The AIDS epidemic is a tragedy that now plays primarily on a developing
world stage. Yet this was not the case when AIDS exploded onto the epidemiologic
scene. By the early 1980s, the dramatic success of antibiotics and the eradication
of smallpox had fostered a degree of complacency toward infectious disease
among many epidemiologists; indeed, in 1969 Surgeon General William H. Stewart
famously proclaimed to Congress that the “war against pestilence is
over.”1 The sudden appearance of clusters
of Pneumocystis pneumonia and Kaposi sarcoma among
gay men in American cities sent shock waves through the public health community.
Initially called GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency disease), the syndrome
rapidly developed from a medical curiosity into a disease that subsumed other
socially marginal communities, including injection-drug users and prostitutes,
and quickly revealed itself as a pandemic that engulfed Europe, Africa, and
Asia as well as the Americas.
Keller RC. AIDS. JAMA. 2005;294(14):1826-1827. doi:10.1001/jama.294.14.1826-b