25 years ago today, on 23rd April 1984, the US Health Secretary, Margaret Heckler, announced the ground breaking discovery that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Ms Heckler also announced on that same day that a blood test had been developed that would prevent infected individuals unwittingly passing on the virus through blood transfusions.

Initially the virus was called HTLV-III or LAV and it was not until 1987 that it was renamed HIV to avoid confusion.

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

“This discovery was an important early milestone. Understanding how the virus worked set us on the path towards effective treatments, to longer lives for people with HIV, and we hope one day towards a cure.

“It’s ironic that people were more scared of contracting HIV 25 years ago, when it was much less common, than they are today, with infection rates higher than ever before.

“By the end of 2010, there will be over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, of whom a quarter won’t know they’re carrying the virus, so – despite the advances of the past 25 years – it’s not worth taking any risks where your sexual health is concerned.”