The origin of AIDS and HIV has puzzled scientists ever since the illness first came to light in the early 1980s. For over twenty years it has been the subject of fierce debate and the cause of countless arguments, with everything from a promiscuous flight attendant to a suspect vaccine programme being blamed. So what is the truth? Just where did AIDS come from?
The first recognised cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980s (more about this period can be found on our History of AIDS page). A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome.
The discovery of HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, was made soon after. While some were initially resistant to acknowledge the connection (and indeed some remain so today), there is now clear evidence to prove that HIV causes AIDS. So, in order to find the source of AIDS, it is necessary to look for the origin of HIV, and find out how, when and where HIV first began to cause disease in humans.
After years of fighting to stay in school, and raging an even harder battle against the ravages of HIV/AIDS, Ryan White dies at the age of 19. That year, The Ryan White Care Act is enacted by Congress to provide government sponsored funds for the care of HIV/AIDS infected people.
The FDA approves the first drug to be used in combination with AZT. The addition of the drug Hivid marks the beginning of HIV/AIDS combination therapies. But a more disturbing development centers around HIV tainted blood. Three French senior health officials knowingly sell HIV tainted blood, resulting in the infection of hundreds of transfusion recipients, most of whom have hemophilia.
People who are infected and scientists alike are confused and concerned when a British study, the Concorde Trials, offers proof that AZT monotherapy does nothing to delay progression to AIDS in asymptomatic patients. As a result, the AZT debate emerges, with one side proclaiming AZT saves lives and the other denouncing AZT as useless; the "rethinker" movement is born. Invariably, someone will suggest a conspiracy about the origin of AIDS, and as Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) said to Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts), " A brief review of Dr. Cantwell's book was given by H. Robert Malinowsky (B.S. geological engineering, M.L.S.), Professor and Principal Bibliographer and Head of Reference at the University of Illinois at Chicago: "There has long been the story that there is a secret gay genocide with the culprit being a genetically engineered virus. Dr. Cantwell was a disbliever in this idea for quite sometime until he started noticing similarities of certain events, when they happened, and how they happened. Although there is no concrete scientific evidence that such a genocide is taking place, ...