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September 14, 1984

Etiology of AIDS

Author Affiliations

University of California School of Medicine San Francisco

JAMA. 1984;252(10):1281-1282. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350100015015

To the Editor.—  The recent announcement of a retrovirus (human T-cell leukemia virus [HTLV-III] or lymphadenopathy-associated virus) as the probable cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) requires a cautious appraisal. There are many epidemiologic and laboratory observations that this agent, or a single-agent theory, does not explain. Studies of viral isolates and antibody to HTLV-III have already shown that (1) some persons with AIDS lack antibody or detectable virus, and (2) some persons in risk categories associated with AIDS have antibody or detectable virus but do not have AIDS.1,2 If infection with a single viral agent is the only cause of AIDS, it is difficult to explain why some blood product recipients die of AIDS while the donor remains relatively healthy for three or more years following blood donation.3 Furthermore, if a single agent were responsible for AIDS, then the syndrome should have existed prior to the