Brief Background of AIDS
For many years, the origin of AIDS has been debated. Today, it is generally accepted that HIV, which causes AIDS, came from SIV, which stands for Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and is a virus that affects monkeys. Both HIV and SIV have similar structure and are lentiviruses, which attack the immune system. Viruses are also known to jump from one species from another. The theory generally accepted is the “hunter theory,” where either a man’s wound came in contact with infected chimpanzee blood, or the virus transferred because people were eating chimpanzee meat. Today, scientists have pinpointed the origin of the disease to chimpanzees in Cameroon, Africa.
AIDS cases were first reported in gay men in the United States in the 1981. However, it believed that the HIV-virus first jumped from monkeys to humans as early as the 1930s. It first entered into Haiti around 1966, when an outbreak of AIDS-related infections, including Kaposi's Sarcoma, hit the country. It was not until AIDS reached America in 1981 that the disease started to receive real attention. In 1981, eight cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare disease that usually occur in older people, were found in young gay men in New York. California and New York also showed a significant increase in the number of individuals infected with Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia. Because the majority of the AIDS cases were found in gay men in 1982, it was originally assumed that the disease was related to homosexual behavior. This assumption was disproved in late July when the disease was found in hemophiliacs in Haiti. By December of 1982, a 20-month old child died after receiving multiple blood transfusions. This event confirmed that AIDS could be spread through blood as well. Also in December, the first cases of mother-to-child transmission of AIDS were discovered. By the end of 1982, AIDS had gained worldwide attention. From there, AIDS spread to China (1985) and therefore was seen in all parts of the world. Fortunately from 1986 onward, countries began undertaking programs to reduce the spread of AIDs; e.g., Uganda created a campaign to promote sexual behavior changes in 1986, and the United States created a campaign to raise awareness in 1988. In 1995, the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) was established, and by 1996, combination antiretroviral treatment proved to be an effective treatment against HIV. Thanks to these measures, AIDS deaths have decreased over the years. However, the AIDS epidemic continues to be a grave issue, especially in less developed countries. Latest statistics from the 2007 UNAIDS AIDS Epidemic Update report that there are currently 33.2 million cases of AIDS worldwide.