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Timeline of AIDS in Africa

This timeline features some of the most important developments in the history of AIDS in Africa. Much more detailed information can be found in our individual Africa country pages.

Before 1970s

  • A form of simian immunodeficiency virus probably transfers to humans in Central Africa around 1930. The mutated virus would later become known as HIV-1.
  • The virus that would later become known as HIV-2 probably transfers to humans from sooty mangabey monkeys in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa around 1960. 1


  • Doctors in Zaire (later DRC) and Burundi see a rise in certain infections such as cryptococcal meningitis and PCP, a type of pneumonia, as well as diarrhoea and severe wasting. 2


  • A fatal wasting disease, known locally as ‘slim’, is becoming increasingly common in South West Uganda. 3


  • Heterosexually transmitted AIDS is noticed in a group of African patients in Belgium. 4
  • Doctors in Zambia and Zaire are aware of a new aggressive form of Kaposi's sarcoma, which had previously been endemic but non-fatal. 5


  • Western scientists confirm that AIDS is widespread in parts of Africa, with strong indications of heterosexual transmission. 6
  • The first AIDS research project in Africa, ‘Project SIDA’ is launched in Kinshasa, DRC. 7


  • Western scientists debate whether "slim disease" in Uganda is a new syndrome or identical to AIDS. 8


  • Uganda begins promoting sexual behaviour change in response to AIDS. 9


  • The first antiretroviral drug (AZT) is licensed to treat people with HIV, but is unavailable to virtually everyone in Africa. 10
  • President Kaunda of Zambia announces that his son has died of AIDS. 11
  • The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) is founded in Uganda.The New York Times 12


  • There are an estimated 5,500,000 HIV cases in Africa and more than 650,000 estimated AIDS cases. 13


  • An estimated 9 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, with 1.7 million AIDS cases. 14
  • The recorded number of HIV infections in South Africa grows by 60% in two years. 15


  • There are an estimated 1.9 million new infections in sub-Saharan Africa. 16


  • HIV prevalence among young pregnant women in Lesotho shoots up to 26% from 3.9% in 1992. 17
  • Effective combination therapy drugs become widely available in the West but are too expensive for most people living with AIDS in Africa. 18


  • Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s most famous musician dies of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, an AIDS-related illness.


  • A South African AIDS activist, Gugu Dlamini, is beaten to death by her neighbours after revealing her HIV positive status on television. 19
  • HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa account for 70% of infections worldwide. 20
  • The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is founded by Zackie Achmat to lobby the South African government for access to AIDS drugs.



  • Two thirds of 15 year-old children in Botswana are predicted to die of AIDS before they reach 50. 23
  • Five pharmaceutical companies offer to negotiate steep reductions in the prices of AIDS drugs for Africa. 24
  • An International AIDS Conference is held in Africa for the first time. 25
  • President Mbeki withdraws from the "does HIV cause AIDS” debate after causing much controversy. 26


  • It is estimated that 4.7 million South Africans are HIV-positive, including 24.5% of pregnant women. 27
  • Nkosi Johnson, who famously fought for the rights of HIV positive people in South Africa, dies of AIDS aged twelve. 28


  • The Global Fund is established to boost the response to AIDS, TB and malaria in developing countries. 29
  • Botswana begins Africa’s first national AIDS treatment programme. 30
  • The South African government approves AZT as post exposure prophylaxis for women who have been raped. 31


  • Drug manufacturers lower the prices of antiretroviral drugs for resource-poor countries. 32
  • WHO launches the “3 by 5” initiative to widen access to AIDS treatment in developing countries. 33
  • Of 4.1 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who need treatment for HIV, just over 1% are accessing it. 34


  • President Bush launches PEPFAR, a $15 billion AIDS initiative with 12 focus African countries. 35
  • The South African government begins funding antiretroviral treatment for AIDS patients. 36
  • Uganda has reduced its HIV prevalence by 70% since the early 1990s. 37


  • The G8 summit leaders promise to double aid to Africa and to ensure near universal access to antiretroviral treatment worldwide by 2010. 38
  • Nelson Mandela announces that his eldest son has died of AIDS. 39


  • 28% of people in sub-Saharan Africa who need treatment for HIV are receiving it. 40
  • Large studies of male circumcision reveal firm evidence that the procedure reduces the risk of HIV infection. 41


  • Botswana has succeeded in cutting its mother-to-child transmission rate to under 4% - a rate comparable with the USA and Western Europe. 42
  • The South African government adopts a comprehensive plan to tackle the country's epidemic, under the leadership of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. 43


  • The UNAIDS annual report describes a stabilisation of most epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa. 44
  • Around 2,925,000 people are recieving antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa, an increase from 2,100,000 in 2007. 45


  • On his first visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI controversially describes AIDS as

    “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”. 46

  • Results are released from a circumcision trial in Uganda. The research shows circumcision of men living with HIV does not prevent transmission to their female partners. 47


  • As the target date for universal access passes it is revealed that 3.9 million of the 10.6 million people in need of antiretroviral treatment in Africa are receiving it. 48
  • A large scale microbicide trial involving 900 South African women is found to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition by 39 percent. 49


  • 59 percent of pregnant women received treatment for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 50
  • The results of a voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) study in Orange Farm, South Africa reveal a 55 percent drop in HIV prevalence among circumcised men. 51
  • These results contribute to a five year action framework calling for immediate roll-out of VMMC across 14 high priority African countries. 52


  • Asha-Rose Migiro is appointed as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. 53
  • By the end of 2012, over 7.5 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment. 54


  • "Protect the Goal" campaign launched at opening of Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. 55
  • UNAIDS reported the number of people in Africa receiving antiretroviral treatment increased from less than 1 million in 2005 to over 7 million in 2012. 56
  • An African Union and UNAIDS report, 'Abuja +12, Shaping the future of health in Africa', highlighted targeted health spending as an essential foundation to greater economic growth and development in Africa. 57
  • Uganda passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill. 58



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