|1st report of AIDS on record, MMWR|
This is important for 2 major reasons. First, the total marginalization of addicts allowed the disease to make major inroads for several years that it otherwise wouldn't have made. Secondly, the mislabeling of AIDS as a gay-specific disease caused much confusion & stigma that persists even to this day. Before it was named AIDS it was called "gay cancer" or "GRIDS" (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome) because gay men were the first demographic doctors noticed it in. But perhaps they only noticed it in them because they were middle-to-upper class white males with access to health care, unlike the poor brown & Black junkies on the streets who'd been dying of various opportunistic infections for several years already.
Regardless, the stigma has stuck with the LGBT community. Gay men still can't donate blood & were told by preachers like Jerry Falwell that AIDS was the wrath of God & an expected consequence for 'going against nature'. Ronald Reagan's war on domestic spending & conservative attitudes toward sex prevented researchers from receiving desperately needed funding as well as getting safer sex information out to the public. The epidemic officially started in 1981, but because it was associated with gays & sex he didn't utter the word "AIDS" in public until 1987. And here's what his cabinet members had to say about it behind closed doors:
Think THAT type of attitude didn't impede AIDS research & prevention? (Not that there would've necessarily been less stigma if it had been recognized as an addict's disease, but it could've been caught earlier perhaps). Here is an intriguing article from 1992 in the Ann Arbor Agenda detailing the silent rise of "Junkie Pneumonia," also known on the street as "the dwindles" (referring to the wasting syndrome that accompanies AIDS) long before it was even called GRID or the gay plague:
|Article credit: Pattrice Maurer|
|Gaetan Dugas, wrongly labeled "Patient Zero," died in 1984|
|(Lesbian) supermodel Gia Carangi died from AIDS contracted through needle sharing|
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