AIDS in the Eighties

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AIDS in the Eighties

Four years ago I got into a near fatal car accident and lost a lot of blood. I was rushed into a nearby San Francisco hospital where doctors treated me with transfused blood. Ironically, the same blood that saved my life will eventually lead to my death. It is currently 1987 in San Francisco, one of many areas in the world suffering from a virus believed to have come from Western Africa.

Earlier in the decade scientists discovered the virus was linked to the disease, Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, which dominantly afflicted gay males. The virus, which was not extensively covered by the media, was reported to have been transmitted with bodily fluids through sexual contact, shared needles, fetus transmissions, and blood transfusions. Scientists discovered that the virus contained surface proteins that binded to receptors on CD4 T cells. The virus would then undergo self replication and hide inside T cells. The nascent virus then emerged out of the cell's nucleus, causing T cells to lyse. This cycle continued and gradually decreased the person's immunity toward pathogenic microbes.

There have been many conflicting reports as to how this virus found its way from Western Africa to distant parts of the world. A popular reason may have been from a person that killed a monkey containing the simian form of the virus. The person may have eaten the monkey and contracted the zoonotic virus. Another perspective comes from devout religious individuals that believe the virus was brought to earth by God as a punishment to the sinning gays and lesbians. Either way, the disease became widespread, infecting both males and females. Its spread was due to travel. Because the world has become a smaller place from airplanes, cars, trains, and boats, the disease shifted from a localized epidemic to a worldwide pandemic.

The media is partially responsible for the current image that AIDS patients have with the public. Uninformed reports from television, radio, newspapers, and magazines caused the public into a panic that lasts to this day. A few years ago, accounts of gay men dying from common diseases like the cold and flu began appearing in the media. Pretty soon, "normal" individuals became very sick from common diseases. Because early accounts had singled out homosexuals as having this unknown disease, it was assumed that homosexuals had spread the virus.

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