By Jon Carey, Chapter Member
Scientists may have found a hidden clue in the disease HIV/AIDS by way of a new compound found to block H.I.V. infection within monkeys. If the trials become successful, scientists may be one step closer to creating a vaccine against AIDS.
The new method involves stimulating muscle cells to produce a protein that resembles normal antibodies. These antibodies contain Y-shaped heads and a tail that are used to simultaneously block two sites within each “spike” that the virus utilizes to attach itself to a cell. The virus could then become helpless and drift off unattached if both sites were blocked on every “spike”. After a year of tests, the technique completely protected four monkeys for nearly a year against repeated attempts of infection. Each monkey was dosed with several strains of S.H.I.V, a version of H.I.V. adapted for lab monkeys.
HIV/AIDS was discovered in the 1980s as a controversial disease when a group of gay men were carrying a strange new illness. Various reports emerged in New York and California of men who were diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and/or pneumonia. At the end of 1981, 5 to 6 new cases of the disease were widely reported each week. The conditions acquired a number of names such as “GRID” (gay-related immune deficiency), “gay cancer”, and “gay compromise syndrome”. Gay men were faced with homophobic discrimination partly because there was a shortage of information bout what was causing AIDS and how it was being passed on. Now, it is known that every can fall to this disease, not just gay men. Although the disease originated in Africa, the United States was the first country to bring AIDS into the public consciousness.
HIV/AIDS was the main idea for Ryan Murphy’s dramatic film The Normal Heart. Taken from Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart depicted the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984. Ryan Murphy’s latest activist film had a star-studded cast, including: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, and Taylor Kitsch. Mark Ruffalo starred as Ned Weeks, an openly gay writer who helped raise awareness of the disease in New York. He and several other friends establish the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an organization that sponsored fundraisers for research on AIDS. Gay Men’s Health Crisis also created a telephone hotline, counseling, and other essential services. Murphy’s latest film is a powerful, heartbreaking drama that exposed the hardships gay men faced during the homophobic discrimination in the 80s.
Before appearing in the film, Matt Bomer star received the Steve Chase Humanitarian Award in 2012 for his work on fighting against HIV/AIDS. During his speech, he publicly came out to audiences nationwide by thanking his partner Simon Halls and his three children. Bomer landed the supporting lead role in The Normal Heart.
We may have come a long way, but the battle is far from over. Carrying the experimental trials to human beings will take a while and it could take years before an AIDS vaccination is released. The homophobic paranoia of the disease has diminished since more evidence was discovered. There is more federal funding being spent on this controversial disease, but funding is focused on treatment rather than research. Ryan Murphy is one of many Hollywood figures that brought attention to the provoking disease. A handful of celebrities that are working to fight the crisis include Ellen DeGeneres, Bono, Magic Johnson, Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga, and Elton John. Americans are still advocating for the fight of HIV/AIDS, a disease that must not be swept under the rug. While advances in medical technology have augmented people’s lifespan, there is still no cure out yet. Gay men and women continue to fight for a cure and the freedom to live a happy life. This disease should not be overlooked because of the mass paranoia pertaining to the gay community.
** We are aware that HIV does not only affect gay men. No one is omitted form this disease because of their sexuality. It can be transmitted to anyone through bodily fluids. The angle of this article was to educate the public about the update, and to highlight the movie featuring this community of people. Thank you
– Managing Editor, Nikki Vergakes **