We do not know how many people developed AIDS in the 1970s, or indeed in the years before. “The dominant feature of this first period was silence, for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was unknown and transmission was not accompanied by signs or symptoms salient enough to be noticed. While rare, sporadic case reports of AIDS and sero-archaeological studies have documented human infections with HIV prior to 1970, available data suggest that the current pandemic started in the mid- to late 1970s.
By 1980, HIV had spread to at least five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). During this period of silence, spread was unchecked by awareness or any preventive action and approximately 100,000-300,000 persons may have been infected. “Jonathan Mann We also do not know for certain where the AIDS virus HIV originated, but it is now generally accepted that the origin of AIDS can be traced back to Africa. The origin of AIDS and HIV has puzzled scientists ever since the illness first came to light in the early 1980s.
For over twenty years it has been the subject of fierce debate and the cause of countless arguments, with everything from a promiscuous flight attendant to a suspect vaccine programme being blamed. So what is the truth? Just where did AIDS come from? The first recognized cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980s (more about this period can be found on our History of AIDS page). A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment.
At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome. The discovery of HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, was made soon after. While some were initially resistant to acknowledge the connection (and indeed some remain so today), there is now clear evidence to prove that HIV causes AIDS. So, in order to find the source of AIDS, it is necessary to look for the origin of HIV, and find out how, when and where HIV first began to cause disease in humans.