The Rise of HIV/AIDS

Introduction

Official Notice

Origin of HIV

The Numbers

Is HIV the Cause of AIDS?

Is HIV a Myth?

 

Introduction

It was midnight, Friday, June 27, 1969 and New York City's finest were preparing to raid a gay bar at 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Patrons were being led out into a warm and festive atmosphere (as if in celebration of the life and death the previous day of Judy Garland, a gay favorite)-until the paddy wagons arrived. As the police got rough, one self-proclaimed "bull dyke" punched a cop and knocked him out cold. Then all hell broke loose. That night and the following saw melees unlike anything before-gay men, lesbians, transvestites, and bisexuals-all had taken arms against a sea of troubles. These were the Stonewall Riots by some and the Stonewall Rebellion by most gay historians.

A sea change is what it was; from that time forward gay sexuality was in the open-the fast lane became crowded. Where gay men had assumed fixed classical roles, as in anal intercourse where one partner was always dominant and the other always submissive, they now freely interchanged roles and relished it. Sex clubs, bathhouses, and meat racks were all open and thriving. A typical visit to such establishments resulted in an average of 2.7 sexual encounters. Many, if not most, were anonymous. Sex with multiple partners (as in many hundreds and even thousands) was the norm; abstinence was unheard of. Oral-genital, oral-anal, genital-anal, etc., nothing was barred. Fisting, rimming, water sports, you name it. What had been closed groups of sexual partners broke down, as they shared experiences with partners from beyond the small circles of their friends. Anonymous sex was everywhere. Sado-masochism and leathers were all the rage.

As the rate of casual sex skyrocketed, so too did the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Gonorrhea reports tripled and syphilis reports quadrupled between 1965 and 1975. On August 27, 1976, the CDC reported two cases of penicillin resistant gonorrhea, called PPNG, for penicillinase producing Neisseria gonorrhea. By October there were ten more cases. Even as far away as Liverpool, England, 40 cases were reported. One third of all new cases were coming from service men returning from the Philippines. By May 1977, PPNG had been detected in seventeen countries and the US had 150 cases, most in New York City. Not only PPNG, but herpes simplex II, HSV-II, and new strains of gonorrhea and syphilis were running wild.

Gay men were especially susceptible to these new classes of STDs. Entamoeba histolytica, normally a third world infection, was being commonly found in the bowels of gay men who lived in the fast lane. The general name for this was Gay Bowel Syndrome.

In his book, Surviving AIDS (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), pop singer Michael Callen wrote,

I calculated that since becoming sexually active in 1973, I had racked up more than three thousand (emphasis added) different sexual partners in bathhouses, back rooms, meat racks, and tearooms. As a consequence I also had the following sexually transmitted diseases, many more than once: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, non-A/non-B hepatitis; herpes simplex Types I and II; venereal warts; giardia lamblia and entamoeba histolytica; shigella flexneri and salmonella; syphilis; gonorrhea; nonspecific urethritis; chlamydia; cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) mononucleosis; and eventually cryptosporidiosis.

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Official Notice

Michael Gottlieb was the principal author of the first report of gay men with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) which appeared in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for June 5, 1981. Reports of rare cases of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) followed within the month on July 3. All patients were strangely immunodeficient—their immune systems could not fight off even simple infections. Other opportunistic infections accompanied these diagnoses.

Many possible causes were considered: the use of "poppers", amyl and/or butyl nitrite inhalers, various STDs in combination, recreational drug use, exposure to rare tropical diseases, etc. Each, in its turn, was rejected for lack of substantiating evidence. To further complicate the matter and deepen the mystery, Haitians, as a group, seemed to be susceptible to this strange malady. Even non-drug-using Haitian heterosexuals got it.

The initial diagnosis was given the incriminating acronym GRID, Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease. But that name changed. Since male homosexuals and intravenous drug users were frequent blood donors, for both altruistic and financial reasons, the blood supply was quickly tainted. Suddenly hemophiliacs living outside the usual risk areas, who needed Factor VIII, which was extracted from the whole blood of thousands of donors, came down with the same symptoms. July 1982 saw the first reports of AIDS among hemophiliacs and injection drug users (IDUs). In January 1983 the CDC reported the first case of heterosexual transmission.

The first studies performed by the CDC in 1981 traced the sexual contacts of a small group of 40 patients suffering from KS, PCP, and/or other opportunistic infections. All cases could be traced to the single index case, called Patient Zero, a French Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas. Although Dugas was not the first person to show symptoms of HIV infection, he was the center of this particular cohort of diseased individuals. A line joins men who have had sex with each other.

         

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Origin of HIV

Where did HIV originate? First, HIV-2 is very closely related to SIV, the simian immune virus, found in sooty mangabeys. Baboons can be infected with HIV-1 and they can also suffer from a version of SIV. At the 6th American Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections held in Chicago from January 31-February 4, 1999, one of the keynote papers delivered by Beatrice Hahn on the first day presented evidence that HIV-1 is likely to have originated in West African chimpanzees of the species Pan troglodytes troglodytes. HIV could have been transferred from monkeys because they have long been kept as pets and used for food. When hunting monkeys it is not unusual for both the hunter and the hunted to exchange blood during capture. Currently there is a large market in "bush meat" obtained from monkeys. This does not bode well because there may well be continuing transfer of the disease from monkeys to humans.

The earliest fully documented case of HIV dates back to 1959. A Congolese man's blood sample from a medical study was preserved, found, and then analyzed in 1998. It was verified that he had been HIV+. Other suspected, but unverified because of the lack of either blood or tissue samples, cases date back as early as 1934. On February 1, 2000, M. Korber, et al. reported the results of a phylogenetic statistical analysis of the evolution of the retroviral genome of HIV using complex mathematical models allowing for both constant and variable rates of evolution. Her group's analysis required the use of supercomputers to backtrack the evolution to its source from monkeys. The most reliable time of origin in humans is somewhere around 1930 (a 95% confidence interval extends from 1910 to 1950). Several naysayers have claimed that the disease originated from the use of African green monkey kidneys to cultivate poliovirus in the late 1950's and early 1960's. This analysis finds that argument to be a very low probability event, hence quite unlikely.

The first recorded cases in the U.S. occurred in New York City in 1952, 1959, and 1979. The cases from the 1950s were both males with PCP and other unusual infections. The first reported cases were those in the June 5, 1981 MMWR mentioned earlier. The watershed event that brought the disease into full view of the public eye was the announcement that the (thought to be very macho) film star Rock Hudson had the disease. (Even after he had been diagnosed with AIDS, he continued cruising the gay bars and did not notify any of his sexual partners of his HIV status.)

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The Numbers

Of the between 16,000 and 20,000 hemophiliacs in this country, more than 50% are HIV+ and over 2700 have already died. 98% of the positive hemophiliacs have been infected by tainted blood products.

The World Health Organization's best estimates are that there were 5.8 million new HIV infections in 1999 for a grand total of 33.4 million people who are HIV+. Far and away the largest number of cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 4 million new cases and 23 million people who are positive. 50% of all HIV infections occur in women and 75% of those are the result of vaginal intercourse. Currently, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe have more than 20% (and maybe as high as 25%) of their adult populations infected with HIV. Even the relatively advanced country of South Africa is experiencing an acceleration in its infection rate: 700,000 new HIV cases among ages 15 through 49 during 1998. Recent estimates are that its prevalence rate is at least 10% and may possibly be as high as 15%. A major problem in these countries is the care of the millions of children orphaned by the deaths of their parents due to AIDS.

 

The situation involving children directly is even more bleak.

 

 

In the United States, there is a great disparity in pediatric (below age 13) AIDS cases by race.

 

Racial Group

% Pediatric AIDS Cases

% of General Population

African-American

57

14

Hispanic

23

12

Caucasian

18

70

 

Statistical information is regularly being updated by the CDC. You should visit their web site at www.cdc.gov.

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Is HIV the Cause of AIDS?

How can we be sure that HIV really is the cause of AIDS? There are likely many cofactors involving the development of AIDS, but surely the presence of HIV is the dominant factor. There are many very convincing reasons for this.

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Is HIV a Myth?

The most prominent naysayer is Peter Duesberg, a prominent microbiologist from the University of California at Berkley. In his book Inventing the AIDS Virus, he maintains that HIV and AIDS are unrelated. He presents many arguments that seem to very selectively look at the evidence. You should look at the Rethinking AIDS web site at www.virusmyth.com. Read the statements there and decide where you feel the truth lies.

Some disbelievers will go to any lengths to prove their points. Dr. Robert Willner, author of Deadly Deception: The Proof that SEX and HIV Absolutely DO NOT CAUSE AIDS, who had his medical license revoked in Florida for a series of infractions, held a press conference on October 28, 1993. He stuck himself with a needle he had just inserted into a man who claimed to be HIV+. His attempt at refutation fell short when on April 15, 1995 he died of a heart attack.

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