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AIDS Invaded U.S. in 1969, Study Finds.
October 29, 2007 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Long before storied 'Patient Zero' Gaëtan Dugas [previously] scientists now believe that HIV/AIDS "invaded the United States in about 1969 from Haiti, carried most likely by a single infected immigrant who set the stage for it to sweep the world in a tragic epidemic." A new study to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that researchers conducted a genetic analysis of stored blood samples from early AIDS patients and now believe that HIV first entered the United States in the 1960s -- and not the 1980s. Other "studies suggest the virus first entered the human population in about 1930 in central Africa, probably when people slaughtered infected chimpanzees for meat."
posted by ericb (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is enthralling. I believe Malcolm Gladwell touches on this in his book, The Tipping Point.

For so long the source of AIDS has been considered to be so much a mystery. That much is known.

However, what most of us fail to grasp is that AIDS is more than something that is killing us or that we live. In fact, it keeps us from loving one another.

It once was that at the end of the day, whatever troubles or trials or tribulations we faced, there was always sex.

AIDS takes that away from us. Sex is now work, in a way that takes away from — rather than contributes to — the fun and joy of it.

What I think about, as often as I think about humans migrating to space and living off of the planet, is the day when what is AIDS is re-contextualized because it's threat has been neutralized. For me, curing AIDS, or stopping AIDS, or solving AIDS, misses the target. For me, I think becoming better as humans so that AIDS ceases to be unfriendly or detrimental to us is the dream.

Cure AIDS? Oh yes! But what I really want is for the mechanisms of our own bodies to so understood that AIDS and viruses of the like are transformed into billions of little allies that rather than insuring demise are guarantors of our thrival and surviving.
posted by humannaire at 7:39 PM on October 29, 2007


Well, it seems logical that AIDS was killing people for a number of years before it was identified as a specific disease, but I wonder what the value of this study can possibly be. I mean, I find epidemiology as fascinating as anyone else does, but what are people supposed to take away from this? What value does this even have for an epidemiologist? This information will certainly be used to further marginalize immigrants, specifically Haitian immigrants, and for some people will reinforce their bullshit racist ideas, but what use is it at this point to "know" that the disease was brought to the US by one specific Haitian carrier?
posted by serazin at 8:16 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, AIDS "invaded" US? invaded?
posted by serazin at 8:17 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Invaded" is the word used by Reuters in reporting this story.

This information will certainly be used to further marginalize immigrants, specifically Haitian immigrants...

Ah, but what about the marginalization of gays as being considered the source of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and even today?
posted by ericb at 8:21 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Sex is now work"

What? I don't know what kind of sex you're having. Yeah, make sure you don't have AIDS and neither does your partner. That's just being aware. The sex itself is not changed.
posted by blacklite at 8:21 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


If anything's work, it's combatting fuckheads who make safe sex a religious issue instead of a "hey let's not kill ourselves" issue.
posted by blacklite at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


I wasn't dissing the headline of this post, but rather the headline of that Reuters story.

And gay men were and are marginalized as a result of the way AIDS was reported on initially, (and as a result of the fact that HIV has disproportionately impacted gay communities). I think the scientific community needs to take particular care with how they discuss these sorts of issues, given the way they will be reported, and given the way they will be received. I'm not suggesting this shouldn't be talked about, but I certainly do question how it's talked about.
posted by serazin at 8:29 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to learn how AIDS migrated across the entire world, not just from Africa to the US.

Also, serazin, I think this sort of research is mainly important for couple reasons. There are so many different strands of AIDS, scientists can learn a lot by seeing how AIDS developed. And, because it's important to learn how new diseases can develop into epidemics in order to prevent future ones. Also, I imagine studying how AIDS has mutated over the years might help to predict how it may mutate in the future.
posted by whoaali at 8:32 PM on October 29, 2007


This information will certainly be used to further marginalize immigrants,

I've heard that's why this is coming out now, as part and parcel of the demonization of immigrants.

blacklite, it's those fuckheads who are in charge, and who are ensuring many more new infections for years to come--with their abstinence-only education and absolute opposition to birth control and condom distribution all over the world.

...The only way to reverse the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus is to focus on prevention. If ever an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, this is the case, since HIV lives undetected in people for about eight years before it explodes into full-blown AIDS. Here's the problem: More than 90 percent of the world's HIV-positive people do not know their status and unintentionally spread the virus for those eight years -- to their wives, lovers, people with whom they share dirty hypodermic needles, almost anyone. ...
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on October 29, 2007


I find epidemiology as fascinating as anyone else does, but what are people supposed to take away from this? What value does this even have for an epidemiologist?

Well, the headline takeaway is certainly "Researchers peg Haiti as origin of US strains of AIDS". But that wasn't the point of the study, and I think the key epidemiological takeaway is the sentence

The emergence of the pandemic variant of subtype B was an important turning point in the history of AIDS but its spread was likely driven by ecological rather than evolutionary factors.

In other words, this study reinforces the view that HIV, although it evolves rapidly, still spreads primarily because of factors in the human environment -- ranging (one may presume) from quality of medical care to use of prostitution.

This information will certainly be used to further marginalize immigrants, specifically Haitian immigrants

Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Facts are stupid things, facts have a liberal bias, etc. We shouldn't avoid finding out facts because somebody could misuse them. In any case, that horse left the barn around 1983 or so.
posted by dhartung at 9:25 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cure AIDS? Oh yes! But what I really want is for the mechanisms of our own bodies to so understood that AIDS and viruses of the like are transformed into billions of little allies that rather than insuring demise are guarantors of our thrival and surviving.

We've already got quite a bit of benefit from viruses like HIV in the "allies" sense. Not directly, obviously (and I don't wish to diminish the seriousness of HIV/AIDS at all), but note for instance the recent BBC article, which of course I can't find now, on using HIV-like viruses as a vector for gene therapy. Off the top of my head, I think the article said most viruses aren't as useful as we would hope because they can't enter the nuclei of non-dividing cells?

So stopping AIDS - whether through awareness and education, through a vaccine, or through an effective treatment or cure - is what we need to do now.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:32 PM on October 29, 2007


This information will certainly be used to further marginalize immigrants, specifically Haitian immigrants...

This isn't new, though, at all. I remember Haitians being demonized as AIDS carriers in the late 80s/early 90s.

Also: "The Immigration & Nationality Act -in Section 212(a)(1)(A)(i)- makes applicants for a visa or for admission to the United States inadmissible, if they have “a communicable disease of public health significance.” (.pdf)

HIV has been classified as “a communicable disease of public health significance” since 1993.
posted by rtha at 9:46 PM on October 29, 2007


The only valid moral takeaway lesson from the story of HIV's recent parasitism on humans is FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS EAT CHIMPS.
posted by meehawl at 9:46 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another theory to consider: contaminated polio vaccines and the origin of AIDS.
posted by foot at 10:56 PM on October 29, 2007


"Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona evolutionary biologist, said the 1969 U.S. entry date is earlier than some experts had believed."

Some experts? Who?? This whole thing is faulty on two fronts:

First off, I don't believe ANY scientists actually thought that AIDS came to America in the 80s. People have known since the early 80s that Gaëtan Dugas was in the USA 'having the sex' as early as 1976. Hell, I was taught this in High School 15 years ago. This could be more of an issue with the headline of this post than the actual study as I didn't see that mentioned in the articles.

Second, and much more importantly: There was a confirmed death from HIV/AIDS in St Louis in May, 1969.

(longtime lurker, first time poster)
posted by ianaces at 1:07 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


This isn't new, though, at all. I remember Haitians being demonized as AIDS carriers in the late 80s/early 90s.

They used to talk about the 4 H's as being the major risk categories. Homosexuals, Haitians, Heroin addicts and Haemophiliacs.

I've heard that's why this is coming out now, as part and parcel of the demonization of immigrants.

I've heard that the jews were behind 9/11. Generally though, I treat that kind of unsourced information with the contempt that it deserves.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:28 AM on October 30, 2007


Good points, ianaces, and welcome.

But I don't think the point of the study was to answer the question "when and where". The study built on the knowledge that there was a Haiti vector, and attempted to answer the hypothesis that in addition to the Haiti vector, there was also an African vector. This may seem like an esoteric CSI question, but the real purpose of asking it is to draw conclusions about the genetic diversity of HIV strains, which has implications for a vaccine.

The study essentially says that AIDS only managed to escape Africa once, by reaching Haiti, yet it was not until it reached the United States that it transformed into a virus with the right balance of nastiness of symptoms and ease of spread.

Also, please note this statement:
"Our results show that the strain of virus that spawned the U.S. AIDS epidemic probably arrived in or around 1969. That is earlier than a lot of people had imagined," said senior author Michael Worobey.

Obviously the strain of virus that killed Robert R. was not capable of "spawning the epidemic". Unless it's been specifically matched to a modern strain, it's unlikely we can learn much about its characteristics. We don't even know if it killed the host who gave it to Robert R., or if that host or Robert R. passed it to anyone else. Other deaths may have been recorded as simply unusual pneumonia.

As for the polio vaccine angle, the more we know the more I doubt it. Among other things, the first non-African to die of the virus could not have been in Africa after the alleged contamination.
posted by dhartung at 2:08 AM on October 30, 2007


dhartung, that article you linked to states that David Carr did not die from AIDS. If that is the case, then the polio vaccine angle remains feasible.

The 1990 Lancet research had therefore failed the ultimate scientific test of its validity: replication by other scientists. It will now have to be retracted. The tissues of David Carr appear after all to have been HIV negative and his fatal illness the result of another, unexplained cause. Mr. Carr's condition remains as much a mystery today as it was in 1959.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:39 AM on October 30, 2007


However, what most of us fail to grasp is that AIDS is more than something that is killing us or that we live. In fact, it keeps us from loving one another.

It once was that at the end of the day, whatever troubles or trials or tribulations we faced, there was always sex.

AIDS takes that away from us. Sex is now work, in a way that takes away from — rather than contributes to — the fun and joy of it.


Oh, bullshit. Not only do you appear to know nothing about HIV, or sex, or people, but you appear to know nothing about diseases in human history.
posted by OmieWise at 5:36 AM on October 30, 2007


I've heard that's why this is coming out now, as part and parcel of the demonization of immigrants.

I've heard that the jews were behind 9/11. Generally though, I treat that kind of unsourced information with the contempt that it deserves.


Sure--that's why it's getting such big play at Drudge. No connection at all, no sirree. There is no usable information in this for any human who has sex. There is no usable information in this for any human who wants to prevent or limit new infections. All it does is further scapegoat immigrants. We've already been told Mexicans bring leprosy (falsely) and all sorts of other diseases here, and now a revival of this.

Haitians have already been banned from donating blood since the 80s. Haitians have already been stigmatized by this for years and years, just like us gay men. All widespread publicity of this study will do is reignite it all. There's a reason immigrant/disease news is getting such play lately--and is being pushed so widely lately.
posted by amberglow at 6:32 AM on October 30, 2007


The researchers analyzed samples from five of these Haitian immigrants dating from 1982 and 1983. They also looked at genetic data from 117 more early AIDS patients from around the world.
This really doesn't seem like any sort of valid sample size, either. It's incredibly odd that only now are studies like this being done (or that only now are we hearing about it)--considering the knowledge of Haiti as a locus for decades, and the decades of intense worldwide research and studies.
posted by amberglow at 6:37 AM on October 30, 2007


Well, it seems logical that AIDS was killing people for a number of years before it was identified as a specific disease

I'm reading Paul Ewald's fascinating Evolution of Infectious Disease right now, and he posits that HIV circulated for decades or possibly longer before it became as deadly as it did in the 80's in the US. He gives a number of reasons why it may have evolved to become a more virulent virus.

but I wonder what the value of this study can possibly be. I mean, I find epidemiology as fascinating as anyone else does, but what are people supposed to take away from this? What value does this even have for an epidemiologist?

Well, if nothing else, it's great practice! The more accurate we become at tracking infectious disease, the more precisely we'll be able to control its effects.
posted by Hubajube at 6:46 AM on October 30, 2007


March 2007: CROI: Haiti is the source of HIV subtype B --... according to viral research presented to the Fourteenth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Los Angeles.

An international team of researchers found that the type of HIV most prevalent in Haiti, the United States and Europe – HIV-1 group M, subtype B – moved from Africa to Haiti in around 1966. HIV spread around Haiti before a single migration of the virus took it out of Haiti to the US and then worldwide between 1969 and 1972. The research also suggests that HIV-1 group M originated comparatively recently, probably no earlier than the early 20th century. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:47 AM on October 30, 2007


You know, the uses this is put to have nothing to do with the research itself, which is interesting for all kinds of reasons, epidemiological and biological. The fear of conspiracy with these results is, frankly, surprising to me.
Worobey's co-authors are M. Thomas P. Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark; Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland; Gabriela Wlasiuk of the UA; Thomas J. Spira of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.; and Arthur E. Pitchenik of the University of Miami in Fla. The National Institutes of Health, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and a University Research Fellowship from The Royal Society funded the research.
Of note in this paragraph: some of the researchers and one of the funders are not even from the USA. The Packard Foundation doesn't really seem all that conservative. I haven't googled the whole board, but, for instance, they say,
Through funding to NGOs in the United States, our grantmaking seeks to:
1. Inform and support the development of effective policies to uphold access to reproductive health services, particularly safe and legal abortion.[...]
2. Build an influential and active base of supporters willing to educate policymakers, community leaders, and other decision makers about the importance of reproductive health and rights and access to abortion
.
Here are their grants in population studies for 2007. I don't see one conservative group in the bunch, many that explicitly say they'll be using the money to promote abortion, and at least one, Hampshire College, that's a noted petri dish of freaky childish radicalism and drug use.

Here's the wiki @ SourceWatch about the foundation, which, similarly does not indicate anything like a conservative bias.

And there's no evidence either, in the first four pages of Google results about the PI that he's anything but a committed researcher trying to explore the origins of a virus that is constantly the subject of harmful and pernicious conspiracy theories.

In short, I'd love to see more than a conspiracy theory backing up the contention that this research was done to "demonize immigrants." The last thing we need is anti-science bias on the Left.
posted by OmieWise at 7:12 AM on October 30, 2007


Chimps, eh? An army of 12 of them?

“Sex is now work”
*punches in*

“And gay men were and are marginalized as a result of the way AIDS was reported on initially, (and as a result of the fact that HIV has disproportionately impacted gay communities).”

Well....anal sex. It’s not some conspiracy - media slant aside which I grant - that gay communities were impacted more. They are, for the most part, having more anal sex than hetero folks which leads to greater impact. Not a moral judgement, just the mechanism of the disease vector (as far as I understand it).
That aside, yes, many groups have been attacked as carriers of disease throughout history (mostly Romany and Jews) and it’s always sucked. Doesn’t really need any sort of scientific or even vaguely rational basis. It wasn’t so long ago we were nailing cats to posts and headbutting them to death for sport.
So for this it’s the homosexuals, immigrants, and if it gets bad enough, anyone on the short end of the socio-economic scale while the nobles weather it out in their sheltered communities.

I wonder if a health card with proof that you’re HIV (and other std) negative will be a new sort of fetish. There’s always carnivals in the midst of these sort of things. And y’know, being able to afford the health care check, all that, like pale skin way back when - proof of privilege.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:01 AM on October 30, 2007


Well....anal sex. ... gay communities were impacted more. They are, for the most part, having more anal sex than hetero folks which leads to greater impact.

Are you simply ignoring the worldwide spread of AIDS? The vast majority of AIDS cases in the world are in Africa, and the vast, vast majority of those are heterosexual transmission.

I wonder if a health card with proof that you’re HIV (and other std) negative will be a new sort of fetish.

Sadly, the main fetish I see in the US gay community today is barebacking.
posted by Nelson at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2007


Another theory to reject: contaminated polio vaccines and the origin of AIDS.

Despite strong evidence to the contrary, speculation continues that the AIDS virus, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), may have crossed into humans as a result of contamination of the oral polio vaccine (OPV). This 'OPV/AIDS theory' claims that chimpanzees from the vicinity of Stanleyville — now Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo — were the source of a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz) that was transmitted to humans when chimpanzee tissues were allegedly used in the preparation of OPV. Here we show that SIVcpz is indeed endemic in wild chimpanzees of this region but that the circulating virus is phylogenetically distinct from all strains of HIV-1, providing direct evidence that these chimpanzees were not the source of the human AIDS pandemic.
posted by meehawl at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2007


In reponse to the Nature article meehawl links to above: Refuting the refutation.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 2:07 PM on October 30, 2007


In reponse to the Nature article meehawl links to above: Refuting the refutation.

Please get back to me when Ed Hooper has gained an ability to objectively evaluate models of retroviral phylogenetic cladistics. Until then I'll trust parsimony and evidence-based probabilities over coincidence. Hooper's great fault is that he is incapable of evaluating the worth of evidence presented to him by singular voices and appreciating the weight of the evidence presented by those with a more nuanced understanding of the evolutionary forces driving HIV's ongoing adaptation to the human host.

SIVcpz, the progenitor of HIV-1, arose as a recombinant of ancestors of SIV lineages presently infecting red-capped mangabeys and Cercopithecus monkeys in west-central Africa. Chimpanzees acquired this recombinant virus, or its progenitors, by cross-species transmission some time after the split of P. t. verus and P. t. vellerosus from the other subspecies but possibly before the divergence of P. t. schweinfurthii from P. t. troglodytes. This explains the absence of SIVcpz infection in present-day P. t. verus and P. t. vellerosus apes, the presence of SIVcpz infection in P. t. troglodytes and P. t. schweinfurthii apes, and the phylogenetic separation of SIVcpzPtt from SIVcpzPts viruses. HIV-1 groups M, N, and O each resulted from independent cross-species transmissions of SIVcpzPtt from P. t. troglodytes to humans early in the 20th century. We show here that the SIVcpzPtt strain that gave rise to HIV-1 group M belonged to a viral lineage that persists today in P. t. troglodytes apes in southeastern Cameroon. That virus was probably transmitted locally. From there it appears to have made its way via the Sangha River (or other tributaries) south to the Congo River and on to Kinshasa where the group M pandemic was probably spawned. HIV-1 group N, which has been identified in only a small number of AIDS patients from Cameroon, derived from a second SIVcpzPtt lineage in south central Cameroon and remained geographically more restricted.

The timing of SIVcpz transmission to humans, leading ultimately to the HIV-1 pandemic, has been a challenging question. We know from analyses of stored samples that humans in west central Africa had been infected with HIV-1 group M viruses by 1959 and with group O viruses by 1963. But how much earlier were these viruses introduced into the human population? Again, phylogenetic analyses have been informative. The interspersion of HIV-1 group M, N, and O sequences between different SIVcpz(P.t.t.) lineages implies--indeed necessitates--that HIV-1 viruses from groups M, N, and O resulted from no fewer than three separate SIVcpz transmission events ... More recently, a far greater number of well-characterized group M viral sequences has become available for analysis. This has made possible the development of more sophisticated molecular clocks, founded on more realistic models, which take into consideration the peculiarities of HIV sequence evolution. A first attempt to use such a clock derived an estimate for the last common ancestor of group M viruses at about 1940, but with wide confidence limits. More recent studies have pushed this date back even further, to around 1930, with confidence intervals of ±20 years. Thus, the introduction of SIVcpz into humans, giving rise to HIV-1 group M, most likely occurred in the early part of the 20th century.

Hooper's probably going to latch onto the conclusions of a study like this to say that the "science" is uncertain. You know what, though, it is (see also: evolution vs intelligent design). However, the overwhelming balance of probabilities based on many thousands of data at the moment favour the early 20th century origin for HIV's most recent epidemic... and this evidence has only been building for a decade now. Hooper's hypothesis rests on a single strand of evidence based on correlating vaccine distribution with a delayed epidemic across a wide geographic region. The hypothesis was first advanced an age ago. No additional supporting evidence for it has emerged, and many hundreds of papers have refuted its claims. There would be vast kudos in proving something like Hooper's theory and yet, amazingly, nobody seems to be able to come up with anything more than conspiracy mutterings and peevishness (see also: N-Rays).
posted by meehawl at 5:22 PM on October 30, 2007


“Are you simply ignoring the worldwide spread of AIDS?”

Yeah, pretty much since I’m addressing American males.

“The vast majority of AIDS cases in the world are in Africa, and the vast, vast majority of those are heterosexual transmission.”

Are you simply ignoring the greater likelyhood of AIDS spreading through anal tearing than vaginal transmission?
Maybe I’ve got that all wrong. Maybe it’s more likely to be transmitted through gonad secretions than blood as in an anal fissure or there’s something else I’m missing. But given that, and a roughly equal lack of protection by both respective groups, I’ve heard it’s more likely to spread through anal sex than through any other form of sexual contact. Gay males tend to have more anal sex than other groups (say lesbians) so...
Just reiterating what I’ve learned. Could well be wrong.

Either way, that specific bit aside, no, I’m not disputing most cases are spread worldwide - and likely in the U.S. - through heterosexual transmission.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:54 PM on October 30, 2007


All of that leather I bought, useless. My cultural research ($20 for a DVD of Gay Sex in the 70s) for naught! Damnit, and I had all of my calculations worked out for just that destination in my time machine. Instead of landing in the early 1970's for a gay romp, I'll have to do a decade earlier. Back to wardrobe!
posted by adipocere at 9:16 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, the uses this is put to have nothing to do with the research itself, which is interesting for all kinds of reasons, epidemiological and biological. The fear of conspiracy with these results is, frankly, surprising to me.

It's not the research itself (altho if you read my link from March, Haitians were upset and confronted one of the scientists then)--it's the publicity now--the highlighting at Drudge and other places at a time of intense and racist xenophobia and anti-immigrant bashing. This is being played up much more than it would otherwise be (it doesn't really tell us anything that will help find a vaccine, cure -- or help with prevention or education), and reminds many of the Mexicans bringing Leprosy here (along with crime and drugs, etc) thing CNN and Lou Dobbs made a gigantic story out of (it was false). This is being publicized way out of proportion to its importance and there are real reasons why.
posted by amberglow at 5:12 AM on October 31, 2007


I agree that if this is being publicized out of proportion to its importance then it is probably for political reasons (I haven't seen it anywhere else but science blogs, so I don't know). However your initial comments seemed to suggest that the research itself was motivated by conservative political concerns, an extraordinary claim for which there is no evidence. And, I think, a dangerous one.

This is a very important study in genetic (which explains why the sample size is valid) HIV epidemiology. You don't have to like the results, or even understand their import, to see that.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on October 31, 2007


Oh, bullshit. Not only do you appear to know nothing about HIV, or sex, or people, but you appear to know nothing about diseases in human history.

What's your grief with my assertion, Omiewise? Sex is more work, and not in "the fun way" more work.

Aside from people whose fetish is sexually transmitted disease preventatives and methodologies, "condom play," etc. is less good than what we had before. You think this is my opinion? Than what's with the continuation of what is called unsafe sex, including the aforementioned (and provocatively named) activity of "barebacking"?

The fact, is as a civilization, AIDS and fear of AIDS/HIV separates us, re-enforces judgmental behavior, and makes sex a lot more stilted and cautious.

Think I'm incorrect? Well, maybe I am. But should AIDS, hepatitis, and hepatitis not be factors — say tomorrow — then tomorrow becomes the first international holiday: Everybody Gets Laid Day. Will some babies get made on Everybody Gets Laid Day? You better believe it. Especially if all of us who have been restraining our sexual urges for the past twenty-five years have anything to say about it. Heck, without AIDS, hepatitis, and herpes to worry about, I'd want kids! I mean, my thinking is that No AIDS/hepatitis/herpes worries = no wars. It's that simple!

In any case, here is more on the study, as well as description of the controversy and the response.
posted by humannaire at 7:59 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sure, you're right, it was nice for ~2 generations of people to be able to fuck without condoms. But that's all it was. Do a little reading on syphilis (and note the notable deaths from syphilis into the 20th century) if you want to learn a bit more about how dangerous sex has always been. Yes, HIV changed the relative danger of sex for people in the second half of the 20th century, but since the age of penicillin didn't really start until after WW2, it's much more reasonable to consider that period the exception, rather than the rule, for relative danger of sex. Sex is a really good vector for disease transmission.

(And, I very much dispute the notion that people love unprotected sex compared to safer sex that they must have it at all costs. I think the issue at play is precisely the irrationality of humans with regards to sex and death. It isn't just that safer sex is a bit more "work.")
posted by OmieWise at 8:23 AM on October 31, 2007


I very much dispute the notion that people love unprotected sex compared to safer sex that they must have it at all costs

Dispute all you want. That's not what I asked or what you said, but for the record, most people don't use condoms. Here's the link to some stats.

Summary: in 2005, out of 38 million+ sexually active woman using contraceptives in the US between the ages of 15 and 44, only around 7,000,000 are using condoms. Which means that around 25 million are not.

This does not count straight men, gay men, or people under 14 and over 44, or anyone of the 6 billion people outside the US. One can presume that worldwide those numbers of people between the ages of 15 and 44 would percentage wise be extraordinary!

Speaking of gay men, if the Sigma Research's 2005 Gay Mens Sex Survey, which interviewed 16,500 gay men is any indicator, gay men prefer and practice sex without protection, too: 50% of the UK's gay male population had anal sex without a condom, while 40% are unaware of their HIV status. Here's a Southern Voice article on how condom use among young gay men is on the decrease.

But the fact is that straight men are notorious for not using condoms. Here's a paper on the subject from 2003. Here's one with statistics from 2004. Here's an MSNBC article from 2006 questioning "why young people don't use condoms."

What more, while condom use is up, signs are showing up in STD/STI patterns that consistent condom use is down.

And my points — Humans prefer sex without condoms, and statistics show that this is so; AIDS inhibits free exchange of human sexual behavior, and this comes right after just when it was getting good — aside from being true (though commonly left undiscussed) were clearly written from a contemporary vantage point.

So, regardless of the history of syphilis, the time between the early-1960s through the very early-1980s was a pretty good time for human sexual relations. And it is the progress and development of that time which has since been completely railroaded by the turn of events from the mid-1980s until now.

As for the last part about humans, irrationality, sex, and death, what ev. You made a grandiose statement about my line of opinion and conjecture, and were off-base, then wrong, and then examining your own belly button. Before you go shooting off, be sure you know what you're talking about.
posted by humannaire at 10:45 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


And my points — Humans prefer sex without condoms, and statistics show that this is so

I think you need to take a class in statistics.
posted by OmieWise at 8:02 AM on November 2, 2007


Sorry, I had to do something else.

Look, you don't have to convince me that people don't use condoms. I never disputed that fact. I run an HIV clinic. Nor do you have to convince me that sex without a condom is fun (although you would have to convince me that sex with a condom is not). None of your quotations, however, establish why people don't use condoms. In fact, the section of the British study that would seem to promise the most in terms of answering that question had nothing at all to say about preference.
Factors associated with risky sex

Factors significantly associated with HIV-positive men having unprotected insertive sex with men who were either HIV-negative or of unknown HIV status were: being in a serodiscordant or unknown status relationship; having 30 or more sexual partners; rating attractiveness as better than average; and drug use (all p <>

What I disputed was your grandiose, hysterical and ahistorical statement which said that HIV prevents us from loving each other. If anything, you disprove your own hysterical assertion by showing that HIV doesn't really prevent many people from having unsafe sex.

But, the reality is that using a condom is not an onerous thing to do if you want to avoid being infected with HIV. You assertion that people don't use condoms simply because they don't want to, as if simple preference explained this huge conundrum, is facile and doesn't accord with the clinical evidence that I've seen. People's choices to have unsafe sex are complex and fraught with all kinds of heavy shit...not wanting to bother with a condom doesn't cut it as an explanation.

More disturbing is the attitude of people like you who seem to equate the very possibility for love with condomless sex. It's convenient for your argument to dismiss the dangers of infection that sex has always posed to humans, as your argument only makes sense ahistorically, but the fact remains that people have been doing a great job of loving each other for at least all of recorded history without puddling up on the floor and talking about sex as work and safer sex as loveless.

I cringe to imagine the conversations you and people like you have with folks who are interested in protecting themselves. "C'mon baby, you can't really love me if you want me to wear a condom."

posted by OmieWise at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2007


Humans prefer sex without condoms, and statistics show that this is so; AIDS inhibits free exchange of human sexual behavior, and this comes right after just when it was getting good — aside from being true (though commonly left undiscussed) were clearly written from a contemporary vantage point.

Totally. On the plus side, it's made many of us more creative in bed. : >

I wonder how much of it is generational/age-based. I had tons of sex pre-AIDS, and that colors how i view it all, and i long for the day that there's a vaccine/cure so i won't have to be careful and it will be as carefree and loose as it was when i was in highschool--even after 2 decades of being careful. I also think that the 20-somethings not wanting to use condoms has multiple factors--not least of which is our "success" at painting AIDS as just another manageable condition--and not a death sentence.
posted by amberglow at 4:46 PM on November 2, 2007


Also--when non-profits stopped distributing condoms everywhere so there was always one available at every bar and club, etc, it made a giant difference--and not for the better. They're not as visible/accessible at all anymore like they used to be.
posted by amberglow at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2007


from the Miami Herald article linked above: ... ''This does a disservice to the Haitian community, who feel like they already went through this 20 years ago,'' said Dr. Paul Farmer, professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University and a founder of Partners in Health, an international research and aid organization active in fighting AIDS in Haiti. ``This is very slender evidence on which to base such a grand claim.''

''I don't think this is very helpful,'' said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, a professor of medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. ``People love to play history, and it would be great to figure out who Patient Zero was. But there are doubts.'' ...


and also this, which i hadn't heard: ... the original ''Patient Zero'' theory that said the HIV virus came to Los Angeles via a gay Canadian flight attendant named Gaetan Dugas. That theory was created by Dr. William Darrow and others at the CDC and turned into the 1987 book And the Band Played On, by journalist Randy Shilts. Darrow later repudiated his own study....
posted by amberglow at 5:00 PM on November 2, 2007


I run an HIV clinic.

Never mind.
posted by humannaire at 9:21 PM on November 2, 2007


Oh, yeah, if I were you I'd hate to have a discussion with someone who knew what they were talking about, too.

(I've heard HIV doesn't cause AIDS!!1!!1)
posted by OmieWise at 11:42 PM on November 2, 2007


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