"In the popular press the initial confusion surrounding
AIDS would be amplified through the use of a variety of disease
names: ‘gay cancer’, ‘gay pneumonia’ or even ‘the gay plague’.
[...] These comments were said and printed despite the
growing evidence at that time, that a second group, intravenous
drug users (IVDU), were also being affected. The words would
help to shape AIDS as a gay disease in the minds of America.
"It is also interesting to note that early evidence from
Europe, disputing the fact that homosexuality was an essential
diagnostic criterion was ignored. [...]
"Consequent to the initial connection between AIDS and the
gay community, the popular press took little interest in it. This
fact becomes increasingly apparent when compared to the media's
tremendous response to the sudden outbreak of Legionnaire's
Disease in 1976 and the cyanide-laced Tylenol scare in 1982. Both
'epidemics' threatened white, middle class, heterosexual families
and therefore, were judged to be newsworthy. The quick and
intensive media response (and subsequent public outcry) was at
least partly responsible for the rapid understanding and solving
of these crises. No such response existed during the initial
outbreak of AIDS, even though it quickly killed more men than both
Legionnaire's Disease and the Tylenol scare combined and only
seemed to be getting worse."
-- Aviva Leber,
"AIDS: a Catalyst of Change for the Gay Community",
2005, University of Ottawa
[We often, especially in
North America, think of AIDS/HIV as something that came into
existence in the late 1970s.
us that, "Genetic research indicates that HIV originated
in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early
twentieth century" (likely by way of hunters who came into
contact with SIV-infected ape or chimp blood), though it wasn't
identified until 1981 and renamed AIDS in 1982.]
1 December is World AIDS Day.