The emergence of the new disease, AIDS (first reported as a clinical syndrome in the USA in 1981), was the principal reason for the birth of harm reduction in the mid to late 1980s. The first appearance of clinical evidence of AIDS was based on the appearance of opportunistic infections among young populations not normally associated with such infections—e.g., Kaposi’s sarcoma and other symptoms of immune disorders, normally mostly seen among older populations. The fact that these first cases were among young gay men hospitalized in Los Angeles became the basis of the initial professional and popular conceptions of AIDS and the primacy of sexual risk, especially for gay men. We now know that AIDS cases and deaths were already occurring among heterosexuals of both sexes and newborns, but this occurred without any awareness of them at that time.
Ernest Drucker and Nick Crofts
Harm Reduction Journal, 2017-08-16