The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) describing cases of a rare lung infection, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles. Within days, doctors from across the U.S. flood CDC with reports of similar cases.

The emergency room was so full, they were using gurneys for patients. Phill Wilson - Founder, President, CEO of Black AIDS Institute


The first American AIDS clinic is established in San Francisco. Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first community-based AIDS service provider in the U.S., is founded in New York City.

CDC uses the term “AIDS” (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) for the first time and releases the first case definition of AIDS: “a disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease.”


From the very beginning, I did think that this was something awful. Diane Abbitt - Founding Co-Chair of MECLA, APLA, HRCF

People Living with AIDS (PLWAs) take over the plenary stage at the Second National AIDS Forum in Denver and issue a statement on the right of PLWAs to be at the table when policy is made, to be treated with dignity, and to be called “people with AIDS” not “AIDS victims.” The statement becomes known as “The Denver Principles” and serves as the charter for the founding of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA).

San Francisco General Hospital opens the first dedicated AIDS ward in the U.S. It is fully occupied within days.

After a New York doctor is threatened with eviction from his building for treating AIDS patients, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and Lambda Legal file the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit.


Margaret Heckler, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announces that Dr. Robert Gallo and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute have found the cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HTLV-III. She also announces the development of a diagnostic blood test to identify HTLV-III and expresses hope that a vaccine against AIDS will be produced within two years.

San Francisco officials order bathhouses closed due to high-risk sexual activity occurring in these venues. New York and Los Angeles follow suit within the year.


Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, is refused entry to his middle school. He goes on to speak publicly against AIDS stigma and discrimination.

This was a time when people's hearts really came together. Dr. Mark Katz - Physician, Kaiser Permanente of West Los Angeles

Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS-related illness. Hudson leaves $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS research (amfAR). Elizabeth Taylor serves as the founding National Chairman.

An Early Frost is broadcast on NBC. It is the first major film to deal with the topic of AIDS. The made-for television movie was written and produced by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.

AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.


If you're all so desperate that you have to call the actress who played Nellie Oleson for your medical advice, clearly there is a problem. Alison Arngrim - Actress & HIV Activist

The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses declares that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT).

Playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer founds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in New York City.

The U.S. Public Health Service adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration exclusion list and mandates testing for all visa applicants.

The U.S. Congress adopts the Helms Amendment, which bans the use of Federal funds for AIDS education materials that “promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities".

Travel ban on people who tested positive for HIV is imposed.

The FDA declares condoms can help prevent HIV.

The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is formed.

If we can do that, we can do anything. John Duran - Mayor, City of West Hollywood

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The display features 1,920 4x8 panels and draws half a million visitors.


The first comprehensive needle-exchange program (NEP) in North America is established in Tacoma, WA. San Francisco then establishes what becomes the largest NEP in the nation.

The U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, launches the U.S.’s first coordinated HIV/AIDS education campaign by mailing 107 million copies of a booklet, Understanding AIDS, to all American households.

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) protests at FDA headquarters about the drug-approval process. Eight days later, FDA announces new regulations to speed up drug approvals.

I was one of the only two rabbis in town that would bury people with AIDS and HIV. Rabbi Denise Eger - Founding Member, Congregation Kol Ami



ACT UP protests at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demanding more HIV treatments and the expansion of clinical trials to include more women and people of color.

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

Congress passes the Ryan White CARE Act, the largest medical and support services for those with HIV/AIDS.

We were the experiment that most people wanted to see fail. Paul Arevalo - City Manager, City of West Hollywood


AIDS becomes the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44.


The film “Philadelphia” starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer with AIDS, opens in theaters. Based on a true story, it is the first major Hollywood film on AIDS.

Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s play about AIDS, wins the Tony Award for Best Play and the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44.

People were dying so fast that their attorneys couldn't finish their wills. Stephen Simon - Executive Director, Department on Disability, City of Los Angeles


The FDA approves the first protease inhibitor. This ushers in a new era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

I had been terrified of getting HIV since I was a kid. Tony Valenzuela - Executive Director, Lambda Literary & HIV Activist


The number of new AIDS cases diagnosed in the U.S. declines for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic. AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25-44, although it remains the leading cause of death for African Americans in this age group.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety for the last time. It covers the entire National Mall in Washington, DC.


UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS) estimates that 30 million adults and children worldwide have HIV and that each day 16,000 people are newly infected with the virus.


CDC reports that African Americans account for 49% of U.S. AIDS-related deaths. AIDS-related mortality for African Americans is almost 10 times that of white Americans and three times that of Hispanic Americans.


Most of the programming for trans people have come because we were dying of HIV. Maria Roman - West Hollywood Advisory Board Member & Translatin Activist


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.


Queer as Folk was the first hour-long drama on American television to portray the lives of homosexual men and women. It aired on the Showtime network from 2000 to 2005 and was written and produced by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.


Worldwide, 10 million young people ages 15-24 and almost 3 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV. During this year, approximately 3.5 million new infections will occur in sub-Saharan Africa and the epidemic will claim the lives of an estimated 2.4 million Africans.

UNAIDS reports that HIV/AIDS is now by far the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa and the fourth biggest global killer. Average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa falls from 62 years to 47 years as a result of AIDS.


President G. W. Bush unveils the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) providing global assistance in the fight against HIV/AIDS.


CDC reports over 565,000 people have died of AIDS in the U.S. since 1981.


President Barack Obama lifts travel ban on people living with HIV/AIDS.


NIH announces the results of the iPrEx study, showing that a daily dose of HIV drugs reduced the risk of HIV infection among HIV-negative men who have sex with men by 44%, supporting the concept of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in a targeted population.


The U.S. Government officially lifts the HIV travel and immigration ban instituted in 1987.


The FDA approves the use of Truvada® for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Adults who do not have HIV, but who are at risk for infection, can now take this medication to reduce their risk of getting the virus through sexual activity.


The Pew Charitable Trust publishes that Southern states are now the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.


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.


Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS take the lead on forming #GenEndIt, an umbrella organization for multiple AIDS organizations with a mission to engage Millennials around the world in becoming “The Generation to End AIDS.” The organization launched at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.


HIV looks like me. Traci Bivens-Davis - Community Engagement/Linkage Coordinator, Reach LA

Present Day

The struggle against HIV/AIDS continues… and you can play a role by SHARING YOUR STORY