Health Protection Agency
Publication date: November 2011
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first reports of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). On 5 June 1981, five young homosexual men in Los Angeles were reported to have Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and case histories suggesting a 'cellular-immune dysfunction related to a common exposure' (CDC 2011). These men were the first reported cases of AIDS. Ten days later, the first UK case of AIDS was reported in a young man with haemophilia followed by further reports of AIDS among homosexual men. These first reports prompted the creation of the UK's AIDS surveillance scheme in 1982 to monitor Kaposi's sarcoma and opportunistic infections.
To date, 120,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the UK, of whom 27,000 have developed AIDS and more than 20,000 have died. The development of an HIV test in 1984 led to establishment of the UK laboratory surveillance of HIV antibodies among those tested. This resulted in a first peak of HIV diagnoses in 1985 (2,935) which was accompanied by a rapid rise in AIDS cases and deaths in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s. AIDS diagnoses peaked in 1994 (1,872), and deaths in 1995 (1,723). The availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) resulted in a rapid decline in AIDS diagnoses and deaths and the relatively low but constant numbers since the late 1990s.
Report amended 20 January 2012.
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Last reviewed: 20 January 2012