40 years after the AIDS epidemic devastated the queer community and communities all around the world, we are proud to share our timeline of historic milestones including legislation, treatments, and protests within the epidemic as a whole. We are highlighting the brave individuals and organizations that fought for equality and representation in one of the most frightening times in American history. Curated from NIH, CDC,, Wikipedia and other public sources by Drew Minard and Kambiz Shekdar of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS


  • The first known case of HIV in a human occurs in the Congo (confirmed by later testing of preserved samples)


  • St. Louis teenager Robert Rayford dies of an illness that baffles his doctors (confirmed by later testing of preserved samples)


  • St. Vincent’s Hospital reports its first cases of AIDS


  • Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) is formed as the first community-based AIDS service provider in the US
  • CDC uses the term “AIDS” for the first time


  • U.S. Congress passes the first bill that includes funding targeted for AIDS research
  • The National AIDS Hotline opens and receives 8,000-10,000 callers daily
  • NYC physician Joseph Sonnabend is threatened with eviction for treating AIDS patients
  • NY State Attorney General and Lambda Legal join file the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit
  • Dr. Robert Gallo announces the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS


  • The AIDS ward at St Vincent’s Hospital opens as the first and largest on the East Coast until 1995 when 
HIV-related deaths peaked
  • The New York Times erroneously reports that AIDS may be transmissible through saliva
  • San Francisco public health officials order bathhouses closed


  • Mother Teresa’s nuns opened one of the city’s early AIDS hospice centers at St. Veronica’s Church in the West Village.
  • AIDS activist Larry Kramer ’s debuts his play “Normal Heart” at the Public Theater
  • Actor Rock Hudson becomes the first major public figure who announces he has AIDS
  • President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority”
  • Rock Hudson dies of AIDS-related illness at age 59
  • U.S. Congress allocates $190 million for AIDS research


  • The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses announces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus” (HIV)
  • CDC reports that African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by AIDS


  • AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to honor Marvin Feldman
  • AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is founded in NYC
  • FDA approves AZT as the first medication for AIDS
  • Princess Diana is photographed shaking the hand of an AIDS patient in a London hospital
  • The U.S. Public Health Service adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration exclusion list and mandates testing for all visa applicants
  • The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is established


  • AIDS activists engage in a sit-in that shuts down FDA’s offices to protest the slow process to approve for treatments for HIV/AIDS
  • World AIDS Day is observed for the first time


  • Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe dies of AIDS-related illness


  • Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness
  • Ryan White dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 18


  • St. Veronica’s installed a series of plaques dedicated to men who died from the plague.
  • The Visual AIDS Artist Caucus launches the Red Ribbon as a symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS
  • American basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson announces he is HIV-positive
  • Freddie Mercury, lead singer/songwriter of the rock band Queen, dies of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS


  • The 8th International AIDS Conference is moved from Boston to Amsterdam due to U.S. immigration restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is founded
  • AIDS becomes the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25-44


  • President Clinton establishes the White House Office of National AIDS Policy
  • The film Philadelphia the first major Hollywood film on AIDS
  • Tony Kushner’s Angels in America wins the Tony Award for Best Play


  • AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44
  • The FDA approves an oral HIV test


  • National HIV Testing Day is launched
  • 500,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the US by Oct 31, 1995


  • The number of new AIDS cases in the U.S. begins declines for the first time
  • AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25-44
  • The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) forms
  • The AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety for the last time


  • President Clinton announces initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities


  • The World Health Organization announces that HIV/AIDS has become the fourth biggest killer worldwide and the number one killer in Africa
  • National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is launched


  • HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is launched


  • President George W. Bush launches the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to stem the devastation caused by AIDS worldwide.
  • National Latino AIDS Awareness Day is launched


  • National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is launched


  • National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is launched
  • National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is launched


  • Timothy Ray Brown, also known as “The Berlin Patient,” becomes the first person cured of AIDS
  • Over 565,000 people have died of AIDS in the U.S. since 1981


  • National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day is launched
  • National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is launched


  • Caribbean American HIV/AIDS is launched


  • St. Vincent’s closed on April 30, 2010. It was founded in 1849.
  • The US Government lifts the HIV travel and immigration ban
  • AIDS Action merges with the National AIDS Fund to form AIDS United


  • The FDA approves the first at-home HIV test
  • The FDA approves the use of Truvada® for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)


  • The AIDS Memorial across the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital was opened on World AIDS Day on December 1


  • Adam Castillejo, also known only as “The London Patient,” becomes the second person cured of AIDS
  • Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) becomes the first not-for-profit research organization with its own biotechnology to develop a global cure on a pro bono basis
  • NIH and Gates Foundation announce $200 million in funding for research to cure HIV/AIDS and sickle cell disease
  • SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus / COVID-19 emerges


  • Dr. Anthony Fauci’s division at NIH (NIAID) issues its first call for applications focused on curing HIV infection


Historic photographs from Suzanne Poli’s archives sponsored by Village Apothecary




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