Historical background of HIV/AIDS

AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981 in the United States. The initial cases were a cluster of injecting drug users and homosexual men with no known cause of impaired immunity who showed symptoms of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a rare opportunistic infection that was known to occur in people with very compromised immune systems (Gottlieb, 2006).

In the early days, the Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control(CDC) did not have an official name for the disease, often referring to it by way of the diseases that were associated with it, for example, lymphadenopathy, which the discoverers of HIV originally named the virus. They also used Kaposi’s sarcoma and opportunistic infections, the name by which a task force had been set up in 1981 (CDC, 2012).

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At one point, the CDC coined the phrase “the 4H disease”, since the syndrome seemed to affect homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. In the general press, the term “GRID”, which stood for gay-related immune deficiency, had been coined. However, after determining that AIDS was not isolated to the gay community, it was realized that the term GRID was misleading and the term AIDS was introduced at a meeting in July 1982. By September 1982 the CDC started referring to the disease as AIDS (Altman, 2008).

Further researches showed there HIV occurs in two variances which are HIV-1 and HIV-2. Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 are believed to have originated in non-human primates in West-central Africa and were transferred to humans in the early 20th century. HIV-1 appears to have originated in southern Cameroon through the evolution of a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that infects wild chimpanzees. HIV-2 was also believed to have originated from an Old World monkey living in coastal West Africa (from southern Senegal to western Côte d’Ivoire) (CDC, 2012).

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Altman, L. K. (2008). Microbial translocation is a cause of systemic immune activation in chronic HIV infection. Nat. Med., 12 (12), 1365–71.

Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (CDC) (2012). Opportunistic infections and Kaposi’s sarcoma among Haitians in the United States. MMWR Morb Mortal WklyRep. ,31 (26), 353–354.

Gottlieb, M. S. (2006). Pneumocystis pneumonia—Los Angeles. 1981. Am J Public Health, 96 (6), 980–1.

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