MOBILIZING AGAINST AIDS: The Unfinished Story of a Virus by Institute of Medicine & National Academy of Sciences

MOBILIZING AGAINST AIDS: The Unfinished Story of a Virus

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No epidemic has received more media attention that Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Yet this welter of information has created as much confusion as illumination. This compilation of everything that has been learned about AiDS thus provides an important and needed public service. Between its covers are gathered all of the medical facts, ongoing research, social and financial consequences and controversies about this killer disease up to April, 1986. The picture is both heartening and terrifying. On the one hand, researchers made medical history in identifying the virus only three years after the disease was first described and in developing a screening process a mere year later. Furthermore, the rate of new cases has slowed from a doubling every six months to every 11 months. But recent findings have shown that the AIDS virus is far more dangerous than first realized. It is extremely mutable, changing its protein envelope almost at will. It not only destroys the immune system but, in a third of the cases, invades the brain directly. These discoveries bode ill for development of anti-AIDS drugs. A medication might be effective against one strain but useless against another, or destroy the virus in the blood but not the brain. A number of therapeutic agents are currently being tested, however, some of which have produced ""encouraging results."" Development of a vaccine is also progressing on various fronts, but estimates as to its availability range from ""one to more than ten years."" Meanwhile, the syndrome has raised numerous social and political problems. Treatment is horrendously costly. Some public hospitals are already overwhelmed. Insurance companies want to deny policies to those who test positive. There are calls for mandatory testing of everyone and even for quarantine of the afflicted. These, of course, raise a counterstorm from civil libertarians and the AIDS-prone homosexual community. Even government efforts to educate homosexuals and intravenous drug users on how to protect themselves are controversial. In sum, a much-needed, Clearly presented compilation of everything known so far about the 20th-century's most devastating disease and its ramifications for the United States and the world.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1986
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press