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TV Review: Frontline: The Age of AIDS

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On June 5th, 1981, an article appeared in a CDC publication called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report about what would eventually become known as AIDS. Frontline‘s The Age of AIDS chronicles the medical, political, and cultural history of the pandemic for four hours over two nights, Tuesday, May 30th and 31st. The entire program will also be available online along with a comprehensive website.

25 years of AIDSEven four hours can’t tell the full story of AIDS, but this is an overview everyone should see. It takes a critical look back at the failures of politicians, governments, and institutions as well as medical breakthroughs (which might have come sooner with more funding in the early ’80s).

The Reagan administration’s neglect in dealing with the epidemic at a critical time are outlined in a way that was missing from the obituaries and other coverage of Ronald Reagan when he died. There were people in his administration who tried to do something, but they hit a wall of ideology.

But Reagan isn’t the only leader who is criticized. The response of South Africa under Thabo Mbeki is contrasted with Uganda which early on had a strong prevention program (since watered down because of restrictions on funding imposed by Congress). The documentary has an international perspective from the start but the second half focuses on the global pandemic.

There are stories which are told more fully or in different ways in other documetaries such as Ending AIDS: the Search for a Vaccine which aired on PBS last December and HBO’s Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt and Pandemic: Facing AIDS.

And there will be more stories told as 25 years of AIDS are remembered. On NPR today, there was a discusssion (they have also posted the first story NPR did in 1982 on AIDS) and The World has an archive of stories. In San Francisco, there is a memorial wall where people are posting their memories, the annual candlelight vigil will take place on June 4th.

But the networks including ABC, CBS, and NBC also need to do programs on AIDS. If Peter Jennings were alive he might have done a program. He hosted AIDS Quarterly on PBS, and had written into his contract that he would do several documentaries a year; the kind of documentaries that have almost vanished from the commercial broadcast networks.

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About Steve Rhodes

  • Glenn

    “The Age of AIDS” never touched on Kary Mullis, inventor of the PCR viral load test, who is outraged that life-and-death treatment decisions are being made on the basis of his PCR procedure that he admits cannot confirm or quantify HIV in a blood sample. I thought the program was purposely edited to make the “denialists” that they did show appear flaky and uncaring, and of course the legitimate questions they raise were never addressed. Have you read Duesberg’s book “Inventing the AIDS Virus” that is now available for under $10 on Amazon? Unlike his obscure and undiplomatic scientific papers, this book went through five editors and was tossed around at three publishing houses before its 1996 publication. That counts for something. And as a bonus in the book’s “Foreword,” Kary Mullis recalls an encounter with Luc Montagnier that pretty much explains why AIDS research is going nowhere.

  • Are you kidding me???

    Glenn says: “Have you read Duesberg’s book “Inventing the AIDS Virus” that is now available for under $10 on Amazon? Unlike his obscure and undiplomatic scientific papers, this book went through five editors and was tossed around at three publishing houses before its 1996 publication. That counts for something.”

    The only thing that “counts for” is that no respectable publishing house wanted to touch such ridiculous claims that Duesberg makes in his book.

    Peter Deusberg’s theories play right into the ignorance that prevented adequate AIDS research for so long.

    Two of his most ludicrous claims include:

    1)recreational and pharmaceutical drug use, including AZT are the primary causes of AIDS outside of Africa. He claims that the use of amyl nitrate among sexually promiscuous homosexuals is the cause for their developing AIDS.

    2)AIDS in Africa is largely misdiagnosed, and is caused due to malnutrition, exposure to various other infections, and bad drinking water.

    Duesberg has lost most of his funding and nearly all of his respect within the scientific community because of his theories that HIV does not cause AIDS, but from these other reasons, as stated above.

    Kary Mullis is another scientist, who, inspite of being a Noble Prize winner, has surrounded himself in controversy for agreeing with Duesberg’s theory about AIDS. In addition, Mullis goes as far as to disagree with the fact that global warming is human caused, and he refutes the idea that CFCs cause ozone depletion.

    If you really want some interesting reading, try Mullis’ account of a “glowing raccoon” saying “good evening doctor” to him.

  • I worked for three years for a friend making Amyl Isobutyl Nitrate “poppers” under the brand name “Rustle” for a friend up in Akron, because I was the only one who could bottle the stuff off the septh funnel without getting a headache for long periods of time, and I never developed AIDS, so I know that’s bullshit.

    Reagan was pressured by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant to sit on his hands, hoping that what they thought (and some fools still do) that the “gay cancer” if left unchecked would do God’s judgement work and wipe out the gay population.

    The worse medical delay was the behind the scenes bickering over who had discovering the actual virus, instead of finding a way to treat it. Do Gallow did a lot of damage by refusing to acknowledge that the French found it first, and his ego hurt us almost as much as Reagan.

    Police were actually infesticating little hemopheliac kids to see if they’d been homosexually raped, instead of trying to treat them.

    Those weren’t the good old days.