HIV 101

Got the Facts?

Got the Facts?

Got the Facts?


How is HIV Transmitted

By having unprotected sex with

someone living with HIV

By sharing a syringe with someone

living with HIV

From an HIV+ mother to baby

before, during birth or afterwards

via breast milk

HIV is transmitted through blood,

semen, vaginal fluids, and

breast milk only!

How is HIV Not Transmitted

  • Donating blood
  • Touching, hand-holding, hugging
  • Sharing a bathroom or toilet
  • Coughing, saliva, sweat, sneezing
  • Eating after a person with HIV
  • Sharing utensils
  • Swimming pools
  • Sharing clothes, towels, or bedding
  • Mosquito or other insect bites


Got the Facts?

Got the Facts?


Q: Can't you get HIV from someone if they spit on you?

A: Absolutely not, the virus is not found in saliva in sufficient numbers to transmit the virus. 

Q: What if someone who has HIV throws blood on me?

A:  Transmission would be virtually impossible.This is partly because it's extremely unusual for this situation to involve any opportunity for  infected body fluid to enter the person's bloodstream -- it does not reach a mucous membrane (such as the vagina or rectum) or an open wound.

So in practical terms, there's little reason to worry about contact with body fluids that have already been outside a person's body for some minutes.

Q: Can I catch the virus from a dirty bathroom?

A: No. First because the virus is not present in urine or feces that is significant. Second as with the examples above there has never been a case of HIV transmitted this way.

Q: What is the most likely way to get HIV?

A: Through unprotected vaginal or anal sex with someone living with HIV or sharing a syringe with the same. 

The Early Years of AIDS

Reagan's Response

A Brief History of HIV/AIDS

Ronald Reagan was President during the emergence and early years of AIDS. The President of the United States chose to ignore the growing crisis until 1985, due to the fact that AIDS was only affecting Gay men. Homophobia and cruelty were the norm, we will never know how many more lives could have been saved had the government responded sooner. 

Files coming soon.

HIV/AIDS Timeline



On June 5, 1981, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first warning about a relatively rare form of pneumonia among a small group of young gay men in Los Angeles, which was later determined to be AIDS-related. Since that time, tens of millions of people have acquired  HIV worldwide.


  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming occurrence of a rare cancer (Kaposi’s sarcoma) in otherwise healthy gay men. They first call the disease “gay cancer” but was renamed GRID (“gay-related immune deficiency”).
  • The New York Times announces a “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.”
  • The CDC declares the new disease an epidemic.
  • First mainstream news coverage of AIDS occurred. The CDC released a report that was published  by the Associated Press and the LA Times on the same day it is issued. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on it the next day.


  • The CDC changes the name of the illness called GRID to AIDS (Acquired Immune  Deficiency Syndrome). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) rejects a proposed study to determine whether women get AIDS.
  • In late 1982, the first federal funds ($5.6 million) were allocated for AIDS' medical research.


  • At the National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference in Denver, PWAs (People with AIDS) founded the National Associate of People with AIDS and adopt the Denver Principles, a  cornerstone of the AIDS movement articulating the rights of PWAs.
  • Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) funds litigation of the first AIDS discrimination suit by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
  • A  major outbreak of AIDS in Central Africa is reported, signaling the beginning of the epidemic in developing countries.
  • The U.S. Public Health Service issues recommendations for preventing transmission of HIV through sexual contact and blood transfusions.
  • AIDS Candlelight Memorial held for the first time.


  • Dr. Luc Montagnier in France (and later, Dr. Dr. Robert Gallo in the U.S.)  isolates a new retrovirus, later known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV.
  • CDC states that abstention from intravenous drug use and reduction of  needle-sharing “should also be effective in preventing transmission of the  virus”.


  • Rock Hudson’s revelation that he has AIDS, and his subsequent trip to France for experimental drug treatment, makes the disease a household word and underscores the plight of PWAs in accessing cutting-edge medications.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test kit to screen for antibodies to HIV.
  • The American Association of Blood Banks and the Red Cross begin screening the country’s blood supply for HIV antibodies, rejecting gay donors.
  • The First International AIDS Conference on AIDS is held in Atlanta.
  • The CDC estimates as many as 1 million people worldwide are living with HIV.
  • Ryan White, an Indiana teenager with AIDS, is barred from school; goes on to  speak out publicly against AIDS stigma and discrimination.


  • New York City’s first anonymous testing site opens.
  • The Reagan administration urges the public not to panic since AIDS is confined to gay men and intravenous drug users.
  • AZT,  ( azidothymidine ) the first drug used to treat AIDS, begins clinical trials.


  • AZT, the first drug approved to fight HIV is marketed; the cost of a year’s  supply is $10,000, making it one of the most expensive drugs ever sold.  The recommended dose is one capsule every four hours around the clock – a regimen later shown to be extremely toxic.
  • Princess Diana visits AIDS patients and shakes their hands without gloves.
  • After a six-year silence, President Ronald Reagan uses the word “AIDS” in public for the first time and establishes Presidential Commission on HIV (Watkins Commission).
  • The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is initiated to ensure the availability of medications to uninsured to under insured PWAs (people with AIDS).
  • The U.S. shuts its doors to HIV-infected immigrants and travelers.
  • U.S. FDA sanctions first human testing of candidate vaccine against HIV.
  • U.S. FDA creates new class of experimental drugs, Treatment Investigational New Drugs (INDs), which accelerates drug approval by two to three years.
  • AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed on National Mall in Washington, DC for first time.


  • Condom use is shown to be effective; preventing sexual transmission of HIV.
  • For the first time, more new AIDS cases in NYC are attributed to needle sharing  than to sexual contact. The majority of new AIDS cases are among African Americans; people of color account for more than two thirds of all new cases.
  • The first World AIDS Day is held on December 1 to create global AIDS awareness.
  • Surgeon  General Koop mails 107 million copies of “Understanding AIDS” to every American household.
  • A  reversal in Department of Justice policy: AIDS/HIV patients can no longer  be discriminated against.


  • First guidelines for the prevention of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an AIDS-related opportunistic infection and major cause of morbidity and mortality      for people with HIV are issued by U.S. CDC.
  • After much public protest by AIDS activists, the price of AZT is lowered by 20%.
  • The NAMES project Memorial Quilt returns to Washington D.C. The number of panels has grown to 10,848.


  • Ryan White dies at the age of 18.
  • The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act passes, authorizing $881 million in emergency relief to 16 cities hardest hit by the epidemic. Congress only appropriates $350 million.
  • President  George Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to project people with disabilities, including people with HIV infection, from discrimination.
  • American AIDS deaths pass the 100,000 mark - nearly twice the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.
  • The Philadelphia Center in Shreveport opens its doors under the leadership of Dr. Marc Spurlock and Executive Director Robert Darrow.


  • After  months of rancorous debate, the NYC Board of Education approves HIV/AIDS  initiative, which includes condoms availability in high schools.
  • U.S. CDC recommends restrictions on the practice of HIV-positive health care workers and Congress enacts law requiring states to take similar action.
  • NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson announces that he is HIV-positive and retires from Basketball.


  • In response to mounting activism and protest the FDA starts “accelerated approval” to get promising drugs to PWAs faster.
  • The first reports of successful combination drug treatments for AIDS are published.
  • FDA licenses first rapid HIV test; which provides results in as little as ten minutes.
  • AIDS becomes number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44.


  • The CDC expands the definition of AIDS to include four new conditions, some specific to women. New AIDS diagnoses are expected to increase by as much as 100% as a result of the change.
  • The CDC, NIH, and FDA declare in a joint statement that condoms are “highly  effective” for prevention of HIV infection.
  • President Clinton establishes White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP).
  • First  annual “AIDSWatch” – hundreds of community members from across the U.S.  converge in Washington DC to lobby Congress for increased AIDS funding.


  • The CDC reports that heterosexually acquired cases of AIDS rose 130% from 1992  to 1993, while cases among gay men rose 87%.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 19.5 million people worldwide have become HIV-infected since the beginning of the epidemic.
  • U.S. Public Health Service recommends use of AZT by pregnant women to reduce perinatal transmission of HIV, based on “076” study showing up to 70% reduction in transmission.
  • U.S. FDA approves an oral HIV test, the first non-blood based antibody test for HIV.


  • The CDC announces that AIDS has become the leading cause of death for  Americans aged 25 to 44. The biggest increase is reported among men of  color who have sex with men.
  • The FDA approves Saquinavir, the first in a new class of drugs called protease  inhibitors, in a record 97 days.
  • President  Clinton establishes the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
  • First National HIV Testing Day created by the National Association of People with AIDS.


  • The FDA approves the sale of the first home HIV test kit.
  • The FDA approves an HIV viral load test, which measures HIV levels in the  blood and is the most effective way to track The progression of HIV  throughout the body and evaluate the success of antiretroviral combination drug therapy.
  • Cover stories hailing AIDS breakthroughs and the “end” of the epidemic appear in The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.
  • The number of new AIDS cases diagnosed in the U.S. declines for the first time in history of epidemic, though experience varies by sex, race and ethnicity.


  • The first human trials of an AIDS vaccine begin with 5,000 volunteers from across the nation.
  • U.S. Congress enacts FDA Modernization Act of 1997, codifying accelerated approval process, and allowing dissemination of information about  off-label uses of drugs.
  • President Clinton announces goal of finding an effective vaccine in 10 years.


  • African Americans account for 49% of AIDS deaths. Mortality for African Americans is almost ten times that of whites and three times that of Hispanics.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce that AIDS deaths nationwide dropped 47% from 1996 to 1997.
  • First large scale human trials (Phase III) for an HIV vaccine begins.


  • The Young Men’s Survey (YMS), the first large-scale study of HIV infection among young gay men in New York City, finds that large numbers have become infected with the virus in the last two years, with the levels of  infection among young black men exceeding those among white and Hispanic  man.
  • President Clinton announces "Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic" (LIFE) Initiative to address the global epidemic; leads to  increased funding.


  • U.S. and U.N. declare AIDS national security threat.
  • UNAIDS, WHO, and other groups strike deals with major pharmaceutical companies to      provide reduced-cost treatment in the developing world.
  • HIV  drug resistance testing becomes the standard-of-care to help people living with HIV make better treatment decisions.
  • FDA approves two new combination HIV pills – Kaletra and Trizivir. This brings the total to 14 single-drug HIV pills and three combination pills.


  • A  new study shows that 14% of individuals newly infected with HIV in the U.S. already exhibit resistance to at least one antiviral drug.
  • United Nations General Assembly convenes first ever special session on  HIV/AIDS,"UNGASS".
  • First Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is commemorated in the U.S.
  • June 5 marks 20 years since first AIDS case reported


  • The Bush Administration removes Condom Fact Sheets from the “Programs that Work” section of the HHS website. After much protest, revised Fact Sheets that downplay the effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy and  sexually transmitted infections are reposted.
  • The FDA approves a new rapid HIV testing device that is easy to use, produces reliable results in 20 minutes, and eliminates the current week-long waiting periods for test results.
  • HIV is found to be the leading cause of death worldwide among those aged 15 to 59.


  • President George W. Bush announces up to $15 billion in funding over the next five  years for Global AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria treatment and prevention  for 12 African and two Caribbean countries.
  • Activists express deep reservations about a provision that gives abstinence programs  a third of USAID’s prevention funding.
  • First National Latino AIDS Awareness Day is commemorated in the U.S.
  • FDA approves four new HIV drugs – Emtriva, Fuzeon, Lexiva, and Reyataz. Fuzeon is the first HIV fusion inhibitor; it is taken by injection. This brings the  total to 19.


  • The FDA approved the use of oral fluid samples with a rapid HIV diagnostic  test kit that provides screening results with over 99% accuracy in as  little as 20 minutes.
  • First  saliva-based rapid HIV test approved.
  • FDA approves two new combination HIV pills – Epzicom and Truvada. This brings the total to 19 individual HIV drugs and five combination pills.


  • CDC  releases post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) guidelines for possible sexual exposure to HIV.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug – Aptivus. This brings the total to 20  individual HIV drugs and five combination pills.


  • June 5 marks a quarter century since first AIDS case reported.
  • The CDC reports that African Americans account for more than half of new HIV infections in the U.S.
  • The CDC announces that mother-to-child HIV transmission in the U.S. has  declined to less than 2% – a drop from about 27% in the years before HIV  drugs were used to prevent such transmission.
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases revised HIV testing recommendations for Health-care settings, recommending routine HIV screening for all adults aged 13-64, and yearly screening for those at high risk.


  • President  Bush calls on Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR at $30 billion over 5 years.
  • New UNAIDS statistics, based on new surveillance methods, estimate that 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS.


  • U.S. Congress reauthorizes PEPFAR for an additional 5 years at up to $48 billion.
  • First  Annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the United States.
  • FDA approves one new HIV drug – Intelence. This brings the total to 22  individual HIV drugs and six combination pills.


  • President  Obama launches the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a six-year effort to  develop a comprehensive approach to addressing global health in low and middle/income countries, with PEPFAR as a core component.
  • President Barack Obama calls for the U.S. to develop its first National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
  • The U.S. Congress eliminates long-standing ban on the use of federal funds for  needle exchange programs.


  • Removal of U.S. HIV travel and immigration ban officially begins.
  • The White House releases the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy to coordinate the efforts of government and nonprofit agencies, as well as faith-based organizations, labor unions, and businesses to ensure care for citizens universally.
  • Congress passes and President Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, establishing a national health care plan aimed at reforming the  U.S. health care system.
  • Results from the iPrEX study indicate that pill-based pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – the use of daily antiretroviral drugs by uninfected persons – can reduce the risk of HIV infection.


  • June  5 marks 30 years since the first AIDS case reported.
  • President Obama authorized $109 million in additional funding for HIV care to implement the HIV/AIDS strategy with additional funds set aside for HIV/AIDS research.
  • A  landmark research study shows that putting healthy people living with HIV on antiretrovirals can limit their transmission of the virus by 96%. This strategy is called “treatment as prevention”.
  • National Institutes of Health announce plans to launch their own cure initiatives.


  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues new HIV treatment guidelines that, for the first time, recommend treatment for all  HIV-infected adults and adolescents, regardless of CD4 count or viral  load.
  • FDA approves one new combination pill – Stribild. Stribild is the third      approved one-pill-a-day HIV regimen. This brings the total to 23      individual HIV drugs and eight combination pills.
  • FDA  also approves the use of the HIV combination pill Truvada to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.
  • Overall,  new HIV infections worldwide declined 33% between 2001 and 2012.


  • 30th Anniversary of the AIDS Institute and the AIDS Advisory Council.
  • U.S. Congress passes and President Obama signs the HIV Organ Policy Equity  (HOPE) Act, which will allow persons living with HIV to receive organs  from other infected donors. The HOPE Act has the potential to save the  lives of about 1,000 HIV-infected patients with liver and kidney failure annually.
  • FDA  approves one new HIV drug – Tivicay. This brings the total to 24      individual HIV drugs and eight combination pills.


  • Major  provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to protect consumers which  include barring discrimination against customers with pre-existing conditions, such as HIV, go into effect.
  • Douglas Brooks is appointed as the new Director of the White House Office of  National AIDS Policy. He is the first African American and the first  HIV-positive person to hold the position.
  • The Pew Charitable Trust reports that southern states are now the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.


  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announces that more than 90% of new HIV infections in the U.S. could be prevented by diagnosing people living with HIV and linking them to care.
  • White House launches the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces it will lift its 30-year-old  ban on all blood donations by men who have sex with men and institute a  policy that allows them to donate blood if they have not had sexual  contact with another man in the previous 12 months.
  • U.S. Congress lifts restrictions, under certain circumstances, for states and  localities on the use of federal funds for syringe services in response to outbreaks of HIV related to injection drugs.


  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and partners will launch a large HIV   vaccine trial in South Africa in November 2016, pending regulatory  approval. This represents the first time since 2009 that the scientific  community has embarked on an HIV vaccine clinical trial of this size.
  • The  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is seeking comment on  deferral policies for blood donation policies based on risk factors.  Currently, the FDA requires gay and bisexual men to abstain from sex with  other men for one year before donating blood. 


Fighting for our lives

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

Fighting for our lives


AIDS had begun to be recognized as a public-health crisis during the early 1980s, but the general public had relatively little knowledge about it. Little knowledge, but plenty of suspicion and fear. 

Despite a small, vocal community of activists (ACT-UP) calling for a government response to the crisis, AIDS was a deeply stigmatizing burden.

Most Americans believed the complex disease affected only gay men; it was some time before it became known that intravenous drug users, those who received blood transfusions containing the HIV virus, and other groups also were at risk.

The Denver Principles

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

Fighting for our lives


 How 'The Denver Principles" Changed Healthcare Forever

June 7, 2013 • By Mark S. King

You must know this, because it matters. Because it has already changed your life, no matter who you are, and you may not even realize it. Because as we search for a new national voice for people living with HIV (since the ugly demise of The National Association of People with AIDS), and as LGBT community leaders pledge to re-commit themselves to HIV issues, the voice of people with HIV matters more than ever.

That isn’t about a vague concept. It began at a very real meeting, which gave birth to a very real, tangible document. And it happened exactly thirty years ago this month.

It was 1983. Just a year prior, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) became the fearful nameplate for the murderer of gay friends and lovers. The virus that caused it, HIV, had only been identified a few weeks earlier. Amidst this atmosphere of unremitting grief and fear, a group of activists met in Denver as part of a gay and lesbian health conference. Among them, a dozen men with AIDS. And among their number, the inspirational Michael Callen of New York City, pictured at right, and safe sex architect Richard Berkowitz (Sex Positive), the only surviving member of the group today. They were about to do something that would change our response to AIDS—and health care in general—forever.

As the conference drew to a close, the activists asked to address the attendees. Rather than having a report presented about the state of the AIDS crisis, they wanted to speak for themselves. If the word “empowerment” hadn’t yet been a part of the health care lexicon, it was about to be.

The group took turns reading a document to the conference they had just created themselves, during hours sitting in a hospitality suite of the hotel. It was their Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence rolled into one. It would be known as The Denver Principles, and it began like this: "We condemn attempts to label us as ’victims,’ which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally ’patients,’ which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are ’people with AIDS.’"

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation


 After Rock Hudson died in October 1985, Taylor became an AIDS activist and formed a foundation to raise funds for research on how to combat AIDS. By the late 1980s AIDS was beginning to be known as no longer simply a "gay scourge," but a massive threat to public health worldwide.

Taylor gained fame as a humanitarian for her work on AIDS research, which continued until her death in 2011. She has been credited with helping persuade the scientific establishment to focus more attention on the disease, and for informing the public that AIDS was not a moral stigma to hide due to a gay lifestyle.

Since the AIDS epidemic began, more than 70 million people around the world have been infected with the HIV virus, and more than 35 million have died, according to the World Health Organization. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the area most severely affected by AIDS, which still kills about 1 million people per year worldwide.

Elton John AIDS Foundation

Elton John AIDS Foundation

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation



At the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), we believe AIDS can be beaten.

We act on that belief by raising funds for evidence-based programs and policies and also by speaking out with honesty and compassion about the realities of people’s lives.  Sir Elton John created EJAF 25 years ago, first in the United States in 1992 and then in the United Kingdom in 1993.  Through the generous support of far-sighted individuals, foundations, and corporations, the two foundations together have raised more than $400 million over the past quarter century to challenge discrimination against people affected by the epidemic, prevent infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments to end AIDS.

The U.S. foundation focuses its efforts on programs in the United States, the Americas, and the Caribbean, while the U.K. foundation funds HIV-related work in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Join us in speaking out, taking action, and contributing to our efforts to achieve a world without AIDS.

American Airlines is the official sponsoring airline of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

FDA Drug Trials

Elton John AIDS Foundation

FDA Drug Trials



Food and Drug Administration Headquarters, Rockville, Maryland, October 11, 1988

Our takeover of the FDA was unquestionably the most significant demonstration of the AIDS activist movement's first two years. Organized nationally by ACT NOW to take place on the anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and just following the second Washington Showing of the Names Project quilt, the protest began with a Columbus Day rally at the Department of Health and Human Services under the banner HEALTH CARE IS RIGHT and proceeded the following morning to a siege of FDA headquarters in a Washington suburb.

If "drugs into bodies" had been central to ACT UP from the beginning, the protest at the FDArepresented both a culmination of our early efforts and a turning point in both recognition by the government of the seriousness and legitimacy of our demands and national awareness of the AIDS activist movement. 


Elton John AIDS Foundation

FDA Drug Trials


We owe a great debt to those who died in clinical trials, many lost their lives to the first of the retrovirals, AZT. The drug was originally approved for cancer treatment and very few could tolerate. The side effects of AZT were often deadly. Thousands more died protesting and waiting for new drugs to be made available.

AIDS is no longer the death sentence, once in treatment most people can be treated with one or two pills daily with no side effects. The meds have gotten so good that most people living with HIV will live normal life spans. 

Most will never progress past HIV, that being said there are still thousands of deaths each year attributable to AIDS. This is due to lack of proper medical care and access to the medications that stop the virus from replicating. Antiretrovirals of today are very effective at keeping the virus at undetectable levels, which is now confirmed to make the individual with HIV untransmittable. 

U=U means that a person living with HIV cannot transmit it to their partner.

Your support and contributions will enable us to meet our goals and improve conditions for those living with HIV. Your generous donation will fund our mission.

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