Was AIDS ever considered a pandemic?

Google definitely isn’t my friend especially on World AIDS day. There’s obviously a lot of people with agendas and the 80s were a long time ago.

As far as I know, you can only get the HIV virus through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions or sharing needles. Covid is transmitted by aerosol.

So, was AIDS a pandemic? Or epidemic a better word to use?

WHO uses the term “global epidemic” to refer to HIV/AIDS, which for all intents and purposes is the same thing as a pandemic.

Sez Wikipedia;

“Although the WHO uses the term “global epidemic” to describe HIV, as HIV is no longer an uncontrollable outbreak outside of Africa, some authors use the term “pandemic”. HIV originated in Africa, and spread to the United States via Haiti between 1966 and 1972. AIDS is currently a pandemic in Africa, with infection rates as high as 25% in some regions southern and eastern Africa.”

The CDC, at least as recently as 2006, was on the other hand completely comfortable with calling it a pandemic, though they seem to use “epidemic” in more recent pieces.



(no, I don’t know how to make those previews work or be any prettier)

“Pandemic” means it’s worldwide, or at least cases have been diagnosed on several continents, so therefore AIDS would be considered a pandemic, and it definitely was in the 1980s. IIRC, it’s the first context under which I heard that word…

A disease that ravages a limited area (malaria is the first that comes to mind) would be called endemic.

Yes, it was a pandemic.

But since the people most affected by it (homosexual men, drug users, people of color, people in Africa) don’t have a high social status many ignore it. Which was, is, and will continue to be a tragedy.

When AIDS first became known, I was a transport manager in the NHS. The first diagnosed death in our district was treated like a victim of chemical warfare. The unfortunate man was living alone in an empty house and everyone who came anywhere near wore a full hazmat outfit. Dying from AIDS is a pretty horrible and messy way to go with fluids leaking from every orifice, and we had a few cases to deal with over the next month or two.

The Health Authority arranged a seminar for all those involved and I was invited. Among the speakers were an eminent virologist and a representative of a charity set up to help the newly infected. We were relieved to hear that it is nowhere near as easily transmitted as first thought (The hazmat suits could be left off) and simple hygiene was all that was needed.

I vividly remember the representative from the Terrence Higgins Trust. She was a bad choice for a group of NHS managers as her main agenda was about prejudice. I know that we shouldn’t judge by appearances, but this young woman was rake thin, dressed in leather and wearing a good deal of facial jewellery. What skin was visible was heavily tattooed. After a few minutes of being harangued by her, I and a number of others suddenly found that we had urgent business elsewhere.

Her points were almost certainly valid as it was then seen as a disease confined to homosexual men and passe by anal intercourse. I still think that it would have been far better to have sent someone less flamboyant and aggressive.

I dealt with the trust in the much more enlightened time of 2008.
Their messaging still needed improvement.

AIDS is definitely a pandemic, why is this even a question? Hundreds of thousands of people still die of it every year. Yes, it’s particularly bad in Southern Africa, but even if Southern Africa “only” had the levels of, say, Russia or Thailand, it would still be a pandemic.

In the mid 1990s, a local organization opened a shelter for PLWAs who would otherwise have been homeless, and it doubled as a hospice. Its location was kept even more secret than that of the domestic violence shelter for the first few years.

Nowadays, it’s in the phone book, and the building has a sign in the front stating what it is. Most of the current residents are HIV-positive men who are using it as a halfway house after they have been released from prison.

This organization also sponsors a daily newspaper ad, billboards, and signs on buses that are aimed at young adults, and they say things like “HIV IS TREATABLE - KNOW YOUR STATUS.”

The definition of pandemic is, prevalent over a whole country or the world.

The definition of prevalent is, widespread in a particular area or at a particular time; predominant.

While AIDS is worldwide, it is not predominant worldwide. Therefore, AIDS is not a pandemic.

I’m not sure that using a general dictionary definition is the best option when discussing the medical classification of a disease, and even then, I don’t know why you focus on the word “predominant” as the most important aspect.

Per the CDC

Epidemic refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area. …Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

I think HIV/AIDS fits that. An abstract on the NIH site says:

The phrase “HIV/AIDS pandemic” indicates that there is a global HIV epidemic, which may be generalized in some countries, such as South Africa, and localized in other countries, such as the United States.

That page also linked to Pandemics Throughout History, which is interesting.

Whose definition?

And most of the world may not have HIV, but they’re certainly affected by it - “safe sex” didn’t even exist as a thing before the pandemic…

By that definition it would appear after the increase is stabilized or plateaued it is not longer Epidemic, meaning just as many people being infected and/or dying but the number of new cases are just not increasing. Is this an intent in the definition? It does not appear to be so with Covid, as there were times that the case number decreased and we were still in a pandemic.

I found it on the web so it must be true. :slight_smile:

In all seriousness, here is where I found that definition.

A better definition. And yes, AIDS does fit that.

Yes, WHO deemed AIDS a pandemic in 1985. But hardly anybody actually called it a pandemic in daily life, unlike today.

I did a newspaper search from 1985-1995. “Aquired immunodeficiency syndrome” gives 4088 matches. Although many of them go to syndicated articles, so the total number would be far less than that, from experience I’d say that’s a large number.

Even so, a search for “Aquired immunodeficiency syndrome” “pandemic” returns only 41 matches. And many of those didn’t apply pandemic to AIDS, but only in passing to early diseases like the 1918 Flu. Take those and the syndicated doubles out and there are barely a handful left.

I assume that’s why few people think about AIDS as a pandemic. We get the word pounded into our heads a hundred times a day for COVID. AIDS was treated differently.

Try using the word “acquired” and you’ll get a lot more hits.

Good one.

For the record, yes, I typoed the word here but not in the actual search.

Doesn’t matter. Search for “aquired” and it still gives you hits for “acquired”. Google knows what you meant. DuckDuckGo does likewise.

In your country. In mine, things were a little different.

No doubt. That’s why I never comment about countries I don’t live in.