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A Timeline of Women Living With HIV: A Small but Growing Chorus in the 1980s

March 15, 2013


Sandra Ford


In 1981 the first case of Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), which would later be referred to as AIDS, was reported. Though mostly affecting gay males, five women were diagnosed with GRID in 1981.

Sandra Ford, a drug technician for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), first reported the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic. Ford wrote a memo about two phone calls -- the first documentation of the epidemic that would come to be known as AIDS -- and alerted CDC doctors to the similarities between the unusual cases. "It wasn't a big light bulb experience," she recalled to People Magazine in 2004; "But I did rememeber the first doctor mentioning the homosexuality of the patient." Her office soon became the center of the evolving HIV/AIDS epidemic. "They called me the mother of AIDS," she said. "I was around at the beginning. And I would love to be around when the epidemic comes to an end." A paper napkin was later taped to Sandra's door stating: "In this office in April 1981, Sandra Ford discovered the epidemic that would later be known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome."

Additional reporting was provided by Mathew Rodriguez, editorial project manager for and

Check out the other slide shows in the series:

For a more complete timeline in text only, check out A Timeline of Women Living With HIV: Past, Present and Future, by Terri Wilder.

Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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