The day that changed our lives forever.
On July 3rd. 1981, The New York Times’s published it’s first article about AIDS headlined: “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” (“Gay” had yet to be accepted by The Times’s style manual.) The cancer was Kaposi’s sarcoma, and until then it had seldom been seen in otherwise healthy young men.
The Times article written by LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D. is considered by most to have been the first mainstream journalistic mention of what later became to be known as AIDS and would later wipe out nearly an entire generation of gay men.
Living in New York City at the time I remember the day that this article was published. I was working at The Ninth Circle and was at the downstairs bar with Fred Tree the bartender and a friend named Neil Murphy. We were reading the article and I remember clear as day none of us were really worrying about it. Because after all you couldn’t catch cancer. Right?
Neil would become one of the many victims of the plague in the years that followed.
That was over 40 years ago now and over 90 percent of my friends from that time in my life are gone. But they are and never will be forgotten as they will always with me until the day we meet again.
Over 40+ million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
There is still no cure.
RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS
Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made.
The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.
The sudden appearance of the cancer, called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, has prompted a medical investigation that experts say could have as much scientific as public health importance because of what it may teach about determining the causes of more common types of cancer. First Appears in Spots
Doctors have been taught in the past that the cancer usually appeared first in spots on the legs and that the disease took a slow course of up to 10 years. But these recent cases have shown that it appears in one or more violet-colored spots anywhere on the body. The spots generally do not itch or cause other symptoms, often can be mistaken for bruises, sometimes appear as lumps and can turn brown after a period of time. The cancer often causes swollen lymph glands, and then kills by spreading throughout the body.
Doctors investigating the outbreak believe that many cases have gone undetected because of the rarity of the condition and the difficulty even dermatologists may have in diagnosing it.
In a letter alerting other physicians to the problem, Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien of New York University Medical Center, one of the investigators, described the appearance of the outbreak as ”rather devastating.”