AIDS seemed to afflict particular populations: homosexual males, hemophiliacs, and intravenous drug users. Scientists did not yet understand AIDS, but they knew it was deadly. By 1983 nearly half of the known victims had died.
Within three years, the Group Health Board of Trustees recognized AIDS as "one of the foremost public health issues of the 1980s" and committed Group Health to an active and expanded role in research, prevention, and treatment (Crowley, 182).
AIDS is caused by a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Formal tracking of the disease began in 1982. The first known instance of the virus was found in a blood sample collected from a man in the Congo in 1959 by a University of Washington scientist studying malaria. The blood sample is stored at the Puget Sound Blood bank and was retested in 1997 using techniques more advanced than were available at the time.
AIDS has spread around the world in a deadly pandemic that had infected 60 million people and killed 15 million as of the year 2000. By 2003 an estimated 1,039,000 to 1,185,000 persons in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS, with 24-27 percent undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV infection.