At first, the June 5, 1981, edition of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report seemed to describe just another medical mystery, puzzling but not alarming.
It read: ‘In the period October 1980 to May 1981, five young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at three different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died.’
At the time, my colleagues and I in the CDC weren’t to know that we had read the first account of HIV/Aids, which has since killed more than 40 million people. In those early years, we learnt hard lessons about the importance of communication, political support and public education, lessons that still inform the battle against HIV/Aids today.