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Book and Media Reviews
July 25, 2012

The Origins of AIDS

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

Author Affiliations: Office of Public Health, New York State Department of Health; and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University at Albany, Albany, New York (

JAMA. 2012;308(4):409. doi:10.1001/jama.308.4.409

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) emerged on the scene in 1981 and was quickly discovered to be both worldwide in scope and found in settings as diverse as hemophilia clinics in Indiana and brothels in central Africa. The story of the discovery of and response to HIV is one of the most remarkable in medical and social science and is chronicled in countless books and articles.

But where did HIV come from? How did HIV achieve worldwide distribution before coming to medical attention? What can its history teach about preventing and responding to emerging infectious diseases?

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