BBC Home
Explore the BBC
10 December  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1981: Mystery disease kills homosexuals
A mysterious epidemic, which has been discovered in homosexual men, is causing increasing concern in the United States.

The unknown condition, which consists of two separate diseases - a form of pneumonia and skin cancer, has been found in 180 patients in 15 states since last July.

It has claimed around 75 lives so far in the US and up to 92% of the victims are homosexual men.

One death has been reported from the virus in London.

Although doctors have identified what appears to be a new disease, they have yet to devise a cure.

The epidemic is being investigated by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta.

The specialist unit has already discovered the causes of two other diseases, the toxic shock syndrome and Legionnaires' disease.

Dr James Curran, who is investigating the condition, said: "It is a very serious problem and it does not seem to be on the wane."

Three studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the immune systems of victims are severely weakened, leaving them vulnerable to serious infections from germs which most people normally shrug off.

Homosexuals who have developed either of the two conditions have shown a low resistance to standard tests on their immune system.

Four victims also had rare skin ulcers normally caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Researchers claim that their findings are "part of a nationwide epidemic of immunodeficiency among male homosexuals".

Doctors are unsure of the cause of the epidemic which is carried in semen and other body secretions.

A study at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that homosexuals may be repeatedly infected with the virus.

One case also involved an intravenous drug user which implies that the disease could be spread by sharing needles.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Aids virus
The mysterious epidemic has claimed 75 lives in the US so far

In Context
The unknown condition was eventually named as Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) virus.

The disease caused widespread panic in the United States where 4,000 people were infected in the space of two years.

During that time it also became apparent that the epidemic was not restricted to homosexuals.

Cases of Aids were also discovered among heterosexuals, drug users and blood transfusion patients.

The virus which was isolated as the cause of the disease was called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and it was first discovered in 1983.

Around 24 million people have died from Aids since it first emerged and it is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa.

There is still no cure for the disease despite numerous trials in North America, Europe and Thailand.

Stories From 10 Dec

Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy