Brief HIV/AIDS History

It has been more than 30 years since HIV first appeared as a potential threat to the future of humanity. From the first five cases reported in Los Angeles, in 1981, the number of infections has risen to more than 40 million worldwide. As many experts agree, this is just the tip-of-the iceberg. Today, according to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), "one in 250 Americans is HIV positive, and one in 500 knows it," and every year new infections in the United States have totaled 40,000. Despite these horrendous statistics, real-life education and accessible treatment programs remain grossly underfunded both here in the U.S. and in other countries.

AEGiS History

AEGIS -- pronounced EE-jis -- is a classic grassroots success story. In mid-1986, Orange County resident Jamie Jemison saw the potential of an online bulletin board system (BBS) devoted to HIV/AIDS. The BBS he called AEGIS (AIDS Education General Information Service), however, was ahead of its time. The cost and limitations of computers in homes was a substantial barrier to its use.

During this same time period Sister Mary Elizabeth had launched the "HIV/AIDS Info BBS", motivated by a stay in a small Midwest farm community where she met several persons living with AIDS. They were profoundly isolated by illness, small town fears, and geography. In their need, she saw a way to put her technical skills to a spiritual use by providing online information and readily accessible telecommunication resources to all persons affected by the epidemic.

A truly successful AEGiS remained a dream until Jamie Jemison and Sister Mary Elizabeth connected in mid-1991....

Sister Mary Elizabeth suggested joining forces with Mr. Jemison. However, he had gone on to other pursuits and ceded the use of the name AEGiS to her. Ever since, she has made AEGiS her life's work, building AEGiS into a service the Centers for Disease Control calls "the best of its kind."

From September 1990, to April 1995, AEGiS operated under the auspices of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a small religious community founded in 1988. In April 1995, with the assistance of Christopher Quilter, Scott Mastrocinque, Katherine Jones, and Jim Schooler, AEGiS was reorganized as a nonprofit charitable and educational corporation under the laws of the state of California.

Internal Revenue Service 501(c)3 tax-exempt certification was granted on January 9, 1996.

With the advent of the World Wide Web and financial assistance from Roxanne Laboratories (now, Boehringer Ingelheim) AEGiS became AEGiS. In addition, our name was modified to AIDS Education Global Information System to emphasize our growing global presence. Usually, non-profits are identified as '.org', but, at that time the name was owned by a Japanese organization, therefore the .com address was our only option. However, in the year 2000, Sister Mary sought out the name, and it was for sale! Finally, AEGiS had the opportunity to adopt its rightful name and become: AEGiS.

This article was last modified in: 04/03/2012