Back in 1981, during a summer break in college, I got a job working as a medical transcriptionist for a couple of research virologists in a local hospital. Their past secretary had been a disaster but, because of union rules, they couldn’t fire her. Fortunately, for them, she got pregnant and went on maternity leave. I came on board, a 20 year old college student, and finalized five articles for them, one of which dealt with a bizarre cancer that was showing up amongst gay men in New York: Kaposi’s Sarcoma. I typed lots of stuff about that, understanding little of what I typed, but keeping hold of that name in my brain. A few years later, of course, the puzzle pieces that were bedeviling my employers came together — KS was one of the most visible signs of someone with advanced AIDS.
I hadn’t thought about Kaposi’s Sarcoma in a long time and, it turns out, most HIV/AIDS patients and their doctors hadn’t either. The disease had gone underground, beaten back by the new AIDS treatments. What’s disturbing now is that KS is making a comeback amongst AIDS patients. All of us, high risk and low, have gotten complacent about medicine’s ability to beat back even the most virulent diseases. It’s not 1348 anymore. And then you read a story such as this one and realize that, even if we close the front door, Mother Nature often finds another way in.