Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Today In 1981, The New York Times Publishes its First Report of 'Rare Cancer' Killing Homosexual Men



The Atlantic reports on December 5, 2014:

On July 3, 1981, The New York Times published a story by physician and medical correspondent Dr. Lawrence Altman titled ”Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.”

The cancer was Kaposi’s sarcoma, a tumor caused by a viral infection and characterized by dark spots on the skin. While the disease usually struck older patients and progressed slowly, these 41 cases had appeared in—and were quickly killing—men as young as 26. Doctors were puzzled: “The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion,” Altman wrote, noting that the patients had “severe defects in their immune systems.”


Kaposi’s is now known to be a hallmark of AIDS; at the time, though, AIDS was still an unknown. Altman’s article was the first story the Times would publish on the disease that had yet to be understood, identified, or even named.


See full article here.

History.com reports:

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the outbreak of HIV and AIDS swept across the United States and rest of the world, though the disease originated decades earlier. Today, more than 70 million people have been infected with HIV and about 35 million have died from AIDS since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.


Scientists have traced the origin of HIV back to chimpanzees and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), an HIV-like virus that attacks the immune system of monkeys and apes.

In 1999, researchers identified a strain of chimpanzee SIV called SIVcpz, which was nearly identical to HIV. Chimps, the scientist later discovered, hunt and eat two smaller species of monkeys—red-capped mangabeys and greater spot-nosed monkeys—that carry and infect the chimps with two strains of SIV. These two strains likely combined to form SIVcpz, which can spread between chimpanzees and humans.

SIVcpz likely jumped to humans when hunters in Africa ate infected chimps, or the chimps’ infected blood got into the cuts or wounds of hunters. Researchers believe the first transmission of SIV to HIV in humans that then lead to the global pandemic occurred in 1920 in Kinshasa, the capital and largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus spread may have spread from Kinshasa along infrastructure routes (roads, railways, and rivers) via migrants and the sex trade.

In the 1960s, HIV spread from Africa to Haiti and the Caribbean when Haitian professionals in the colonial Democratic Republic of Congo returned home. The virus then moved from the Caribbean to New York City around 1970 and then to San Francisco later in the decade.

International travel from the United States helped the virus spread across the rest of the globe. 

See more about AIDS and HIV at History.com here.

The AIDS quilt, which commemorates lives lost from the disease, on display in Washington, DC.

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