Timeline – HIV/AIDS and AAF

As early as 1920 there were sporadic cases of, what we now know to be AIDS, in Africa. It was thought that HIV crossed from chimpanzees to humans.

1981 – The first official medical reports of previously healthy homosexual men indicating issues with the immune system are recorded in the United States.  The infections, unusual for the time, including Pneumocystis Carinii and the rare aggressive cancer, Kaposi Sarcoma alerted authorities to the seriousness of the issue. This weakened immune system was to become the AIDS Epidemic.

1982 – The term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is first used.

A group of cases among homosexual men in Southern California suggested that the disease was spread through sexual contact, however there were also reported cases in haemophiliacs.

1984 – National Cancer Institute in US announces the cause of the condition (retro virus) and creates blood test that can effectively diagnose the retro virus.

1986 – 85 countries report 38,401 cases of AIDS.

1987 – The first drug treatment for HIV (AZT) is approved.

1995 – There are an estimated 4.7 million new infections. A new type of drug, a protease inhibitor, is introduced and proved to be a great step forward in combating the illness.

1996 – An estimated 23 million people world-wide are living with HIV.

1997 – 30 million people world-wide living with HIV. 16,000 new infections are occurring each day.

1999 – Dr John Schwarz and his wife Rosalie, together with their two sons, John and Michael, travel to South Africa with an interest to learn more about the AIDS epidemic and to make a documentary on this. It was learnt that 40% of the antenatal women in the hospital where Dr Schwarz served as Superintendent (1975-1984) were positive for HIV infection. This was a death sentence. All these women died within a few years and 25% of their children contracted HIV at birth. Many of these children died and others were left as orphans. At this rate, almost half of the young adult population would die.

2000 – Dr Schwarz and Mrs Schwarz formed the African AIDS Foundation.

33 million people world-wide were reported to be living with HIV and so far there had been over 14 million deaths.

2002 – In this year there were 3.5 million new infections in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Average life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa falls from 62 years to 47 years. In certain countries life expectancy was as low as 33 years of age.

2003 – US President Bush announces the PEPFAR Fund – Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Funds provided for antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s) make an enormous difference in the battle to contain the HIV pandemic.

2006 – 25 years has passed since the first reported case of AIDS.

Research indicates a 53% reduction of risk of HIV infection after male circumcision and in response, the South African Health Department encourages circumcision of adolescent boys. Further, a daily dose of HIV drugs reduces homosexual (male to male) infections by 44%.

2009 – 5.25 million people world-wide are now taking ARV’s.

2010 – An African study indicates an antiretroviral based vaginal microbial reduced new infection by 39%.

2012 – Worldwide there are 35 million living with HIV. In this year there are 2.3 million new infections and 1.6 million deaths.


2013 – UNAIDS announces new HIV Infections have dropped more than 50% in low and middle-income countries and the number of people taking ARV drugs has increased by 63% in past two years.

Latest HIV information

2018 – Global Statistics

–         36.7 million people infected worldwide

–         2.1 million of these are children

–         21 million people are on ARV’s

–         1.8 million new infections reported in 2016

–         1 million died in 2016

–         Overall, 35 million have died from a HIV related disease

There is continual research however, there is still no vaccine. There is research into innovative areas such as gene therapy and immunotherapy.  There is also more understanding of the ramifications of HIV infections e.g. HIV is a distinct factor for heart disease (twice the risk).

2018 – South Africa Statistics

According to the South African government the latest statistics are:

  • 1% of the population are infected with HIV
  • 19% of adults aged 15-49 are HIV positive

This equates to approximately 7.52 million living with HIV in 2018, which gives South Africa one of the highest HIV rates in the world.

African AIDS Foundation (AAF)

Our work at AAF is focused in an area of South Africa where we have a close understanding of the people there and the problems they face. The work and care of AAF has evolved since its inception. Initially the focus was in to help people understand the situation they were in and why so many young people were dying.  This moved into a form of palliative care where countless people were dying without hope.

With the advent of ARV’s and the increasing availability of this medication AAF’s focus shifted to helping people with HIV to get treatment providing advice on how to take their medication properly.

There are still deaths today. The pool of infected and potentially infectious people is huge and as a result, the whole society has been dislocated. Recall, as noted above, that 40% of women coming in to Dr Schwarz’s former hospital back in the late 1990’s to deliver babies all died of AIDS (i.e. almost half the young population) and 25% of their babies contracted HIV from their mothers at birth. Due to mothers receiving ARV medication this is no longer the case, but their society is still being adversely impacted by the circumstances of the 1990’s. Imagine the effect on individual children and their communities when 40% of young mothers died in the years after childbirth?

UNICEF estimates there are 3.7 million orphans in South Africa. Some of these are the children and youth that AAF now focuses on and the work we do is extraordinarily valuable.

Our programs teach and help them to understand their place in the world, that every single one of them is infinitely valuable with wonderful potential to achieve extraordinary things. In loving the children and sending volunteers to support and share with them, we marvel at the personal transformations taking place. AAF is transforming the lives of children and teenagers. We have seen this repeatedly and it continues to be the motivation for our work.

AAF will continue to provide valuable help to this South African community and I encourage everyone to support this transforming work.