Interactive Timeline: History of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

By Abbey Tiderman 11.30.2016 interact

You may have heard of the suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. But did you know HIV/AIDS has a long history in the United States too, and remains a health issue today?

In 1981, mysterious, severe and deadly pneumonia-like symptoms started spreading among gay males in the U.S., and a year later, the epidemic was given a name—Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). At the time, there was a social stigma linking gay male sexual contact and HIV/AIDS, but physicians soon realized that heterosexuals and even infants and children were becoming infected through blood transfusions and shared intravenous needles. One of those cases was teen Ryan White, a hemophiliac—whose blood didn’t clot naturally—who received a blood transfusion with infected blood. Due to myths and fears surrounding contraction of HIV/AIDS, Ryan was forced to leave the school he attended. He started advocating, locally and on the government level, for HIV/AIDS patients across the country. Big names in Washington and Hollywood came to Ryan’s side, hailing him a hero for the HIV/AIDS cause. Just after he lost his battle with AIDS in 1990, the landmark Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act was passed, paving the way for vital funding.

HIV/AIDS remains a serious public health issue today. The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) continues to work with organizations and health care institutions throughout the country to provide quality treatment, education and awareness for all populations affected.


  1. Unknown

    I feel bad for ryan. They should not have made him not able to attend becouse he just has hiv/aids. If he were to stay, he would not have been able to spread it unless he shared a needle with a classmate(for drugs) or had sexual contact with one another. This is why doctors and nurses need to be more carefull.

  2. Cam Y.

    Its sad that people can be so mean to someone in pain.

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