1981Under the headline RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS, The New York Times reports July 31, 1981, that a "rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer" has been diagnosed among gay men in New York City and San Francisco. Most of the 41 cases involve gay men who had "multiple and frequent sexual encounters with different partners, as many as 10 sexual encounters each night up to four times a week."
1982The "mysterious new disorder" is named in July: Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
Mayor Kevin White forms an ad hoc committee on AIDS in August to gather information about the disease from federal, state, and local health officials.
In December, 11 cases of AIDS are confirmed in Massachusetts; all are male, eight are gay.
1983Mayor White's AIDS committee announces in January that it will print 50,000 brochures providing basic information on identifying AIDS symptoms.
In February, a group that has been meeting at Boston's Fenway Community Health Center adopts the name AIDS Action Committee.
In Massachusetts, 19 cases of AIDS have been confirmed. Six people have died.
New research indicates that although most people with AIDS are gay men, the disease can be contracted by heterosexuals. One of the researchers notes that AIDS, "now has to be considered potentially threatening to the health of the general population."
Provincetown officials and businesspeople worry that media hysteria and inaccuracy about AIDS issues will hurt the economy of the popular gay resort town.
The Suffolk County sheriff announces that new inmates at the Charles Street Jail will now be screened for AIDS.
The Massachusetts Red Cross reports in July that fear of AIDS scares off blood donors and recipients; blood donations in the state decline for two consecutive months. In response to danger of contamination, blood banks ask members of high-risk groups not to donate blood.
A Boston Globe Magazine cover story asserts that "the epidemic that is causing many homosexuals to question how they live is also straining relations between gays and heterosexuals."
The New England Journal of Medicine announces in August that it will speed the release of research findings about AIDS by shortening its review process, suspending deadlines, and lifting its rule that scientists can't discuss research findings prior to publication.
The state confirms 32 AIDS cases, mostly among gay or bisexual men.
The state forms a task force on AIDS in August; the group's first recommendation is to require doctors and hospitals to report AIDS cases.
Boston health officials, upon hearing in November that new AIDS cases in New York City have declined slightly in number over three months, hope that the disease's course may be leveling off.
1984In April, studies by Gallo, Essex, and others identify HTLV-III as the likely cause of AIDS.
The American Red Cross announces in May plans to conduct trial testing on donated blood to test for HTLV-III antibodies.
In June, scientists directly link the transmission of AIDS from a blood donor to its recipient. As the American Red Cross tries to protect the blood supply, its New England officials ask Massachusetts judges to allow people convicted of misdemeanors to donate blood in lieu of paying fines.
In August, AIDS claims its first death in the Massachusetts prison population.
1985There are 204 AIDS cases in Massachusetts. Seventy-three percent are gay.
AIDS theater comes to Boston in May, with As Is by William Hoffman and The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer hitting the Hub. Both garner raves by Globe theater critic Kevin Kelly.
After two days of silence, confusion, and rampant rumors, Rock Hudson's publicist confirms in July that "Mr. Hudson has AIDS." The next month, Hudson travels to Paris to seek treatment.
Scientists announce that screening tests at blood banks across the country have succeeded in eliminating the virus from the nation's blood supply.
The AIDS Action Committee alleges that a real-estate broker, Ian Lane, and two landlords, William Smith and Paul Boyd, refused to rent office space to the AAC because of fears about contracting AIDS.
Since the news of Rock Hudson's AIDS diagnosis, the number of people calling the AAC jumps from 50 to 200 a day.
Rock Hudson dies in October.
In December, lab studies in California confirm that condom use can prevent the sexual transmission of AIDS.
Because of its smaller caseload and "abundance of renowned medical research facilities," out-of-staters with AIDS are flocking to Boston for treatment, the Globe says in the second part of a series on the disease.
Quarantine talk hits five states, including Massachusetts. Boston surgeon Vernon H. Mark lobbies state health officials to reopen a former leper colony off Cape Cod, Penikese Island, for people carrying the AIDS virus.
Click for 1986 - 1989
P R O F I L E S, Boston-area AIDS activists: Larry Kessler | Max Essex | Denise McWilliams |
Matt Florence | Ray Schmidt | Ken Mayer | Barbara Gomes-Beach | Brian Rosenberg
T I M E L I N E, 1981 - 1985 | 1986 - 1989 | 1990 - 1996 | The N A M E S | AIDS L I N K S