HIV was first observed in 1981, and at the beginning there wasn't an official name for it - scientists just talked about its complications. Starting with a 1982 New York Times article, media outlets labelled it Gay-related Immunodeficiency Disorder, or GRID for short. That didn't stick, but throughout the early 1980s all the names for it were homosexuality-related. Phrases like gay plague and gay cancer were bandied about, and the CDC briefly introduced 4H disease (standing for the four groups that were perceived as being affected: homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians). Eventually, though, the powers that were realized that the disease wasn't isolated to gay people, and the new name Human Immunodeficiency Virus was accepted. To clarify a common misconception, HIV is the virus and AIDS is the symptom.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.