FIRST REPORTS OF AIDS IN TEXAS GAY PUBLICATION
The first reports in a Texas gay publication of the mysterious disease that would eventually be known as AIDS were printed in TWT Magazine. The pocket-sized weekly, distributed statewide, was immensely popular in the days before local gay newspapers had an impact on the Texas market.
TWT’s first mention of the subject came in its July 24-30, 1981, issue. The magazine briefly summarized the findings of two reports published earlier in the month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The first was about the emergence of Kaposi’s sarcoma in some gay men. Kaposi’s sarcoma was a relatively benign, slow-moving skin cancer previously seen in aged men of Mediterranean descent. In young gay men, it was a killer never before seen.
The other story in that issue dealt with the now-famous CDC report of five gay men in Los Angeles who had contracted Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Pneumocystis was caused by a parasite commonly found in lung tissue. But a healthy immune system kept it in check. The CDC’s report called attention to the possibility that these men suffered from an immune dysfunction that was sexually transmitted.
TWT followed those stories with another in the Sept. 4-10, 1981, issue. This report briefly told of the CDC’s decision to form a task force of doctors and other medical personnel to further study this odd occurrence of rare diseases in gay men.
The difference in the tone of the reports from July to September is striking. While it may have been attributable merely to the possibility that two separate news writers were at work, readers will note the skeptical, almost jocular tone of the first report.
The second report, in September, is more serious although it does contain one doctor’s disclaimer that no proof yet exists that these conditions are sexually transmitted.
Skepticism was in high boil in the gay community when the reports from CDC came out in 1981. To many, these were merely attempts by federal health officials to “scare” gay men into avoiding sex.
Those attitudes persisted for a few years to greater or lesser degree as the gay community began to confront the reality that a sexually transmitted plague lay at its doorstep.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 30, 2006.