Hillary Clinton's recent misstatement about the early days of the AIDS epidemic and her effort to give the Reagans' some credit for a sensible reaction, in order to make nice at Nancy Reagan's funeral, inspired me to go back over the period. Here is a timeline of some pertinent events, without unnecessary editorializing.
June 1981: Reports of clusters of Kaposi's sarcoma and pneumocystis carini pneumonia in New York and California. Clusters involved gay men, later in the year clusters cases involving users of IV drugs appeared. In the following years, the presence of haemophiliac-patients among the victims will become clear.
April 13, 1982: Rep. Henry Waxman convenes the first Congressional hearings on these deaths.
July 1982: Somebody coins the term "AIDS" for what is going on.
March 1983: CDC mentions a clustering of cases of AIDS among Haitians.
May 1983: Scientists in France gave a name to a virus there, LAV.
July 1983: San Francisco General Hospital opens the first dedicated AIDS ward in the US -- full up within days of opening.
April 1984. Scientists in the US named a virus HTLV-3.
December 1984, Ryan White, a haemophiliac middle schooler, is diagnosed with AIDS. He would be denied access to the middle school the following year, setting off landmark litigation and legislative efforts.
April 1985. HTLV-3 and LAV are accepted as one and the same. An antibody test is developed for pre-symptomatic detection.
September 17, 1985, President Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time. This is a mention, NOT a speech or policy announcement.
October 2, 1985, Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS related illnesses.
May 1986. Through the declaration of an international committee on the taxonomy of viruses, a new generally accepted name for the virus at work gains acceptance: HIV.
Feb. 1987. Famed pianist Liberace dies of AIDS related illnesses. Princess Diana makes a point of shaking the hands of patients to dispel fears of contagion by casual contact.
March 1987, FDA approves the first anti-HIV drug, AZT. Also this month, Larry Kramer creates ACT UP.
May 31, 1987, Reagan creates a Presidential Commission on HIV.
April 1988, Tacoma, WA establishes the first comprehensive needle exchange program in North America.
October 1988, ACT UP protests the slow pace of testing and approvals at the FDA headquarters.
Dec. 1, 1988: the first World AIDS Day.
June 23, 1989, CDC releases "Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis B Virus to Health-Care and Public-Safety Workers."
Number of reported cases in the US alone reaches 100,000 this year.
April 1990, the death of Ryan White, at age of 18.