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The Harold Varmus Papers

Letter from Marcus A. Conant, University of California, San Francisco to Harold Varmus pdf (51,416 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Marcus A. Conant, University of California, San Francisco to Harold Varmus
Number of Image Pages:
1 (51,416 Bytes)
1985-08-26 (August 26, 1985)
Conant, Marcus A.
University of California, San Francisco
Varmus, Harold
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Photograph Collection
Reproduced with permission of Marcus A. Conant.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Terminology as Topic
Acquired Hyperostosis 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 Harold:
I think that the AIDS virus should be named the "human AIDS retrovirus" (HARV).
I have been telling patients since the spring of 1984 that we feel that they have been infected with the AIDS retrovirus and since the spring of this year we have been able to confirm that impression with the HTLV-III/LAV antibody test. Patients are understandably distraught when given this information but it is essential that they know the nature of their infection so that they can avoid transmitting the disease to others and they can make appropriate life plans based on current perceptions of how this infection may affect their survival. If you name the virus something else, clinicians will be forced to tell the patient that they have "XYZ" virus which is the new name for the human AIDS retrovirus.
I agree with your Subcommittee that the term "AIDS" is particularly frightening in current society but the reality is that this is indeed a frightening epidemic. Fear is best conquered by knowledge, not ignorance, and to change the name of the virus in an effort to allay public anxieties does not serve the public good and will simply confuse matters more.
I hope these thoughts help and I do not envy you the difficult social and political task you face.
Sincerely yours,
Marcus A. Conant
Professor of Dermatology
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