Note: this site last updated in 2006
discovery of HIV
An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell
The virus we call HIV was first detected by scientists at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, in 1983. They named it lymphadenopathy associated virus, or LAV.
In 1984 another group of researchers led by Robert Gallo (at the american National Cancer Institute) reported having developed cell lines which were permanently and productively infected with the virus. They, however, called the virus HTLV-III, in line with the two retroviruses">retroviruses which had previously been described, HTLV-I and HTLV-II. A third group at the University of California detected the virus and named it ARV (AIDS-associated retrovirus).
Both the french and the american teams share credit for having discovered the virus, although some argue that Gallo's work (including the development of the first blood test for the virus) was particularly important. At least six subtypes of this virus (which we now call HIV-1) have been isolated.
Around 1985 a separate retrovirus was discovered in patients with West African connections. This was referred to at the time as LAV-2, but we now know it as HIV-2, the strain of HIV responsible for the HIV epidemic on the African continent.