AIDS and GRID, A Non-Ron Paul Explanation

At various points in Ron Paul’s newsletters, there are references to “GRIDS”, and it being the original name for the syndrome that would eventually labeled AIDS. This post is an attempt to clarify the subject.

From the Ron Paul Political Report June 1990:

Note: AIDS was originally named GRIDS–the Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Political pressure forced a name change to try to hide the origin of this plague.

From “Congressional Courage”:

AIDS was “originally known as GRIDS–gay related immune deficiency syndrome.” For political reasons it was changed to AIDS. “A whole political movement has been created and sustained on a single notion: homosexual sodomy.”

A few selected passages from And The Band Played On that cover the transition from GRID (not GRIDS) to AIDS, misstated in the newsletters.

It was at this dinner that [San Francisco gay activist, organizer of the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Program] first heard the technical jargon that would become the stuff of his nightmares in the years ahead – terms like geometric progression and exponential increases. Some scientist had come up with a new name for the syndrome: Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, or GRID. [Dermatolagist with the University of San Francisco Marcus Conant], however, wasn’t sure how gay-related this immune deficiency would stay. Viruses tended not to respect such artificial divisions among humans. Lymphocytes were lymphocytes, and clearly they were major taste treats for the new virus, whether they happened to live in gay bodies or straight.

By now, a dizzying array of acronyms was being bandied about as possible monikers for an epidemic that, though ten months old, remained unnamed. Besides GRID, some doctors liked ACIDS, for Acquired Community Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and then others favored CAIDS, for Community Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The CDC hated GRID and preferred calling it “the epidemic of immune deficiency.” The “community” in other versions, of course, was a polite way of saying gay; the doctors couldn’t let go of the notion that one identified this disease by whom it hit rather than what it did.

If you don’t abide by scientific principles, chaos will ensue.

It was a fundamental tenet of [conductor of early studies of AIDS in hemophiliacs, Dr. Dale Lawrence] world. It was an idea that also recurred to him after he had flown up from Atlanta to join his boss, Dr. Bruce Evatt and [retrovirologist] Don Francis and a gathering of leaders of the blood industry, hemophiliac groups, gay community organizations, and assorted luminaries from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. The Centers for Disease Control had hoped the new evidence of blood transmission would incite the blood industry’s two major components, the voluntary blood banks and the for-profit manufacturers of blood products, to move quickly to stem the tide of blood contamination.

It is at this meeting that a name is decided upon. Note that no elected officials are present.

In the end, everybody agreed that they should do one thing: Wait and see what happens…The meeting, however, did accomplish one memorable achievement. It was more than one year since Michael Gottleib and Alvin Friedman-Klein had reported their cases of pneumonia and skin cancer, and the epidemic still did not have commonly agreed-upon name. Different scientists were using different acronyms in an alphabet soup that further confused the already befuddled story of a strange new disease of unknown origin. The staffers at the CDC despised the GRID acronym and refused to use it. With the advent of hemophiliac cases, Jim Curran argued that any references to “gay” or “community” should be dropped and something more neutral be adopted. Besides, Curran thought ACIDS was a little grotesque.

Somebody finally suggested the name that stuck: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. That gave the epidemic a snappy acronym, AIDS, and was sexually neutral. The word “acquired” separated the immune deficiency syndrome from congenital defects or chemically induced immune problems, indicating the syndrome was acquired from somewhere even though nobody knew from where.

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