Understanding AIDS


Dr John Starkie and Rodney Dale





This book was born in 1986 when people were starting to worry about a new and deadly disease. At that time, few of us knew very much about it. Now AIDS has become a topic of everyday conversation. Information pours from the government, the media, school and church, friends and family. Yet somehow it seems that the plethora of information makes the subject even more confusing -worse, there is a danger that those at risk are becoming blasé. So the book that started as a source of information is even more important now than it was then.

Our purpose is to present the facts; to dispel the mystery; to explain what AIDS is and how it might affect us, our families, our friends and acquaintances – and to determine exactly how worried we should be. Is this the beginning of the end of the world or – to go to the other extreme- is AIDS something nasty which affects certain minority groups and which will go away in its own time?

As we found out more about AIDS we realised what a difficult subject it is., it touches on matters which many people find unpalatable, and there is an admixture of myth and truth. We believe that the rapidly-changing perceptions stem chiefly from one cause – a lick of understanding. Hence the title of this book Understanding AIDS; an understanding of a subject will enable anyone to judge the wisdom or otherwise of various courses of action; the dangers inherent in them; the truth or falsity of statements made.

Suddenly, as we started to write this book, AIDS was in the news every single day – the public was bombarded with AIDS – In the newspapers and magazines, on television, at the cinema, on the streets – and it was an inevitable topic of conversation. It was impossible not to absorb something about AIDS. For some there was too much about AIDS – overkill. People were bored with hearing about AIDS. 'We know all about AIDS,' they would say, or: 'AIDS is deadly – but it's not likely to happen to anyone I know, certainly not me.'

By February 1988, 1,344 people in the UK were reported as having had AIDS – 749 of them hid died. The number of cases doubles every year. By January 1988 there were 8,016 diagnosed cases of HIV infection in the UK.

As our task neared its end, the reality of AIDS was beginning to strike; many people now knew – or knew someone who knew - someone with AIDS. We saw that it was even more important for the message to be universally received, our main concern is that those who do not read it – or heed it – may also be those most at risk. Hence again the importance of understanding, and passing on that understanding to others.

What we have done is to sift through the research of many scientists, and the mass of information more accessible to the public, in order to provide a clear view which rules out the contradictions and misconceptions arising from the interpretations of lobby groups and the media.

We have presented this in such a way that readers can relate AIDS to their own lifestyles – and those of their families and friends. We would like to dispel the unnecessary fears of some and instil more concern in others who have got so bored with the subject that they no longer care.

Above all, we want to promote understanding of AIDS – a disease which has become an integral part of today's society, and which remains, as yet, incurable.

John Starkie

Rodney Dale


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