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The Harold Varmus Papers

Letter from Peter R. Wolfe, University of California, Los Angeles AIDS Center to Harold Varmus pdf (52,728 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Peter R. Wolfe, University of California, Los Angeles AIDS Center to Harold Varmus
Number of Image Pages:
1 (52,728 Bytes)
1985-09-09 (September 9, 1985)
Wolfe, Peter R.
University of California, Los Angeles AIDS Center
Varmus, Harold
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Harold E. Varmus Papers
Reproduced with permission of Peter R. Wolfe.
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
September 9, 1985
Dear Dr. Varmus,
Please forgive the delay in my reply to your letter of August 12.
As to the naming of the AIDS retrovirus, I agree with you that political issues as well as scientific ones will ultimately decide the outcome. Most of my patients refer to this virus as either "the AIDS virus" or as "HTLV-III" or some alphabetic permutation of same. I refer to it as "HTLV-III" in conversation, and as "HTLV-III/LAV" when I write for publication.
I like the name "HTLV-III" because it does not directly connect the virus to AIDS: it is less traumatic to tell an asymptomatic patient that he has a positive HTLV-III antibody test than to tell him he has a positive AIDS-virus antibody test. Due to the unsettled taxonomic position of this virus, I understand that placing the virus in the family of human T cell leukemia viruses may ultimately not be justified. I would hope that the name eventually chosen would be emotionally neutral (i.e., exclude the word AIDS), yet scientifically accurate. Your suggestion of an acronym for the virus such as HALV, for human AIDS-lymphadenopathy virus, seems reasonable.
Peter R. Wolfe, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
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