Still incurable after 15 years

AIDS keeps killing; researchers keep hoping

June 2, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jim Hill

WEST HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- Demeatric Garland's family often gets together to sing to him. But the harmony holds sadness, for Garland is dying of AIDS.

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"I don't care what happens with my son; he's still my son," says Richard Garland. "He was loaned to me for the enrichment of my life. It's my responsibility to care for him."

Fifteen years ago, no one knew just how many families would find themselves in the same situation, with no cure in sight.

It was in 1981 that immunologist Michael Gottlieb first identified AIDS in five Los Angeles patients. "To find something new in science is exciting," says Dr. Gottlieb. "Unfortunately, in this case, it meant a lot of tragedy and sadness."

Since those first cases, AIDS has grown dramatically. In 15 years, it has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States alone.

Mario Saenz tested HIV positive in 1991, meaning that a medical test indicated he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS. "Foolish me," says Saenz, "not taking care of myself -- having promiscuous sex -- going out with a lot of people. I ended up here. Now look at me." Saenz has developed AIDS. (86K AIFF or WAV sound)

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Fifteen years without a cure has created sharply different opinions on whether enough is being done to stop AIDS. Some doctors point to great advances in easing disease symptoms. "You can live with a lot of chronic illnesses as long as they don't worsen," says AIDS specialist Dr. Tom Reynolds.

But other experts are not so positive. "We're no closer to a cure to AIDS than we were 15 years ago," says AIDS hospice director Terri Ford. "That's a scary thought." (71K AIFF or WAV sound)

And some people blame the federal government for not supporting more research. AIDS activist J.T. Anderson declares, "I'm angry. I'm frustrated, disappointed. I'm sad. I live with all those everyday."

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Anderson takes three different drugs each day to prolong his life. "That's supposed to be the new cocktail to stop it -- I hope," he says.

Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation focuses on medical progress. "We have treatments that are keeping people alive for years and are improving the quality of their lives," says Weinstein. (56K AIFF or WAV sound)

But 15 years after AIDS was first identified, all that can be done for many patients is to make their final days a little more comfortable.


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