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AIDS, 1981: Mystery of an Emerging Epidemic

Larry Mass, left, a physician and health writer learned about the disease as people called in reports to his newspaper. Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien, a dermatologist, treated hundreds of patients with the new disease at New York's Bellevue Hospital.
Brenda Wilson, NPR
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Larry Mass, left, a physician and health writer learned about the disease as people called in reports to his newspaper. Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien, a dermatologist, treated hundreds of patients with the new disease at New York's Bellevue Hospital.

In 1981, most Americans were oblivious to an emerging sickness that was overtaking gays. Throughout the spring and summer that year, a mystery would slowly unfold in U.S. metropolitan areas. It was the beginning of an epidemic of biblical proportions that has left no part of the world untouched.

Twenty-five years ago today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first report on an illness that would come to be known as AIDS. But before that report, how did people grapple with a mysterious disease that appeared to target the gay community?

Produced by NPR's Rebecca Davis

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Brenda Wilson
Brenda Wilson is an award-winning correspondent and editor for NPR on national and international public health. She has developed a consistent body of work, examining the link between human behavior, social conditions, health and disease.