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March 23, 1984

When Is AIDS Communicable?

Author Affiliations

Department of Health New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1984;251(12):1553. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340360021009

To the Editor.—  In describing a working hypothesis, Klatzman of the French acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) working group states that it probably takes multiple attacks by a retrovirus to devastate the immune system.1 This implies that the actual AIDS infections (retroviral or other) are acute episodes of limited duration. This is speculative, but reasonably so, and there is evidence to support such a concept.Thus far, we have no documented case of AIDS that has been acquired through direct, close contact with a patient known to be symptomatic with opportunistic infections. The various secondary infections that cause the downward slide of the victim's condition and show the dramatic picture of the AIDS cases are not a danger to healthy contacts, even though the public, including prison guards, policemen, and undertakers, may understandably but needlessly panic.The AIDS infection itself, which damaged those cells linked to immunity, may have