The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 19

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Bay Area Reporter, March 6, 1975, page 24.

 
This is another one of those San Francisco bars that is difficult to find anything about. It appears to have opened around 1972 near the corner of Market and Sanchez, at about the time the area was still a down-on-its-luck Irish neighborhood known as Eureka Valley, rather than the gay mecca of the Castro as it’s known today. The storefront today is now a Venetian seafood restaurant called Pesce.

Pope Alexander III

TODAY IN HISTORY:
835 YEARS AGO: Final Session of the Third Lateran Council, Orders Excommunication for the “Unnatural Vice”: 1179. Upon Pope Hadrian IV’s death in 1157, the divided Cardinals split into two camps backing two separate popes: Roland of Siena, who took the name of Alexander III, and Octavian of Rome who assumed the name of Pope Victor IV. While Pope Alexander III had majority of the Cardinals’ support, Pope Victor had the crucial support of Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick declared war on the Italian states and the Church in support of his candidate, causing a schism in the Church. Victor died in 1164, and two further Popes were declared in Frederick’s faction: Paschal III (1164–1168) and Callistus III (1168–1178).

Finally, the forces supporting Pope Alexander III proved victorious at the Battle of Legnano of 29 May 1176. WIth the Treaty of Venice in 1177, Pope Alexander III promised to hold an ecumenical council to bring the Church back together. That council, known as the Third Council of the Lateran established new regulations on papal elections to try to prevent future schisms, and laid down new Canons on the qualifications and proper conduct of the clergy. Twenty-seven Canons were promulgated in all, with some tying up some loose ends in civil matters: they abolished usury, forbade Jews and Muslims from employing Christian servants, and required that the evidence of Christians would always be accepted against Jews. In addition, Canon 11 read:

11. Clerics in holy orders, who in open concubinage keep their mistresses in their houses, should either cast them out and live continently or be deprived of ecclesiastical office and benefice. Let all who are found guilty of that unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful. If any cleric without clear and necessary cause presumes to frequent convents of nuns, let the bishop keep him away; and if he does not stop, let him be ineligible for an ecclesiastical benefice.

Africans Identified As AIDS Risk Group: 1983. As I’ve said before, by the time 1983 came around the panic surrounding the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis had already reached epic proportions, with anti-gay groups and individuals pinning everlasting blame on the gay community. When they had bothered to notice, some would acknowledge that Haitians, drug addicts and hemophiliacs were also at risk for AIDS. But it was the gay community which bore the brunt of the responsibility for the new “plague.”

If ignorance among many Americans was running a fevered pitch, things were very different in Europe, particularly in Belgium and France where doctors had been noticing a strange development for quite some time. For several years, they had been treating wealthy Africans from their former colonies who were suffering from diseases which were remarkably similar to those reported by AIDS patients in America. While AIDS was also showing up in gay communities in Europe, these African patients signaled to European specialists that AIDs was neither a homosexual nor Western disease. Finally on March 19, 1983, the rest of the world would learn what they have been noticing with the publication of this brief letter by Dr. Nathan Clumeck of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in the respected journal The Lancet:

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans

SIR,-Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been described in homosexual or bisexual men, in drug addicts, in haemophiliacs, and in Haitian immigrants. To our knowledge there is no report of AIDS and opportunistic infections in previously healthy Black Africans with no history of homosexuality or drug abuse.

Tables I and II show the clinical and immunological data on five Black patients seen in Brussels and who were from Central Africa (Zaire and Chad). Three of them had been living in Belgium, for between 8 months and 3 years. All were of good socioeconomic status. They presented with prodromes of fever, weight loss, and generalised lymphadenopathy, and extensive investigations did not reveal any neoplasia. Patients A and E died; the three survivors are still ill.

Because the HIV virus had not been discovered yet, there was no test for it. Doctors had to rely on a process of elimination to determine whether the patient really had AIDS:

These patients fulfilled all the criteria of AIDS. Two of them had severe herpes simplex infections and to exclude the possible role of herpes virus in their immune deficiency we did lymphocyte subset analyses in a control group of eight patients with HSV-2 infections. None had OKT4+ deficiency and their OKT4/OKT8 ratios were between 0.99 and 2.52 (mean 1.80), so it is unlikely that HSV-2 alone was responsible for the AIDS in the African patients.

Responses to mitogen stimulation (phytohaemagglutinin, concanavalin A, pokeweed) were well below normal in all cases. In eleven healthy Black Africans reactions to intradermal tuberculin, candida, and streptodornase were >5 mm: all five patients were skin test negative to these antigens.

This preliminary report suggests that Black Africans, immigrants or not, may be another group predisposed to AIDS.

This small letter to the editor would later prove to be an important first indication of the horror that had been stalking the Congo river region for decades. Clumeck and his colleagues would follow up that letter with a larger study a year later in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study presented detailed data on 23 Africans treated for AIDS from as far back as May 1979. That would be a full two years before the CDC reported on the five gay patients in Los Angeles (See Jun 5). Eighteen of the patients treated in Brussels were from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), one from Chad, two from Rwanda, and two from Burundi. By then, ten had died. On further investigation, researchers found that the husband of one patient had died in 1976 in Belgium at the age of 27 from diseases “consistent with AIDS.”

In December 1984, Clumeck and associates published another paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences expanding their study to 40 patients who had undergone treatment in Belgium. Only two of them were gay male Belgians; the rest were Africans. By then, they had concluded, “It is likely that AIDS is endemic now in Central Africa, and that the cases seen in Belgium represent only the tip of the iceberg.”

[Sources: N. Clumek, F. Mascart-Lemone, J. de Maubeuge, D. Brenez, L. Marcelis. Letter to the editor: “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans.” Lancet 1, no. 8325 (March 19, 1983): 624.

Nathan Clumeck, Jean Sonnet, Henri Taelman, et al. “Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in African patients.” New England Journal of Medicine 310, no, 8 (February 23, 1984): 492-497.

Nathan Clumeck, Jean Sonnet, Henri Taelman, et al. “Acquired immune deficiency syndrome in Belgium and its relation to Central Africa.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 437 (December 1984): 264-269.]

FDA approves AZT to treat AIDS: 1987. Dr. Jerome P. Horwitz, a researcher at Wayne State University’s cancer center, developed azidothymidine (AZT) as cancer drug in 1964. Part of a new approach to curing cancer, AZT was was made as a synthetic form of nucleosides, which is a fundamental building block of genetic material. The idea was to inject AZT into cancer cells and watch it confuse the cell’s real nucleosides and render the cancer unable to reproduce. It failed. Horwitz never bothered to patent it, and moved on to other avenues of investigation. For the next two decades, AZT would remain, in Horwitz’s words, “a very interesting set of compounds that were waiting for the right disease.”

Fast forward twenty years to 1984. The pharmaceutical company Burroughs-Wellcome  (now GlaxoSmithKline) asked the National Cancer Institute to investigate AZT’s potential in combatting AIDS. The investigation, conducted by government scientists under government funding, began clinical trials of AZT provided by Burroughs-Wellcome, and found that the drug was able to interfere with the reproduction of HIV’s DNA and reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in the blood). Burroughs-Wellcome patented the drug in 1985, and with no other drugs available and AZT proving to be a real benefit, the FDA gave its approval in 1987, in record time, despite the drug only having gone through a phase one trial.

Marketed as Retrovir, AZT cost $10,000 for a one-year supply (that would be about $20,600 in today’s money), making it the most expensive drug in history. It’s cost was prohibitive for the estimated thirty-five percent of people with AIDS who either had no health insurance or whose policies didn’t cover the drug. And because it only went through a phase one trial, optimum dosage was still unknown. Consequently, and under the FDA’s recommendation, doctors prescribed it at very high doses which revealed its toxic side effects, which included anemia, depressed white blood count, liver damage, heart muscle damage, muscular weakness, changes in abdominal body fat, acid reflux, headache and loss of appetite.

But while there were a patchwork of medications to treat the various opportunistic diseases that befell people with aids, AZT remained the only FDA-approved drug for treating AIDS itself for several more years. Over time, researchers discovered that AZT’s dosage could be reduced to minimize the side effects without hindering its effectiveness. But AZT’s effectiveness was limited, regardless of dosage, by HIV’s remarkable ability to mutate into an AZT-resistant form. ATZ by itself prolonged life, on average, by a year or so, which was an eternity for a disease with a 100 percent mortality rate. It wouldn’t be until two other drugs entered the market in 1995 and AZT became a part of the three-drug cocktail (see Dec 6) when an effective treatment regimen to combat AIDS would finally become available. As for Dr. Horwitz, he never did see any royalties from his invention of AZT.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Paul Douglas

March 19th, 2014

Reading about the papal bullshît of 900 years ago reminds one of the sordid history of christendom, one that is consistently denied or ignored by christianists to this very day. They inevitably claim their ancestors “weren’t true christians, blah, blah, blah…”

History that is forgotten is doomed to be repeated, to paraphrase George Santayana.

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2014

Paul, they were all of our ancestors, both believers and non-believers.

We don’t get to decide that our ancestors were the good ones and their ancestors were the bad ones. They all lived in a culture and at a time different than our own and were molded by and responded to that culture.

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