Since it was identified in 1981 and derisively labelled "the Gay Plague", AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has stricken more than 2,000 people in Europe, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, US; SEPTEMBER 1983 NBC FILE (FROM REUTERS ARCHIVE)
CU & SV Viral slides and technicians at work; vaccine bottles, marked Hepatitis B. (6 SHOTS)
Background: Since it was identified in 1981 and derisively labelled "the Gay Plague", AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has stricken more than 2,000 people in Europe, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. As the mystery disease of the 1980s, AIDS has baffled researches. Successful treatment has been elusive. The disease, according to a senior US health official, has become "America's number one health priority". No one knows the cause or the cure of this disease which destroys the body's immune system, leaving the victim without any actual defence to numerous infections, tumors and pneumonia. When it first appeared in the United States, AIDS struck male homosexuals, drug addicts and Haitians. Now, the disease is spreading to other groups. And, with this realisation, has come fears of an epidemic and demands for intensified medical research. Concern over the disease is such that an international AIDS medical conference will open in Arhus, Denmark, on October 19.
SYNOPSIS: The likelihood of transmitting AIDS in blood and blood products has been stressed to high-risk groups through blood transfusion services. There have been fears that US supplies of Factor Vlll, a blod-clothing agent for haemophiliacs, have been contaminated with AIDS, and exported to the UK. AIDS poses a serious threat to haemophiliacs, some of whom need up to 40 transfusions of blood-clothing concentrates each year. A single dose of clothing agent may be drawn from thousands of donors, making haemophiliacs highly susceptible to any blood-borne infection.
AIDS has been linked with the Hepatitis B virus, which affects more than 200 million people all over the world. It acts in a similar way, spreading by sexual contact and contaminated hypodermic needles. If AIDS is a virus, the solution could be vaccine prepared from the blood of infected patients just as the Hepatitis B vaccine was. The problem now with the vaccine is that it was prepared from blood donations from New York homosexuals, the highest risk group. Although there's no evidence that AIDS is transmissable in Hepatitis B vaccine, there is a reluctance to continue using it. In London, Mr. Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for the Terence Higgins Trust, set up to fund research and help sufferers, spoke to Visnews reporter, Karen O'Brien:
A leading candidate in the search for an AIDS cure is virus, PTLV which was first located in a rare case of leukaemia and grows in a type of white blood cell.
Although homosexual men account for 70 per cent of AIDS cases, intravenous drug users. Haitians and haemophiliacs -- both women and men -- are also at high risk. Increasingly, the sex partners and children of these groups are being affected. There seems little, if any, concrete evidence that AIDS is transmitted by casual personal contact. AIDS is not passed simply by close proximity but many people who came into contact with AIDS victims are not convinced.
San Francisco police officers have been issued with protective gloves and masks for dealing with AIDS victims. In New York City prisons, where two men have died from AIDS, guards also wear protective clothing.
The gay community has rallied around AIDS sufferers. Support groups have sprung up all over the US and organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, named for the first Englishmen to die of AIDS, are active in the UK. In the US, hundreds of people -- victims and sympathisers -- have joined "Gay Pride" marchers, demanding more government funding for AIDS research. As public awareness of AIDS grows, the media's initial emphasis on the frenetic, promiscuous gay lifestyle of New York City and San Francisco is diminishing. The necessity for finding a cure for the debilitating and ultimately, fatal, disease, can longer be ignored.