Daily Archives: July 3, 2007

“New York Times, July 3rd, 1981:
RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS
Outbreak Occurs Among Men in New York and California–8 Died Inside 2 Years
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made.
The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.
The sudden appearance of the cancer, called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, has prompted a medical investigation that experts say could have as much scientific as public health importance because of what it may teach about determining the causes of more common types of cancer.

First Appears in Spots

Doctors have been taught in the past that the cancer usually appeared first in spots on the legs and that the disease took a slow course of up to 10 years. But these recent cases have shown that it appears in one or more violet-colored spots anywhere on the body. The spots generally do not itch or cause other symptoms, often can be mistaken for bruises, sometimes appear as lumps and can turn brown after a period of time. The cancer often causes swollen lymph glands, and then kills by spreading throughout the body.
Doctors investigating the outbreak believe that many cases have gone undetected because of the rarity of the condition and the difficulty even dermatologists may have in diagnosing it.
In a letter alerting other physicians to the problem, Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien of New York University Medical Center, one of the investigators, described the appearance of the outbreak as “rather devastating.”
Dr. Friedman-Kien said in an interview yesterday that he knew of 41 cases collated in the last five weeks, with the cases themselves dating to the past 30 months. The Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is expected to publish the first description of the outbreak in its weekly report today, according to a spokesman, Dr. James Curran. The report notes 26 of the cases–20 in New York and six in California.
There is no national registry of cancer victims, but the nationwide incidence of Kaposi’s Sarcoma in the past had been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control to be less than six-one-hundredths of a case per 100,000 people annually, or about two cases in every three million people. However, the disease accounts for up to 9 percent of all cancers in a belt across equatorial Africa, where it commonly affects children and young adults.
In the United States, it has primarily affected men older than 50 years. But in the recent cases, doctors at nine medical centers in New York and seven hospitals in California have been diagnosing the condition among younger men, all of whom said in the course of standard diagnostic interview that they were homosexual. Although the ages of the patients have ranged from 26 to 51 years, many have been under 40, with the mean at 39.
Nine of the 41 cases known to Dr. Friedman-Kien were diagnosed in California, and several of those victims reported that they had been in New York in the period preceding the diagnosis. Dr. Friedman-Kien said that his colleagues were checking on reports of two victims diagnosed in Copenhagen, one of whom had visited New York.

Viral Infections Indicated

No one medical investigator has yet interviewed all the victims. Dr. Curran said. According to Dr. Friedman-Kien, the reporting doctors said that most cases had involved homosexual men who have had multiple and frequent sexual encounters with different partners, as many as 10 sexual encounters each night up to four times a week.
Many of the patients have also been treated for viral infections such as herpes, cytomegalovirus and hepatitis B as well as parasitic infections such as amebiasis and giardiasis. Many patients also reported that they had used drugs such as amyl nitrite and LSD to heighten sexual pleasure.
Cancer is not believed to be contagious, but conditions that might precipitate it, such as particular viruses or environmental factors, might account for an outbreak among a single group.
The medical investigators say some indirect evidence actually points away from contagion as a cause. None of the patients knew each other, although the theoretical possibility that some may have had sexual contact with a person with Kaposi’s Sarcoma at some point in the past could not be excluded, Dr. Friedman-Kien said.
Dr. Curran said there was no apparent danger to nonhomosexuals from contagion. “The best evidence against contagion,” he said, “is that no cases have been reported to date outside the homosexual community or in women.”
Dr. Friedman-Kien said he had tested nine of the victims and found severe defects in their immunological systems. The patients had serious malfunctions of two types of cells called T and B cell lymphocytes, which have important roles in fighting infections and cancer.
But Dr. Friedman-Kien emphasized that the researchers did not know whether the immunological defects were the underlying problem or had developed secondarily to the infections of drug use.
The research team is testing various hypotheses, one of which is a possible link between past infection with cytomegalovirus and development of Kaposi’s Sarcoma.”

I dreamed about Warren Sonbert last night. I so rarely have memorable dreams I woke up the minute it was over. Warren was standing against a wall, smiling. I went up and put my arms around him and gave him a kiss. He giggled and it was over.

IIt was the Warren of 1967 that I was dreaming about and the wall he was standing against was the one in the patio of that gallery on Venice blvd. where the “Soft Targets” event took place
a few nights ago.

The dream was my regret in never having made love to Warren. I wanted too desperately in 1967, but I knew I wasn’t his type so it was a non-starter. I got over it.

Or maybe I didn’t.

Warren and I were born the same year that I was, but he always seemed older. He had older men like Gregory Markopoulos as lovers when I was just beginning to navigate the propect of boyfriends instead of tricks. He had a trust fund and travelled to foreign climes all the time. And he made amazingly beautiful films.

The NYT article is the accepted date for AIDS. But for me it was 1979. I was visiting Waren and his lover Ray in San Francisco, when a friend of theirs came to the door in a great rush. He had borrowed an opera recording from Warren and was returning it. He was rail thin, bald and in great distress — not quite knowing what he was doing or why until Warren reminded him. When he left Warren and Ray told me that he’d lost his hair in chemotherapy — taken because he had developed a rare form of cancer “that the doctors don’t understand how he got. It’s not known in humans.”

Two years later we all knew. And throughout the 80’s and 90’s the disease took it’s toll.

Warren went blind towards the end — and couldn’t admit it either to others or himself. But neither he — nor it — are easily forgotten.
Like his favorite song says —

“Does he love me,
I wanna know
How can I tell if he loves me so
Is it in his eyes,
(oh no you’ll be deceived)
Is it in his eyes,
(oh no he’ll make believe)
If you wanna know,
if he loves you so
It’s in his kiss
That’s where it is,
oh yeah
Or is it in his face,
(oh no it’s just his charm )
In his warm embrace,
(oh no that’s just his arm)
If you wanna know,
if he loves you so
It’s in his kiss
That’s where it is,
oh it’s in his kiss
That’s where it is, oh-oh
Kiss him and squeeze him tight
And find out what you wanna know
If it’s love, if it really is
It’s there in his kiss
How ’bout the way he acts,
(oh no that’s not the way
And you’re not listening to all I say )
If you wanna know,
if he loves you so
It’s in his kiss,
(that’s where it is)
Oh yeah it’s in his kiss,
(that’s where it is)

Oh-oh, kiss him and squeeze him tight
And find out what you wanna know
If it’s love, if it really is
It’s there in his kiss
How ’bout the way he acts,
(oh no that’s not the way
And you’re not listening to all I say)
If you wanna know, if he loves you so
It’s in his kiss
That’s where it is,
oh yeah it’s in his kiss
That’s where it is,
oh it’s in his kiss.”