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HIV/AIDS in the United States

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Title: HIV/AIDS in the United States  
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Collection: Health in the United States, Hiv/Aids in the United States, Lgbt History in the United States
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HIV/AIDS in the United States

Estimated rate of diagnosed HIV cases in U.S. 2009 (per 100,000)

The first appearance of HIV/AIDS in the United States was in about 1969, when HIV likely entered the U.S. through a single infected immigrant.[1] In the late 1970s (i.e., 1978) and early 1980s, doctors in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco began seeing young men with Kaposi's Sarcoma, a cancer.

As the knowledge that men who had sex with men were dying of an otherwise rare cancer began to spread throughout the medical communities, the syndrome began to be called by the colloquialism "gay cancer." As medical scientists discovered that the syndrome included other manifestations, such as pneumocystis pneumonia, (PCP), a rare form of fungal pneumonia, its name was changed to "GRID," or Gay Related Immune Deficiency.[2] This had an effect of boosting homophobia and adding stigma to homosexuality in the general public, particularly since it seemed that unprotected anal sex was the prevalent way of spreading the disease.

Within the medical community, it quickly became apparent that the disease was not specific to men who have sex with men (as blood transfusion patients, intravenous drug users, heterosexual and bisexual women, and newborn babies became added to the list of afflicted), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) renamed the syndrome AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1982. Hemophiliacs, who require injections of blood clotting factor as a course of treatment, during the late 1970s and 1980s also contracted HIV in large numbers worldwide through the spread of contaminated blood products. It is estimated that nearly 1 million individuals are currently infected with HIV in the country, and the number appears to be increasing each year. From the mid-1980s on, AIDS had a pivotal role in the rollback of Sexual Revolution habits in the big cities of the United States.[3][4]

Male to male sexual contact accounted for about half of new cases, and intravenous drug use contributed about a fifth of cases.[5] Despite the availability of syringe access programs, many individuals continue to share and use dirty or infected needles in most American cities.[6]


  • Public perception 1
  • Containment 2
    • Travel restrictions 2.1
    • Medicine disbursement 2.2
  • Mortality and morbidity 3
  • Current status 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Public perception

Regarding the social effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there has been since the 1980s a "profound re-medicalization of sexuality".[7][8]

One of the best-known works on the history of HIV is 1987's book And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts. Shilts contends that Ronald Reagan's administration dragged its feet in dealing with the crisis due to homophobia, while the gay community viewed early reports and public health measures with corresponding distrust, thus allowing the disease to spread and hundreds of thousands of people to needlessly die. This resulted in the formation of ACT-UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power by Larry Kramer.

This work popularized the misconception that the disease was introduced by a gay flight attendant named Gaëtan Dugas, referred to as "Patient Zero." However, subsequent research has revealed that there were cases of AIDS much earlier than initially known. HIV-infected blood samples have been found from as early as 1959 in Africa (see HIV main entry), and HIV has been shown to have caused the death of Robert Rayford, a 16 year old St. Louis male, in 1969, who could have contracted it as early as 7 years old due to sexual abuse, raising the question of spontaneous random genesis.[9]

Shilts also details the fact that despite recommendations from the transfusion recipients were infected and died.

It has been theorized that a series of inoculations against hepatitis that were performed in the gay community of San Francisco were tainted with HIV. Although there was a high correlation between recipients of that vaccination and initial cases of AIDS, this theory has never been proven. HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are bloodborne diseases with very similar modes of transmission, and those at risk for one are at risk for the others.[10]

Activists and critics of current AIDS policies allege that another preventable impediment to the attack on the disease was the academic elitism of "celebrity" scientists. Robert Gallo, an American scientist who was one of many to attempt to figure out if there was some kind of new virus in the people who were affected by the disease, became embroiled in a legal battle with French scientist Luc Montagnier. Gallo, too, appeared hung up on the possible connection between the virus causing AIDS and HTLV, a retrovirus that he had worked with previously. Critics claim that because some scientists (and biological research companies) wanted glory and fame (and lucrative patent rights), research progress was delayed and more people needlessly died. Eventually, after meeting, the French scientists and Gallo agreed to "share" the discovery of HIV.

Publicity campaigns were started in attempts to counter the often vitriolic and homophobic perception of AIDS as a "gay plague." In particular this included the Ryan White case, red ribbon campaigns, celebrity dinners, the 1993 film version of And the Band Played On, sex education programs in schools, and television advertisements. Announcements by various celebrities that they had contracted HIV (including actor Rock Hudson, basketball star Magic Johnson, tennis player Arthur Ashe and singer Freddie Mercury) were significant in making the general public aware of the dangers of the disease to people of all sexual orientations.


Chart of AIDS deaths in the United States from 1987 to 1997.
Chart of AIDS deaths in the United States from 1998 to 2002.

Great progress was made in the U.S. following the introduction of three-drug anti-HIV treatments ("cocktails") that included protease inhibitors. David Ho, a pioneer of this approach, was honored as Time Magazine Man of the Year for 1996. Deaths were rapidly reduced by more than half, with a small but welcome reduction in the yearly rate of new HIV infections. Since this time, AIDS deaths have continued to decline, but much more slowly, and not as completely in black Americans as in other population segments.[11][12]

Travel restrictions

The second prong of the American approach to containment has been to maintain strict entry controls to the country for people with HIV or AIDS. Under legislation enacted by the United States Congress in 1993, patients found importing anti-HIV medication into the country were arrested and placed on flights back to their country of origin.

Some HIV-positive travellers took to sending anti-HIV medication through the post to friends or contacts in advocacy groups in advance. This meant that the traveller would not be discovered with any medication. However, the security clampdown following the September 11 attacks in 2001 meant this was no longer an option.

The only legal alternative to this was to apply for a special visa beforehand, which entailed interview at an American Embassy, confiscation of the passport during the lengthy application process, and then, if permission were granted, a permanent attachment being made to the applicant's passport.

This process was condemned as intrusive and invasive by a number of advocacy groups, on the grounds that any time the passport was later used for travel elsewhere or for identification purposes, the holder's HIV status would become known. It was also felt that this rule was unfair because it applied even if the traveller was covered for HIV-related conditions under their own travel insurance.

In early December 2006, President United States Department of Health and Human Services still held the ban in administrative (written regulation) law. New impetus was added to repeal efforts when Paul Thorn, a UK tuberculosis expert who was invited to speak at the 2009 Pacific Health Summit in Seattle, was denied a visa due to his HIV positive status. A letter written by Mr. Thorn, and read in his place at the Summit, was attained by Congressman Jim McDermott, who advocated the issue to the Obama administration's Health Secretary.[14]

On October 30, 2009 President Barack Obama reauthorized the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Bill which expanded care and treatment through federal funding to nearly half a million.[15] He also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services crafted regulation that would end the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban effective in January 2010;[15] on January 4, 2010, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed HIV status as a factor to be considered in the granting of travel visas.[16]

Medicine disbursement

Previously in the U.S., HIV drugs were only given to those who had T-cell counts of under 200, but that had been boosted in the mid 2000s to 350 on advice from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) guidelines which recommend therapy for all patients at 350 or certain patients higher. For the uninsured, there are generally two funding sources, Medicaid and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), both administered differently in each state but still consistent with federal requirements established by the Ryan White Care Act.

According to a recent large scale study, asymptomatic HIV positive patients who started on medication with T-cell counts 350 to 500 had a 70 percent higher survival rate than those who waited. The results from this shows that waiting even until the cell count reaches 350 (current JAMA recommendation) increases the risk of death, let alone the Medicaid eligible 200.[17] As many patients can't afford medicines without Medicaid help, HIV annual death counts have failed to decline significantly since 2002 despite great advances made before that date. The number of new cases in children has dropped significantly as a result of better screening of infected mothers as well as having established uniform testing and screening of blood products. This is not the same for places outside the United States, especially developing countries where the number of children affected by HIV continue to rise exponentially each year.[18]

Mortality and morbidity

Invariably, HIV is a silent disease when first acquired, and this period of latency varies. The progression from HIV infection to AIDS varies from 5–12 years. In the past, most individuals succumbed to the disease in 1–2 years after being diagnosed with AIDS. However, since the introduction of potent anti retroviral drug therapy and better prophylaxis against opportunistic infections, death rates have significantly declined.[19]

Current status

Estimated number of US HIV/AIDS Cases, in 2007 by transmission category[20]

The cumulative number of deaths in the U.S. due to causes related to AIDS is estimated to be more than 650,000. The cumulative number of estimated AIDS cases in the U.S. is estimated to be 1.8 million. Over 1.1 million people are estimated to be currently living with HIV in the U.S.[21] About 50,000 people are infected with HIV in the U.S. each year, a number which has remained fairly steady over the last decade.[21]

UNAIDS estimates that there are a total of about 1,200,000 people in the U.S. living with HIV as of 2009, and that 310,000 of these are women (female 15+ years of age).[22]

In California alone, 184,429 cumulative people (including children) have reported to have contracted HIV by December 2008. Of those, 85,958 have died, with 31,076 in Los Angeles County, 18,838 in San Francisco, and 7,135 in San Diego County.[23]

In 2007, 119,929 people were living with HIV in the state of New York, with 92,669 in New York City alone.[24]

Washington DC has a particularly high incidence of HIV/AIDS, about 2.7% overall but much higher in the Black male population.[21]

In the United States, homosexuals,[25] Hispanics, African Americans and White Males make up about 78% of the total HIV-positive population and 75% the amount of new HIV cases.[26] A review of four studies in which trans women in the United States were tested for HIV found that 27.7% tested positive.[27]

In a 2008 study, the Center for Disease Control found that, of the study participants who were men who had sex with men ("MSM"), almost one in five (19%) had HIV and "among those who were infected, nearly half (44 percent) were unaware of their HIV status." The research found that those who are white MSM "represent a greater number of new HIV infections than any other population, followed closely by black MSM — who are one of the most disproportionately affected subgroups in the U.S." and that most new infections among white MSM occurred among those aged 30–39 followed closely by those aged 40–49, while most new infections among black MSM have occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29).[28][29]

See also


  1. ^ Gilbert MT, Rambaut A, Wlasiuk G, Spira TJ, Pitchenik AE, Worobey M (November 2007). "The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and beyond". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104 (47): 18566–70.  
  2. ^ Altman, Charles (June 18, 1982). "Clue Found on Homosexuals' Precancer Syndrome". New York Times (New York Times Company). Retrieved March 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ AIDS Is Killing The Sexual Revolution by Ellen Goodman, Toledo Blade at Google News archives, October 28, 1986
  5. ^
  6. ^ Davis CS, Beletsky L (2009). "Bundling occupational safety with harm reduction information as a feasible method for improving police receptiveness to syringe access programs: evidence from three U.S. cities". Harm Reduct J 6: 16.  
  7. ^ Aggleton, Peter; Parker, Richard Bordeaux; Barbosa, Regina Maria (2000). Framing the sexual subject: the politics of gender, sexuality, and power. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 3.  
  8. ^ Vance, Carole S. (1991). "Anthropology rediscovers sexuality: a theoretical comment". Soc Sci Med 33 (8): 875–84.  
  9. ^ Highleyman L (1999). "First AIDS case in 1969". BETA 12 (4): 5.  
  10. ^ "Bloodborne Infectious Diseases HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B Virus, and Hepatitis C Virus". US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. March 10, 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Phill; Wright, Kai; Isbell, Michael T. (August 2008). "Left Behind: Black America: a Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic" (PDF). Black AIDS Institute. Retrieved March 20, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Deaths in New York City Reached Historic Low in 2002" (Press release). New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. January 30, 2004. Retrieved March 20, 2010. 
  13. ^ Russell, Sabin (December 2, 2006). "Bush to ease rule limiting HIV-positive foreign visitors". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Communications). Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  14. ^ | url = | title = Activist helps US HIV law change | publisher = BBC News | accessdate = January 9, 2012
  15. ^ a b  
  16. ^ "HIV Final Rule".  
  17. ^ Smith, Michael (October 27, 2008). "ICAAC-IDSA: HIV Treatment Started Sooner than Later Lessens Early Death Risk". MedPage Today, LLC. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Epidemiology Research, HIV/AIDS". National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. November 12, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "2008 HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Annual Report" (PDF). San Francisco Department of Public Health. July 9, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  20. ^ "HIV/AIDS Basic Statistics". US Centers for Disease Control. February 26, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c "The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States". Kaiser Family Foundation. March 22, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  22. ^ "United States". HIV/AIDS Knowledge Base. University of California, San Francisco. Retrieved November 25, 2011. 
  23. ^ "December 2008 Monthly HIV/AIDS Statistics" (PDF). California Department of Public Health Office of AIDS. July 9, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  24. ^ "New York State HIV/AIDS Surveillance Annual Report For Cases Diagnosed Through December 2007" (PDF). New York State Department of Public Health. May 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010 (p 50)
  27. ^ "Estimating HIV Prevalence and Risk Behaviors of Transgender Persons in the United States: A Systematic Review". AIDS Behav 12 (1): 1–17. Jan 2008.  
  28. ^ CDC Fact Sheet - HIV and AIDS among Gay and Bisexual Men - Sept 2010
  29. ^ CDC: One In Five Gay Men HIV-Positive


  1. Cante, Richard C. (March 2008). Gay Men and the Forms of Contemporary US Culture. London: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-7230-1. 
  2. Bogart, Laura; Thorburn, Sheryl (February 2005). "Are HIV/AIDS conspiracy beliefs a barrier to HIV prevention among African Americans?". J. Acquir. Immune Defic. Syndr. 38 (2): 213–8.  
  3. Walker, Robert Searles (1994). AIDS: Today, Tomorrow : an Introduction to the HIV Epidemic in America (2nd ed.). Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press Intl.  
  4. Siplon, Patricia (2002). AIDS and the policy struggle in the United States. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.  

External links

  • – The U.S. Federal Domestic HIV/AIDS Resource
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