71 Important Facts about HIV/AIDS

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 2, 2016
  • Globally, 40 million people are infected with AIDS. Approximately 2.1 million of those are under the age of 15.[4]
  • HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer. To date, approximately 25 million people have died of AIDS around the world.[8]
  • French Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas (1953-1984) is notorious for being identified as “patient zero” for AIDS in the U.S. Dugas claims to have had over 2,500 sexual partners across North America. However, some studies dismiss the idea that he was Patient Zero. Instead they claim that he was a part of a cluster of homosexual men who traveled frequently and were extremely sexually active.[12]
  • In May 1969, an African American teenager named Robert died from a mystery illness, which was later confirmed to be the first known AIDS death in the USA. That he died in 1969, nearly a decade before the country’s first known cluster of AIDS cases, suggests HIV was introduced and reintroduced several times to the American population. It may have initially died out for lack of a very large, very sexually active population to transmit it.[12]
  • Eminent British scientist Professor Roy Anderson modeled the course of the AIDS epidemic and estimates it will take 130 years to work though the global population.[13]
  • For many years, China called AIDS the “loving capitalism disease” and claimed it was a disease caused by contact with the West. In 2009, China reported that AIDS had become the country’s leading cause of death among infectious diseases.[4]
  • Rock Hudson was the first major Hollywood star to go public with an AIDS diagnosis
  • The first major celebrity to go public with an AIDS diagnosis was Rock Hudson on July 25, 1985. He died on October 2, 1985, at the age of 59 in Beverly Hills, California.[16]
  • A young Swazi girl has a greater than 80% chance of dying from AIDS in her lifetime.[16]
  • In Swaziland, the chance of a 15-year-old boy living to 50 years is 28%. For a girl it is just 22%. Before AIDS, it was 92% and 97%, respectively.[16]
  • More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are currently living with an HIV infection.[6]
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18.1%) of those living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware of their infection.[6]
  • Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.[16]
  • Approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year.[16]
  • More than 619,000 people with AIDS in the U.S. have died since the epidemic began. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent the majority of people who have died.[6]
  • In 2011, an estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with the virus. Approximately, 1.7 million people died. That is 700,000 fewer new infections worldwide than 10 years ago and 600,000 fewer deaths than in 2005.[10]
  • By race and ethnicity in the U.S., African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV. In 2010, blacks represented around 12% of the U.S. population but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections.[6]
  • Unless the course of the AIDS epidemic changes, it is estimated that at some point in their lifetime, 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV.[5]
  • HIV is primarily spread through 1) unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, oral) with someone who has HIV, 2) sharing needles or syringes, 3) being born to an infected mother, and 4) blood transfusions.[8]
  • It can take 10 years or more for HIV to advance to AIDS
  • HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+T cells, which are vital in helping the body fight the disease.[16]
  • A person cannot get HIV from hugging or touching someone with HIV/AIDS; using public bathrooms or swimming pools; sharing cups, utensils, or telephones with someone who has HIV/AIDS; or by bug bites.[8]
  • HIV can survive in dried blood at room temperature for up to six days or for weeks if wet, such as in used syringes or needles.[14]
  • HIV is sensitive to high temperatures but not to extreme cold. Experiments have shown that HIV is killed by temperatures over 60° C.[14]
  • HIV does not survive as long as other viruses in seawater.[14]
  • Infectious HIV has been recovered from human corpses between 11 and 16 days after death in bodies that have been stored in mortuary temperatures of 2° Celsius. HIV was not detected in bodies after 16 days, suggesting that buried corpses or bodies preserved over time pose less of a risk. Additionally, embalming fluids inactivate HIV.[14]
  • Levels of HIV in rectal mucosal secretions in gay men were higher than those in blood or semen—by about 500% in the case of blood and 2500% in the case of semen. Men who have unprotected anal sex and encounter this mucous are at extremely high risk of HIV infection.[14]
  • People with AIDS are vulnerable to AIDS-defining illnesses and often exhibit the following conditions: 1) Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin tumor that looks like dark or purple blotches on the skin or mouth, 2) mental changes and headaches caused by tumors or fungal infections in the spinal cord and brain, 3) infections of the lungs that cause difficulty breathing, 4) severe malnutrition, 5) chronic diarrhea, and 6) dementia.[8]
  • About a month after contracting HIV, some people will develop flu-like symptoms. These symptoms often go away often within a week or month. After this initial response, a person can have HIV for years before feeling ill.[8]
  • Globally, HIV disproportionately infects and affects women. Not only are they more likely to be HIV positive, but they are also more likely to bear the burden of care and support.[4]
  • For women in their reproductive years (ages 15–49), HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death globally
  • The earliest known case of infection with HIV-1 in a human was detected in a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.[12]
  • HIV is an abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, which is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).[16]
  • Approximately 3.34 million children are living with HIV. Most of the children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast feeding. With proper treatment, mother-to-child transmission of HIV is almost 100% avoidable.[8]
  • Over 900 children become newly infected with HIV each day globally.[8]
  • Two strains of HIV have been identified: HIV-1 (from the Central Common Chimpanzee) and HIV-2 (from the Sooty Mangabey monkey). HIV-1 is more virulent, more easily transmitted, and is the cause of the vast majority of global HIV infections. HIV-2 is harder to transmit and is mainly confined to West Africa.[8]
  • While HIV has been found in saliva, sharing cups or eating utensils has never been shown to spread HIV/AIDS.[8]
  • The most simple and plausible theory as to how HIV was transmitted from monkeys to humans is called the “Hunter Theory,” or “Bush Meat Theory.” In this scenario, the virus was transmitted in the 1930s from an ape or monkey to a human in Africa when a hunter or bush meat handler was bitten or cut while hunting or butchering an animal. HIV was then transmitted among humans for decades in Africa, mostly via unprotected heterosexual vaginal sex.[12]
  • Geographically, the worst AIDS epidemic is in sub-Sahara Africa, with approximately 65% of all cases located there. Almost 90% of children with HIV live in sub-Sahara Africa.[8]
  • Nearly 90% of the world’s HIV-positive children live in sub-Saharan Africa
  • HIV initially spread in each country a little differently. For example, in Ukraine, drug users were the first to be affected. In the U.S. and U.K., the virus spread through homosexual and bisexual relations, while in sub-Sahara Africa, it spread through heterosexual relations.[16]
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps HIV-positive people lead longer and healthier lives. It also dramatically decreases the risk of transmitting HIV from an infected person to his or her sexual partner.[4]
  • States in the southern and northeastern United States report the highest rates of HIV.[5]
  • People with HIV have a harder time than healthy individuals recognizing fear in the faces of other. The trouble with emotional recognition may be caused by damage to the brain from the virus.[11]
  • Those affected by HIV are more likely to age prematurely. The prevailing theory is that early aging is caused mainly by chronic inflammation caused by HIV even during antiretroviral treatment.[1]
  • While those getting a tattoo, piercing, or scarifications are hypothetically at risk of getting HIV/AIDS, no confirmed cases have been recorded.[8]
  • Globally, the most common mode of HIV transmission is sexual intercourse, followed by mother-to-child infection, sharing drug-injecting equipment, and contaminated blood or instruments in health care settings.p[16]
  • South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world, at 5.9 million. South and Southeast Asia is the second most affected area. This region has around 4 million cases, or 12% of the population. Nearly 2.4 million of these cases are in India.[16]
  • Researchers believe that HIV originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo around 1920, when HIV crossed species from chimpanzees to humans.
  • HIV emerged from Africa and spread across the globe in less than 10 years.[16]
  • In Botswana, life expectancy has dropped from 65 to 35 years old due to AIDS.[16]
  • The first heterosexual high-profile case of AIDS was Arthur Ashe, an American tennis player. He contracted the virus from a blood transfusion during heart surgery in the 1980s. He died of AIDS at the age of 49 on February 6, 1993.[4]
  • The 1990 photo of gay activist David Kirby as he lay dying of AIDS has become an iconic portrait of the suffering of AIDS.[4]
  • The prevalence of AIDS is lowest in the Middle East and North Africa at 0.1% or less, East Asia at 0.1%, and Western and Central Europe at 0.2%.[4]
  • In 1996, even after being diagnosed as HIV-positive, Johnson Aziga, a Ugandan-born immigrant living in Canada, had unprotected sex with 11 women without informing them of his diagnosis. Seven of the women later tested positive for HIV and two later died from AIDS. He is notorious for being the first person charged and convicted with first-degree murder in Canada for transmitting HIV.[7]
  • The CDC at one point had named AIDS the “the 4H disease” because it seemed to affect Haitians, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and heroin users. The general press used the term “GRID” which meant “gay-related immune deficiency." In 1982, the CDC started referring to the disease as AIDS.[12]
  • AIDS can destroy a family if you let it, but luckily for my sister and me, Mom taught us to keep going. Don't give up, be proud of who you are, and never feel sorry for yourself.

    - Ryan White

  • The ability for the transmission of the HIV virus from animal to human required high-risk transmission channels. Scientists cite the emergence of colonialism and the growth of large colonial African cities. This growth led to a higher degree of sexual promiscuity, the spread of prostitution, and the spread of genital ulcer diseases such as syphilis.[12]
  • At least three people with HIV died in London after they stopped taking their medication on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastor. The pastor claimed that prayer, not medicine, would cure them of AIDS.[3]
  • Male circumcision helps reduce the risk that a man will get HIV from an infected female partner. It also lowers the risk of other STDs, penile cancer, and infant urinary tract infection.[16]
  • It is predicted that HIV will continue to increase because people are living longer with the disease due to the benefits of life-prolonging treatments. As more people with HIV live longer, the opportunities for transmission increase. Additionally, many people have grown complacent about HIV.[8]
  • World Aids Day has been held on 1 December every year since 1988
  • World AIDS Day is observed on December 1st every year. The first World AIDS Day was observed on December 1, 1988. The international symbol of AIDS awareness, the red ribbon, was adopted in 1991.[8]
  • The first major Hollywood movie to focus on AIDS was the 1993 film Philadelphia. Tom Hanks received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.[8]
  • A small community known as AIDS Denialism claims that the HIV/AIDS is a conspiracy. While most scientists reject their arguments, the government of South Africa officially adopted the stance from 1999-2005. Their denial of HIV/AIDS led to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths and infections.[8]
  • Operation INFEKTION claims that the United States created HIV/AIDS.[8]
  • Women, children, and infants are being raped in Africa based on the myth that sex with a virgin cures HIV.[15]
  • In 2002, the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in South Africa claimed that young adults believed that sex with animals is a way to avoid or even cure AIDS.[16]
  • There has been only one recorded case of transmitted HIV through open-mouthed kissing. This was between an HIV-infected man who had severe gum disease and his partner who also had severe gum disease.[8]
  • A three-year-old child was bitten by her HIV positive father, which caused bleeding. Soon after, she tested positive for HIV. Because there was no history of sexual abuse or blood transfusions, physicians believe that the infection was caused by her father’s bite.[2]
  • In 2006, almost 60% of adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa were women.[16]
  • Pharmaceutical companies have long been accused of cashing in on the fight against AIDS. In 2007, for example, Cipla was investigated for a 150% price difference between antiretroviral treatments offered to African and Indian buyers.[4]
  • In 2006, Sarah Porter, a woman from London, was one of the first women prosecuted for the reckless transmission of HIV. She was tried and sent to prison for 32 months. She reportedly was driven to seek revenge on black men whom she claimed were responsible for her illness. She was convicted of grievous bodily harm through the reckless transmission of HIV and sentenced to prison for 32 months.[4]
  • AIDS is the most studied disease in history
  • AIDS is the most studied disease in history.[16]
  • In April 1989, a Dutch man with HIV was jailed in Minnesota under a new law banning people with HIV from entering the USA.[4]
  • In 2001, Scotsman Stephen Kelly became the first person in the United Kingdom to be prosecuted there for the transmission of HIV. He was charged with "culpable and reckless conduct" for having unprotected sex with his partner even after he knew he had been infected with HIV.[4]
  • Globally, nearly 18 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.[16]
  • AIDS is the most advanced stages of HIV infection and is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or cancers, or when a person's CD4 (T-cell) count is less than 200.[16]
  • HIV/AIDS Timeline[4][9][10][12]
    1930sA type of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is transferred to humans in central Africa between 1884 and 1924. The mutated virus becomes HIV-1.
    1959The first known case of HIV in a human occurs in a person who died in the Congo.
    1966HIV probably enters Haiti. Many Haitians are working in the Congo, which provides the opportunity for infection.
    1968HIV most likely arrives in the United States this year via Haiti.
    1969Robert Rayford, a St. Louis teenager, dies of an illness that baffles his doctors. Eighteen years later it is confirmed that he had HIV. He is the first known American to have died from AIDS.
    1975Doctors in Africa see a rise in wasting and opportunistic infections, which are later determined to be AIDS.
    1976Norwegian sailor Arvid Noe dies, along with his wife and young daughter. It is later confirmed that he contracted HIV/AIDS in Africa during the early 1960s.
    1977A San Francisco prostitute gives birth to the first of three children who are later diagnosed with AIDS. After their deaths, blood tests revealed they all three died of AIDS. The mother died in 1987 of AIDS.
    1980French Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas pays his first known visit to New York bathhouses. He would later be deemed “Patient Zero” because he was connected to many early cases of AIDS in the United States.

    Rick Wellikoff, a Brooklyn schoolteacher, dies of AIDS in New York City. He is the 4th citizen to die from AIDS in the United States.
    1981AIDS is detected in California and New York. The first cases are among gay men, and then injecting drug users.

    “Gay Cancer,” or Gay Related Immune Deficiency, claims 121 deaths in the U.S. since the mid-1970s.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the first cases of a rare pneumonia in young gay men in the June 5 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which is later determined to be AIDS.

    First known case of HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom.

    The official beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
    1982AIDS is reported among hemophiliacs and Haitians in the U.S.

    AIDS is reported in 5 European countries; 285 cases have been reported in 17 U.S. states.

    The CDC begins formally tracking all AIDS cases.

    The name “AIDS” is established.
    1983AIDS is detected among non-drug-using women and children.

    Three thousand AIDS cases have been reported in the USA. One thousand people have died from it.
    1984Scientists identify HIV (originally called HTLV-III or LAV) as the cause of AIDS.

    Western scientists realize that AIDS is widespread in parts of Africa.

    HIV-positive teenager Ryan White is banned from attending school. He contracted the virus through a blood transfusion as part of his treatment for hemophilia.
    1985AIDS is detected in China and now has been identified in all regions of the world.

    An HIV test is licensed for screening blood supplies.

    Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS, which raises its awareness.

    Congress allocates $70 million for AIDS research.
    1986Over 38,000 cases of AIDS have been reported from 85 countries.

    Scientists locate a second type of AIDS virus, HIV-2.
    1987AZT is the first drug approved for treating AIDS. It prolongs the lives of some patients by reducing infections.
    1988World AIDS Day is established.
    1990Globally, over 8 million people have HIV.
    1991Globally, over 10 million people have HIV, including 1 million in the U.S. More than 36,000 Americans have died of AIDS since the late 1970s.

    NBA star Magic Johnson announces he is HIV positive.

    Rock star Freddie Mercury dies of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
    1992The first clinical trials using combinations of multiple drugs begin.

    FDA begins accelerated approval of experimental AIDS drugs.

    Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov dies from AIDS-related complications. He was infected during a blood transfusion in 1983.

    Anthony Perkins, known for his role of Norman Bates in Psycho, dies of AIDS.
    1993AZT is shown to have no benefit to those in the early stages of HIV infection.

    U.S. annual AIDS deaths approach 45,000.

    Tennis star Arthur Ashe dies from AIDS-related complications.
    1994Infant HIV infections decrease in developed countries because of AZT.

    AIDS-related illness are the leading cause of death for adults 25-44 years old in the U.S.
    1995The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) is created.

    Saquinavir, the first protease inhibitor (which reduces the ability of AIDS to spread to new cells) is approved.
    1996Combination antiretroviral treatment begins to be highly effective against HIV.
    1997Due to new drugs, AIDS deaths begin to decline in developed countries.

    Globally, over 22 million have HIV.
    1999Researchers believe that a retrovirus (simian immunodeficiency virus) from the chimpanzee Pan troglodyte passed to humans in west Africa and developed into types of HIV.

    Edward Hooper in his book The River accuses doctors who developed and gave the oral polio vaccine in 1950s Africa of unintentionally starting the AIDS epidemic. His book was later refuted.
    2000WHO estimates between 15% and 20% of new HIV infections worldwide are the result of blood transfusions.
    2007A San Francisco man, Timothy Ray Brown, who suffered from both leukemia and HIV is cured of HIV through a bone marrow transplant in Germany. Similar cases are being studied.
    2011Timothy Ray Brown, the first patient cured of HIV, is still HIV negative 4 years after the initial treatment.
    2013A toddler was “functionally cured” of HIV.

    A New York Times article says that 12 people of 75 who began combination antiretroviral therapy soon after becoming infected may have been “functionally cured” of HIV.
References

1 Allday, Erin. “HIV Patients Aging Prematurely.” San Francisco Chronicle. September 25, 2012. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

2 Bartholomew, Courtenay F. and Avion M Jones. “Human Bites: A Rare Risk Factor for HIV Transmission.” Medical Journal of the International AIDS Society. February 28, 2006. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

3 Dangerfield, Andy. “Church HIV Prayer Cure Claims ‘Cause Three Deaths.’” BBC. October 17, 2011. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

4 Dicker, Katie. AIDS and HIV (Global Issues). New York, NY: Rosen Central, 2011.

5HIV and AIDS in the United States by Geographic Distribution.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 23, 2013. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

6HIV in the United States: At a Glance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 23, 2013. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

7HIV Killer Ruled Dangerous Offender.” CBC NEWS Canada. August 2, 2011. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

8 Judd, Sandra J., Ed. AIDS Sourcebook, 5th ed. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 2011.

9 Knox, Richard. “More Nearing AIDS ‘Cure’ after Bone Marrow Transplants, Doctor Says.” NPR. July 26, 2012. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

10 McNeil, Donald G., Jr. “'Cured of AIDS'? Not Yet.” The New York Times. April 29, 2013. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

11 Pappas, Stephanie. “HIV & Fear: People with AIDS Virus Have Trouble Recognizing Emotion in Others’ Faces, Study Shows.” Huffington Post. February 27, 2013. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

12 Pepin, Jacques.The Origin of AIDS. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

13Projecting Possible Future Courses of the HIV Epidemic in the United States.” CDC. August 9, 2010. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

14Survival Outside the Body.” NAM AIDSMAP. 2013. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

15 Vickers, Steve. “Staging Sex Myths to Save Zimbabwe’s Girls.” BBC. Updated October 24, 2006. Accessed: June 27, 2013.

16 Whiteside, Alan. HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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