Early AIDS Activists Remember Beginning of HIV Epidemic as ‘Hysteria,’ Rumors Over Bioterrorism Continue
AIDS activists who were among the first at the front lines of the epidemic in the 1980s have observed that today's "hysteria" over the threat of bioterrorism is "unsettlingly familiar," the Miami Herald reports. "I remember the hysteria. I've noticed how similar the tone is," Greg Scott, the newly elected president of the People With AIDS Coalition of Broward County, Fla., said, adding that the anthrax scare "carries with it some of the same uncertainties," but lacks the "sexual stigma" of AIDS. The Herald reports that "ignorance [about bioterrorism] is running even with accuracy" right now, as it did in the early days of the AIDS epidemic; "baffled" public health officials have given the public "conflicting or bare-bones" information that has created "more confusion than clarity" and people are confusing "every abnormality" for symptoms of anthrax. Dr. Margaret Fischl, an AIDS researcher at the University of Miami who has been involved since the beginning of the epidemic, said public health officials could learn from the AIDS experience. "Education is how you deal with the fear. Recognizing how (HIV) was transmitted and how it was not transmitted. We would hammer that out with bulletins ... I think all of those were progressively important things that helped us with HIV," she said. Such education campaigns helped dispel myths and calm the public's fears about HIV/AIDS, relieving much of the anxiety over the disease even though 42,000 new diagnoses were made last year. The full article with other personal accounts is available online at the Herald Web site (Brecher/Smith, Miami Herald, 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.