COLUMN: Saturday marks AIDS Awareness Day

This Saturday is National AIDS Awareness Day. Many people don't know the history or the impact it has had on the GLBT community, and the rest of the country. I've decided today to give you some history of the HIV/AIDS virus to help you better understand.

1981: A drug technician at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States noticed an unusually high number of requests for the drug, Pentamidine, used in the treatment of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). This led to a scientific report of PCP occurring unusually, in gay men in Los Angeles and New York. The leading candidate as the cause was poppers or nitrate inhalants. The alternative explanation was that it was caused by an infectious agent. Later in the year, the first cases of PCP appeared in drug addicts.

1982: The syndrome, that is the collection of symptoms, was called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) by some scientists and it started to be clearer that it was caused by an infectious agent, possibly a virus that could be spread through blood. The first article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about how GRID also now affected women and male heterosexual drug users.

Haitian refugees in Miami were discovered to also be affected by the syndrome, as were hemophiliacs. The syndrome was renamed, because it was clear that it did not just affect gay men. It was given the new name AIDS, standing for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The first blood transfusion recipient was identified with AIDS in the United States this same year, as were the first babies.

1983: AIDS had been reported in 33 countries. 3,000 Americans had now had AIDS, of whom 1,283 had died.

By the end of 1984, 7,000 Americans had AIDS, and by 1994, AIDS had become the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 25 and 44. And since 1981, 400,000 people in the United States had developed AIDS, and over 250,000 people had died.

In 1997, it was also estimated that 2.3 million people died of AIDS -- a 50 percent increase over 1996. Nearly half of those deaths were in women, and 460,000 were in children under 15.

As of the end of the December, 2000,AIDS cases in the United States had been reported at 774,467 to the Centers for Disease Control.

I know these are a lot of numbers to take in, but I felt they were important enough to have printed. If you would like to help in the fight against AIDS, please contact the Open Door Community at 281-4264.

This information was taken from

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