Surviving and Thriving 


Timeline (1981-2000)


  • June 5, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC reports a rare form of pneumonia in five gay men, which are later determined to be the first published cases of AIDS.
  • The first AIDS service organization, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), is founded in New York City.
  • The Fenway Community Health Center reports the first AIDS case in New England.
  • John Sullivan, MD, establishes his lab at UMMS to study Epstein Barr Virus (EBV).
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 159 cases of the new disease are recorded.


  • CDC introduces the term Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, as a replacement for Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).
  • The Community-based KS/AIDS Foundation is formed, which later becomes the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 771 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 618 deaths.


  • The primary cause of AIDS is confirmed: French researchers isolate a virus, dubbed LAV, that kills CD4 cells in a patient with AIDS.
  • The Advisory Committee of People With AIDS releases The Denver Principles, officially launching the self-empowerment movement among people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • The AIDS Action Committee is founded – initially as a committee of the Fenway Community Health Center – to respond to the epidemic. AIDS Action remains the largest AIDS service organization in New England.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 2,807 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 2,118 deaths.


  • San Francisco bathhouses are ordered shut, with similar efforts in other major metropolitan areas.
  • A team at the NCI, led by Robert Gallo publishes 4 articles on a retrovirus they called human T-lymphotrophic virus III (HTLV III), which causes AIDS.
  • UMMS team contributes to a paper linking blood transfusion in hemophiliacs with AIDS transmission.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 7,239 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 5,596 deaths.


  • FDA approves the first HIV antibody test, and blood banks begin screening for HIV.
  • First International AIDS Conference is held in Atlanta, with AIDS reported in 51 nations.
  • Ryan White, an Indiana teenager with AIDS, is barred from school, a case of stigma and discrimination that gains international media attention.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health establishes the HIV/AIDS Bureau (now known as the Office of HIV/AIDS).
  • Carol Bova, NP PhD, joins UMMS as a student in the Nurse Practitioner Masters program.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 15,527 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 12,529 deaths.


  • HIV is officially adopted as the name of the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Early results from a clinical trial suggest Retrovir/zidovudine (AZT) is effective for people with AIDS.
  • C. Everett Koop, the U.S. Surgeon General at the time, publishes a report on AIDS, the government’s first major statement on what the nation should do to prevent the spread of HIV.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 28,712 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 24,559 deaths.


  • The first antiretroviral drug, Retrovir (AZT), is approved by the FDA.
  • The AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the first time.
  • ACT UP is founded in New York. A Boston Chapter soon follows. Through a combination of protest, negotiation, and education, ACT UP-Boston is instrumental in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS; speeding up the process for drug approvals; gaining health insurance for HIV-related illnesses; influencing national HIV/AIDS policy; and creating the nation’s first online registry of AIDS clinical trials.
  • Katherine Luzuriaga joins Sullivan’s lab as a fellow in viral immunology.
  • Boehringer-Ingelheim recruits Bob Eckner to develop a drug that could treat HIV/AIDS.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 50,378 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 40,849 deaths.


  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the first World AIDS Day on December 1.
  • The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General mails a booklet, Understanding AIDS, to every household in the United States – nearly 107 million copies.
  • First U.S. needle exchange programs are established in New York City, San Francisco, and Tacoma, Washington.
  • The Massachusetts AZT Reimbursement Plan (now called the HIV Drug Assistance Plan) is first funded.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 82,362 cases of AIDS reported to date, 61,816 deaths.


  • Activists work with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci to endorse a “parallel track,” whereby people living with HIV/AIDS who don’t qualify for clinical trials can access experimental treatments.
  • FDA approves ganciclovir for CMV and aerosolized pentamidine for PCP.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 117,508 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 89,343 deaths.


  • AZT becomes the first drug approved for children.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act is enacted, barring discrimination against people with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Ryan White CARE Act is passed, providing federal funding for AIDS care.
  • Boehringer-Ingelheim publishes a paper on Nevirapine’s ability to inhibit HIV-1 replication.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 160,969 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 120,453 deaths.


  • Basketball legend Magic Johnson reveals he is HIV positive.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug – Videx (ddI) – in 1991, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to two.
  • The International AIDS Conference is moved from Boston to Amsterdam in protest over the U.S. ban on HIV-positive immigrants.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 10 million people are infected with HIV worldwide.
  • The first nevirapine clinical trial begins in Worcester, MA.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 206,563 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 156,143 deaths.


  • AIDS becomes the No. 1 cause of death for men between ages 25 to 44 in the U.S..
  • The first clinical trial of combination HIV treatment begins.
  • The FDA issues new rules that allow accelerated approval of new HIV drugs based on “surrogate markers” of their efficacy, such as laboratory tests, rather than long-term clinical outcomes such as the relief of symptoms or prevention of disability and death.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug – Hivid (ddC) – in 1992, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to three.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 254,147 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 194,476 deaths.


  • President Bill Clinton creates the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.
  • CDC expands its definition of AIDS to include HIV-positive people with a CD4 cell count under 200; cervical cancer is also included as an AIDS-defining cancer. This leads to a 111% increase in the number of U.S. AIDS cases. Many of these new cases are among women.
  • Governor William Weld signs legislation allowing 10 pilot needle exchange programs to be established in Massachusetts.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 360,909 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 234,225 deaths.


  • U.S. Public Health Service recommends AZT during pregnancy, after a study shows a 70% reduction in HIV transmission rate.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug – Zerit (d4T) – in 1994, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to four.
  • The first needle exchange in Massachusetts opens in Boston; others follow later in Cambridge, Northampton, and Provincetown.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 441,528 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 270,870 deaths.


  • The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) is created.
  • AIDS becomes the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in U.S. between ages 25 to 44.
  • Between 1991 and 1995, the number of American women diagnosed with AIDS increased by more than 63%.
  • FDA approves two new HIV drugs – Epivir (3TC) and Invirase (saquinavir) – bringing the total approved HIV drugs to six. Invirase, the first available protease inhibitor, was approved in record time.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 513,486 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 319,849 deaths. Deaths during 1995 alone total more than 49,000 – an all-time high for the U.S. epidemic.


  • At the 11th International AIDS Conference, many studies highlight the lifesaving potential of combination therapy.
  • The number of new AIDS cases declines for the first time in the history of the U.S. epidemic.
  • For the first time in the U.S., a larger proportion of AIDS cases occur among African Americans than among Whites.
  • FDA approves three new HIV drugs, including nevirapine. Nevirapine is the first approved non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (non-nuke) drug.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 581,429 cases of AIDS reported to date, 362,004 deaths.


  • Number of AIDS deaths continues to fall, but reports of HIV combination treatment effects and adherence problems are on the rise.
  • FDA approves two new HIV drugs, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to 11. In addition, FDA approves the first two-HIV-drug pill – Combivir (AZT + 3TC).
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 641,086 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 390,692 deaths.


  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues first set of federal HIV treatment guidelines.
  • At the 12th International AIDS Conference, attention focuses on the need for treatment access in developing nations.
  • FDA approves two new HIV drugs – Sustiva (efaviranz) and Ziagen (abacavir) – in 1998, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to 13, plus one combination pill.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 688,200 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 410,800 deaths.


  • Scientists map out the likely source of HIV: A form of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) from the common chimpanzee Pan troglodytes, which likely entered human populations earlier in the 20th century, probably as a result of the bush meat trade.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug, bringing the total approved HIV drugs to 14, plus one combination pill.
  • In over 27 countries, the HIV infection rate has doubled since 1996. More than 95% of all HIV-infected people live in the developing world, which experienced 95% of AIDS deaths to date.
  • Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Insurance Initiative (CHII) is implemented to help people living with HIV access and pay for comprehensive health insurance.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 733,374 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 429,825 deaths.


  • In October, the U.S. Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act for the second time.
  • AIDS is the No. 1 cause of death in Africa.
  • FDA approves two new combination HIV pills – Kaletra (lopinavir boosted with ritonavir) and Trizivir (AZT + 3TC + abacavir) – in 2000. This brings the total to 14 single-drug HIV pills and three combination pills.
  • Boehringer-Ingleheim agrees to make nevirapine available free of charge to any country in the developing world to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.
  • U.S. Year-End Statistics: 774,467 cases of AIDS reported to date, with 448,060 deaths.




UMMS extends its thanks to the AIDS Action Committee for their graciousness. Much of this timeline has been borrowed from theirs.