Ronald Johnson
Ronald Johnson

HIV/AIDS Epidemic at 40

Saturday, June 5 marked the 40th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is the date in 1981 when CDC reported the first cases of a rare pneumonia in five gay men in Los Angeles that would later be linked to HIV. GMHC (originally founded as Gay Men’s Health Crisis) would launch one year later in response to the burgeoning epidemic in New York City.

Since then, we have made extraordinary progress towards ending the HIV epidemic. Our contributions helped New York City become one of the first cities to reach the 90-90-90 HIV targets set by the United Nations (90 percent of all people with HIV know their status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV are on treatment, and 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV who are on treatment are virally suppressed). Our prevention programs have also helped reduce new HIV infections to historic lows in New York City. In 2019, that figure fell to a historic low of 1,772.

HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. But we still have no vaccine and no cure. The epidemic also continues to concentrate in communities of color who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, health disparities, and systemic inequities.

To mark the fourth decade of the epidemic, GMHC invited leading voices in the community to share their thoughts on what will it take to end the epidemic in our lifetimes and what they think GMHC’s role will be in achieving this goal.

Larry Mass, MD
Co-founder of GMHC

Ronald Johnson
Senior Policy Fellow, AIDS United

Damon L. Jacobs
Therapist & HIV/AIDS Activist

Corey Johnson
Speaker of the NYC Council

Mark S. King
HIV/AIDS Activist & Writer

Photo caption: Ronald Johnson


After 40 years, we’re still fighting for those living with HIV and AIDS. Honor those we’ve lost. Support those who are still here.