First mention of AIDS on Usenet
December 1, 2002 12:56 PM   Subscribe

The first mention of AIDS on Usenet was in the group back on December 20, 1982. In it, seven people grasp for information about the disease -- how it's transmitted, how long it takes to start to show symptoms, and what those symptoms could be. It's a window both into the early days of AIDS knowledge and the early days of the Internet, and a fine example of people using 'net-based community groups to acquire information and ask questions.
posted by delfuego (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow... it's amazing to read this. We were pretty uninformed at the time.

Does anyone remember the episode of the American sitcom Golden Girls where a friend of one of the Women's children had this big "confession" scene and he tells everyone that he has AIDS?

Then without missing a beat, Rose (the 'dumb' one) says something like "Oh, Michael... I didn't even know you were gay!"

For a split second I thought... "What a horrible time to put a 'Rose says something stupid' laugh line." But it soon became all too apparent that THEY WERE NOT JOKING!

I can't definitely chalk that one up to "ignorance"... but it is surely indicative of the amount of speculation and outright misinformation we were subjected to in the early 80s.
posted by cadastral at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2002

that stuff about toilet seats, unsettling.

it's weird to think of the extremely small web community at this time; lessee, i was eight. a few years later my dad got us compuserv to read email on our atari 800 - not meaning to bring this to tech talk, just trying to frame an image of how niche the whole idea of seeking conversations on the net was back then. that these people even found a forum is pretty eye opening. very cool link, delfuego. serious.
posted by Peter H at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2002

cadastral, that Golden Girls line reminds me of the grim joke within the gay community at the time: That the hardest part of telling your parents that you were HIV-postive was finally admitting to them that you were Haitian.
posted by todds at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2002

(There was no web in 1982. The participants in Usenet newsgroups were almost all computer scientists of one variety or another, or other researchers whose fields depended on Unix computers. There wasn't a choice of forums -- rather, exactly one forum per topic. Sometimes messages would take weeks to migrate from one computer to the next for reading. When timestamps were messed up, conversations came in out of order, as in the linked thread. An interesting sidenote is the transition visible in this thread from bang-addressing via a chain of computers to modern, canonical @-sign e-mail addresses.)
posted by dhartung at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2002

"require intimate direct contact involving mucosal surfaces, such
as sexual contact among homosexual males, or through parenteral spread, such as
occurs among intravenous drug abusers and possible hemophilia patients using
Factor VIII products. Airborne spread and interpersonal spread through casual
contact do not seem likely."
Cadastral, I was thinking how MUCH they seemed to know so early on! Sure, there are people who talked about the toilet seat fear, but for the most part, the facts were already known about the disease. We've come so far, but also still have so far to go with AIDS.

(dhartung, thanks for the info about newsgroups. I didn't know all that!)

-aacheson (can't figure out how to log out my husband!)
posted by msacheson at 6:15 PM on December 1, 2002

Your best defense at present is to practice good personal hygiene habits (washing before handling food, after using the bathroom, etc).

And when the nuclear bomb hits, we'll all hide under our desks.
posted by hippugeek at 6:54 PM on December 1, 2002

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