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An epidemic of AIDS, an epidemic of fear

The Story

Two years ago the term AIDS did not exist. Now it's the word for an epidemic. Cases are increasing exponentially around the world and now include gays, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs and Haitians. There are many theories about how it's transmitted, but nobody really knows. They don't know how long the disease lurks silently in the body, nor whether anyone survives its eventual onslaught. As we hear in this 1983 Morningside report, there is no test for AIDS. In 1983 there are 30 cases of AIDS in Canada and 1,600 in the United States. The number of victims doubles every six months. Seventy per cent have died. The United States has promised millions for AIDS research, but no funds have yet been allocated in Canada. Some say the delay is a result of the disease's early association with homosexuals. In Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, community groups form to educate the public and look after the victims.

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: July 6, 1983
Guest(s): Dr. Stanley Reid, Bob Wallace
Reporter: Augusta LaPaix
Duration: 19:19

Did You know?

• At the time of this broadcast there was little information about AIDS and many misconceptions circulated. Some researchers thought the disease was connected with visitors to gay bathhouses sniffing nitrate "poppers," a drug used to enhance sexual encounters. Most suspected a blood-borne virus was involved, but no virus had been identified. Few researchers at the time believed the disease could be contracted through heterosexual sex.

• It was generally known that AIDS could not be contracted by casual contact, but this didn't stem the growing fear of and discrimination against homosexuals or anyone in a "high-risk" group.
• AIDS is transmitted by unprotected sex (gay or straight), by sharing needles, from transfusions of contaminated blood, and to babies of infected mothers during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. The disease simply hit the homosexual and Haitian communities first.

• The theory that the population was developing a resistance to the virus that causes AIDS did not hold true. But a small percentage of the population, including some African prostitutes, seem to have some natural resistance to the virus and researchers are studying their genetic material.


The Early Years of the AIDS Crisis more