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The Harold Varmus Papers

Letter from W. Abe Andes, Tulane University Medical Center to Harold Varmus pdf (66,975 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from W. Abe Andes, Tulane University Medical Center to Harold Varmus
Number of Image Pages:
1 (66,975 Bytes)
1985-08-26 (August 26, 1985)
Andes, W. Abe
Tulane University Medical Center
Varmus, Harold
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Harold E. Varmus Papers
Reproduced with permission of W. Abe Andes.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Terminology as Topic
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Exhibit Category:
AIDS and HIV: Science, Politics, and Controversy, 1981-1993
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 14
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: UCSF Collections
SubSeries: Collection Number MSS 88-47
SubSubSeries: Human Retrovirus Study Group, 1981-1987
Folder: HIV clinical opinions on the naming of the virus, 1985
August 26, 1985
Dear Dr. Varmus:
Thank you for your letter of August 12 but I only received it a few days ago. I find the issues and questions you pose quite interesting. Unfortunately, I will only be able to give you my opinion based on what I have read and what I have heard communicated to me by both patients and treating physicians.
I think the term AIDS cannot be avoided since it is already embedded in the medical literature, MEDLINE retrieval services and so forth. To attempt to distinguish the 'AIDS virus' from the "XYZ" would not, it seems to me, serve any useful purpose. Further, it may be too soon, or we may end up changing, the notion as to which infected people have or have not developed the disease. Thus, I suspect the "XYZ virus" shortly would become synonymous with the "AIDS virus". The last question posed regarding an eponym is even more interesting. I find it difficult to explain to patients that the HTLV-III is named after a virus that causes leukemia or lymphoma when in fact that represents the problem in only a fraction of patients with AIDS. Thus, a term such HARV (which I assume stands for Human AIDS Related Virus) might be more direct and since it's only mentioned as related to AIDS, it might be more easily discussed with patients. Since descriptions and discussions of the AIDS virus is (at least currently) a clinical - and social one, it will no doubt take time to best settle on a name which will be 'respectfully pleasing' to as many people as possible.
In other words I think that the name eventually chosen for this retrovirus will finally become associated with the very severe condition it causes, regardless of its name. Thank you for your questions and I remain
Sincerely yours,
W. Abe Andes, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
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