Learn about the history of the AIDS epidemic


The 40 years since the first identified cases of AIDS (acquired human immunodeficiency syndrome) come, in Brazil, with the news of the approval of a new drug by Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency), which combines two substances in a single pill – an advance that could mean more practicality for HIV-positive people.​

Although today it is a disease whose control is possible and whose infected can live healthy lives, it has been responsible for the death of about 36.8 million people since the beginning of the epidemic, in 1981, according to UNAIDS (UN AIDS Program, in the acronym in English).

Among the victims are outstanding personalities of the arts and culture, such as singers Freddie Mercury, Cazuza and Renato Russo, cartoonist Henfil, artist Keith Haring and philosopher Michel Foucault.

The disease was, at first, associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, which led to exclusionary –and of uncertain effectiveness– policies to control contagion, such as the closing of saunas in San Francisco, in the United States.

The fight against AIDS, a disease caused by the HIV virus, was marked by a strong politicization of access and search for treatment.

US gay activists from the Act Up organization, formed in response to the epidemic, even protested inside New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral against a cardinal who was fighting condom distribution and sex education in schools. The episode was known as Action Stop the Church, from the English “Stop the Church Action”.

The protest was re-enacted in director Ryan Murphy’s series “Pose”, an ode to the New York ball scene in the 1980s and 1990s, a period when, because of drugs still in development and fraught with risks, it was also difficult. access, the community was heavily impacted.

The illness was the backdrop for a series of productions, such as the award-winning “Dallas Shopping Club” (2013), which won the Oscar for best acting for Matthew McConaughey, and the musical “Tick, Tick… Boom!” (2021), directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Recently, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it even appeared in the range of false news against vaccines disseminated by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Unaids 2020 estimates indicate that around 37.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide—1.7 million children and 53% women and girls. Specialists warn that, if educational prevention measures are not implemented, cases may rise again.


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