Thank you for your letter of August 12 concerning AIDS virus nomenclature.
In my opinion, the agent will be referred to colloquially as the "AIDS virus" for at least the next couple of decades,
regardless of its official name. I envision the following conversation occurring repeatedly: MD: "Your blood test shows
infection with XYZ virus." Patient: "What does it do?" MD: "It causes several problems, although most persons
remain well. But one thing it can do is cause AIDS." Patient: "Oh, shit." The remainder of the conversation
focuses on AIDS and the fears surrounding that disease.
I feel that the official name should disassociate this virus from the HTLV series, to which it is only remotely related.
Despite its historical priority, "Lymphadenopathy associated virus" is essentially inaccurate, since lymphadenopathy
is a relatively small part of the spectrum of AIDS. Of the current terms in use, I have cow to favor Jay Levy's "AIDS-associated
In summary, I see no compelling reason to eliminate AIDS from the official name, since it will be associated forever with
that disease regardless of its name. Accordingly, why not follow the historical precedent of naming retro-viruses for the
diseases with which they are prominently associated?
Finally, a personal note: I would not expect you to recall that I was a third year clerk on Medicine at P&S while you
were either an intern or first year resident (I think intern; it was the Summer of 1966.) Nice to hear from you.