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AIDS in Atlanta: Reliving the plague years

A survivor of the epidemic looks back on old friends — and worries about the future



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AIDS: The first two decades

June 1982 — Reports of illness among gay men in Southern California suggest a newly identified sexually transmitted disease.

July 1982 — AIDS is officially named and recognized as a syndrome of symptoms and diseases by the CDC, which reports 452 cases in 23 states; AID Atlanta forms around this time.

December 1984 — Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac in Indiana, is diagnosed with AIDS. His subsequent legal battle to attend public school makes him a literal poster boy for the disease in the U.S.

April 1985 — The first-ever International AIDS Conference is held in Atlanta.

July 1985 — Rock Hudson reveals he is dying of AIDS; press coverage makes public his homosexuality and follows the once-robust movie star's physical deterioration.

August 1986 — The federal government makes it illegal for workplaces to discriminate against people with AIDS.

March 1989 — Southwest Atlanta's Childkind becomes one of the first few foster homes in the U.S. specifically for babies and children with AIDS.

August 1990 — Congress approves the Ryan White Care Act, four months after White's death, creating the first significant federal funding to help people living with HIV.

October 1990 — AID Atlanta organizes the first Atlanta AIDS Walk.

November 1991 — Magic Johnson announces he's HIV positive and retires from the NBA; the following day, AID Atlanta is flooded with calls from concerned heterosexuals.

August and July 1992 — Both political parties have women infected with HIV speak at their national conventions, Elizabeth Glaser for the Democrats and Mary Fisher for the Republicans.

February 1993 — A survey of 50 Atlanta business and civic leaders reveals that AIDS is considered the most important health-related topic in the metro area.

August 1993 — Grady Memorial Hospital unveils its state-of-the-art, $7.5 million HIV/AIDS clinic on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

1996 — FDA approves antiretroviral drug cocktail that proves the first effective treatment to delay the onset of AIDS in persons with HIV; within four years, the mortality rate in U.S. drops by 84 percent.

April 1997 — President Clinton puts former AID Atlanta director Sandra Thurman in charge of national AIDS policy.

August 1999 — Two thousand AIDS experts gather in Atlanta for the CDC's National HIV Prevention Conference.

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