As Chairman of the Retrovirus Study Group of the ICTV, I have recently assembled a group of retrovirologists to find a suitable
species name for the group of retrovirus isolates believed likely to represent the causative agents of the acquired immune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS). All members of the committee have been asked to make and solicit specific proposals, but I am
writing to you, as one of the leaders in the field of animal virology, either to make a formal proposal (according to the
enclosed guidelines) or to express your opinions about the some of the issues that have been raised.
In particular, are there names for this group of viruses that you find particularly inappropriate, and why? Do you believe
that use of the term "AIDS" in the name would present serious problems with respect to patient-physician relations
or the establishment of cause? (If so, how would those problems differ from those posed by the use of the term "polio"
in poliovirus?) How important is it to avoid any potentially confusing abbreviations (e.g., "HAV" for "human
AIDS virus" and "hepatitis A virus")? What taxonomic and other features do you feel are most compelling in the
design of a species name? Should names as complex as human T cell lymphotrophic III/lymphadenopathy virus (HTLV-III/LAV)
be allowed? Would they be used? Do you feel a compelling consensus for any single name has already been reached among virologists,
clinicians or laymen?
Be assured that any comments you can forward to me on these topics before May 15th will be distributed to our members and
helpful in our deliberations.