While we've come an extremely long way, we still have a ways to go.
Today, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day.
The evolution of both AIDS awareness, and the stigma attached to it, have come a long way. Once dubbed the "gay cancer," as many thought it to be only confined to the gay community, HIV and AIDS can infect anyone.
AIDS does not care about your sexuality, gender or ethnicity; without proper protection during sex, we are all at risk.
Since the first case of what would eventually be known as AIDS was reported in the U.S. in 1981, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1.7 million have been infected with HIV in the years that followed. The CDC also estimates that over a million people are currently living with HIV in the States, and one in five are unaware of their HIV status. If that doesn't convince you to reach for a condom next time you have sex, then nothing will.
In honor of this year's National HIV Testing Day, let's take a look at the evolution of the disease and the milestones that came with the fight along the way.
1959-1976: You may not realize it, but HIV-1 was detected as far back as 1959 in a Congolese man (his blood had been preserved for future testing), then again in a Congolese woman in 1960. In 1976, a Norwegian sailor, alias Arvid Noe, his wife, and daughter died of AIDS; a fact that was confirmed after tissue samples of the family had been tested in 1988. Noe had been exhibiting symptoms since 1969.
1977: Grethe Rask, a Danish surgeon who worked in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), died of AIDS-related pneumonia, making she and the Noe family the only non-Africans to have died from the disease up until that point.
1981-1982: June 5, 1981 is considered, by the CDC, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. It was also at this time that the name of the disease shifted from GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) after extensive research discovered that "nearly half of the people identified with the syndrome were not homosexual men." This was a major step after "patient zero," Canadian flight attendant and gay man, Gaëtan Dugas, had been so closely associated with the mass spread of the disease due to his highly sexual activity and his either lack of knowledge of his status, or lack of care — both are still up for debate.
1982: On December 10th, the first known case of AIDS being contracted via a blood transfusion was discovered when an infant in California became sick with the disease.
1983: The CDC established the National AIDS Hotline where people could anonymously ask questions about the disease. This same year, "high risk" groups, such as gays and intravenous drug users, are told they are no longer allowed to donate blood.
1984: Ryan White, a hemophiliac, contracted the AIDS virus during an operation. Since he was just a kid and still in school, he was immediately expelled because of his illness. However, after much fighting, White was eventually admitted back into school. His bravery made him a national hero, and before long he was buddies with Michael Jackson and Elton John, among many other celebrities who supported him.
1985: Screening of all blood donations was set in place, and Rock Hudson, the first celebrity to publicly announce that he had AIDS, dies. On November 11th of that year, the first movie tackling the AIDS topic, An Early Frost, premieres on NBC starring Aidan Quinn and Gena Rowlands.
1986: President Reagan, although he had yet to publicly address the AIDS epidemic, instructed Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to compile a report on the epidemic. It was also determined by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases that one million Americans had already been infected by the disease, with a rapid spreading of it imminent. Keep Reading ...
More juicy stories from YourTango: