American scientists set AIDS research back years because of a grudge

Men protesting in support of more money for AIDS research marched down Fifth Avenue during the 14th annual Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in New York in 1983.

Men protesting in support of more money for AIDS research marched down Fifth Avenue during the 14th annual Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in New York in 1983.

AIDS in the United States first struck gay men and IV drug users in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco due to unsafe sexual and drug-taking practices. Doctors were the first to deal with the toll that AIDS would take in the United States. With no information on how the disease was spread, hospital staff were often reluctant to handle AIDS patients, some medical personnel refused to treat them at all. After seeing this, journalist Randy Shilts wrote the book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic in 1987 about the discovery and spread of (HIV) and (AIDS) with a special emphasis on government indifference and political infighting—specifically in the United States—to what was then perceived as a specifically gay disease.

Around the same time gay men were getting sick in the U.S., doctors in Paris, France, were receiving patients who were African or who had lived in Africa with the same symptoms as Americans. Parisian researchers began taking biopsies of HIV-infected lymph nodes and discovered a new retrovirus.  As a scientific necessity to compare it to the American version of HIV, French doctors representing the Pasteur Institute sent a colleague to the National Cancer Institute, where Robert Gallo was also working on the virus. The colleague switched the samples, Shilts reported, because of a grudge he had against the Pasteur Institute. Instead of Gallo comparing his samples with the French samples, he found the very same retrovirus as the French sample, putting back any new results in AIDS research for at least a year.

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