Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 80's: The HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a disease that attacks your immune system and is usually caused mainly by unprotected sex or the transfusion of contaminated blood. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, however there are medications available to slow the disease's fatal outcome and allows the victim to live near the normal life expectancy rate.

The disease, unofficially known as Kaposi's sarcoma was not new to the world before the 1980's but the outbreak and the fear it put in many Americans and others worldwide happened in that very decade. 

In 1981, the United States became the first country to recognize the disease, citing that it was prevalent among a group of gay men. The disease was first documented by the CDC entitled "Pneumocystis Pneumonia Carinii (PCP)." The New York Times then produced an article bearing the headline "RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS" 

The reactions and consciousness associated with this then "foreign" disease left many to dub it as one of the most controversial in the history of modern medicine. 

1981 seen the first real outbreak of the disease and the first known AIDS related death. The guy's name was Nick Rock if you're wondering. By the end of the calendar year, it was reported that 5 to 6 new cases had been found weekly. In 1982, the disease had taken on a new acronym, GRID that meant "gay-related immune deficiency". Gay men had been discriminated upon much more heavier than in today's society. They were fought, looked at as weird as if they were some type of aliens, and even more insulting they were thought to have been the real cause of this new epidemic. 

By the summer months of 1982, 355 cases in 20 U.S. states had been reported. But there was something new that came out of these reports. The disease was no longer one of isolation, no longer affecting gay men, no way -- the disease had affected heterosexual men and also women. African American men, contrary to what they believed made up a significant portion of those affected by the disease. 

1982 was also when AIDS became known as AIDS and not another one of those other weird previous names/acronyms. By this time, AIDS had been affecting at least two Americans everyday. Wow. 

It just didn't seem safe to do any type of interpersonal interactions, especially not sexual. It just seemed less than an exaggeration to use the phrase "one time is all it takes", because when referring to this disease (and many other things of course), all it really took was one time. One bad blood transfusion, one time without the use of a condom, one time and suddenly your life was in immediate danger.

President Ronald Reagan was urging folks to practice safe sex and abstinence, this disease had gotten way out of control. 

1986 seen the first wave of an AIDS treatment by the name of AZT (zidovudine) – a drug that was first investigated as a cancer treatment. Doctors and the rest of the country alike hoped that this would be the answer but later figured that the drug could only slow the disease's progress. 

AZT became readily available for Americans the following year, per the FDA's approval. Americans soon had become optimistic about the drug's capabilities. Well, that was until the drug's price was revealed. It would cost upwards of $7,000 and many Americans couldn't afford it. How can you expect to dish out a "somewhat-solution" (as I call it) to a disease as potent as this one and charge people more than what their insurance could cover? Eventually the price was dropped 20%, as it was clear the company behind the drug was trying to make a "killer" profit (I tried to make light of this). 

In 1988, Surgeon General C. Everett Coop sent out a condensed version of the infamous Surgeon General's Report on AIDS to every American household. The report exclusively provided advice on how Americans could protect themselves and it also helped many understand AIDS. 

At the end of the year 1989: 149,902 are diagnosed with AIDS in the US, 89,817 are dead.

From Magic Johnson to Freddie Mercury to Arthur Ashe to Eric "Eazy-E" Wright, HIV/AIDS has killed over 36million people since its known existence and it is said that over 35million people currently live with this unforgiving disease. There seems to be no cure in sight. 

Although I have no answer for all my hemophiliac's out there, I do have this to say, and if you've been around long enough you've heard or seen it in some form or another. . .

I mean, if you do drugs that constitute needles, don't share them. Practice safe sex. Condoms aren't even expensive, dude.