On This Gay Day: In 1981 the first mainstream media report about AIDS was published

40 years ago the first newspaper report about HIV appeared

In 1981 the New York Times ran the first article in the mainstream media that covered that would later be recognised as HIV/AIDS.

On the 18th May 1981 a news article has been published in the gay press, and on 5th June 1981 the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention published a notice about gay men who had died rare, and usually curable diseases.

News broke in the mainstream media on July 3rd 1981 with an article titled Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals written by Lawrence K. Alman.

“Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made.

“The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.” the article read.

Initially the syndrome was referred to as GRID – Gay Related Immune Deficiency. As time progressed doctors began to see the symptoms appear in distinct populations; homosexuals, heroin users, Haitians and hemophiliacs and the phrase ‘4H disease’ was coined. Soon doctors realised that the disease was appearing in populations outside this group and in 1982 the designation Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was adopted.

In 1983 two separate groups of researchers began to realise that a novel retrovirus was infecting people affected by AIDS. Initially the researchers thought they were looking at two separate viruses, but by 1986 they had been identified as the same virus and were given the name Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Four decades after the first reports of HIV there is still no cure for the disease, but people living with HIV can lead full lives provided they maintain a strict treatment regime. HIV medication has improved to the level where people undergoing treatment have no detectable viral load in their system. While Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment can stop people becoming infected with the virus.

The original report can be read in the archives of the New York Times.

OIP Staff, this post was first published in 2021 and was subsequently updated. 

You can support our work by subscribing to our Patreon
or contributing to our GoFundMe campaign.

Tags: , ,