Timeline: The History of HIV/AIDS in Houston

From the first STD clinic for gay men to the introduction of retroviral drugs, Houston has a long history of combating the AIDS epidemic.

By Roxanna Asgarian February 28, 2018 Published in the March 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Houston-based gay magazine This Week in Texas shows warning of signs of AIDS


The Montrose Clinic (now Legacy Community Health Services) opens as an STD clinic for gay men.


The first person in Houston is diagnosed with AIDS, then called GRID—Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Seven other diagnoses are made, mostly in white, gay men; only two survive through the end of the year.


The CDC introduces the term AIDS—Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Houston hospitals require visitors and staff to wear protective gear.


Sister Kathleen Foster opens Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, a residential care facility for children with AIDS, or those whose parents have AIDS and can’t care for them.


A blood test becomes available to test people for HIV. More local gay men are impacted; many have dark spots on their face and body, attributed to a cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma that is common among those with AIDS. Mac McAdory, a bartender at Montrose institution Mary’s, starts a support group at the bar for people with Kaposi’s sarcoma.


Board members of Montrose Clinic and Montrose Counseling Center establish AIDS Foundation Houston. The foundation provides services including a food pantry called Stone Soup and a 10-bed Montrose residence for people with AIDS, McAdory House.


AIDS Interfaith Council, which organizes groups of churchgoers to care for people living with—and dying from—the disease, forms.


A referendum prohibiting the city from discriminating against gay and lesbian people is defeated by an overwhelming margin, with the opposition relying on the fear of AIDS in its counter-campaign.


The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses rules that the virus itself should be referred to as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which can progress into AIDS.


Carolyn Farb raises $100,000 at a fundraiser for people living with AIDS.


Tori Williams starts Pet Patrol both to care for AIDS patients’ pets while they receive treatment, and to find homes for them once their owners pass away.


The Institute for Immunological Disorders, operated by a privately owned hospital in conjunction with MD Anderson, opens in Houston, becoming the first hospital in the country dedicated to treating AIDS. It closes the next year amid financial trouble.


The drug AZT, an antiretroviral medication that treats HIV, is approved by the FDA; it costs $10,000 a year, making it the most expensive drug in history.


Montrose Clinic becomes one of the American Foundation for AIDS Research’s 12 test sites, allowing greater access to experimental drugs.


Harris County Hospital District opens Thomas Street Clinic, a publicly funded outpatient clinic for those with HIV/AIDS.


George H.W. Bush signs the Ryan White CARE Act—named for a young hemophiliac who contracted HIV after a blood transfusion and later died—into law, providing funds to counties around the nation. The Houston area receives $3.7 million the following year.


U.S. cases reach 1 million. AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25–44.


Retroviral drugs are introduced, drastically improving the outlook for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. The death rate starts to decline. It becomes clear that minorities, especially African Americans, are becoming disproportionately affected by HIV.

Source: Ryan White Planning Council

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