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AIDS in America

In the early 1980s, doctors in several large American cities (Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco) began seeing young homosexual male patients with Kaposi's Sarcoma, a cancer usually associated with elderly men of Mediterranean ethnicity. Eventually the men wasted away and died.

As the realization that gay men were dying of an otherwise rare cancer began to spread throughout the homosexual and later the medical communities, the syndrome began to be called by the colloquialism "Gay Cancer". As medical scientists discovered that the syndrome included other manifestations, such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, (PCP), a rare form of pneumonia caused by protozoa, its name was changed to "GRID", or Gay Related Immune Deficiency.

It quickly became apparent that the disease was not specific to gay men, and the CDC renamed the syndrome AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1982.

A misconception holds that the disease was introduced by a gay male flight attendant, referred to as "Patient Zero". However, subsequent research has revealed that there were cases of AIDS much earlier than initially known. See Patient Zero.

It has also been theorized that a series of inoculations against hepatitis that were performed in the gay community of San Francisco were tainted with the HIV virus. There is a high correlation between recipients of that vaccination and initial cases of AIDS.

One of the best-known works on the history of HIV is "And the Band Played On", by Randy Shilts[?]. Shilts contends that Ronald Reagan's administration dragged its feet in dealing with the crisis due to homophobia, thus allowing the disease to spread and hundreds of thousands of people to needlessly die. This resulted in the formation of ACT-UP[?], or "AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power" by Larry Kramer[?].

Shilts also details the fact that the Red Cross refused to ban homosexuals from donating blood at the request of the Centers for Disease Control early in the discovery of the epidemic in order to not stigmatize homosexuals. Thus, tens of thousands of hemophiliacs and transfusion[?] receivers were infected needlessly, and died. Some might say that this is bias on Shilts' part, but Shilts himself was a non-self-hating gay.

Activists and critics of current AIDS polices allege that another preventable impediment to the attack on the disease was the academic elitism of "celebrity" scientists. Robert Gallo, an American scientist who was one of many to try to attempt to figure out if there was some kind of new virus in the people who were affected with the disease, became embroiled in a legal battle with French scientists trying to do the same thing. Critics claim that because some scientists (and biological research companies) wanted glory and fame, this held up progress on research and more people needlessly died.

Publicity campaigns were started in attempts to counter the often vitriolic and homophobic perception of AIDS as a "gay plague" and replace it with actual medical knowledge that would save lives. In particular this included the Ryan White case, the red ribbon campaigns, the celebrity dinners, the film of "And the Band Played On", sex education programs in schools, TV adverts, and etc. Announcements by various heterosexual celebrities that they had contracted AIDS (including basketball star Magic Johnson) were significant in making the general public aware of the dangers of the disease to everyone, regardless of their sexual preference.



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