In 1964, Jerome Horwitz synthesized the drug zidovudine, commonly abbreviated ZDV, otherwise known as azidothymidine, or AZT, at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. Horwitz and his colleagues originally developed zidovudine to treat cancers caused by retroviruses. In 1983, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipients Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered a new retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. HIV weakens the immune system and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus in utero, or in the womb. In 1984, scientist Marty St. Clair and her team determined that zidovudine could help treat HIV. Zidovudine was the first medicine discovered to help treat HIV and prevent the transmission of HIV from affected pregnant women to fetuses in the womb by blocking the virus from passing through the placenta.

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