Welcome to the AIDS-Arts Timeline, a people's history of the epidemic and the associated arts. This searchable, double timeline will chronicle both AIDS events and AIDS-arts events of the past two decades throughout the world. Just as it is a truism that every locale and society has its own AIDS epidemic, so too does every locale have its own history of the epidemic.
What you see below is a rudimentary beginning, the first step in the information gathering process. Please contribute information (in the form of text, image and/or sound) about events with which you are familiar. Contributors will, of course, be credited. Email Artery with information or questions.



  • On June 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes the first report on a medical condition soon to be known as AIDS: an article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report titled "Pneumocystis: Los Angeles."

  • On July 3rd, a small article in The New York Times reports the outbreak of a rare cancer among 41 gay men in New York and California.
  • The Centers for Disease Control report that cases of Kaposi's sarcoma and pneumocystis are inexplicably increasing nation-wide. More than 90 percent of the cases are diagnosed in gay men.



  • On January 12th, Larry Kramer, Paul Popham, Nathan Fain, Edmund White, Paul Rapoport, and Lawrence Mass form the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York, to deal with the spread of "gay cancer."
  • In late 1982, the disease is named Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and the first federal funds ($5.6 million) are allocated for medical research.

  • The first national TV special on AIDS, "AIDS: The Mysterious Disease" appears on PBS.


  • Christopher Street publishes Andrew Holleran's "Journal of the Plague Year."

  • AIDS

  • Heterosexuals are considered to be at risk for the first time after two women whose sexual partners had AIDS contract the syndrome.

  • The AIDS Medical Foundation (later to become AMFAR) is founded in New York by Robert Mehl.
  • Luc Montagnier's team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris reports it has found a retrovirus that may cause AIDS.

  • The first US Conference on AIDS is held in Denver, People With AIDS Coalition grows out of that conference.
  • San Francisco holds an AIDS candlelight March-the first time that people with AIDS have come together in a public demonstration.

  • Fear of transmission becomes a major issue. Bus drivers on San Francisco's public transportation system are seen wearing masks. Bobbi Campbell, a person with AIDS, is interviewed from a sound-proof room so television personnel won't have to place microphones on his body.
  • ABC's 20/20 does its first story about AIDS.


  • Harvey Fierstein's play Torch Song Trilogy wins the Tony Award for Best Play.

    Deaths: photographer Bill Bader, New York Philharmonic pianist Paul Jacobs,


  • AIDS

  • U.S. scientists isolate the infectious agent believed to cause AIDS and name it HTLV-III.

  • Federal funds are made available to community-based AIDS organizations.

  • The city of San Francisco closes all gay bathhouses.


  • The collaborative produced play, The AIDS Show opens at San Francisco's Theater Rhinoceros

    Deaths: Former editor-in-chief of Gentlemen's Quarterly Jack Haber



  • Condoms are shown to prevent sexual transmission of AIDS.

  • Elizabeth Taylor organizes "A Commitment to Life," a celebrity event to benefit AIDS research. The event features Betty Ford, Burt Lancaster, Shirley MacLaine, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Burt Reynolds. More than $1.3 million dollars is raised.
  • The FDA approves the first AIDS antibody test, which is immediately used to screen the nation's blood supply.

  • Journalists learn that actor Rock Hudson has AIDS.


  • William Hoffman's play As Is, opens at New York's Circle Reperatory Theater.

  • Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart, opens at the Public Theater in New York City.

  • "An Early Frost", a TV movie featuring a gay PWA, premieres.

    Deaths: Rock Hudson

  • 1986


  • Surgeon General C. Everett Koop issues a landmark report on the AIDS epidemic, calling for AIDS education and condom use.

  • Congress adds $47 million to the federal budget to create a national network of AIDS research units called the AIDS Clinical Trial Groups.

    Deaths: Fashion designer Perry Ellis (46), Roy Cohn,



  • Larry Kramer's speech at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in New York helps catalyze the founding of ACT UP, which seeks to end the AIDS crisis by direct action.

  • The FDA approves the first AIDS drug, an antiviral (azidothymidine or AZT), which is found to be effective in suppressing HIV replication. At $12,000 a year, it is one of history's most expensive drug therapies.

  • After four years in office, President Ronald Reagan publicly utters the acronym "AIDS."

  • Sen. Jesse Helms introduces legislation, which passes overwhelmingly, preventing the government from funding AIDS education programs that "encourage or promote homosexual activity." Reporter Randy Shilts publishes "And The Band Played On", a chronicle of the AIDS epidemic.
  • ARTS

  • The Names Project Quilt's national debut takes place on the Capitol Mall, Washington D.C.

  • The Silence=Death collective of ACT Up creates its artwork/emblem.

  • Before naming themselves Gran Fury, the art-making group that originated as an offshoot of ACT Ur creates "Let the Record Show" an installation in the window of New York's Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Deaths: Liberace, Opera News editor Robert Jackson, creator of A Chorus Line Michael Bennett, director of the Ridiculous Theater Company Charles Ludlum, filmmaker Arthur Bressan



  • In New York, new HIV infections transmitted from shared needles exceed the number of new sexually transmitted infections for the first time.

  • Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman sponsor the Health Omnibus Programs Extension (HOPE), which establishes AIDS prevention and research programs.

  • The World Health Organization organizes the first World AIDS Day on December 1.

  • ARTS

  • Museum of Modern Art exhibits Nicholas Nixon's retrospective "Portraits of People," including portraits of PWAs.

  • Grey Art Gallery, in New York, exhibits "Rosalind Solomon: Portraits in the Time of AIDS."

  • The film of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy is released, starring Fierstein himself.

    Deaths: Hollywood screenwriter Colin Higgins, actor Leonard Frey, composer Warren Casey, network news anchorman Max Robinson.

  • 1989


  • After much public protest by AIDS activists, the price of AZT is lowered by 20%.

  • The FDA approves four new drugs, including ddi (dideoxyinosine) to treat opportunistic infections associated with AIDS.

  • Hans Verhoeff, an HIV+ Dutch citizen, is detained at San Francisco International Airport on his way to attend the International Lesbian/Gay Health Conference.


  • AIDS Exhibit "Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing"opens at Artists Space in New York City. David Wojnarowicz' angry catalogue essay attacking the role of the government and Catholic Church in the AIDS crisis leads John Frohnmayer (chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts) to withhold--and then reinstate--an NEA grant for the exhibit.
  • The first Day Without Art (December 1), the national day of action and mourning organized by Visual AIDS in response to the AIDS crisis.
  • Art Against AIDS "On the Road" project premieres with billboards throughout US cities.

  • The NAMES project Memorial Quilt returns to Washington D.C. The number of panels has grown to 10,848.

  • Susan Sontag's essay AIDS and Its Metaphors is published.

  • DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activists) forms. The group of professional and amateur video-makers document ACT-Up events.
  • Composer Diamanda Galas premieres Masque of the Red Death, a seventy-minute electronic oratoria at New York's Alice Tully Hall.

  • AIDS activists disrupt the opening night of Falstaff at the San Francisco Opera

    Deaths: Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, actor Merritt Butrick



  • Congress passes the Ryan White CARE Act, providing disaster relief for the cities hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. The strong leadership of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Public Policy department helps passage of this Bill, which ensures over $12 million for direct services to people with AIDS in San Francisco in the first year.

  • Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV, and the AIDS Housing Opportunities Act, authorizing $156 million to expand affordable housing options to people with HIV-related illnesses.

  • The Sixth International Conference on AIDS is held in San Francisco amid worldwide protest and boycott of U.S. immigration policies.

  • AZT is tested in combination with ddI, ddC, alpha interferon and GM-CSF. Each combination shows incremental increases in benefit, although side effects also increase.

  • Eighteen-year-old Ryan White dies of AIDS.


  • Rob Epstein's Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt wins the Academy Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary.

  • Norman Ren�'s Longtime Companion, the first major studio release dealing with AIDS, opens.

    Deaths: actor Ian Charleson, film director Bill Sherwood, artist Keith Haring, fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick.

  • 1991


  • Magic Johnson's announcement of his positive status results in record numbers of people taking HIV antibody tests.

  • The reported possible infection of Kimberly Bergalis by a Florida dentist draws attention and debate around mandatory HIV testing for health care workers.
  • ARTS

  • Premiere of "Our Sons," a TV movie about a PWA.

  • The Whitney Biennial features a number of work dealing with AIDS, including Group Material's "AIDS Timeline



  • Congress appropriates money for Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA).

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes expanding the definition of AIDS to include cervical cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and recurrent pneumonia, and proposes giving a diagnosis of AIDS to anyone with HIV and a CD4 cell count of less than 200.

  • The first reports of successful combination drug treatments for AIDS are published.

  • Wimbledon champ Arthur Ashe confirms that he has AIDS.


  • "From Media to Metaphor: Art About AIDS" exhibition organized by Thomas Sokolowski and Robert Atkins, opens and tours in the U.S. and Canada for two years.

  • 1993


  • The International AIDS conference in Berlin is decidedly downbeat about treatment, morbidity and mortality associated with HIV infection.

  • The CDC expands the definition of AIDS in response to criticism that the existing definition under-counts many women as well as others with serious HIV-related illnesses, thus dramatically increasing the number of reported AIDS cases in the United States.
  • President Clinton recommends sizable increases in Ryan White CARE Act funding.

  • In a medical setback, a European study finds that the standard US AIDS treatment-AZT-has no evident benefit when prescribed before symptoms develop.


  • Tony Kushner's play "Angels in America: A Gay fantasia on National Themes" wins the Tony award and the Pulitzer prize.

  • Andrea Vaucher publishes "Muses From Chaos And Ash: Aids, Artists, And Art" a book of interviews with artists

    Deaths: Rudolf Nuryev

  • 1994

  • Studies show that AZT reduces by two-thirds the risk of transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their new-born infants.

  • Individualized therapy emerges as a treatment strategy championed by the S.F. AIDS Foundation, ACT-UP/Golden Gate and Project Inform.

  • The controversy over a planned graft of baboon immune cells to Jeff Getty at the University of California San Francisco unleashes a storm of concern and dissent about xenotransplantation, while focusing the debate on treatment choice.


  • ArtAIDS begins operating on Dec. 1st 1994 as an ongoing British-based internet project that commemorates and celebrates the fight against AIDS.



  • President Clinton holds the first-ever White House AIDS Summit, attended by S.F. AIDS Foundation Executive Director Pat Christen and Public Policy Director Regina Arag�n.

  • Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization overwhelmingly passes in both Houses of Congress (but stalls in Conference Committee).

  • FDA approves 3TC, an anti-HIV drug, and Saquinavir, the first protease inhibitor which interferes with the enzyme responsible for HIV assembly.

  • Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis discloses his HIV status.
  • Deaths: theater artist Reza Abdoh



  • Reports from the XI International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver hold great hope about progress being made toward controlling HIV disease.

  • FDA approves two new protease inhibitors in record time: Ritonavir and Indinavir. Preliminary information shows that when used in combination with 3TC and AZT, these inhibitors can cause HIV to virtually disappear from the bloodstream of 85% of those individuals in clinical trials.
  • Researchers identify a herpes virus responsible for kaposi's sarcoma.

    Deaths: Artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Director Norman Ren�.



  • The CDC announces that AIDS deaths declined during the first nine months of 1996, indicating more people are living with AIDS than ever before..

  • Doctors, public officials and people with AIDS nationwide call upon Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to lift the ban on the use of federal funding for needle exchange.

  • President Clinton appoints Sandra Thurman, former executive director of AID Atlanta, as the country's new AIDS czar.

  • AIDS

  • US Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced in April her finding that needle exchange programs decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS and do not lead to increased drug use, but refused to make federal funds available to support needle exchange efforts.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in October that AIDS deaths nationwide dropped an incredible 47% from 1996 to 1997. However, the rate of new HIV infections -- 40,000 a year -- is not declining, showing a need for innovative new prevention efforts. HIV infection fell from 8th to 14th among leading causes of death in the U.S. from 1996 to 1997. But the total number of people living with HIV is still increasing, indicating a greater demand for the services required by people living with AIDS, including housing, treatment counseling, and primary medical care.

  • 1999


  • "The Hours", Michael Cunningham's novel dealing with AIDS, wins the Pulitzer Prize.