AIDS in World History

Table of contents

The epidemic of human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus causing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has transformed international history involving the emergence of social norms and stereotypes against Black races, homosexuals, and countries plagued by the disease (e.g. Africa, Thailand, etc.).

Historically, the first convincing evidence of the HIV virus and the actual disease process of AIDS was found in the blood of an unknown man from Kinshasa, Africa in 1959 (Iliffe, 2007 p.311). Eventually, the infection reached the Western Nations initially in Los Angeles around June 1981 wherein a rare pulmonary Pneumocystis carinii was found infecting six cases with blood-borne HIV conditions (Feigal, Levine and Biggar, 2000 p.1).

By mid-1982, approximately 450 cases of HIV had been identified by CDC, and by the end of the year, an estimated case increase of 300 or more was received by the same organization (Finkel, 2007 p.89). The event marked the first AIDS epidemic creating a global stigma against races, demographics, countries and gender associated with the disease epidemiology (Parker and Aggleton, 2003).

From 1982 to 1985, AIDS and HIV monitoring institutions were able to file approximate 16,000 cases of HIV, while the death toll caused by the disease had reached 8,100 for 1985 alone (Finkel, 2007 p.89). By the end of 2002, UNAIDS reported 42 million people with AIDS worldwide, while 25 million had already died of the infection (Porth, 2005 p.427).

Due to the increasing number of infected populations, AIDS had reshaped world history by influencing the world’s views on countries, nations, and people responsible for the spread of the disease across the globe.


Epidemiology and its International Impact

AIDS epidemic has kept on growing in its exponential rates since its marked discovery in June 1981. In the United States, the AIDS epidemic rose from the 1985 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) records of 5,600 to 82,764 in 1989, 816,000 by the end of 2000, and UNAIDS records of 3.5 million by the end of 2002 (Porth, 2005 p.428; Patterson, 2005 p.179).

In an international perspective, global AIDS prevalence among adults from 15 to 49 years old has increased from approximately 8.5 million in 1990 to 38.6 million in 2005, while the African AIDS prevalence trend among the similar demographics has increased as well from 1.3 million in 1985 to 25 million as of 2005 (UNAIDS, 2006).

According to Steinbrook (2004), there are nine countries that have the most number of HIV-infected demographics, and eight of these are from sub-Saharan Africa totaling to approximately 12 million individuals with AIDS. The country and race of African people have been severely affected by the global stereotypes and trauma against AIDS.

According to Iliffe (2007), a convincing trace of HIV-1 transmission has been detected in chimpanzees exclusive to the region of Kinshasa, while the ten subtypes of HIV-1 have been found in an early epidemic only within the equatorial Africa, which consequently suggests the viral origin of AIDS (p.311).

The increasing international stigma over sub-Saharan Africa has affected the global ethnicities of blacks, African American and African immigrants in every part of the world (Steinbrook, 2004).

According to the review study of Valdiserri (2002), race and ethnic groups associated with the groups dramatically affected by AIDS infection have experienced negative attitudes, prejudice, judgment and discrimination from the social public.

Global Trend of AIDS Epidemic

The complex hallmark of AIDS in World History involves the rising trend of social stigma against the AIDS epidemic and demographics associated with the disease epidemiology (Steinbrook, 2004).

According to the review study of Valdiserri (2002), series of national interviews from the 1990s to 2000 reveals that the 1 out of 5 individuals living in the study sample (n=5,600 American adults) possess negative attitudes against races associated and patients with AIDS.

According to Perloff (2001), the increasing trend of the AIDS epidemic triggered various social prejudice and negative attitudes against various groups of individuals across the world. In mainland South Africa, women and children who obtained HIV become the social projection of rejection, prejudice and discrimination brought by the global stigma towards AIDS (Brown, Macintyre and Trujilo, 2003).

In the United States, African Americans or Blacks have been viewed negatively after the American public harbor more stigmatizing attitudes from sub-Sahara’s reported HIV infection, while in Thailand, social hostility towards prostitutes (e.g. police harassment, discrimination, etc.) are increasing consistently (Perloff, 2001 p.130).

According to Armstrong-Dailey and Zarbock (2001), the common impact of AIDS stigma on a global perspective is the development of social ostracism among families or patients who contracted with AIDS (p.119).

According to the study of Sudha, Vijay and Lakshmi (2005), 51.13% of the sample (n=800) felt the need to publicly denounce the names of AIDS patients for the public to avoid them, while 73.75% of the families interviewed prefer to keep AIDS condition among family relatives only.

Discrimination brought by the public and even medical practitioners become the by-product of the worldwide stigma stimulated by the exponential growth rate of AIDS (Perloff, 2001 p.130).

Impact of AIDS in Future Generation

With the continuous rising trend of AIDS population worldwide, the social stigma of the general public against the race, demographics and individuals associated with the disease epidemiology is likely to increase causing global negative attitudes, fear and prejudice against their population (Armstrong-Dailey and Zarbock, 2001 p.119).

Contrary to the above predictions, the study of Blower, Schwartz and Mills (2003), public stigma against AIDS patients may reduce depending on the increasing health awareness of the public regarding HIV prevention and patient management.

Meanwhile, Piot, Bartos and Ghys et al. (2001) have predicted that the immediate future implications of the AIDS epidemic in high stakes countries (e.g. South Africa, Thailand, U.S, etc.) are (a) the increase in medical expenditures of the country (e.g. predicted 45% in South Africa, etc.), (b) decreased of life expectancy (e.g. 59 y/o down to 45 y/o by 2005 in South Africa, etc.), and (c) reduced economic efficiency of the country’s economy.


From the localized outbreak of 1981 to the massive infection of the 21st century, AIDS has dramatically affected the global trend of social perceptions and health care due to the global stigma caused by the exponential increases of the AIDS epidemic.

AIDS patients in globally known epidemic countries, such as South Africa, India, United States, Thailand, are predicted to suffer social ostracism wherein patients may fail to publicly seek AIDS medical treatment due to their fears of discrimination, persecution and inferior treatment.

According to the presented studies, the global effects of the AIDS epidemic may increase the countries’ allocations for medical expenditures, and decrease the life expectancy of the general population.


  1. Armstrong-Dailey, A., & Zarbock, S. F. (2001). Hospice Care for Children. New York, London: Oxford University Press US.
  2. Blower, S., Schwartz, E. J., & Mills, J. (2003, June). Forecasting the Future of HIV Epidemics: the Impact of Antiretroviral Therapies & Imperfect Vaccines. AIDS Reviews, 5, 113-125.
  3. Brown, L., Macintyre, K., & Trujillo, L. (2003, February). Interventions to Reduce HIV/AIDS Stigma: What Have We Learned?. AIDS Education and Prevention, 15, 49-69.
  4. Feigal, E. G., Levine, A. M., & Biggar, R. J. (2000). AIDS-related Cancers and Their Treatment. New York, U.S.A: Informa Health Care.
  5. Finkel, M. (2007). Truth, Lies, and Public Health: How We are Affected when Science and Politics Collide. New York, U.S.A: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  6. Iliffe, J. (2007). Africans: The History of a Continent. New York, London: Cambridge University Press.

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