Both HIV/AIDS and HPV are viruses. Just as with HPV (Human Papillomavirus) which has been in existence for centuries, HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has also existed as an unidentified condition decades before its identity as a retrovirus was discovered in the early 1980s. This is the same time frame during which HPV was identified as being responsible for cervical cancer. Actually the retroviruses responsible for AIDS were discovered in the very same year, 1984, as was the connection between HPV and cervical cancer.
According to information from those who researched AIDS in the earliest years, it could take ten years or more for the onset of symptoms. Similarly, while the incubation period for HPV is usually three months, symptoms are usually absent and actual progression to an invasive cancer takes a similar amount of time, approximately ten years.
Dr. Robert Yarchoan of the National Institute of Health, made the following comment regarding the early days of AIDS diagnoses. “I remember doing a rough mental calculation of the number of gays in the country and the percentage who were likely to be HIV-infected, and estimating that there were half a million to a million people infected with this lethal virus who did not know it.” With HPV estimated to affect over twenty million Americans and more than six million more acquiring the virus each year, still few people are even aware of what HPV stands for.
By the mid-eighties however, far more extensive research was being conducted with respect to pharmaceuticals and vaccines and more so after the United States Congress allocated additional funding in 1986. Within ten years of the identification of the AIDS virus there existed medications which could control the disease. Conversely, it took another two decades for the first vaccine to become available for HPV in 2006. Even this vaccine is limited and does not cover all cancer-causing strains of HPV.
While the Pap smear and subsequent HPV test has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of cervical cancers, this is the result of early identification.