Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.
In 1969, when I married and moved to the Dominican Republic, a small
Caribbean nation occupying the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola,
I never realized that its location next to Haiti and its fame as an island
paradise for tourists would place me—14 years later—in the midst
of an epidemic.
In the early 1980s, reports of "slim's disease" in Haiti and of acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the United States suggested to me that
the Dominican Republic might also have cases. I assumed that tourists and
Haitians coming across the border would bring the disease here. As a professor
of microbiology at a local medical school, I enlisted students to help collect
blood samples from Haitian sugar cane workers living in bateys or plantations, from employees in hotels in Santo Domingo frequented
by homosexual males, and from heterosexual students at the university as a
control group. No cases of AIDS were detected. All blood samples were sent
to the University of California (San Francisco) in April 1983 for potential
detection of known viruses that could possibly be involved in this new disease.
Koenig RE. AIDS in Paradise. JAMA. 1999;282(23):2195–2196. doi:10.1001/jama.282.23.2195