This is an interactive map of the many Harlem AIDS health and support groups available for the gay community.
Click through the bubbles to learn about more information on the different health clinics, organizations, and support groups available throughout Harlem that serve different groups of people including black men, women, or children and young people. Alternatively, browse through this page and read about each of the health clinics. All photos are linked to the organizations' websites. Click on them to learn more!

*The map also includes several AIDS organizations located around the United States that does work in Harlem despite their distant locations.

Below is also a timeline that tracks the progression of HIV/AIDS virus and our developing view and understanding of it.


Health Centers and Support Groups

Harlem United

The entrance of Harlem United on Lenox at the corner of 125th Street

The entrance on 125th street has always been locked, so round the corner on Lenox Ave in order to enter Harlem United

Harlem United was born in 1988 when two men and a Jesuit priest embarked on a small personal mission to assist those in need. Although Harlem United was only able to offer limited services at first (support groups; hot meals, and HIV-treatment education), they now serve clients from East Harlem to the Bronx. Harlem United offers testing and outreach programs that reach 10,000 people each year. Mission statement: To provide 100% access to quality HIV/AIDS care for all our clients, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation.

Harlem Hospital

The front entrance to Harlem Hospital. Courtesy of Christina Phan.

The site of where Pernessa C. Seele, one of the first AIDS educators hired by the City of New York, got the idea to establish the Balm In Gilead (a not-for-profit non-governmental organization with an international mission to address health disparities, specifically HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, as experienced by people of the African Diaspora). The Balm in Gilead established the Harlem Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS to encourage Harlem's pastors, Imams and spiritual advisors to pray, educate their congregations, and provide compassionate support to persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Gay Men of African Descent

Although GMAD is located in Brooklyn, this organization provides many services for Harlem gay black men.
GMAD offers several AIDS/HIV programs:

  • T.I.M.E.S
The principal aim of the T.I.M.E.S. Project (Test Initiative for Men Who Experience Same Sex Desire) is to provide confidential HIV tests. The program also educates black, gay men about the importance of knowing their HIV status. It provides safe, confidential access to free HIV antibody testing and counseling offered by New York State-certified, highly trained staff.
  • Brothers Gonna Work it Out!
BGWIO is a behavioral intervention that provides an opportunity for black gay men to explore their decision making processes related to their health. In addition to ten sessions, the program provides HIV testing, counseling, and referrals.Support Groups
  • H Spot: Young adult HIV positive support
  • Tumani: Tumani (Swahili for hope) offers support and education around treatment, adherence, response to HIV discrimination and the myriad issues confronting all HIV positive people. Tumani is especially geared toward long-term survivors.
  • Voices: Support group for people who have been recently diagnosed as HIV positive (within the last three years).
  • Sex and Sexuality: Sex and Sexuality is an open discussion group in a non-judgmental space, where gays, bisexuals, and same gender loving men of color can come and speak freely of their sexual experiences.

Black Men's XChange

BMX is a forum for Black men to safely discuss issues that impact their lives and to connect with other brothers in a positive, affirming, nurturing environment. BMX welcomes same gender loving and bi sexual brothers and their allies.

BMX-NY is built on a philosophy that embraces same gender loving (SGL) experience as an intrinsic facet of everyday Black life. BMX provides services for those seeking support and positive identification. It is the intention of the SGL movement to break these cycles. The term “same gender loving” (SGL) has been adopted by women and men from all over the African Diaspora.

Some of the Black Men's XChange programs for Spring 2011 include:
  • April 8, 2011: "Sex: How to Do What You Like to Do Better" Workshop & Dialogue by Kyle Doyle
  • April 22, 2011: "Does Your God Mind How You Love?" a lecture by Jett Wilson & John Singletary
  • May 6, 2011: BMX National Retreat outing

Project Achieve

Every year during the month of May, Project ACHIEVE partners with organizations to build awareness around HIV Vaccine Awareness Day throughout Harlem. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded select organizations to advance HIV vaccine awareness in their communities.

Some of Project Achieve's partners include:
  • GMAD, Gay Men of African Descent
  • Harlem United
  • LCOA, Latino Commission on AIDS
  • Queens Pride House
  • Iris House

Minority Task Force on AIDS

Established in 1985, the Minority Task Force on AIDS (MTFA) is one of Harlem's veyt first minority AIDS service provider. Its mission is to serve individuals and families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and to reduce the spread of HIV while advocating for the needs of the communities we serve.
MTFA was established specifically to assist People of Color affected by HIV/AIDS. MTFA offers education, outreach, advocacy, supportive housing, and direct services. MTFA seeks to improve and extend the quality of life for the community by encouraging self-determination.

Black Gay Network

The New York State Black Gay Network (BGN) is a group of diverse organizations committed to Black gay men in New York State’s urban areas. BGN works together with organizations, communities and government to strengthen support for the needs of Black gay men. BGN empowers and advocates for its member organizations to effectively respond to HIV/AIDS. Their work concerns educating about related health issues, challenging homophobia and other forms of oppression through education, advocacy, resource development and community building.

Project Stay

The Project Stay office is located on 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue in Harlem

Project STAY's computer research room for student use

Project STAY's mission is to provide a medical "home" for youth at-risk for or living with HIV/AIDS.
Project STAY employs an integrated approach involving two programs. The Mobile Health Team provides health education, counseling, screening and testing services to young people in community settings like schools, juvenile justice programs, and youth-serving agencies. Those screened are encouraged to obtain follow-up primary care and mental health services at Project STAY's adolescent continuity clinics. Project STAY also provides comprehensive medical, psychosocial, and case management services to adolescents and young adults living with HIV/AIDS.
Project STAY has provided comprehensive medical and psychosocial services to New York City adolescents and young adults living with HIV since 1991.
Project STAY is dedicated to its young people and are aware that a separate organization specifically to help young people affected by AIDS/HIV is urgent. Young people ages 13 to 24, especially ethnic and racial minorities, are the fastest growing population infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and worldwide.
Here are the statistics of Project STAY's clients:

  • Gender: Current clients are 56% male, 41% female, and 3% male-to-female transgender
  • Race: Over 95% are Black and/or Hispanic
  • Mode of Transmission: 79% were behaviorally infected, 18% were perinatally infected, and 3% were indeterminately infected

Gay Men's Health Crisis

GMHC is a leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Their mission is to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.
GMHC began in 1981 when six men united against fear and death from a disease then known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The group set up an answering machine in the home of Rodger McFarlane and the first AIDS hotline was born — receiving over 100 calls the first night. Today, GMHC continues this service.
Although located very far downtown, GMHC nonetheless provides many services for the Harlem gay community.
One successful event is the Harlem AIDS: World AIDS Day Conference. GHMC collaborated with the Black AIDS Institute, Harlem United, and Iris House to plan this conference with the theme "Community + Faith > AIDS." The conference took place on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at Riverside Church, Global HIV/AIDS Ministry
It provided workshops on HIV/AIDS, free rapid testing, STI Screenings, breakfast and lunch, give-aways and raffle, as well as a screening of “Sex in an Epidemic” documentary

Riverside Church

Riverside Church has served as the venue for many of the events AIDS/HIV organizations and health centers in Harlem have hosted.
Although based in Los Angeles, California,the Black AIDS Institute, for example, has collaborated with local AIDS organizations such as GHMC, Harlem United, and Iris house to host an event called "Community + Faith is greater than AIDS." Part of the World AIDS Day, this event included workshops on HIV/AIDS, free rapid HIV testing, and a variety of other entertainment like a screening the documentary "Sex in an Epidemic."

The Black AIDS Institute

Although located across the nation in Los Angeles, the Black Aids Institute does much of its work in Harlem. Founded in 1999, the Black AIDS Institute is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute's Mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV. The Institute interprets public and private sector HIV policies, conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, disseminates information and provides advocacy mobilization from an unapologetic Black point of view.The Black AIDS Institute distributes "CitySheets" that educates its clients about the status of AIDS in their respective communities.Here is a link to the CitySheet for New York City:

Abyssinian Baptist Church

A variety of AIDS/HIV prevention organizations and programs have held their events at Abyssinian Baptist Church. In 1989, the church was one of the first organizations to respond to Pernessa C. Seele's call for a Harlem Week of Prayer to mobilize the religious community in support of people with AIDS and their families. As Chairman of National Leadership Community on AIDS (NBLCA) and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), Reverend Calvin Butts has been an activist in the Harlem AIDS community for many years. As an attempt to spread the word about the seriousness of this epidemic, Rev. Butts had himself tested publicly for HIV on September 15th, 1999 at the Harlem Health Expo. This certainly gained a lot of public attention and spurred more activism for the prevention of AIDS.
One other interesting AIDS event that occurred at the Abyssinian Baptist Church was the Harlem AIDS Blanket workshop. Community members and students from Columbia University joined hands to created patches for a blanket. The purpose of this art education project was to raise awareness and strengthen public support of HIV/AIDS efforts in Harlem.

Iris House

A sign posted outside of Iris House

Iris House was established in 1993 by the Women and AIDS Working Group. Iris House provides comprehensive services and advocacy for women, families, and communities infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. This organization also offers prevention and education services for at-risk communities.

All of Iris House's programs aim to achieve the following goals:
  • To promote and support independent functioning for our clients, to improve quality of life, and to maintain optimum health status for clients and their families;
  • To educate policy makers, elected officials, and human health service providers about the issues and concerns affecting our clients and their families; and
  • To advocate for changes in policy and programs that are more responsive to the needs of women and their families.

Iris House is led by Ingrid Floyd, the Executive Director.

Bailey House, Inc.

A sign posted outside of Bailey House's entrance

For over the last 25 years, Bailey House has provided housing and support services to homeless men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS in New York City with the aim to give these clients productive and independent lives. Bailey House is most concerned with providing the essential human needs: housing, food, and safety. They offer comprehensive support services, including access to healthcare, counseling, support groups, and substance abuse treatment. Provided with the tools for basic survival, Bailey House clients are able to develop trust, community, and stability as they start to construct their own futures.

Bronx AIDS Services

Founded in 1986, Bronx AIDS Services (BAS) is a not-for-profit community-based organization that helps more than 8,000 Bronx residents each year with services and programs that touch people who are living with HIV/AIDS, people who think they might have been exposed to HIV, and those who are at high risk of exposure to the virus.

LBGT Community Center

The LGBT Community Center was established in 1983, and has grown to become the largest LGBT multi-service center on the east coast. They provide service to over 6,000 people every week with services including mental health and wellness programs, youth enrichment programs for isolated LGBT youths, and substance abuse and treatment programs.


A sign for the AIDS Walk posted in a Duane Reade on Broadway and 110th street encouraging participants to sign up

AIDS Walk New York has raised more than $116 million for HIV programs and services since 1986.
In 2010 alone, 45,000 participants, raised a record grand total of over $5.6 million for GMHC and 39 other local AIDS service organizations.
This year, AIDS Walk New York will take place on May 15th, 2011
Here is a link to the route:

Harlem AIDS Blanket

The Harlem AIDS blanket is an art education project inspired by Cleve Jones’ AIDS Memorial Quilt with an emphasis on the impact of the epidemic on the community of Harlem. The project aims to strengthen public support and commitment to HIV / AIDS awareness and education, as well as bolstering education about the epidemic to the residents of Harlem and New York City.

Displayed in April of 2010 at Teachers College, Columbia University is located at 525 W 120th St. New York, NY 10027
More information :
More images of the blanket:

Keith Haring Harlem ASC Center

The Keith Haring ASC Harlem center is the Harlem branch of the AIDS Service Center NYC (ASC), a community resource in New York for people affected by HIV and AIDS. The centers offer testing, treatment and care to the public. ASC serves more than 2,600 people each year. This center presents the artwork of its namesake, Keith Haring, within its walls, and the Center is supported by the Keith Haring Foundation, Congressman Charles Rangel, NYC Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV and Mount Sinai’s Jack Martin Clinic. The Center opened May 17, 2010.

Keith Haring ASC Harlemt Center, 315 East 104th Street, NYC
For more information, visit

Stand Up Harlem House

143-145 West 130th Street, NYC 10027
Stand Up Harlem House is a housing organization operated by Housing Works, a non-profit organization that offers housing to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Stand Up Harlem House is their Harlem branch, located in two brownstones on West 130th street.


76 Wadsworth Avenue, Manhattan
WHCP is a non-profit organization dedicated to decreasing behaviors that among drug users that lead to HIV transmission. The organization provides safe injection and safe sex supplies, as well as education and literature for its clients, along with social services like case management and referrals, counseling and interventions.
For more information:

New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE)

The NYHRE is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the health, safety and well-being of drug users in New York City. The organization advocates social justice and safe drug use practices with a basis in the acknowledgement of the trying circumstances that create drug addictions. NYHRE provides clean syringes, street outreach services, mental health services, drug treatment programs, HIV and STD testing and community services.

They have offices at 953 Southern Boulevard, Suite 302 Bronx and 1991 A Lexington Avenue, NYC

Harlem United Community AIDS Center

A non-profit organization founded by two men and a Jesuit priest, at first offered support groups, meals, and HIV treatment education. The Center serves clients from East Harlem through the Bronx, over 10,000 people a year.

306 Lenox Avenue, NYC, 10027

Mother's Voices

Mother’s Voices is a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV among children and provides information and support to at-risk individuals.

165 West 46th Street, Suite 701
New York, NY 10036

Historical Context: The Development of the AIDS Crisis in America During the 1980s

Before 1970 very little is known about the virus and how many people it infected. However during the 1980's AIDS spread rapidly through the country. We do not know where the HIV/AIDS disease developed from, other than the broadest theory that it came from the African continent. First considered to be a Gay Man's disease, and now often thought of as a distant issue in Sub-Saharan Africa, America's reception and understanding of the disease has undergone extreme changes. This information has been adapted and somewhat summarized from the "History of AIDS up to 1986" article on the AVERT International HIV and AIDS Charity Website

1970s - 1980

"The dominant feature of this first period was silence, for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was unknown and transmission was not accompanied by signs or symptoms salient enough to be noticed. While rare, sporadic case reports of AIDS and sero-archaeological studies have documented human infections with HIV prior to 1970, available data suggest that the current pandemic started in the mid- to late 1970s. By 1980, HIV had spread to at least five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). During this period of silence, spread was unchecked by awareness or any preventive action and approximately 100,000-300,000 persons may have been infected."
Jonathan Mann

(Mann J. M (1989) 'AIDS: A worldwide pandemic', in Current topics in AIDS, volume 2, edited by Gottlieb M.S., Jeffries D.J., Mildvan D., Pinching, A.J., Quinn T.C., John Wiley & Sons)


Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS) was a rare form of relatively benign cancer that tended to occur in older people. But by March 1981 at least eight cases of a more aggressive form of KS had occurred amongst young gay men in New York.
At about the same time there was an increase, in both California and New York, in the number of cases of a rare lung infection Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). In April this increase in PCP was noticed at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.
Soon after this, a report was published by the CDC trying to figure out the cause of the 5 men's PCP in LA. This is often considered the beginning of AIDS general awareness in America. As a result of this report, a Task Force on KS and "Opportunistic Infections" (KSOI) was formed.
However, since nobody yet knew about the disease, no one was quite sure how it was contracted. As a result, for example, Dr. Curran of the CDC stated in July of 1981
  • "Dr. Curran said there was no apparent danger to non homosexuals from contagion. 'The best evidence against contagion', he said, 'is that no cases have been reported to date outside the homosexual community or in women'"

(Altman, L.K, (1981) 'Rare cancer seen in 41 Homosexuals', the New York Times, July 3)

Yet, as the disease traveled so fast and scientists didn't have time to study it fully, they were making assumptions that were disproven months later. For example. in December 1981 it became clear that the disease didn't just target gay men when PCP was reported in injecting drug users. Around this same time, the first case of AIDS was documented in the United Kingdom.


The disease still doesn't have a formal and established name so it developed various titles:

- The CDC generally referred to it by reference to the diseases that were occurring as a result of the lowered immunity eg lymphadenopathy (swollen glands), although on some occasions they referred to it as KSOI, the name already given to the CDC task force.
- Some people still associated HIV/AIDS to its initial prominence in the gay male community. A letter in The Lancet called the disease "gay compromise syndrome".
- Along the same lines, another popularly used name was GRID (gay-related immune deficiency).
- AID (acquired immunodeficiency disease).
- "Gay Cancer" or "community-acquired immune dysfunction".

In June a report of a group of cases amongst gay men in Southern California suggested that the disease might be caused by an infectious agent that was sexually transmitted.

By the beginning of July a total of 452 cases, from 23 states, had been reported to the CDC.

Later that month the first reports appeared that the disease was occurring in Haitians, as well as haemophiliacs. This news soon led to speculation that the epidemic might have originated in Haiti, and caused some parents to withdraw their children from haemophiliac camps.

These new occurrences of the disease in non-homosexuals meant that names such as GRID were redundant. The acronym AIDS was suggested at a meeting in Washington, D.C., in July(or SIDA, in French and Spanish). By August this name was being used in newspapers and scientific journals. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was first properly defined by the CDC in September.

Still very little was known about transmission and public anxiety continued to grow. Doctors thought AIDS was an appropriate name for the following reasons:
- it is acquired, not inherited
- it results in a deficiency within the immune system
- it is a syndrome, meaning it doesn't always affect everybody in the same way but rather it has a number of manifestations, rather than a single uniform disease.

AIDS specific voluntary organisations started cropping up in America, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC).

In late 1982 several of the newly-founded AIDS organisations started producing safer sex advice targeted for gay men.

Shockingly, in December of that year a 20-month old child who had received multiple transfusions of blood and blood products died from infections related to AIDS.This case further proved that AIDS was caused by a contaminating vehicle. It also raised very serious and dire concerns about the potential contamination of the blood banks. This would, of course, lead to further contamination of any patients receiving blood transfusions.

In December, the CDC reported the first cases of possible mother to child transmission of AIDS.

By the end of 1982 many more people were taking notice of this new disease, as it was clearer that a much wider group of people was going to be affected.

It was also becoming clear that AIDS was not a disease that just occurred in the USA as over the course of the year, reports of the disease popped up in various European countries as well.

Meanwhile in Uganda, doctors were seeing the first cases of a new, fatal wasting disease. This illness soon became known locally as 'slim'.


For the first time In January, reports of AIDS among women who did not indulge in other risk factors (like injected drug use, blood transfusions etc) suggested the disease might be passed on through heterosexual sex too.

The CDC convened a meeting to consider how the transmission of AIDS could be prevented. In particular they were interested in the newly emerged evidence that AIDS might be spread through blood clotting factor and through blood transfusions.

In March, the CDC stated that,

"persons who may be considered at increased risk of AIDS include those with symptoms and signs suggestive of AIDS; sexual partners of AIDS patients; sexually active homosexual or bisexual men with multiple partners; Haitian entrants to the United States; present or past abusers of IV drugs; patients with hemophilia; and sexual partners of individuals at increased risk for AIDS."

(MMWR Weekly (1983) 'Current trends prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations', March 4, 32(8);101-3)

The inclusion of Haitians as a risk group caused much controversy and Haitian Americans complained of stigmatisation, officials accused the CDC of racism, and Haiti suffered a serious blow to its tourism industry.

On a more colloquial level, there was talk of a "4-H Club" at risk of AIDS:
-Heroin addicts
-(some people substituted Hookers for Hemophiliacs).

In the UK there were public concerns about the blood supply with references in newspapers to "killer blood". This is generally demonstrative of the increase media attention to AIDS, including a number of newspaper articles on the subject of the "gay plague".

In May 1983, doctors at the Institute Pasteur in France reported that they had isolated a new virus, which they suggested might be the cause of AIDS. Little notice was taken of this announcement at the time, but a sample of the virus was sent to the CDC.

A report of AIDS occurring in children suggested the possibility of casual household transmission. This was obviously later refuted.

AIDS transmission became a major issue in San Francisco, where the Police Department equipped patrol officers with special masks and gloves for use when dealing with what the police called "a suspected AIDS patient".

And in New York:
  • "landlords have evicted individuals with AIDS" and "the Social Security Administration is interviewing patients by phone rather than face to face."

(Enlow, R.(1984), 'Special session', in Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, Volume 437, edited by Selikoff I.J, Teirstein A.S. and Hirschman S.Z., The New York Academy of Sciences, p.291)

Reports from Europe suggested that two rather separate AIDS epidemics were occurring. In the UK, West Germany and Denmark, the majority of people with AIDS were homosexual, and many had a history of sex with American nationals. However in France and Belgium AIDS was occurring mainly in people from Central Africa or those with links to the area.

In September the CDC published their first set of recommended precautions for health-care workers and allied professionals designed to prevent "AIDS transmission".

In October, the first European World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting was held in Denmark. At the meeting it was reported that there had been 2,803 AIDS cases in the USA.

By the end of the year the number of AIDS cases in the USA had risen to 3,064 and of these 1,292 had died.


April 22nd, Dr Mason of the CDC was quoted stating:
"I believe we have the cause of AIDS."
Foolishly optimistic, he went on to say:
"We hope to have a vaccine [against AIDS] ready for testing in about two years... yet another terrible disease is about to yield to patience, persistence and outright genius."

(Office of Technology Assessment (1985) 'Review of the Public Health Service's Response to AIDS', U.S. Congress, Washington DC., February, p.29 [PDF])
People were still hyper-vigilant about the public health aspect of the crisis. A legal case in San Francisco ensured that all the gay bath houses and private sex clubs were closed. To some of the gay men, this was considered an attack on their sexuality. The government justified it as follows:
"There are certain places where things are allowed and certain places where they are not. You can't have sex at the McDonald's. You generally cannot have sex in the pews of a church or in a synagogue. People don't feel their civil liberties are being in any way abrogated because of that."

('The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: the medical response, 1981-1984', Volume I, an oral history conducted in 1992-1993, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1995)

By the end of 1984, there had been 7,699 AIDS cases and 3,665 AIDS deaths in the USA.


In January 1985 a number of more detailed reports were published concerning LAV and HTLV-III, and by March it was clear that the viruses were the same.The same month the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed, for commercial production, the first blood test for AIDS. The test would reveal the presence of antibodies to HTLV-III/LAV, and it was announced that anyone who had antibodies in their blood would not in future be allowed to donate blood.
There were a number of social and ethical issues, as well as certain medical matters, that had to be considered before the new test could be widely distributed. Concern particularly centred on issues of confidentiality and the meaning of a positive test result.
  • "Richard Dunne, director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, said that the group would not object to the wider availability of the procedure provided that certain safeguards were assured: informed consent, good counseling and confidentiality, 'which means anonymity,' he said. He stressed that the city must prevent insurance companies, employers, schools and others from gaining access to test results."

(Eckholm E. (1985) 'City, in shift, to make blood test for AIDS virus more widely available', the New York Times, December 23)

In April more than 2000 people attended the first international Conference on AIDS held in Atlanta. There were three major topics of discussion: the new HTLV-III/LAV test, the situation with regards to AIDS internationally, and the extent of heterosexual transmission.
  • "Some experts are sceptical that AIDS will spread as rapidly among heterosexuals as it has among homosexuals. Yet other experts, taking their cues from data emerging from preliminary studies from Africa showing equal sex distribution among males and females, are less sure."

(Altman L.K. (1985) 'The Doctor's world: AIDS data pour in as studies proliferate', the New York Times, April 23)

Immediately after the conference, the World Health Organization (WHO) organized an international meeting to consider the AIDS epidemic and to initiate concerted worldwide action.
In some newspapers, the prejudice was obvious. The haemophiliacs were seen as the "innocent victims" of AIDS whereas gay men and drug-users were seen as having brought the disease upon themselves. The fear of AIDS caused firemen to ban the kiss of life (mouth to mouth resuscitation).

The CDC removed Haitians from their list of AIDS risk groups.
On September 17th, President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS for the first time, when he was asked about AIDS funding at a press conference.
The first reported cases of transmission through breast-feeding changed the way people viewed contamination by AIDS.
By the end of 1985, 20,303 cases of AIDS had been reported to the World Health Organisation. In the USA 15,948 cases of AIDS had been reported.


The name HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was adopted instead of AIDS.

At the opening speech of the International Conference in Paris, held from 23rd to 25th June 1986, Dr H Mahler, the Director of WHO, announced that as many as 10 million people worldwide could already be infected with HIV.

In August, the USA Federal Government accused an employer of illegal discrimination against a person with AIDS for the first time. A hospital had dismissed a nurse and refused to offer him an alternative job. This was seen as a violation of his civil rights.

In September there was dramatic progress in the provision of medical treatment for AIDS, when early results of clinical tests showed that a drug called azidothymidine (AZT) slowed down the attack of HIV. AZT was first synthesised in 1964 as a possible anticancer drug but had proved ineffective.

In the United States, the Surgeon General's Report on AIDS was published. The report was the Government's first major statement on what the nation should do to prevent the spread of AIDS. The "unusually explicit" report urged parents and schools to start "frank, open discussions" about AIDS.

As in Western countries, AIDS in Africa was found to primarily affect young and middle-aged people, especially those who were unmarried. The sex and age distributions were seen to reflect other sexually transmitted diseases, and the major transmission routes had been identified:
  • "Available data suggest that heterosexual activity, blood transfusions, vertical transmission from mother to infant, and probably frequent exposure to unsterilized needles account for the spread of HIV infection and AIDS in Africa."

(Quinn TC, Mann JM, Curran JW, Piot P (1986) 'AIDS in Africa: An Epidemiologic Paradigm', Science, 1986, 234: 955-963)

By the end of the year, 85 countries had reported 38,401 cases of AIDS to the World Health Organisation. By region these were: Africa 2,323, Americas 31,741, Asia 84, Europe 3,858, and Oceania 395.


In March the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AZT as the first antiretroviral drug to be used as a treatment for AIDS.
Around the same time the organisation ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was founded. ACT UP was committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis, and their demands included better access to drugs as well as cheaper prices, public education about AIDS and the prohibition of AIDS-related discrimination. On 24th March they held their first mass demonstration on Wall Street.
Over the next few years Gran Fury produced many high profile public projects including the art banner announcing "Kissing doesn't kill: Greed and indifference do" and the poster "AIDS: 1 in 61" about babies born HIV positive in New York City.

The following day President Reagan made his first major speech on AIDS, when he addressed the Philadelphia College of Physicians. Reagan advocated a modest federal role in AIDS education, having told reporters the previous day that he favoured teaching pupils about AIDS, suggesting abstinence as the best choice for sex-education.

In October, AIDS became the first disease ever debated on the floor of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. The General Assembly resolved to mobilize the entire UN system in the worldwide struggle against AIDS, under the leadership of the WHO.

By December, 71,751 cases of AIDS had been reported to the World Health Organisation, with the greatest number reported by the USA (47,022). Countries reporting over 2,000 cases included France (2,523), Uganda (2,369) and Brazil (2,102). Five other countries reported more than 1,000 cases: Tanzania (1,608), Germany (1,486), Canada (1,334), UK (1,170) and Italy (1,104).
The WHO also reported that an estimated 5 to 10 million people were infected with HIV worldwide, with 150,000 cases of AIDS expected to develop in the following 12 months and up to 3 million within the next 5 years.


A world summit of ministers of health was held in London to discuss a common AIDS strategy. The summit focused on programmes for AIDS prevention, and there were delegates from 148 countries.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization chose this occasion to announce that the WHO intended to promote an annual World AIDS Day, and the first such day would be on 1st December 1988.
The meeting was opened by the UK's Princess Royal, who upset many people involved in AIDS education, as well as many people with AIDS, when she stated that there were "innocent victims" of the virus (babies infected by their mothers or people infected by blood transfusions). This statement implied that there were also "guilty victims."
'Understanding AIDS' was the single most widely read publication in the United States in June 1988, with 86.9 million readers.
The following month the American Medical Association urged doctors to break confidentiality in order to warn the sexual partners of people being treated for AIDS.
Frustration continued to grow over the slowness of progress in improving access to drugs. When the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic issued its final report in June 1988, it declared that the FDA arrangements were "not meeting the needs of people with AIDS". On October 11th more than 1,000 ACT-UP demonstrators virtually shut down operations at the FDA headquarters.

Eight days after the ACT-UP demonstration the FDA announced new regulations to speed drug approval.

The first official needle exchange was started in the US to prevent transmission of HIV through drug use. A limited experiment started in November in New York City. But Congress prohibited the use of federal funds to support needle exchange programs.

By March 1st, 145 countries had reported 142,000 cases of AIDS to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO regarded this as under-reporting, and estimated the actual number of people with AIDS around the world to be over 400,000. It was predicted that this figure would rise to 1.1 million by 1991. It was also estimated that 5-10 million people were already infected with HIV.
In August, there were more developments with respect to treatment, when the results were announced of a major drug trial known as ACTG019. ACTG019 was a trial of the drug AZT, and it showed that AZT could slow progression to AIDS in HIV positive individuals with no symptoms at all. The findings were considered extremely exciting, and on August 17th a press conference was held, at which the Health Secretary, Louis Sullivan said:
  • "Today we are witnessing a turning point in the battle to change AIDS from a fatal disease to a treatable one."
The result had enormous financial implications for the makers of the drug, Burroughs Wellcome. The day after the press conference, the value of the company's stock rose by 32 per cent. The high price of AZT angered many people; with a year's supply for one person costing about $7,000, Burroughs Welcome were accused of "price gouging and profiteering".
In September, the cost of the drug was cut by 20%.


In New York city the needle exchange scheme was closed down.

As a result of the US travel policy that would not allow anyone to enter the US who was infected by HIV or AIDS, no major international AIDS conference was to be held in the USA after 1990.

By the end of the year, over 307,000 AIDS cases had been officially reported to the WHO, but the actual number was estimated to be closer to a million. It was estimated that 8-10 million people were living with HIV worldwide, of whom about 5 million were men and 3 million were women.


During the summer, a study was published which showed that HIV was transmitted much more easily through breast milk than had previously been thought. But despite admitting that the news was discouraging, the WHO also said that women in developing countries should continue to breastfeed, as the threat to infant health from contaminated water was even greater than the threat from AIDS!
The decision was taken to hold the 1992 international AIDS conference in Amsterdam, rather than its planned location in Boston, following the American administration's decision not to lift entry restrictions on HIV-infected travellers.
The red ribbon became an international symbol of AIDS awareness during 1991. The organisation Visual AIDS in New York, together with Broadway Cares, and Equity Fights AIDS, established the wearing of a red ribbon as a way of signifying support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
As the end of 1991, about 450,000 AIDS cases had been reported to the Global Programme on AIDS (GPA) / World Health Organisation (WHO). It was estimated that 5-7 million men and 3-5 million women had been infected with HIV. Of these 9-11 million HIV-infected adults, nearly 1.5 million were estimated to have progressed to AIDS.


In January it was reported that some people with AIDS already had resistance to the drug Zidovudine (AZT) even though they themselves had never taken the drug.
  • "Some of the patients may have gotten the virus from other patients who have been taking AZT and who are now transmitting the resistant virus."

(Associated press (1993) 'New H.I.V. strains resist AIDS drug', the New York Times, January 1)
Researchers said there was an urgent need to develop new drugs to combat the epidemic.
In March, the House of Representatives in the USA voted overwhelmingly to retain the ban on the entry into the country of HIV positive people.

The ninth International AIDS meeting was held in Berlin, Germany. The general feeling of the meeting was one of disappointment. The message conveyed by the people who attended was once again to put more money and effort into effective prevention of HIV and AIDS.

On World AIDS Day, 1st December, Benetton in collaboration with ACT UP Paris placed a giant condom (22 metres high and 3.5 wide) on the obelisk in Place de la Concorde in Central Paris in an effort to waken the world to the reality of the disease. A symbolic monument to HIV prevention, it appeared on the covers of newspapers worldwide.
At the end of 1993 the estimated number of AIDS cases worldwide was 2.5 million.


In the US the CDC launched a series of 13 bold and frank AIDS advertisements breaking away from their previous low-key approach. The advertisements focused on the use of condoms, which were rarely seen or even mentioned on American television.
  • "One of the television ads, entitled Automatic, features a condom making its way from the top drawer of a dresser across the room and into bed with a couple about to make love. The voice-over says, 'it would be nice if latex condoms were automatics. But since they're not - using them should be. Simply because a latex condom, used consistently and correctly, will prevent the spread of HIV.'"
  • (Stine G.J. (1996) 'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: biological, medical, social and legal issues', Prentice Hall, 2nd edition p.236)

In March, the actor Tom Hanks won an Oscar for playing a gay man with AIDS in the film Philadelphia.

A large European study on mother-to-child transmission showed that Caesarean section halved the rate of HIV transmission.

By July 1994 the number of AIDS cases reported to the WHO was 985,119. The WHO estimated that the total number of AIDS cases globally had risen by 60 percent in the past year from an estimated 2.5 million in July 1993 to 4 million in July 1994. It was estimated that worldwide there were three men infected for every two women, but that by the year 2000 the number of new infections among women would be equal to that among men.

In December, President Clinton asked Joycelyn Elders to resign from the post of US Surgeon General, following her suggestion during a World AIDS Day conference that school children should, amongst other things, be taught about masturbation. Gay activists defended the Surgeon General and criticised the president's record on AIDS. Fears were expressed that the president's action would discourage other government leaders from speaking frankly about sec education and AIDS.


By 1st January 1995, a cumulative total of a million cases of AIDS had been reported to the World Health Organisation Global Programme on AIDS. Eighteen million adults and 1.5 million children were estimated to have been infected with HIV since the beginning of the epidemic.

Later in the month the CDC announced that in the US, AIDS had become the leading cause of death amongst all Americans aged 25 to 44.
By the autumn of 1995, 7-8 million women of childbearing age were believed to have been infected with HIV. The WHO spoke out about the 'inadequate international response':
  • "The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on women … is not yet receiving sufficient political awareness, commitment or enough action of programmes responding to the specific needs of women."
  • (WHO (1995) 'Women and AIDS; women face avoidable risk of AIDS', Press Release, August 23)

Also in August, researchers announced the results of a study in Tanzania, which found that treating people for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea substantially reduced their risk of becoming infected with HIV.
In September two clinical trials, the Delta trial and the ACTG175 trial, showed that combinations of AZT with ddI or ddC were more effective than AZT alone in delaying disease progression and prolonging life.
On 1st December, World AIDS Day, Nelson Mandela called on all South Africans to
  • "speak out against the stigma, blame, shame and denial that has thus far been associated with this epidemic."
  • ('Message from Nelson Mandela on the on the Occasion of World AIDS Day', (1995) accessed 31/10/02)


The new Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), bringing together six agencies belonging to or affiliated with the UN system (WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO and the World Bank), became operational on January 1st.
In February the heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison was identified as HIV positive after being tested prior to a fight. He later said,
  • "'I thought AIDS was something that happened to gays and drug addicts. A macho guy like me who loves ladies and is superfit - he doesn't get AIDS.' Tommy Morrison."
In March, a government appointed panel issued a report sharply criticising the US government's domestic response to AIDS:
  • "The Government's $1.4 billion AIDS research program is uncoordinated, lacks focus and needs a major overhaul to attract new scientific talent and spur novel and imaginative ideas."
  • (Altman (1996) 'Panel offers sharp criticism of AIDS research projects', the New York Times, March 14)
Meanwhile the effect of AIDS was continuing to be felt at a community level. In the USA there had been a cumulative total of 81,500 AIDS cases in New York, and:
  • "despite two world wars, the Depression and epidemics, nothing in this century has affected the life expectancy for New Yorkers as greatly as AIDS."
  • (Andriote J-M. (1999) 'Victory deferred; how AIDS changed gay life in America?', the University of Chicago press, Chicago and London, p. 335)

In May the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 'home sampling' system of HIV testing. Until then the FDA had insisted that all tests for HIV (whether blood or oral fluid) had to be done under the supervision of health professionals. Under the new system, someone would buy a sampling kit from a shop or by mail order, collect a sample of their blood, send it to a laboratory for testing, and receive their results by phone.
  • "'Too many Americans do not know their HIV status. Knowledge is power, and power leads to prevention', said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. 'The availability of a home test should empower more people to learn their HIV status and protect themselves and their loved ones.'"

(Gelb L. (1996)'FDA approves first HIV home test system', FDA news release, May 14)

In June the FDA approved the drug Viramune (nevirapine), the first in a new class of drugs known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). Another treatment development that took place was the introduction of the viral load test, which provided information about the risk of disease progression.
Throughout 1996 there was excitement and optimism about the treatment of HIV infected people.The health of many improved enormously when they started taking combination therapy. For some people, particularly those had been ill in hospital and were then able to go home, the improvement in health was so dramatic that it was referred to as the "Lazarus Syndrome".
At the start of the 11th International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver in July:
  • "the air was electric with excitement and anticipation about the findings on combination therapies to be reported during the meeting."
Some scientists even declared that:
  • "aggressive treatment with multiple drugs can convert deadly AIDS into a chronic, manageable disorder like diabetes."

In December, the White House announced its first ever AIDS strategy. This called, amongst other things, for sustained research to find a cure and a vaccine; a reduction in new infections; guaranteed access to high quality care for AIDS patients; and fighting AIDS-related discrimination.

President Clinton in his letter attached to the AIDS Plan:
  • "None of us can afford to sit by and watch this epidemic continue to take our neighbors, friends and loved ones from us"

(San Francisco Chronicle (1996) 'National AIDS strategy not quite complete', editorial, December 17)

At the end of the year UNAIDS estimated that during 1996 some three million people, mostly under the age of 25, had become newly infected with HIV, bringing to nearly 23 million the total number of infected people. In addition an estimated 6.4 million people - 5 million adults and 1.4 million children - had already died.


Early in 1997 it was reported that, for the first time since the AIDS epidemic became visible in 1981, the number of deaths from AIDS had dropped substantially across the USA. This was excellent news but:
  • "The decline in deaths leaves more people living with AIDS and HIV infection. We do not want to be a wet blanket here, but we still need programs that assure good access to treatment and care for infected people."
  • (Altman L.K (1997) 'U.S. reporting sharp decrease in AIDS deaths', the New York Times, February 28)

In New York City the decline was even more dramatic, with the number of people dying from AIDS falling by about 50 per cent compared to the previous year.The number of babies being born HIV positive had also declined dramatically.
By the spring it was clear that although excellent for many people, the antiretroviral drugs did have unpleasant and in some cases serious side effects. Resistance could also occur, even when three drugs were being taken, and adherence was an important issue as many pills needed to be taken each day.

AIDS deaths begin to decline in developed countries, due to the new drug.

Brazil is the first developing country to begin providing free combination treatment.

In other developing countries, only a tiny minority can access treatment for HIV.

Around 22 million people are living with HIV worldwide, according to estimates made later.


In some countries HIV positive people were returning to work, having recovered their health as a result of combination antiretroviral drug treatment. However, some people began to be affected by quite severe side effects of the drugs.

In June, the company AIDSvax started the first human trial of an AIDS vaccine using 5,000 volunteers from across the USA.
  • "It opened a new era in AIDS research, and led us toward the human trials. It was like being in a room that was partially lit and getting darker and darker, and suddenly the lights went on and you could see the pathway out.

Don Francis, the President of Vaxgen in 'AIDS at 20, Life during the Plague',Newsweek web exclusive

A study found that the combination of caesarean delivery and AZT reduced the risk of HIV transmission from a mother to her baby to less than 1%. The study also found that women who took AZT but delivered their babies by natural childbirth had a higher risk (6.6%) of transmitting HIV to their babies.

The first case of a patient being infected with a strain of HIV resistant to the most powerful new antiretroviral drugs was reported in San Francisco in July. The mutated strain of HIV, seemingly impervious to protease inhibitors and older drugs, was found in a newly infected patient at San Francisco General Hospital.
  • "We may be seeing an emerging and dangerous edge to the epidemic."

Perlman D. (1998) 'AIDS Discovery Worries Scientists; S.F. man infected with drug-resistant strain of HIV', the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1
  • The United Nations issued new recommendations advising that HIV positive women in developing countries should be counselled to make their own decisions about how to feed their babies. This was interpreted as a major policy shift towards endorsing the use of infant formula. At the same time the United Nations decided to conduct pilot projects in eleven developing countries to expand access to services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • In South Africa, Gugu Dlamini, an AIDS activist, was beaten to death by her neighbours after revealing her HIV positive status on Zulu television. This happened just a month after Deputy President Thabo Mbeki had called for people to "break the silence about AIDS" in order to defeat the epidemic.


President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa voices support for AIDS dissidents.


At a UN Special Session, world leaders set long-term targets on HIV/AIDS.


The Global Fund is established to boost the response to AIDS, TB and malaria.
Botswana begins Africa’s first national AIDS treatment programme.


AIDS drugs become more affordable for developing countries.
The “3 by 5” campaign is launched to widen access to treatment.
The first HIV vaccine candidate to undergo a major trial is found to be ineffective.


America Launches a major drug initiative called PEPFAR to combat AIDS around the world.
After much hesitancy, South Africa begins to provide free antiretroviral treatment.


Circumcision s shown to reduce HIV infection among heterosexual men.

28% of people in developing countries who need treatment for HIV are receiving it.

Annual global spending on AIDS in low- and middle-income countries is $8.9 billion.

It is estimated that $14.9 billion would be needed for a truly effective response.


Around 33 million people are living with HIV, according to revised estimates.
Another major HIV vaccine trial is halted after preliminary results show no benefit.


A controversial Swiss study claims people adhering to ARVs have a "negligibly small" risk of transmitting HIV through unprotected sex.

PEPFAR is reauthorised, committing $48 billion for the next five years.

Michel Sidibé is named as new head of UNAIDS as Peter Piot steps down.


President Obama announces the removal of the travel ban that prevents HIV-positive people from entering the US.

4 million people in developing and transitional countries are receiving treatment for HIV; 9.5 million are still in immediate need of treatment.


The United States, South Korea, China and Namibia lift their travel bans for people living with HIV.
The CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial is hailed a success after results show the gel reduced the risk of HIV infection by 40%.
Results from the iPrEx trial show a reduction in HIV acquisition among men who have sex with men taking PrEP.