Timeline of early HIV/AIDS cases

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This article is a timeline of early AIDS cases.

An AIDS case is classified as "early" if the death occurred before 18 June 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was formally recognized by medical professionals in the United States.

Early 1900s[edit]

The strain of HIV viruses most closely related to the lineage of HIV-1 subgroup M (responsible for the global pandemic) may have first emerged in the 1920s in Kinshasa, then part of the Belgian Congo. A team of scientists from the universities of Oxford and Leuven concluded this "estimated location of pandemic origin" in 2014 by applying computational methods of evolutionary analysis to archived samples of HIV's genetic code. [1][2]

Earlier, it had been estimated from the genetic differences of ZR59 and DRC60 samples that HIV-1 subgroup M had jumped to humans in 1908 ± 10 years.[3]

1959 – 1960[edit]

Until 2008, the earliest known sample of HIV-1 was from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (formerly Zaïre, formerly Belgian Congo). The sample, named ZR59, was isolated from tissues collected from "a Bantu male" in 1959 and was found with retrospective genetic analysis to be most closely related to subtype D strains. In 2008, partial HIV viral sequences were identified from a specimen of lymph node collected from an adult female in Kinshasa, DRC in 1960. This specimen, named DRC60, was around 88% similar to ZR59, but was found to be most closely related to subtype A HIV-1 strains. These specimens are significant not only because they are the oldest specimens of the virus known to cause AIDS, but because they show that the virus already had an extensive amount of genetic diversity in 1960.[4] This suggests the virus had been circulating for years or perhaps decades in the Kinshasa population.

Notable potential individual cases of AIDS from this period include:

David Carr: (Contested, see below.) A Manchester printer (sometimes mistakenly referred to as a sailor) who died 31 August 1959 following the failure of his immune system; he succumbed to pneumonia. Doctors, baffled by what he had died from, preserved 50 of his tissue samples for inspection. In 1990, the tissues were found to be HIV-positive. However, in 1992, a second test by AIDS researcher David Ho found that the strain of HIV present in the tissues was similar to those found in the late 1980s rather than an earlier strain (which would have mutated considerably over the course of 30 years). Ho's discovery has cast doubt on David Carr's death being caused by AIDS.[5][medical citation needed]

Ardouin Antonio, a 49-year-old Haitian,[6][medical citation needed] has been identified as a possible early AIDS case. Antonio had emigrated to the United States in 1927, and at the time of death was working as a shipping clerk for a garment manufacturer in Manhattan. He developed similar symptoms to David Carr's, and died on 28 June 1959, apparently of the same very rare kind of pneumonia as Carr. Many years later, Dr. Gordon R. Hennigar, who had performed Antonio's autopsy, was asked whether he thought his patient had died of AIDS; he replied "You bet ... It was so unusual at the time. Lord knows how many cases of AIDS have been autopsied that we didn't even know had AIDS. I think it's such a strong possibility that I've often thought about getting them to send me the tissue samples."[6]


Main article: Robert Rayford

Robert Rayford: The first confirmed case of AIDS in the United States, a 16-year-old boy from Missouri who died in 1969.[7]


Researchers drew blood from 75 children in Uganda to serve as controls for a study of Burkitt's lymphoma. In 1985, retroactive testing of the frozen blood serum indicated that 50 of the children had antibodies to a virus related to HIV.[8]


Main article: Arvid Noe

Arvid Noe: Arvid Darre Noe (an anagram of his birth name Arne Vidar Røed) was a Norwegian sailor and truck driver who was probably infected in Cameroon some time between 1961 and 1965, and died on 24 April 1976, fifteen months after his daughter. Tissues of Noe, his wife and daughter all tested positive for HIV in an epidemiology study in 1988.[9][10]


Grethe Rask: A Danish surgeon who traveled to Zaïre in 1972 to aid the sick. She was likely directly exposed to blood from many Congolese patients, one of whom infected her. She returned to Denmark in late 1976, with her colleagues baffled by her symptoms. She died in December 1977. Her tissues were examined and tested positive by her colleagues in 1984.


Senhor José (English: Mr. Joseph): A Portuguese man who is the first confirmed case of HIV-2. He was believed to have been exposed to the disease in Guinea-Bissau in 1966. He was treated at the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases by Professor Anthony Bryceson until finally succumbing to the disease in 1978.[11]

Also, three cases among gay men in California and six cases among Haitian immigrants to the United States were confirmed.[citation needed]


Herbert Heinrich: Bisexual German concert violinist who died in 1979. Tests in 1989 found that he was HIV-positive, and there has been speculation that he was infected by a prostitute who was infected by Noe, but as of 1997, this had not been proven.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Gallagher (2 October 2014). "Aids: Origin of pandemic 'was 1920s Kinshasa'". BBC. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Faria et al. (3 October 2014). "The early spread and epidemic ignition of HIV-1 in human populations". Science magazine. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Worobey, Michael; Gemmel, Marlea; Teuwen, Dirk E.; Haselkorn, Tamara; Kunstman, Kevin; Bunce, Michael; Muyembe, Jean-Jacques; Kabongo, Jean-Marie M. et al. (2008). "Direct evidence of extensive diversity of HIV-1 in Kinshasa by 1960". Nature 455 (7213): 661–4. Bibcode:2008Natur.455..661W. doi:10.1038/nature07390. PMC 3682493. PMID 18833279. 
  4. ^ Worobey M, Gemmel M, Teuwen DE, Haselkorn T, Kunstman K, Bunce M, Muyembe JJ, Kabongo JM, Kalengayi RM, Van Marck E, Gilbert MT, Wolinsky SM. Direct evidence of extensive diversity of HIV-1 in Kinshasa by 1960. Nature. 2008 Oct 2;455(7213):661-4.
  5. ^ Connor, Steve (24 March 1995). "How scientists discovered false evidence on the world's "first AIDS victim"". The Independent. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Chicago Tribune How Long Has Virus Been Stalking Victims? 25 October 1987 retrieved 15 May 2008
  7. ^ Kolata, Gina (28 October 1987). "Boy's 1969 Death Suggests AIDS Invaded U.S. Several Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  8. ^ W. C. Saxinger, P. H. Levine, A. G. Dean, G. de The, G. Lange-Wantzin, J. Moghissi, F. Laurent, M. Hoh et al. (March 1985). "Evidence for exposure to HTLV-III in Uganda before 1973". Science 227 (4690): 1036–1038. doi:10.1126/science.2983417. PMID 2983417. 
  9. ^ Frøland, S.S., et al. "HIV-1 Infection in Norwegian Family before 1970". The Lancet. 11 June 1988. Pp. 1344–1345
  10. ^ a b Hooper, Edward, Sailors and star-bursts, and the arrival of HIV, from the British Medical Journal, 1997
  11. ^ A D M Bryceson, A M Tomkins, D Ridley, D Warhurst, A Goldstone, G Bayliss, J Toswill, J Ridley. HIV-2 associated AIDS in the 1970s. Letter Lancet, 1988, ii, 221.

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