Four decades of AIDS


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Forty years ago, this month, the first men began dying from a mysterious disease in California that would later be identified as AIDS.

It would take on millions of lives worldwide.

Here’s a look at the discovery and the fight against the deadly condition.

1981: first alert

In June 1981, U.S. epidemiologists reported five cases of a rare form of pneumonia in gay men in California, some of whom have died. Unusual versions of skin cancer are identified in others.

It is the first alert on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), still unknown and nameless.

Doctors identify ““among injecting drug users at the end of the year and in hemophiliacs and Haitian residents in the United States (mid-1982).

The term AIDS first appeared in 1982.

1983: Identification of HIV

In January 1983, French researchers Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann, who worked with Luc Montagnier, identified the virus that “could” be responsible for AIDS. It’s called LAV.

The following year, U.S. specialist Robert Gallo is said to have found the “probable” cause of AIDS, the HTLV-III retrovirus.

The two viruses turn out to be the same and in May 1986 were officially known as the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier won a Nobel Prize in 2008 for their discovery.

1987: antiretroviral treatment

In March 1987, the first antiretroviral treatment known as AZT was authorized in the United States. It is expensive and has many side effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares December 1, 1988 the first World AIDS Day to be publicized. In June of the following year, the number of AIDS cases worldwide was estimated at more than 150,000.

Early 1990s: Fallen Stars

American actor Rock Hudson is the first to die of AIDS in October 1985. Lots of other stars succumb to the disease, including British singer and frontman Queen Freddie Mercury (November 1991) and the legendary Russian dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev (January 1993).

In 1994, AIDS became the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 25 and 44.

1995-96: new approach

A new class of drugs indicates the initiation of combinations of different antiretroviral therapies.

Called tri-therapies, they provide the first effective treatment for HIV, although they are not a cure and remain expensive.

1996 is the first year in which the number of AIDS deaths in the US has decreased.

1999: 50 million infections

A report published by the WHO and the United Nations Joint Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) in November 1999 estimates that the number of people infected with HIV since it first appeared in 50 million, of which 16 millions have died.

Africa is the continent most affected, with 12.2 million cases.

2003: PEPFAR that saves lives

In February 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan to Save AIDS, or PEPFAR, to combat the spread of AIDS to 15 of the hardest hit areas. of Africa and the Caribbean.

With an initial budget of $ 15 billion in its first five years, PEPFAR had committed $ 70 billion in 2018 to the AIDS response.

2009: The “Berlin Patient”

The first known patient to be cured of HIV is announced. The “Berlin patient,” later named American Timothy Brown, underwent two bone marrow transplants that contained a mutation in a gene that prevents HIV from attacking host cells.

He suffered total body irradiation to treat leukemia and barely survived the process.

2012: “shield” of HIV

In July 2012, U.S. regulators approved the first daily pill to help prevent HIV infection. Truvada is a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, taken by people at high risk who are HIV negative to prevent them from becoming infected.

2017: Treatment is extended

For the first time, more than half of the world’s population living with HIV is receiving antiretroviral treatment, according to UNAIDS.

2019: the “London patient”

The second patient with sustained HIV suppression was reported after performing a stem cell transplant with the same mutation as in the case of Berlin.

Periodic tests have confirmed that the patient’s viral load remained undetectable for 19 months and counting.

2021: The vaccine is waiting

The success in the production of a vaccine against COVID in 2020 feeds the hope that a breakthrough in achieving a shot against HIV may finally be unexpected.

Moderna announced in January that it has begun first-phase clinical trials of flu and HIV vaccines using its messenger RNA technique.

There are 37.6 million people living with HIV worldwide, according to UNAIDS in its latest annual figures for 2020. Since the outbreak began, 34.7 million have died from related diseases with AIDS.

© 2021 AFP

Citation: Four Decades of AIDS (2021, June 5), retrieved June 5, 2021 at

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