<br> Dr. James Curran studies acquired cellular immunodeficiency in his lab in 1982 <br> (AP Photo/Joe Sebo)
The emerging new disease is initially referred to by several names, including GRID for "gay-related immune deficiency" or, more informally, "gay cancer."
In May 1982, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Randy Shilts, writes a comprehensive feature about the medical mystery of GRID:
Even more mysterious than the fact that these diseases are attacking a group with few if any common genetic physical or racial characteristics is the fact that the geographic regions where GRID victims have been found are so isolated. About half come from New York, with another quarter split almost evenly between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remaining quarter is scattered throughout smaller centers of gay populations around the country.
Public health officials also are worried that so far they have seen only the "tip of the iceberg" because of the increase in frequency with which the diseases are being reported. About 86 percent of the GRID victims have been reported since January and the federal Centers for Disease Control now average one new case a day.
And yet many patients with "GRID" aren't gay. In July, the acronym AIDS, for "acquired immune deficiency syndrome," is proposed: "acquired" because it is contracted rather than inherited, and "syndrome" because it comprises a constellation of symptoms and ailments, rather than one central disease. By August, newspaper articles and scientific journals are using that name. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first defines AIDS properly in September.
In 1987, Shilts would publish And the Band Played On, which is now considered the seminal work on the history of AIDS.
—Meredith MelnickNext:Evidence that AIDS Is Transmitted by Blood
When the federal government reported on June 5, 1981, that “5 young men, all active homosexuals” had been diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in Los Angeles, no one yet knew that these were the country’s first reported cases of AIDS. Since then, medicine has come a long way in understanding, treating and even preventing HIV. Following are the key medical advances and failures that have marked the past three decades of the battle against AIDS — milestones that elucidate how much we still need to learn.