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The History Of HIV


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In July 1981, the New York Times reported an outbreak of a rare form of cancer among gay men in New York and California, first referred to as the “gay cancer"; but medically know as Kaposi Sarcoma. About the same time, Emergency Rooms in New York City began to see a rash of seemingly healthy young men presenting with fevers, flu like symptoms, and a pneumonia called Pneumocystis. About a year later, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) link the illness to blood and coins the term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In that first year over 1600 cases are diagnosed with close to 700 deaths.

The current worldwide crisis

Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic continues today in Africa and much of Asia, where antiretroviral therapy is not available and health care is seriously inadequate. Over 95% of AIDS cases and deaths occur outside the United States.

AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, the #1 cause of death due to infectious disease, and has surpassed malaria as the #1 killer in Africa. There are more than 2.2 million AIDS cases reported worldwide, and 33.6 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. More than 16 million people have died from AIDS. It caused 2.6 million deaths in 1999. According to the National Institutes of Health more than 3 million people will die from AIDS in 2000.

Today in History: AIDS in Africa

In early 1988, the AIDS hysteria was in full swing. The air was filled with the rhetoric of the innocent “general population" besieged by disease-ridden homosexual men. Just two months earlier, Pat Buchannan wrote an op-ed in the New York Post saying, Even when there is lots of virus in the body fluids, HIV isn't transmitted all that easily.

It needs to get into the bloodstream of the uninfected person, usually through a small tear or lesion. And anal sex is a lot better at providing those tears than vaginal sex. Anal sex between men has another advantage, too, from the point of view of the virus. In any *** pairing of an infected and an uninfected person, transmission is most likely if the infected person is insertive and the uninfected person receptive. That's one of the reasons women get infected more easily than men, but don't pass on the virus so readily. But gay men can take both roles in sex. So a man can be infected when he's being a “bottom, " then go on to infect another guy when he's being a “top. " That's why HIV moves so quickly in gay communities.

In the early days of the epidemic, a diagnosis of HIV was a death sentence. The disease would eventually progress to AIDS, allowing any number of infections to attack the body. Doctors watched helplessly as the disease destroyed immune systems and killed the patient. Palliative care was the most that they could offer.

Acute Viral Syndrome

The first time period is during the first few weeks after infection from HIV. Some people who are newly infected may develop flu-like symptoms within the first month or so after getting HIV. These early symptoms can feel very much like the flu (fever, headache, weakness, fatigue, body aches, etc. ), and they can be mild or severe. The flu-like symptoms typically last for only about week, and then go away on their own. Acute Viral Syndrome is not an ongoing condition that lasts for weeks and weeks or that comes and goes over a long period of time.

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