What The World Looked Like When HIV Was Discovered

May, 1983. French scientist Dr Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and her colleagues at the Pasteur Institute have just learned of a retrovirus they call Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus. The name is later changed to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and is confirmed as the virus that causes AIDS.

Back then, this is what the world looked like.

There are approximately 4.69 billion people on earth.1


A lot of them are wearing something like this.

Nicole Kidman looks like this.

Brad Pitt looks like this.

brad pitt

And Chris Hemsworth looks like this.


People are jamming to the Eurythmics’ fresh hit ‘Sweet Dreams’.

Either from their cassette player…

cassette player

…or watching the video on their portable colour TV.

color TV

Everyone is blown away by the latest in computer technology. 8-colour monitors and 48Kb of memory. Rad.

old computer

A schooner at your local costs about $1.

Which you could buy with 100 of these.

The inside of your car looks like this. And features the latest automotive innovation – power steering.


And buying a house in Sydney could set you back around the region of eighty grand.2



It might seem like a lifetime ago when HIV was discovered, and a lot certainly has changed. But one thing that hasn’t is the need to unite and defeat the virus that has gone on to infect more than 70 million people worldwide.

We can end the epidemic if we work together by testing often, starting treatment early and continuing safe sex strategies.

No matter how long it takes, we must continue the fight. And one day we will know what the world looked like when we defeated HIV.

  1. Source: United States Census Bureau < http://www.census.gov/population/international/data/worldpop/table_population.php>
  2. Source: HOUSING PRICES IN AUSTRALIA: 1970 TO 2003 Peter Abelson and Demi Chung < http://www.econ.mq.edu.au/Econ_docs/research_papers2/2004_research_papers/Abelson_9_04.pdf>