FAQ: How did AIDS really start?
The first recognized cases of AIDS were diagnosed in the early 1980s among gay men in New York and California and later in injection drug users. By 1983, infections were reported in American women and children. It wasn't until the next year that scientists discovered that HIV causes AIDS. By 1990, about 8 million people were infected.
In the last two decades, scientists have discovered that different drugs can slow down the progression of the disease. These drugs can be very expensive and patients in poor areas of the world often do not have access to them, but they enable some HIV positive people to live longer today than ever before. The United Nations estimated that there were 33.3 million people are infected worldwide in 2009.
Still, there is no cure or vaccine, so prevention is the key. HIV can be spread through sexual transmission, through blood, and from mother to child. In each case, there are ways to prevent or eliminate HIV risk. For more on prevention, link to our prevention article.