History Of HIV / AIDS

In The Beginning
Much of the history of AIDS and HIV is clouded with myths and outright information. Speculation is rampant but what I can do here is clear up some myths and help you weed out the speculation

HIV was first recognized as a distinct illness in June of 1981. It was originally called GRID or Gay Related Immune Deficiency. This was on the basis of five men in Los Angeles who had contracted Pneumocystis pneumonia. This form of pneumonia is very rare among people and prior to this date was found almost exclusively in people with immune system problems.

The next group this occurred in was hemophiliacs, soon followed by Haitians, then IV drug users. It was become clear GRID was not just confined to homosexual populations. GRID was renamed AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

One point was still unclear what was causing this? A bacteria, a virus or was it sexual or some other behavior? When it was first thought to be confined to homosexual sex, behaviour was the first looked at. Poppers are known to suppress the immune system. Also semen has immunological suppressant properties in it. It was thought combining the two together would give you GRID. This soon proved to be incorrect.

Researches began to focus on looking for a virus. In the early 1970s, then President Richard Nixon, had "declared war" on cancer. By the mid 1970s HTLV-I viruses were found to in fact cause cancer. What wasn't clear was that only about 20% of those infected actually got cancer. However researchers were excited that a virus could cause cancer and soon began focusing on it.

Soon HTLV-II virus was found. This has never been proven to cause any illness, though it is associated with various diseases. It is found mostly in Native Americans, IV drug users and South American Indian groups.

Controversy or I Found It First
Now came the controversy. Two groups of scientist began to work to solve they mystery of AIDS; one in group in France and one in the United States.

In May of 1983 Dr. Luc Montagnier's team at the Pasteur Institute in France, reported that they had isolated a virus, in fact a retrovirus from lymphoid ganglions. The institute believed that they had found the cause of AIDS. They named the virus LAV for lymphadenopathy-associated virus. Pasture Institute sent some of this virus to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta for study.

While this was going on in American in May 1984, Dr Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute (MCI) also isolated a virus that caused AIDS, and named it HTLV-III, because it was a retrovirus.

The media had a field day reporting that now that the virus had been found it should be only a matter of years before a vaccine was developed. But having two causes of the same disease didn't add up for many and by January of 1985, it was becoming clear to most people that HTLV-III and LAV were indeed the same virus.

But what was at stake was patents and money. Neither side wanted to admit that they were wrong for it meant loss of research grants and even worse loss of patent royalties. However in March of 1985 it was found that the Pasteur Institute had passed the samples of LAV to the Center of Disease Control which had passed them on to the NCI in Washington DC and that it was indeed the same virus.

However it took a year before, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses ruled that both names should be dropped and a new name, HIV. This occurred in May of 1986.

As you can see right from the start it took almost three years of infighting before the true identity of HIV was confirmed.

This infighting was not restricted to the AIDS research community. Gene therapy was becoming more and more researched and other controversies such as "who owns your genes" were becoming commonplace. Courts had to rule if one could be forced to give DNA samples against their will. Because this was a time of movement into unexplored medical areas, many delays were encountered.

To be fair to the medical community it was not merely an issue of money. Many types of therapy and new systems of discovery were held up by court challenges. Today one thinks nothing of being forced to submit your DNA to the government but in the mid 1980s it usually wound up in court.

By late 1985 the first test for aids, was approved by the FDA, but it was notoriously inaccurate, still it was better than nothing.

Prior to the AIDS test, which actually tested for antibodies to HIV not the presence of HIV itself, other methods were used. The most common being a count of ones T-helper cells. Low numbers of T-helper cells with no other indication of why they should be low often indicated AIDS infection.

How Do I Know?
With this controversy out of the way two things next were on schedule, one to develop a vaccine and two to actually have a test to identify who had HIV this was in 1986.

The issues of the time were that no one knew how AIDS was being transmitted. Kissing, oral sex, toothbrushes, no one really knew and all behaviour, which involved transmission of any bodily fluid, was considered suspect.

This caused severe stress for most gay people as it was thought even the simple act of a "wet" kiss could transmit death. However it was definitely seen by 1986, that AIDS was not communicable through casual contact, such as coughing or touching and some sort of intimate sharing of fluids was needed. But what fluids and how remained a mystery.

Late 1980s
The end of the 1980s affirmed HIV as the cause of AIDS but this began to be openly challenged, a dispute, which remains today. A very high death rate and a life span of two years or so from time of AIDS diagnosis was common.

The fact was little was known about AIDS and HIV a dire predictions were made. In 1987 it was thought by the mid 1990s one out of every five heterosexuals would be dead from AIDS and the rate among heterosexuals would match or exceed homosexuals. This of course never even came close to materializing.

Into The 90s
The 1990s still brought forth more frustration. Many celebrity deaths were outing people. In 1993 the Centers for Disease Control redefined AIDS to include all those with a CD4 cell count less than 400 as having AIDS. It is estimated this increased the number of AIDS cases by half overnight. This has been changed again.

This had the effect of creating a pseudo-AIDS hysteria but it also allowed people ill but ineligible for government assistance programs in the United States to receive disability benefits.

By the mid 90s Robert Gallo found certain chemicals called chemokines could block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS. This was the first major turning point in trying to defeat the HIV virus.

The Mid 90s. AIDS Defeated?
One thing was also becoming apparent. HIV was not as easily spread as thought. For example a ten-year study on people who shared blood in the form of shared toothbrushes found not one case of HIV transmission. Clearly HIV was not being transmitted through causal contact, nor all types of bodily fluids. Also it was becoming evident that AIDS was growing somewhat less deadly. By 1995 before the introduction of new AIDS drugs, the life expectancy rate of AIDS victims had gone from two years after diagnosis to four years.

Though some of this was due to new redefined AIDS definitions people were living slightly longer. This was encouraging, as all viruses up to this time had also shown this trait. Over time viruses tend to get less deadly as the struggle between the body's immune system and the viruses reach a happy medium.

The introduction of new HIV medicines brought extreme drops in death rates to HIV infection by the late 1990s. Some were predicting AIDS or HIV infection would simply become a manageable chronic illness like diabetes. However the new meds while working initially had two drawbacks, the first being the HIV virus mutates rapidly and quickly overcame the drugs. Secondly the drugs themselves were highly toxic to the human body. Thus to some the side effects were worse than the illness. Also they did not work at all for 1 in 5 people infected with HIV.

Later on the drugs used to treat HIV were combined in "cocktails," thus limiting the ability of HIV to overcome the combination of drugs. Of course the combination of drugs only increased the toxicity and in some people cause more issues.

As always not everyone suffered side effects and for some AIDS or HIV infection has become a manageable infection. For others the drugs manage the HIV but cause a terrible strain just living day to day.

Back To Barebacking
Today HIV and AIDS stands at a crossroads. There is simply too much political play and unorthodox methods being used. This is causing much false information to be spread. The use of HIV drugs has caused and upswing in barebacking and HIV infection since 2000 has been increasing in the gay community.

Many objections to the HIV causes AIDS theory are now being studied more seriously as mainstream science fails to answer questions or dismisses them without properly addressing such questions.

What were the first cases of AIDS?
The first cases of AIDS were documented in the spring of 1981. The CDC reported on June 5, 1981 five previously healthy gay men were hospitalized with PCP. Not even a month later 26 other gay men were diagnosed with KS. These men lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. These are considered the first "recorded" cases of AIDS?

How was HIV discovered?
Between the years 1983 and 1984 Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute discovered it and named the virus LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus). Some of this virus was sent to labs in Washington DC before the discovery was announced. So it was "discovered" again by Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute, who named it HTLV-III. While this was happening Jay Levy of the Cancer Research Institute of the University of California at San Francisco, "discovered" it as well.

Various battles went back and forth especially over "patent rights" and to make a long story short, it is generally accepted Luc Montagnier did have it first and a compromise to share "patent rights" was agreed to and the virus was renamed a neutral HIV.

Where did the virus originate?
It is very hard to tell because people are constantly making "discoveries" of old blood samples that later turn out to be wrong.

For instance for a long time it was reported a teenager called "Robert R," in St Louis had died of AIDS in 1969 but no one knew about it. This gave rise to the opinion that HIV may have invaded the United States several times but until it hit the gay community it simply died out before causing much problems.

The problem is this is wrong. But if you Google for this information it comes up as correct and at the top of Google's list. BUT if you look you will see the article dates from 1987. In the early 1990s, when HIV testing got better it was determined, this "Robert R," did NOT have HIV. But you have to look way down through pages of Google to find this.

Another example was a sailor who was determined to have HIV as far back as 1959. This sailor who lived in Manchester, England his tissues were stored as no one could figure out what he died from. His case was brought to light when people said, "AIDS was a man made disease." This case was offered as "proof" it wasn't man made. That is until 1996 when it was discovered that the lab made a testing error and no one else was ever able to get HIV genetic material from his sample.

But again, if you look this case is widely credited as fact. Though it's not. And this is problematic.

What do we know for sure about the history of HIV?
Here's what we do know, a man in Kinshasa (then called Leopoldville) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (then called the Belgian Congo) was isolated. This is based on four small isolated fragments of tissue that was saved. One fragment codes for the protein HIV needs to reproduce and the other codes for the outer coat of the virus.

At the time Kinshasa was a small city and the capital of a Belgian colony. Not the city of millions it is today

One theory says HIV and AIDS has been around for a long time but didn't emerge until mass transportation and urbanization became common. In other words a few people got it and died and that was it.

This theory also fits with other viruses such as Marburg.

However it is problematic because no real evidence exists that AIDS occurred before 1959. But then again Marburg was only first recognized in 1967 and just seemed to have appeared. I only use Marburg as an example it is in no way related to HIV except they are both viruses.

It is also unlikely HIV mutated from another human virus, because it is fails to match up with any other human virus.

Some people think HIV was living in animals and cause them no harm but then crossed over to people. The problem with this is no reservoir of the viruses in animals has been found.

But then again both Marburg and Ebola have no know reservoir of animals (though some think Bats may have it, it's not proven.) The SIV virus is so close to HIV that it may be the HIV jumped from humans to animals just as well as jumping FROM animals to humans.

Some people think it was a biological accident that emerged thru problems with Smallpox vaccination or Polio vaccination. Smallpox was being eradicated during the 1970s especially in Africa. It could've accidentally happened then

Some people point to evidence that HIV was a biological weapon, the issue with this is the virus kills so slowly that it does no one any good.

But viruses are strange. Let's look at Marburg and Ebola. Both are hemorrhagic fevers, which cause massive bleeding.

You can look to Ebola outbreaks in the late 1970s as a new disease, but then it was found Ebola is related to Marburg, which was first identified in 1967.

Marburg was a mystery disease. It came over to Europe from infected monkeys from Africa; it killed a bunch of people then disappeared. Then in the mid 1970s Marburg came back and killed two people then disappeared again. Then in 1998 when it came back and killed over a hundred. Then it disappeared again and came back in Angola in 2004 and killed over 300.

Ebola is very deadly and there are three types Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan and Ebola-Ivory Coast. In 1989 monkeys from the Philippines were imported to Reston, Virginia and found to have the Ebola virus. Ebola had only been seen as coming from Africa, via humans or monkeys. This was named Ebola-Reston. But oddly enough this Ebola virus didn't cause illness in people but it devastated the monkeys

So it is not unheard of other viruses to come infect and disappear for years and years then come back. It's also not unheard of for some types of the same virus to cause illness and other types of that virus to be harmless..

I'm not saying it is the case with HIV, but I use those examples to show you how odd viruses can be.

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