Thirty-Three Years Ago Today, Here’s What The New York Times Published About AIDS

AIDS-EpidemicThirty-three years doesn’t sound like that long ago, and it isn’t.

But exactly 33 years ago, a medical crisis was just beginning to surface in New York and San Francisco that would eventually be called HIV/AIDS.

On July 3rd, 1981, the New York Times ran a troubling story about a “rare cancer” called Karposi’s Sarcoma that had doctors baffled.

Here’s some of what they thought at the time:

– “there is as yet no evidence of contagion”

– “The cancer often causes swollen lymph glands, and then kills by spreading throughout the body.”

– “Doctors investigating the outbreak believe that many cases have gone undetected because of the rarity of the condition and the difficulty even dermatologists may have in diagnosing it.”

– “In the United States, it has primarily affected men older than 50 years.”

– “the reporting doctors said that most cases had involved homosexual men who have had multiple and frequent sexual encounters with different partners, as many as 10 sexual encounters each night up to four times a week.”

– “Dr. Curran said there was no apparent danger to nonhomosexuals from contagion.”

Though answers soon came to these puzzling and heartbreaking conditions, it’s interesting to see that doctors had all the pieces in front of them, but just didn’t know how to fit them together.

At the very end of the article, the author reports that:

Dr. Friedman-Kien emphasized that the researchers did not know whether the immunological defects were the underlying problem or had developed secondarily to the infections or drug use.

It’s a haunting reminder of how far we’ve come and what our community has had to endure in a relatively very short amount of time.

New research continues to make steps toward an HIV/AIDS-free world, but it’s easy to get frustrated at the speed of progress.

To put in into perspective, thirty-three years ago today we would have given anything to know what we know now.


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  • masc4masc

    33 years is a long time ago. A lot of us weren’t even born yet. And wow @ 10 encounters a night at a rate of 4x a week; how is that even possible for someone who isn’t a prostitute/porn star?

  • DB75

    Thank the Gods for progress and research. I remember the first time I heard about HIV in the mid 80’s. Saw my first AIDS related death by the time I was 15. It had a very strong impact on my life.

  • Matt

    and 33 years later gay men are still giving that gift that keeps on giving!

  • michael mellor

    The New York Times basically blamed male homosexuality for AIDS. It was an extremely homophobic headline.

  • JimboinLA

    I was thirteen years old when this happened. My father’s business associate Erik Stockton was one of the first ones to die. I was terrified and being raised Christian bought into the claim that this was God’s punishment for sin. I’ve since gotten over that but I have never had unprotected sex and for a long time didn’t have any sex. So when Queerty tries to tell me that my very hard earned negative status is the same as some circuit party poz boy I say go fuck yourself.

  • Mezaien

    AIDS (HIV) have been introduce to the world by Heterosexual, straight Christian.

  • Doughosier

    My first knowledge of the disease was from US magazine, which I only bought for Matt Dillon on the cover. It was 1982.

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