Al Rossiter, Jr.: Of all the diseases that strike man, one of the most mysterious and certainly one of the most feared by some segments of society is AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is usually fatal, and it cripples the body's defenses against infection.
1984 was a particularly active year for scientists trying to fight AIDS. What most health authorities now say is an epidemic of AIDS apparently started in the United States in 1980.
AIDS was first recognized as a distinct disease in 1981. By the following year, it was apparent the problem was a major one and that the disease was infectious. But it was not until the spring of 1984 that scientists reported isolating a virus believed to be the cause of AIDS. That, you may recall, created quite a controversy, with teams of scientists from the National Institutes of Health and from Paris claiming they were first in making that discovery.
Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler reported last April that the discovery of a viral link to AIDS would lead to a widely available blood test for AIDS in six months and perhaps an anti-AIDS vaccine in two years. Some of that enthusiasm was later tempered, but five companies now are working on an AIDS blood test and they are expected to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration soon to begin producing such a test. It could be available late this winter.
But as far as a vaccine to prevent AIDS is concerned, the more scientists are learning about the disease, the more difficult such a development appears.
This is Al Rossiter, Jr.