HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is one of the biggest pandemics the world has ever seen. You may know it as the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

Fortunately, since our exposure to this disease, we’ve learned more about what causes it and how to prevent it. Check out this brief summary of HIV’s history and how it can be treated.

The Origins of HIV

The earliest case of HIV was found in the blood sample of a man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The consensus is that the most prevalent form of the virus jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s as the result of trading bush meat.

Before the explosion of the disease in the 1980’s it was thought that there could be as many as 300,000 people infected with HIV worldwide, with the earliest known case in North America appearing in 1968 in the blood of a midwestern teenager.

Since then, there has been so much research conducted about the illness that there are numerous treatment options and many treated patients. However, not every treatment is absent of side effects. There are even class action cases like the Truvada lawsuit concerning the side effects of retroviral medications. This is why doctors encourage any HIV positive patients to research their treatment options carefully, and seek legal compensation if they have been affected.

Start of the Epidemic

The following is a very brief history of HIV and AIDS since it exploded on the medical scene.

It was initially thought that the following groups could catch HIV:

?      Hemophiliacs – due having received blood transfusions with contaminated blood.

?      Homosexual men – due to reporting higher incidence rates of HIV.

?      Haitians and people of Haitian descent – due to many of the initial cases originating in Haiti.

?      Heroin addicts – due to intravenous drug use. This also applied to addicts who injected other drugs.

However, by 1984 research had shown additionally:

?      Females could catch HIV through heterosexual sex.

?      There were over 3,000 cases of AIDS in the United States, which caused the deaths of almost half of the patients with the disease.

By 1995, the leading cause of death among adults 25-44 years of age was due to complications from AIDS. It was estimated that 50,000 Americans had died from AIDS related causes, with African Americans accounting for almost 50% of the deaths related to AIDS.

As multidrug treatments became more widely accessible the number of deaths from AIDS has steadily declined from a peak of over 38,000 in 1996.

The Development of Research, Treatment and Prevention

Azidothymidine, also known as Zidovudine or (AZT) was introduced in 1987 as the first medication for treating HIV. A decade late, the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) was the new standard for treatment. This caused a 47% decline in the death rates of individuals with AIDS.

By 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved a 99% accurate kit for rapidly diagnosing HIV in 20 minutes. Since 2003, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has steadily reported 56,000 new infections yearly. The World Health Organization (WHO) had a goal of treating 3 million patients by 2005 but found that over 5.25 million people had received treatment, with 1.2 million people awaiting treatment.

Where Are We Now?

As of 2010 there are over 20 different options for treatment and generic drugs for HIV and AIDS. In 2017, it was determined that patients diagnosed with HIV on a regular antiretroviral therapy regimen couldn’t transmit HIV to their partners during sex if the level of HIV in their blood was undetectable. This led to the push among medical professionals and HIV awareness advocates to spread the slogan “undetectable = untransmittable” in an effort to help reduce the stigma attached to people with HIV.

Living with HIV is not the death sentence it was at one time thought to be. With regular checkups, taking care of yourself and taking the proper precautions, it is possible to live a full and fulfilling life without having to worry about this illness affecting you.