The First Reports
On June 5, 1981, an article concerning five previously healthy, young gay men in Los Angeles diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, an infection that usually appears only in individuals with substantial immune system damage, appeared in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Soon, more cases like these appeared, at first mainly in gay men, but then also in injection drug users, hemophiliacs, and other recipients of blood and blood products, heterosexual men and women, and babies who acquired the infection from their mothers during birth or breastfeeding. We and our colleagues quickly began to confront the reality of a deadly new disease that would change the world. The disease ultimately would be referred to as AIDS.
30 Years of Research
Thirty years later, we are gratified by the progress that has been made in understanding, treating, and preventing HIV/AIDS. We could not have imagined these advances during the early days of AIDS, when all we could do was provide palliative care to waves of dying patients. Whereas survival was once measured in weeks or months from the time of diagnosis, today, the critical discovery of antiretroviral drugs and their use in combination regimens have resulted in greatly improved life expectancy—decades, rather than months—for many HIV-infected people who have access to these medicines and adhere to treatment.
We take pride in the contributions of NIH-supported scientists who have been central to the investigation of the HIV disease process, the development of new therapies for HIV/AIDS, and the design and validation of methods of HIV prevention.
“Thirty years later, we are gratified by the progress that has been made in understanding, treating, and preventing HIV/AIDS,” write Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Jack Whitescarver.
NIH scientists played a key role in demonstrating that HIV causes AIDS and in developing a diagnostic test for the virus. The ability to test the blood supply for HIV has nearly eliminated the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusion.