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AIDS/SIA: The "Four-H" Disease

Naming the Disease, pages 32-33:

Unfortunately, the name AIDS was not phonetically adapted outside of the English language and was not linguistically malleable in languages with declension, thus posing problems for those outside the anglophone scientific community. Thus another term seemed preferable for use in Slavic as well as in French or Spanish. In France an analogous acronym, SIDA, an anagram of AIDS, was created, signifying Syndrome d'Immuno-Déficience Acquise (or Syndrome d'Immuno-Dépression Acquise). The Russians adopted the acronym SPID. In China, it appears, the English name gave way by a curious convergence to the ideographic transliteration "ai zi", these two words meaning literally "[disease] spread by love".

A Group at "Racial Risk": The Haitians, page 35:

Some Americans thus accused the Haitins, especially its illegal immigrants into the United States, of importing the new plague from a native setting with disastrous hygienic conditions into a clean and well-policed country. An attitude consonant with traditional epidemiologic teaching, it became in the event a vehicle for scientific and moral bias. Speculations abounded on the germ-bred misery, on the filthy water, on the intestinal and skin parasites, on the alcoholism of the Haitians, on their use of marijuana and all sorts of other privations and deprivations. Two authors went almost so far as to say that the origin of AIDS, or at least its transmission, could be explained by the bloody practices of voodoo.


Until the beginning of the 1908s Port-au-Prince was a high point for "sexual tourism", a center for bordellos, some of them welcoming pedophiles. American and European gays came in droves. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that among them there were carriers of the AIDS virus. Until 1984 practically all the AIDS patients tallied in Haiti were inhabitants of the tourist areas. If the disease was endemic on the island, why were there no patients in the Dominican Republic?
snakeoiled: (waffles)
Papyrus, Serpents, and Loincloths: The Ancients and the Condom

Pages 22-23:

[The] commitment to small families was not a minor footnote in the history of the Roman Empire. It was a contributing factor to its fall. Because the small-family philosophy was so widespread, by the first century CE the population of free Roman citizens had plummeted, making it difficult to fill the ranks of the huge army and to provide the infrastructure necessary to maintain history's largest empire. In fact, Augustus was so worried about the common practice of "family limitation" that he demanded the Senate pass legislation making any kind of contraception illegal. Roman literature, however, makes it clear that in spite of the heavy penalty for breaking this law, Romans remained dedicated to small-family size.

Page 27:

One of the many odd Roman condoms was also purported to have had magcal qualities that protected the users from pregnancy and evil spirits. Magic or not, it was definitely unique not only for being a joint effort but also because of the material it was fashioned from. To make the magic condom, the woman was directed to collect a large handful of fur from a she-mule's mane. As a sort of foreplay, the man and the woman hand-wove a furry condom and then she helped him put it on.

The origins of this she-mule-hair condom have been lost to time, but it leaves the modern reader wondering which would be the greatest obstacle to enjoyment and safety: the possible leakage or the incredible itch. Maybe that was the magic ... managing to have sex wearing the strange contraption.
snakeoiled: (waffles)
Epidemiologic Research in America

The First Etiologic Hypothoses, page 16:

Given the difficulty conceding how the immune system could be exhausted by infectious agents, G. Shearer, Steve Witkin, and other physicians thought of sperm, which, instilled into the rectum, might act as a "natural" immuno-suppressant. Experiments were conducted to pursue the idea, but here, too, a historical objection immediately comes to mind. If true, why was this effect not noticed earlier?

In Search of "Patient Zero", pages 18-19:

David Auerbach, William Darrow, and other investigators at the Centers for Disease Control discovered that nine out of thirteen homosexual patients they questioned in Los Angeles and Orange counties, out of a total of ninetten tallied, formed a sort of sexual network. Over the last five years each of these nine patients had had sex with at least one other member of the group. In most cases their sexual relations went back to the period before the partner's symptoms had appeared. Hence apparently healthy individuals could transmit the disease. A history of relations was established between members of the California network and a similar group in New York. At the center of this diagram of homosexual contacts was a young man, Gaetan Dugas. He was nicknamed "Patient Zero".

Dugas, an Air Canada flight attendant, was both an active and receptive homosexual. Directly or indirectly through intermediate contacts, he had infected at least forty of the 248 American patients diagnosed before April 1982. He was found to have been a sexual partner of nine of the nineteen first Los Angeles cases, twenty-two of the New York patients, and nine cases in eight other cities (Miami, Chicago, etc.). As an airline steward, Dugas, on vacation, could fly free. A great traveler, handsome and generous with his charms, he had sown the disease and death all along his route, at the rate of about 250 partners per year. The investigators confirmed to their own horror that he had been contagious before experiencing the slightest symptom. According to their analysis, the incubation period for this new disease exceeded ten months.


Afflicted in June 1980 with Kaposi's sarcoma, identified in November 1982 as a carrier and warned of the risk he could pose for his partners, Dugas refused to change his lifestyle. Until his death on March 30, 1984, at the age of thirty-two, he carried on his sex life with no protective measures. Sometimes he informed his partners, but only after the act. He had thus adopted the habit of saying to them, "I've got gay cancer; I'm going to die, and so are you." A kind of deaf rage against fate had seized him, a desire for vengeance. In a medical interview, he had shamelessly declared, "I've got it; they can get it too." Every historian of disease knows that such an attitude of vengeance, or at least of recklessness, had contributed in other times to the spread of tuberculosis and syphilis.


[A]lmost all politically and socially responsible parties had reacted at first with incredulity. They simply hoped the disease was not contagious. Reluctantly, in finally admitting its contagiousness they found it inconceivable that such a strange disorder was not also foreign, an invader from beyond. Who had introduced it to the United States, at what point in time, and from what quarter? Answers could be found which at first seemed satisfactory enough, but which later came to seem insufficient and arbitrary.

Gaetan Dugas, a French-Canadian, was not an American citizen, which made him a convenient scapegoat. But there was no plausible reason to say that the disease had come from Canada. If, at the beginning of the epidemic, Dugas was an outstanding "promoter" of the contagion, that still did not prove that he should have functione effectively as "Patient Zero" in the strong sense of the term. He had certainly imparted the fatal agent to a goodly number of his American partners, but in no way did that exclude the possibility that he had received it from an American himself. It is worth nothing that some of his partners manifested the symptoms of AIDS before he did.


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March 2012

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