A Timeline of Women Living With HIV: Past, Present and Future -- Introduction

This timeline was originally written in 2001. It is a living document that has been updated over the years to reflect the growing history of response to HIV/AIDS among women.

Since the beginning of time, women have had to fight for recognition. Women had to fight to vote. Women had to fight to work. Women even had to fight to wear the clothes they liked.

Thirty-one years ago women were fighting off unusual symptoms. Thirty-one years ago women were fighting to be diagnosed. Thirty-one years ago women were fighting to stay alive.

The last 31 years have taught me that when I gasp in repulsion over the lack of sensitivity or research on women living with HIV, my breath may be taken in prematurely. I know that I should not be surprised, but I am. I keep thinking that 31 years of this illness should have taught a lesson in inclusiveness and pro-activity. Today, women are fighting to be recognized in the AIDS epidemic as if it were 1981.

Despite the gray overcast, I do have hope for my sisters who are living with and affected by HIV. However, the fight is not over and is perhaps just beginning. We (infected and affected) must gather our strength and remember those who have gone before us. We must never go back to 1981 . We must run our lives as if we are the female CEO of our own company. We must meet with our "Board of Directors" for input. We must set a strategic plan for "Women AIDS, Inc." We must be the most important person in our life!

I invite you to read this humble history of women and HIV and decide what you can do to add to the history of HIV and women. As you process your vision of the future, keep in mind that the final paragraph of this story should include the following words: women, cure, HIV/AIDS, forever.

Terri L. Wilder, M.S.W., is a social worker who has provided social services for persons living with HIV/AIDS for the past 20 years. She can be reached at tlwilder@mindspring.com. Terri invites women who are interested in adding information to this history to contact her. Terri apologizes for any oversights in our history.

The history is dedicated to the countless powerful women who are living with and affected by HIV including: Kellie, Ilyse (who is the CEO of her own "company"), Jane P. Fowler, River, Marguerite G. Wilder, Regina Ann Goldsworthy Stott, Susan, Eva, Valerie Reeder-Bey, Annisha Monic Wilburn, Lois C. and yes, Cara.