The AIDS Crisis: A Documentary History

The AIDS Crisis: A Documentary History

The AIDS Crisis: A Documentary History

The AIDS Crisis: A Documentary History

Synopsis

AIDS has grown in just two decades from a rare disease to one that has already killed millions of men, women, and children worldwide. To help high school and college students understand the history and current status of AIDS as a social, political, psychological, public health, and cultural phenomenon, this documentary history provides 228 short and highly readable selections from primary and secondary sources of information about AIDS and HIV. Its scope covers the entire history of the epidemic from its beginnings to early 1997. The documents, many of which cannot easily be found elsewhere, will help the reader to understand and debate the many perspectives and points of view on this controversial topic.

Excerpt

Imagine a disease that was usually fatal and could spread each and every time two people have sex. Now imagine that that disease progressed so slowly that it took an average of ten years from the time of infection until the infected person’s death, sometimes as much as twenty years. Let’s also imagine that the disease was caused by a virus so small, a mere 130 millionth of a millimeter in diameter, that if it was magnified several times, it still could not be seen with the naked eye. And what if the disease affected mostly people in the prime of their lives, rather than at the end of their years? And what if the disease produced hideous symptoms like purplish blotches on the skin, extreme fatigue, and severe weight loss? And imagine that disease was new and spreading around the world at an alarming rate, infecting tens of millions of people.

There is no need to imagine such a disease, because that disease is very real; it is called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Since it was first mentioned in the medical literature in 1981, AIDS has spread into nearly every nation on earth and has caused more widespread panic, fear, and concern than any other medical catastrophe in the twentieth century. A new class of drugs, called protease inhibitors, appears to be prolonging the lives of most of those in the developed nations who are taking them. But whether they will remain effective is not yet clear. For the tens of millions of persons with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS in the developing world who cannot afford their prohibitive cost, the new drugs are not available. For them, AIDS is usually fatal, though we now have good reason to believe that a small proportion of those infected with the virus that causes AIDS will never develop symptoms and will not die from it. We also now know that some people who are repeatedly exposed to the virus will never become infected. But there is no easy way of knowing at this point who is immune and who is not,

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