June 5: Honoring the Resilience of Those Who Have Paved the Way

Content From: HIV.govPublished: June 03, 20202 min read


Banner from MMWR from June 5, 1981. In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carnii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.
Banner from CDC's 1981 MMWR publication on the cases that became known as AIDS.
Credit: CDC

On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), describing cases of a rare lung infection in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles, California. This was the first official reporting on what would later become known as AIDS.

It was a time of great uncertainty, but also one of resilience. People with HIV and their loved ones, researchers, health care providers, and public health workers responded to this sweeping crisis with compassion and innovation, adapting to adversity and building partnerships to fight the disease. That resilience continues as our communities rapidly respond to address HIV in the context COVID-19. Each year on June 5, we recognize HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day (HLTSAD), a day that honors those who have lived with HIV for many years. Diagnosed before effective treatment was available, these pioneers have survived and thrived.

“We pause to acknowledge the contributions of our long-term survivors,” said Harold Phillips, Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Officer of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative at the HHS Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP). “Many of them lead by example, teaching us lessons in prevention, care, and treatment. Several serve as mentors and role models of how to live with HIV. They have forged the pathways and inspire us to continue the work toward improving access to prevention and care services in the U.S. and across the world.” 

As we continue to move forward, leveraging critical scientific advances, we mourn those we have lost and honor the strength and resilience of those who have been living with HIV for decades.

Visit our HLSTAD page for information and resources about this observance and view our HIV.gov Timeline of HIV and AIDS to learn more about the history of the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

To learn more about the federal government’s work to end the HIV epidemic, please sign up for the HIV.gov listserv. You can also read about recent activities on the HIV.gov blog.