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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

AIDS: What's in a name?

Boy, this piece brought me back. I thought that the argument had been settled, but apparently, a lot of people are still Duesbergites.

I don't want to rehash AIDS denialism, but I do want to make an unrelated point: The name of the disease is...well, it's really stupid.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Here's the definition of "syndrome":
A group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease, psychological disorder, or other abnormal condition.
So. This nomenclature would indicate that there's a disease called AID, of which AIDS is the syndrome.

See the problem?

At one time, diseases had real names: Measles, smallpox, cancer. One-word names. No-nonsense names. Nowadays, we have an infantile love of both acronyms and the word "syndrome." Gotta get the word "syndrome" in there. It sounds so science-y.

(When you think about it, AIDS is a cruel acronym. It implies that someone is being aided.)
The name comes from a time when epidemiologists were confronted with a bizarre collection of symptoms of unknown cause that seemed to be occurring in a specific population. They had no idea whether that collection of symptoms (immune suppression, severe weight loss, appearance of uncommon cancers and fungal infections, dementia and death) resulted from an infectious disease or exposure to a toxin (IIRC one early theory was that the syndrome was caused by poisoning from contaminated "poppers"). They saw "a collection of symptoms", i.e. a "syndrome". To call it a "disease" at that point would have been leaping to conclusions about the cause, since there was insufficient data available to determine whether this "collection of symptoms" originated from an infectious agent, a toxin, or whether it was a particularly cruel statistical fluke. And yes, not making shit up when you lack the data is definitely "science-y". Too bad politicians don't operate the same way.
To be precise, AIDS is the symptom of being HIV positive. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus destroys a person's immune system. AIDS could manifest as any number of cancers, flus, or other diseases non-infected people are immune to.

True, being "positive" is another cruel joke.

It's better than its original name, GRID: Gay Related Immune Deficiency, don't you think?
Don't forget this casualty of the disease's name....

Even wikipedia warns "not to be confused with AIDS"

I'm guessing "Duesbergites" is your coinage with a nod to a derogatory term I've long lamented? Nice work.

I'm going below to see if there is a story behind your new artwork...I'm gone one week! What is going on? :)

I know this is a little late to be commenting but:
the nomenclature in medicine has evolved thus
someone can be HIV+ without having AIDS,
AIDS means having had (or is currently having)one or more of a spectrum of diseases usually only seen in those with defective immune systems.

Therefore if your doctor tells you that your HIV test has come back positive and you are otherwise healthy, you do not have AIDS(yet). If you came in to see the doctor about a rash and he tells you that you have Karposi's sarcoma and--oh, by the way--you are HIV positive, then you have AIDS. Karposi's is on the list of AIDS related diseases and so you--well--qualify.

Medicine is more social science than science and a lot of nomenclature gets grandfather-ed in.
I understand, ll. But really, I think we should call it Krigers.

What does that mean? Haven't the foggiest. But it sounds fitting.
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