One patient wrote to me recently describing her immense relief: she had been afraid she would die without ever finding out what was wrong with her.
I imagine many thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands of others—who fell ill in the epidemic years of the 1980s, felt the same. I know I did. The question was never whether we were ill with one of the worst diseases imaginable—it was whether we could ever learn the answer to the great mystery, the actual cause, the pathogen, before we dropped dead of it. And now it has been clarified: twenty-five years of retroviral infection, untreated, ignored, laughed at, allowed to wreak havoc, allowed to spread until penetration in the general population may have reached four percent—give or take.