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CDC's Early Response to AIDS

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Photographs | Oral Histories | Documents | Other Media

On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [MMWR], describing cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia [PCP], in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles. This MMWR marked the first official reporting of what became known as the AIDS epidemic. In late 1982, CDC used the term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) for the first time, and released the first case definition of AIDS: a disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease.

This historic collection represents the early years of AIDS and CDCs response to a historic epidemic. The collection here provides access to selected individual images, documents, and oral/video histories with current and past CDC employees from a wide variety of fields discussing their experiences during those early years.

Note on Terminology

Throughout the archive you will see AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)  used. Today, CDC uses HIV when discussing the virus and its infection. AIDS itself is not a condition. It is a range of conditions, or a syndrome, that occurs when a person’s immune system is weakened by the HIV infection. However, historically, AIDS and HIV have been used, at times interchangeably, and this is reflected throughout the archive.

The links above connect you to a database or oral histories, photographs, documents and other media.

Use of this information is free, but please see About this Site for guidance on how to acknowledge the sources of the information used.