AIDS 1970S to 1987 +VOCAB

6 Jan

I am a pragmatic, maybe even sagacious person, but as a lesbian, I am not particularly concerned about getting AIDS, or any sexually transmitted disease.  I feel my chances of getting some gross STD are nominal, and only those that mess around with the “dirty stick” should really take precautions.   I fully realize, seeing my arrogated statement in print, this makes me seem like an irresponsible, teenager, but it isn’t as if I gambolaround, having sex with just any Tomika, Dicketta, or Harriot.  Even though AIDS has not personally  afflicted me, or anyone I know, even, this does not mean has not created a cacophonyin my world.  As a child, I remember my own parents claiming without justification that AIDS was a “Sinner’s Disease” only affecting the gays, the promiscuous, and IV drug users-sacrosanct people couldn’t get it.  As appalling and narrow-minded as this sounds, that was a common perception that permeated not only the culture, but scientists in the 1980’s and even into the 1990’s.

It is known between the mid 1970s and the 1980’s, a bevy of people died from a mysterious disease, but they were all gay so the inimical public largely ignored the outbreak.  Media coverage was all but quiescent in those early days–nobody cared about a bunch of delinquents presumably because they were getting what they deserved.   Before 1981, the homosexual lifestyle at large was a secret nuanced only by several AIDS deaths.  Since no one acknowledged that gay male sex was common everywhere, no one knew the catalyst for AIDS, how it was spread, or more importantly, how to prevent it.  People were not overly concerned by AIDS because it seemed endemic to homosexual populations.

In 1982, the Center for Disease Control started keeping record of AIDS deaths, and people became alarmed when the number kept proliferating.  Chaos ensued as more and more people died.  Impetuous, unprotected (gay) sex was implicated in the AIDS outbreak.  Suddenly, the bonhomie of the 1970’s, especially for homosexuals, was appropriated.  The origin of the disease was ambiguous, as was who it inflicted, transmission, symptoms, morbidity, and mortality rates–there was little knowledge, only fear.  The fears (and prejudice) of the American public was exacerbated when several European countries reported AIDS deaths.

The media coverage remained invidious, writing off the AIDS deaths as a consequence of caustic homosexuality.  The preconceived notion that HIV was acquired through some inequity, meant little funding was alloted towards research or education.  The disease burgeoned with such rapidity that a panic was provoked.  In 1981, statements about how to contract AIDS and who was susceptible were quickly repudiated as more and more cases, on a vast array of people came to light.  In 1984, America got a partial reality-check (and even more nettled) when a hemophiliac (the innocent and pristine-living 13 year old) named Ryan White got AIDS from  contaminated blood transfusion.  Until then, people thought AIDS could be prevented by prudence alone.  Reading Ryan White’s poignant Wikipedia entry made me furious–the ignorance, prejudice, and fractious behavior of the school and town who feared catching AIDS seemed ridiculous.  That is, until I read that in 1983 the American Medical Association (a trusted source)  published a report that said, “Evidence Suggests Household Contact May Transmit AIDS” that did nothing to venerate (but everything to further irritate the public) Ryan White’s status as the Thyphoid Mary of AIDS.  The reactions to White’s diagnosis were stinging and volatile:  He was banned from school, called a acrid homosexual, his house was shot at, and when the law finally allowed him to return to his classes, half of the other children attending the public school were kept home by piquant parents.

According to Blood Saga: Hemophilia, AIDS, and the Survival of a Community 90% of all hemophiliacs treated with blood-clotting factors between 1979 and 1984 were infected with HIV!  By 1983, AIDS was thought by both the vexed community and puzzled scientists alike, to afflict those with poor decorum, such as homosexuals, whores, and heroin addicts as well as the unlucky:  Hemophiliacs and Haitians.   Because there was only a scintilla of factual and reliable information about AIDS, the confused public perception ranged from leery to fanatically prejudiced.  AIDS claimed lives with such alacrity, that it was difficult to study.

In 1984, Dillion, of the CDC, published information on a patient zero, ostensibly thought to be responsible for the AIDS pandemic.  This patient zero was Canadian flight attendant, Gaëtan Dugas whose unprotected sex around the globe kindled a mass outbreak.  The sexually insatiable Dugas was diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma in June 1980 and told it might be a sexually transmitted virus.  Unconscionably, Dugas continued traveling widely and having promiscuous, unprotected sex–telling some of his conquests they might be sick after the deed was done.  It was still not unequivocally known how AIDS was contracted or spread, who who was susceptible to it.  It wasn’t until 1985, when (secretly gay) Rock Hudson died, that any public figure had explicitly mentioned having the illness.  Even then, the exasperated Hudson was never candid about being gay or having AIDS–prior to his death he claimed having a fatal liver disease.

Though the Center for disease control was inundated with reports of deaths, amazingly AIDS did not even have one name until 1986!  Neologisms like gay compromise syndrome, GRID (gay-related immune deficiency), gay cancer, and slim, had been used to describe the disease until then.  Before 1986, the scientific and medical communities described AIDS by the symptoms that arose from it and jargon such as:  Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (KSOI), lymphadenopathy (swollen glands), AID (acquired immunodeficiency disease), community-acquired immune dysfunction, and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was first properly defined by the CDC in September 1982.  The obstinate and irked public still refused “normal people” could contract AIDS.  The aggrandizement of AIDS from “Gay Cancer” to preventative syndrome of all classifications of people did not occur until the mid 1980’s.

The fact HIV could lead to AIDS was not known, let alone the gestation period of the disease.  In the 1970’s, 1980’s, and and even 1990’s, HIV meant the knell of death tolling–with the afflicted dying sooner rather than later.  In 1987 there was the slogan:  “AIDS, don’t die of ignorance” which helped people be more judicious about all aspects of the disease.  Where the public had been apathetic and indolent about AIDS awareness before this time, 1987 sparked a rash of education, organizations, and publicity for AIDS.  The famous San Fransisco quilt, featuring a square for each life the disease has taken, served two purposes:  Lament the deaths, and personalize each AIDS victim and raise overall awareness.  The slogan “silence=death” was meant to nettle the general public into action.

President Regan forced an end to the chauvinistic battle that had been raging between The Pasteur Institute and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about who discovered HIV and identified it as the cause of AIDS.  Fighting the battle of ownership left AIDS research inchoate at a time when peeved people needed answers and a cure.  In 1987, The U.S. Public Health Service added HIV to the list of diseases that could prohibit entry into the United States, garnering laconic, if any publicity.  World AIDS Day was launched in December 1988 to advocate education and raise awareness about the disease.  “Understanding AIDS” (a pre’cis on the disease) by C, Everett Koop, Surgeon General, was the most read publication in June 1988.

The United States emulated other countries and tried out a the first needle exchange to reduce spread of AIDS between IV drug users in New York City.  It was shut down in 1990, and Jonathan Mann resigned as the head of the WHO AIDS, saying the world was too listless in bothering with the pandemic.

In August 1989 results from the drug trail AZT proclaimed the drug could cause a longer abeyance of AIDS in HIV positive patients with no side effects.    Many hostile people castigated the manufacturing company, antagonistic Burroughs Wellcome for being greedy when it was found a year’s supply of AZT cost $7,000!

The CDC had to corroborate recalcitrant 22-year old Kimberly Bergalis’ story that she got AIDS from her dentist David Acer during a procedure in July 1990.  She was very loquacious that she had no other risk factors, she was a virgin, had never used IV drugs, and had never received a transfusion, and her story checked out.  Then, after the trials and death of the dentist an (unreferenced)  gynological exam showed chicanery on the part of dissident Bergalis:  She had both HPV and genital warts–which are sexually transmitted.

Magic Johnson, an NBA player for the Lakers, was the first (non-gay) public figure to announce he was HIV positive in 1992, causing a frenetic response from the public.

The hoary AIDS description was redefined by the CDC in 1992 to include symptoms by IV drug users and women.

In France, 4 doctors, including former director of the transfusion service, Michel Garretta, went on trial for knowingly andfurtively distributing HIV-tainted blood supply 1980-1985.  There was, understandably, an adverse public reaction.

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