Saturday, September 17, 2011

* Before HIV had been discovered there was fear and loathing ...

Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds to begin this 1984 60 Minutes video story---or if you wish to see the 1972 Kent State piece, begin at the beginning.

(Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds.)

The Miami Herald - Feb 28, 1984

THE REGION: Escapee Gives Up* - Feb 28, 1984

*It is worth noting here that when this woman was arrested after it was revealed that she had AIDS, I arranged for the best Civil Liberties lawyer in Connecticut, John Williams, to be her attorney at no cost to her. It is further worth noting, that I refused to cooperate with 60 Minutes unless they agreed not to use this woman's real name. "Helen" is the pseudonym they agreed on.


This story has not previously been told.

It was 25 years ago, February 1984, that 60 Minutes revealed the story of a New Haven prostitute and heroin addict whose baby was born with AIDS and never left Yale-New Haven Hospital, living his entire, nearly three year, life in quarantine.

At first 60 Minutes refused to do the story after coming to New Haven to discuss it because, they told me, it was not a microcosm of something univeral (the criterion for all their reports) since AIDS was transmitted exclusively by gay males.

Their producer returned to New York after our discussion and the matter was over, I thought.

Two weeks later he called me and said he had been checking around and discovered that in Africa 90% of the AIDS cases were transmitted heterosexually and that he would return to New Haven to film the story.

Recall that in 1984 HIV had not yet been discovered, so there was no test to determine one had AIDS. The only conclusive symptom was the collapse of the immune system in the final stage of the illness. Further, the disease had come to be taboo since it was associated primarily with gay males.

One Yale professor stood up in a public meeting, pointed his finger at me, and told the audience "'Shun this man' for bringing 60 Minutes to town to persecute* this woman."

He was afraid the attention would result in her being quarantined, and by later extension, the quarantine of all who had AIDS, especially gay men.

I disagreed.

In a state which had seen the Planned Parenthood victory, Grisowld v. Connecticut, I argued, there would be no persecution.

Indeed, once heterosexual transmission was known to be a possibility, the "gay disease" superstition would evaporate.

So it has.

Besides, how could I be silent when I knew my silence would send others to a horrible and at that time a certain death?

Officials at Yale-New Haven Hospital and others have criticized me for revealing confidential information.

So be it.

Paul D. Keane
M.Div. '80, M.A., M.Ed.


Miss Isabel Wilder
In 1983, at  a time when no one wanted to be associated in any way with AIDS which had the stigmof being a "gay disease," Miss Isabel Wilder,sister of author Thornton Wilder, quietly (and courageously)  funded the brochure below.

 AIDS, SEX and YOU created by a Yale professor of biology for a start-up New Haven group called AIDS Information Dissemination Service  was distributed to Yale graduate students after I persuaded Yale President A. Bartlett  Giamatti to overrule his timid Health Service which had refused to do so.
Miss Wilder  read the pamphlet from cover to cover (she did not ask to edit it in any way) and  I was surprised that she did not blink an eyelash at the coarse, graphic language. She understood the urgency of  responding with information to a fatal disease with no cure and no biologically identifiable cause (1983: HIV had not been discovered).

I agreed not to reveal Miss Wilder's  crucial financial role in this matter during her lifetime.
She died in 1995 at age 95.