Forty Years After First Documented AIDS Cases, Survivors Reckon With ‘Dichotomy of Feelings'

On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a now-historic report about five "active homosexuals" with a rare pneumonia.

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For Eric Sawyer, the 40th anniversary of the first scientific report that described AIDS as a new disease brings up “a dichotomy of feelings.”

When Sawyer, who was living in New York, first began exhibiting symptoms of HIV in 1981, he said he was urged by his friend, the late activist and playwright Larry Kramer, to begin seeing “a doctor who's also gay, who is seeing patients with this disease.”

That same year, across the country, a young physician named Michael Gottlieb and his colleagues at UCLA wrote in an official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about patients diagnosed with a lung infection common in what would come to be called AIDS.

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