UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, 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.

July 23, 2000
G8 Summit Leaders Call for Increase in Worldwide Resources for HIV/AIDS

The leaders of the “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit release a statement acknowledging the need for additional HIV/AIDS resources.

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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.

August 19, 2000
U.S. Congress Responds to Need for Global Assistance

Congress enacts the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000, which provides assistance to countries with large populations of people living with HIV/AIDS.

UN Adopts Millennium Development Goals to Reverse Spread of HIV

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.

September 7, 2000
Congress Reauthorizes Ryan White CARE Act

Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act for the second time.

May 18, 2001
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day Observed

May 18 is the first annual observance of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

June 25, 2001
UN General Assembly Calls for Global Fund

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.

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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.

U.S. Reaffirms HIV/AIDS Is National Security Threat

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reaffirms the U.S. statement that HIV/AIDS is a national security threat.

Major Pharma Companies Further Reduce Cost of Therapies

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.

HRSA Prioritizes Untreated HIV+ Individuals

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.

CDC Strategic Plan Addresses Major Curtailment in HIV Transmission

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.

November 4, 2001
Doha Declaration Announced; Promotes Generics

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.

January 22, 2002
Global Fund Launched to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership between governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and affected communities, is established. In April of 2002, 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.

April 25, 2002
Global Fund Issues 2-year Grants

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.

June 25, 2002
Access to Drugs Improved for Poor Countries

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.

India, China, Russia, Nigeria & Ethiopia Represent Next Wave of Epidemic

The U.S. National Intelligence Council releases Next Wave of the Epidemic, a report focusing on HIV in India, China, Russia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

January 28, 2003
President Bush Announces PEPFAR with $15 Billion in Funding

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.

April 18, 2003
CDC Announces New Prevention Initiative

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.

December 1, 2003
WHO Announces ‘3 by 5’ Initiative

The World Health Organization (WHO) announces the “3 by 5” initiative , to bring treatment to 3 million people by 2005.

Congress Authorizes $350 Million for PEPFAR

In January, the U.S. Congress authorizes the first $350 million for the United States President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Global Coalition on Women and AIDS is Formed

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.

May 27, 2004
FDA Expands Availability of Therapies in Africa and Developing Countries

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.

June 10, 2004
G8 Promotes Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

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.

World Economic Forum Prioritizes HIV/AIDS

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.

January 26, 2005
FDA Approves Generic Regimen for PEPFAR

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).

June 2, 2005
UN General Assembly Reviews Progress on 2001 Targets

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).

June 6, 2005
HIV/AIDS in Africa Becomes Focus of G8 Summit

The “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit focuses on development in Africa, including HIV/AIDS. 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.

March 10, 2006
Nat’l Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Launched

March 10 is the first annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.

March 20, 2006
1st National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 20 is the first annual observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.

May 3, 2006
NIH Sponsors AIDS Conference for Native Americans

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.

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The conference involves nearly 1,000 participants from the American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, and U.S. Territorial Pacific Islander communities.

May 31, 2006
UN Convenes on Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS

The United Nations convenes a follow-up meeting and issues a progress report on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS .

December 19, 2006
Congress Reauthorizes Ryan White Act for 3rd Time

On December 19, the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act for the third time.

May 30, 2007
WHO and UNAIDS Issue Testing Guidelines

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.

International HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting Held in Rwanda

In June, the Rwandan Government hosts the International HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting.

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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) .

CDC Launches ‘Prevention IS Care’ Campaign

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.

Uganda Hosts HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting

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)

July 31, 2008
U.S. Reauthorizes PEPFAR; Appropriates $48 Billion

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.

September 18, 2008
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day Observed

September 18 is the first observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day .

September 27, 2008
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Observed

National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is first recognized on September 27.

President Obama Calls for National HIV/AIDS Strategy

Newly elected President Barack Obama calls for the development of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.

April 7, 2009
White House & CDC Launch Widespread Communications Plan

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.

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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.

May 5, 2009
President Obama Launches $63B Global Health Initiative

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, 2009
Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Observed

June 8 marks the first annual recognition of Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

August 17, 2009
Veterans Dept Moves to Increase HIV Testing

The Department of Veterans Affairs moves to increase the number of veterans receiving HIV tests by dropping the requirement for written consent.

Ban on Federal Funds for Needle Exchanges Eased

In December, President Obama signs the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, modifying the ban on the use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs.

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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.

January 4, 2010
U.S. Lifts HIV Travel & Immigration Ban

President Obama lifts the HIV travel and immigration ban by removing the remaining 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 U.S for the first time in more than 20 years.

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The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, hails the announcement that the ban, first established in 1987, has been lifted.  On this day, regulations officially remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the U.S.

“The United States of America has moved one step closer to helping combat the stigma and ignorance that still too often guides public policy debates around HIV/AIDS,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Today, a sad chapter in our nation’s response to people with HIV and AIDS has finally come to a close and we are a better nation for it.”

Scientific researchers also applaud the end of the travel ban.

“The removal of the immigration and travel ban on HIV-infected persons was a monumental step in eliminating the exceptionalism of HIV and reducing stigma and social barriers for those living with HIV,” Susanna E. Winston, M.D. and Curt G. Beckwith, M. would write in their 2011 report in AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

The researchers further call for increased alliances between the U.S. and its immigrant communities as well as additional options for testing.

March 23, 2010
President Obama Signs ACA, Providing Protections to Those Living With HIV

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.

July 13, 2010
1st Comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS Strategy Released

The Obama Administration releases the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.

July 18, 2010
18th International AIDS Conference Held

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.

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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.

AIDS United Formed

AIDS Action merges with the National AIDS Fund to form AIDS United

September 20, 2010
UN Summit on Accelerating 2015 Millennium Development Goals

On September 20-22, the United Nations (UN) convenes a summit to accelerate progress toward the 2015 Millennium Development Goals

June 8, 2011
Over 3,000 Participate in UN’s High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Over 3,000 people participate in the United Nation’s (UN) High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York from June 8–10.

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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, 2011
White House National Strategy Reflects on Year 1 of Program

On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy, President Obama announces plans to increase efforts to reduce HIV transmission and boost public awareness.

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In a video presentation, President Obama, doctors, researchers, policy makers, community leaders and advocates speak about the one-year-old comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy on the 30th anniversary of the disease.

Federal Agencies Support U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy

Lead Federal agencies release implementation plans in support of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

August 7, 2011
HHS Launches 12 Cities Project

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launches the 12 Cities Project, 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.

Regional Dialogues Begin on National HIV/AIDS Strategy

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.

September 30, 2011
‘Road to AIDS 2012’ Town Hall Held in San Francisco

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.

November 8, 2011
Secretary Clinton Speaks on Creating AIDS-Free Generation

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.

December 1, 2011
President Obama Announces Plan to Increase Global Fund Commitments

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.

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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.

March 27, 2012
HHS Recommends Treatment For All HIV-Positive People

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 22, 2012
International AIDS Conference Returns to the U.S.

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.

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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.

January 1, 2013
PEPFAR Commemorates 10th Anniversary

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) celebrates its 10th anniversary.

June 18, 2013
More Than 1 Million Infants Born HIV-Free Due to PEPFAR

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 13, 2013
Obama Executive Order Promotes HIV Care Continuum

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.

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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.

November 12, 2013
HOPE Act Signed, Allowing Organ Transplants Among HIV-Positive Individuals

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.

January 1, 2014
ACA Grants Protections Against Pre-Existing Conditions

January 1: Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act 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.

March 1, 2014
UN Commission Reports Challenges of Implementing MDGs

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women releases a report on the challenges and achievements of implementing the MDGs for women and girls.

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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 4, 2014
Dr. Debeorah Birx Becomes U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

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.

March 24, 2014
1st African American & HIV-Positive Person Heads ONAP

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.

July 20, 2014
AIDS 2014 Draws 14,000 Delegates

Nearly 14,000 delegates attend the 20th International AIDS Conference, travelling to Melbourne, Australia from over 200 nations.

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One key message of the conference is that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable for all settings, 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.

October 9, 2014
CDC Reports Care and Treatment of Latinos Lag

CDC releases a new report that finds gaps in care and treatment among Latinos diagnosed with HIV.

December 23, 2014
FDA Relaxes Ban on Blood Donations From MSM

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.

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In 1983, the agency imposed a lifetime ban on donating blood for all men who have ever had sex with another man.

February 5, 2015
HHS Project Address HIV Disparities Among MSM of Color

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, 2015
CDC Report Identifies Groups with Disproportionate Levels of HIV

HIV diagnosis rates in the U.S. remain stable between 2009-2013, but men who have sex with men (MSM), young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals living in the South continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV, according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2015 DC’s annual HIV Surveillance Report.

May 8, 2015
HHS Further Loosens Restrictions on Organ Transplants

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.

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The new regulations will provide a framework for clinical studies on transplanting organs from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients.

July 14, 2015
UNAIDS Announce Millennium Development Goal Achieved Early

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 18, 2015
U.S. Agencies Collaborate on Housing Assistance Programs

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.

July 30, 2015
White House Announces National HIV/AIDS Strategy Update

The White House launches the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020.

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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 26, 2015
New PEPFAR Targets Released at UN Summit

At a United Nations summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, the United States announces new PEPFAR prevention and treatment targets for 2016–2017.

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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, 2015
WHO Announces New Treatment Recommendations

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.

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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, 2015
New Campaign Targets Women at Risk of Violence and HIV

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 15, 2015
amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research at UCSF Established

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, 2015
White House Releases Federal Action Plan on HIV/AIDS

The White House releases a Federal Action Plan 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 19, 2015
Congress Lifts Restrictions on Needle Exchange Programs

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, 2015
FDA Lifts Ban on Blood Donations From MSM

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.

March 29, 2016
HHS Releases Guidelines for Funding to Support SSPs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases new guidance 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).

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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.

June 8, 2016
LGBT Groups Blocked from Participation in UN Meeting

The UN 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.

October 7, 2017
California Govornor Signs Bill Reducing Penalties for Non-Disclosure of HIV Status

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.

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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.

December 4, 2017
Gilead Announces Initiative to Address Epidemic in U.S. South

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 28, 2018
PEPFAR Turns 15, Celebrates Worldwide Impact

PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) celebrates its 15th anniversary.

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When PEPFAR began in 2003, only 50,000 people in Africa were on lifesaving HIV treatment.  At the time, it was the largest commitment ever by any nation to address a single disease.

PEPFAR has grown to supports over 14 million people on treatment globally.

“Over the past 15 years, PEPFAR has transformed the impossible into the possible by rapidly accelerating access to lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services,” says Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. “We have not only saved more than 14 million mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons, but also accelerated global progress toward ending AIDS as a public health threat.”

In this video, one of PEPFAR’s first treatment recipients, John Robert Engole from Uganda tells his remarkable story of survival thanks to PEPFAR’s lifesaving programs.

G8 Nations Announce New Commitments to Global Fund

The “Group of Eight” (G8) Summit includes a special focus on HIV/AIDS and announcements of new commitments 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.

June 28, 2018
Online HIV-Prevention Program Targets MSM Aged 18-29

In a Northwestern University study, a novel online HIV-prevention program is shown to reduce sexually transmitted infections by 40%.

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Targeting young men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 18-29, the program, “Keep It Up,” offers video clips, soap operas, and interactive games.  It’s the first online HIV-prevention program to record results of a biological outcome.

A month later, the National Institutes of Health would award Northwestern’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing with an $8.8 million grant to put its research into practice.

Keep It Up! continues to build its program.  So far, it has been delivered to over 1,500 young men in several major cities.  The program is preparing to bring KIU! to 44 counties across the U.S., and plans to reach at least 4,000 young men in the next few years.


September 7, 2018
HHS Collects Community Input for Updating HIV/AIDS Policy

Community leaders, frontline workers, individuals living with and at risk for infection, and other members of the community from across the nation provide input to leaders from the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy.

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Operating under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy hosted its first “listening session” at the 2018 U.S. Conference on AIDS in Orlando, Florida.

The call for input was part of the HHS plan to receive ideas on priorities and issues to be addressed as it begins work to update the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, both of which are set to expire in 2020.

Joined by colleagues from the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, the listening session was convened at a special event during the U.S. Conference on AIDS.  Among the many comments offered during the session, the HHS staff heard about:

  • The importance of addressing housing, incarceration, and other social determinants of health;
  • The need to be strategic in the scale-up PrEP;
  • Concerns that issues of aging and HIV be addressed;
  • Concerns that adequate funding be provided to enact strategies contained in updated plans;
  • The importance of focusing on HIV and hepatitis disparities if we are to end the epidemics;
  • Expectations that funding and support for programs currently in place will be continued, particularly the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program; and
  • A desire for new forms of accountability for progress.
November 20, 2018
Independent Medical Group Recommends PrEP for High-Risk Individuals

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, recommends clinicians to offer PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis) to individuals at high risk for HIV infection.

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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.

In June 2019, the Task Force would upgrade its draft recommendatin to a “Final Recommendation Statement” and present its supporting evidence in a separate report issued to governmental agencies.

February 5, 2019
President Trump Announces Goal to End HIV Epidemic in 10 Years

In his State of the Union address, President Donald J. Trump announces his administration’s goal to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by 2030.

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The proposed Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America will leverage new biomedical prevention and treatment options and data to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% in five years and by 90% by 2030, said Brett P. Giroir, M.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Health.

“In short, we will diagnose all people as early as possible, treat rapidly and effectively, protect those at highest risk, respond to any outbreaks with an overwhelming force, and we’re going to create a public health workforce throughout this country with a specific goal of reducing new diagnoses by 75% within 5 years and 90% within 10,” Giroir said.

Experts on the subject expressed skepticism of the strategy based on the administration’s attitude toward HIV/AIDS thus far.

“This pledge is nothing more than an empty gesture following a series of actions that have ignored the needs of the communities most affected by HIV,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at civil rights group Lambda Legal.

Claiming the Trump administration had left HIV risk groups more exposed, activists pointed to actions including cutting funding for health research, working to roll back healthcare for vulnerable groups and offering support for medical staff who to refuse to treat LGBT+ patients on religious grounds.

“President Trump once again presented a broad strokes narrative that people with HIV and AIDS, including LGBTQ Americans, simply can’t trust,” tweeted Sarah Kate Ellis, chief executive of U.S. LGBT+ advocacy organisation GLAAD.

“The only way our world could end HIV transmissions and prioritize proper treatment and prevention is through an exhaustive, across-the-board investment, but President Trump’s words do not back up his administration’s actions.”

March 18, 2019
As Gaps in Testing & Treatment Slow Progress, CDC Corrects Course

Of the new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2016, the vast majority — about 80% — were transmitted from the nearly 40% of people with HIV who either did not know they had HIV, or who received a diagnosis but were not receiving HIV care.

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Published on the first day of CDC’s 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference, the Vital Signs report provides the latest data on the impact of undiagnosed and untreated HIV in the U.S.

The report underscores the critical need to expand HIV testing and treatment.  A critical part of the proposed “Ending the HIV Epidemic – A Plan for America,” the proposed initiative would strive to end the HIV epidemic in 10 years by focusing first on the geographic areas with the greatest HIV burden, before expanding to reach all areas of the nation affected by HIV.

May 9, 2019
Truvada Maker Donates Medication for 11-Year Program

Gilead Sciences, maker the only drug approved to prevent HIV infection, will donate enough Truvada to supply 200,000 patients annually for up to 11 years, U.S. health officials announce.

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Truvada is taken once daily to prevent infection with HIV, a strategy called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). An estimated one million Americans are at risk for infection and should be taking the medication, but only about 270,000 are doing so.

HIV activists and experts had mixed reactions to the news.  Some pointed out that the corporate donation with a value estimated in the billions of dollars would fill only 20% of the need in the U.S.

Critics say that the high cost of Truvada ($2,000 a month) has been called a major barrier to stemming the spread of HIV among low-income Americans, and it’s part of the reason the AIDS epidemic has persisted for so long.

“If we don’t make it possible for those that need it to have access to it, we will continue to have new infections of a completely preventable virus,” said Jaasiel Chapman, clinical research community educator at the University of Cincinnati.

While most insurers cover treatment with the pill, patients can get stuck with out-of-pocket costs that make the medicine unaffordable.

“If there is any example of the dysfunction in the American pharmaceutical system, it is this case,” says James Krellenstein, a member of ACT UP New York. “We have the most effective tool for ending the HIV epidemic, and one reason we’re unable to scale up is because it costs so [much] unnecessarily.”

Upon announcing the Gilead Sciences donation, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II said,“Securing this commitment is a major step in the Trump Administration’s efforts to use the prevention and treatment tools we have to end the HIV epidemic in America by 2030.”

June 11, 2019
Medical Group Issues ‘Grade A’ Recommendation for PrEP & HIV Testing

An independent, non-governmental medical organization publishes its recommendation for extensive HIV screening and HIV prevention, including a “Grade A” designation for PrEP treatment.

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In its final recommendation statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force urges clinicians to screen for HIV in everyone aged 15 to 65 years and all pregnant people.  In addition, younger adolescents and older adults at increased risk for HIV should also be screened.

The Task Force additionally recommends that clinicians offer PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to people at high risk of HIV.

In its report, the Task Force notes that while HIV infection rates have been going down, rates among some groups are on the rise, most notably among young adults.

Created in 1984, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

The Task Force makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without obvious related signs or symptoms.  It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. The Task Force does not consider the costs of providing a service in this assessment.

October 21, 2019
Presidential Advisory Council Focuses on Latinx Community

The 65th meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) is held in Miami, Florida, with a focus on HIV in the Latinx community and the response to HIV in Florida and Puerto Rico.

December 3, 2019
Progress Stalls as New Infection Rate Stabilizes

The dramatic decline in annual HIV infections has stopped and new infections have stabilized in recent years, according to a CDC report.

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The report provides the results of a CDC analysis of HIV trends in America from 2010 to 2016 and shows that after about five years of substantial declines, the number of HIV infections began to level off in 2013 at about 39,000 infections per year.

The data analysis suggests that the number of new HIV infections remained stable from 2013 (38,500) to 2017 (37,500).  However, in 2017, an estimated 85.8% of infections were diagnosed.

The CDC researchers conclude that accelerated efforts to diagnose, treat, and prevent HIV infection are needed in order to achieve the U.S. goal of at least 90% reduction in the number of new HIV infections by 2030.

December 3, 2019
‘Ready-Set-PrEP’ Expands Access to Uninsured Patients

The Ready, Set, PrEP program is launched in the U.S. to provide free HIV-prevention medications to thousands of people who don’t have adequate health insurance coverage for prescription drugs.

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Funded by the Department of Health and Human Service, Ready, Set, PrEP expands access to PrEP medications to those unable to afford it.

HHS estimates the number of people who could benefit from PrEP medications at more than 1 million, but less than one-third of them are taking it as prescribed.   This program is still active; to apply, click here.

December 11, 2019
Report Shows Success of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

Clients receiving medical care through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program were virally suppressed at a record level – 87% – in 2018, according to a new report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

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Serving more than half a million people each year. the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) was created in 1990 and currently is funded annually at more than $2 billion.

HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is divided into five parts:

  • Part A funds medical and support services to counties/cities that are the most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic:
  • Part B administers funds for states to improve the quality, availability, and organization of HIV health care and support services, and includes grants for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program:
  • Part C administers funds for community-based organizations to provide comprehensive primary health care and support services in an outpatient setting for people with HIV through Early Intervention Services program grants;
  • Part D administers funds for community-based organizations to provide outpatient, ambulatory, family-centered primary and specialty medical care for women, infants, children and youth with HIV; and
  • Part F funds support clinician training, dental services, and dental provider training, as well as the development of innovative models of care to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission.

In a comprehensive review of federal data, the HRSA report includes information reported for all clients served by RWHAP Parts A–D during from 2014 through 2018.  The report provides a hopeful look at the challenges of reaching populations that are sometimes living at or below 100% of the federal poverty line (32% of clients), lacking in healthcare coverage (20%) and housing that is temporary or unstable (13%).

April 28, 2020
Funding Supports Programs to Address Stigma, Provide Treatment for Black Women

Through its HIV/AIDS Bureau, the U.S. expands funding opportunities for service organizations working on initiatives related to HIV stigma reduction, implementing rapid ART initiation, and improving care and treatment for black women with HIV.

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The HIV/AIDS Bureau, which operates under the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, announces five Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) for HIV programs. All five NOFOs are supported by the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund and advance the goals of the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative.

August 17, 2020
U.S. Launches HIV Data Dashboard, Charts Local Progress

The HIV Data Dashboard provides public, comprehensive information on national and jurisdictional data, allowing national, state, and local stakeholders to track progress towards meeting goals to reduce HIV transmission.

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Created by the Health and Human Services Department, AHEAD: America’s HIV Epidemic Analysis Dashboard supports the tracking of goals related to the six indicators for the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative:

  • Reduction of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030;
  • Demonstration of the historical movement towards achieving the overall goals of the EHE initiative;
  • Diagnosis (number of people with HIV diagnosed in a given year confirmed by laboratory or clinical evidence);
  • Linkage to HIV medical care (percentage of people diagnosed with HIV in a given year who have received medical care for their HIV infection within one month of diagnosis.);
  • Viral suppression (percentage of people living with diagnosed HIV infection who have an amount of HIV that is less than 200 copies per milliliter of blood, in a given year); and
  • PrEP coverage (estimated percentage of individuals prescribed PrEP among those who need it).

You can see how Los Angeles County (and other jurisdictions) are doing toward meetings its goals for 2025 and 2030 by clicking here.

January 1, 2021
ACA Takes Effect; Protections Enacted Against Pre-Existing Conditions

Major consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) go into effect, including key advances for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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Healthcare insurance companies are now barred from discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions, and they can no longer impose annual limits on coverage.

January 15, 2021
U.S. Sets 10-Year Goal to End Epidemic

The U.S. launches an initiative, The HIV National Strategic Plan for the United States: A Roadmap to End the Epidemic 2021-2025 (“HIV Plan”), that charts a 10-year program for reducing new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.

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The Health and Human Services Department releases its HIV Plan, which sets four goals, along with objectives and strategies for use by all partners and stakeholders:

  • Prevent new HIV infections;
  • Improve HIV-related health outcomes of people with HIV;
  • Reduce HIV-related disparities and health inequities; and
  • Achieve integrated, coordinated efforts that address the HIV epidemic among all partners and stakeholders.

According to HHS, its HIV Plan is designed to complement the Center for Disease Control’s Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative, with the EHE initiative serving as a leading component of the work by HHS to implement the HIV Plan.

While the EHE initiative is being launched in jurisdictions hardest hit by the epidemic, the HIV
Plan is designed to cover all of the U.S. and has a broader focus across federal departments and agencies beyond HHS and all sectors of society.

March 8, 2021
PACHA Tackles the Intersection of COVID-19 and HIV

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS holds its 70th meeting to discuss, among other things, the intersection of COVID-19 and HIV.

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Other topics addressed at PACHA’s meeting, include the status of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative and HIV National Strategic Plan, future implementation efforts, and how to better address the needs of women with HIV and of the HIV community.

Formed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 (with each president since renewing the council’s charter) PACHA provides advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health & Human Services regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention and cure of HIV disease and AIDS.

May 12, 2021
CDC Reaffirms Role of STD Clinics in HIV Diagnosis

Underscoring the key role that STD clinics play in HIV diagnosis, prevention, care, and treatment, the Centers for Disease Control re-states its commitment to supporting STD clinics with more than $14 million in funding.

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In a report, the CDC champions the role that STD clinics play in HIV diagnosis, prevention, care, and treatment.  As part of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative, the CDC releases 43 mllion in funding in August 2020 for seven jurisdictions, including:

  • Alabama Department of Public Health (Jefferson County)
  • Arizona Department of Health Services (Maricopa County)
  • Baltimore City Health Department
  • District of Columbia Department of Health
  • San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (St. Louis County)

In August 2021, the CDC would go on to create a five-year funding stream of an additional $11.1 million for 11 more EHE juridictions:

  • California Department of Public Health (Sacramento, San Diego, and Orange County)
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Florida Department of Health (Orange County)
  • Georgia Department of Public Health (Fulton County)
  • Houston Health Department
  • Indiana State Department of Health (Marion County)
  • Louisiana Department of Health (East Baton Rouge Parish)
  • Maryland Department of Health (Montgomery and Prince George’s County)
  • New Jersey Department of Health (Essex County (Newark))
  • Ohio Department of Health (Franklin County)
  • Texas Department of State Health Services (Dallas County)
June 5, 2021
CDC’s Initial Report of AIDS Turns 40

The world marks 40 years since the first five cases of what later became known as AIDS were officially reported in Los Angeles.

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President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken release messages recognizing the 40th anniversary. Other events and activities are held across the country to remember the lives that were cut short by this terrible disease and celebrate the resilience and dignity of the more than 38 million people with HIV worldwide.

On this day, the Foundation for The AIDS Monument held its ceremonial groundbreaking at the future site of STORIES: The AIDS Monument in West Hollywood Park.  Among the community members who attend the event is Dr. Michael Gottlieb, one of the authors of the June 1981 CDC report announcing the first five cases of an illness subsequently defined as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The five men described in the report were between the ages of 29-36 and resided in the Los Angeles area, and by the time the report was published, two had already died.  The relatively brief report gave scant information about this new medical phenomenon, including the following:

  • The patients did not know each other and had no known common contacts or knowledge of sexual partners who had had similar illnesses.
  • Two of the five reported having frequent homosexual contacts with various partners.
  • All five reported using inhalant drugs, and one reported parenteral drug use (i.e., injected or implanted drugs).
July 22, 2021
‘HIV Challenge’ Spotlights Needs of Racial & Ethnic Minority Communities

HHS announces the launch of The HIV Challenge, a national competition to engage communities to reduce HIV-related stigma and increase prevention and treatment among racial and ethnic minority people.

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Through this challenge, HHS seeks innovative and effective approaches to increase the use of PrEP and ART among people who are at increased risk for HIV or are people living with HIV.

Giving both pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) to heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV can almost eliminate the chance of infection in the HIV-negative partner, a study presented at the 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2015) in Seattle shows.


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