Kaposi's Sarcoma Infected San Francisco Before AIDS

SAN FRANCISCO-Researchers from the University of California have discovered Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) had potentially infected 25% of the gay male population in San Francisco in 1978-several years before the AIDS epidemic began.

It was previously thought the rare form of skin cancer was somehow a side effect of the AIDS virus, or possibly AIDS treatment. However, after examining hundreds of blood samples from 1978, researchers found evidence of KS. One in four samples tested positive for the strain of herpes virus.

The research team concluded that KS probably became prevalent within the gay community during the AIDS epidemic because immune systems were weakened and the virus was given the perfect opportunity to end its dormant stay. KS causes purple lesions that have become a characteristic sign of AIDS infection. Typically a rare disease found only in men of Mediterranean or Central African ancestry, KS can cause lymphatic system disorders, including skin cancer.

While AIDS rates steadily dropped during the 1990s in San Francisco, KS rates remained relatively even, also leading researcher to believe the virus is not transmitted via anal intercourse. Instead, they suggest KS may be transmitted through oral intercourse. Reportedly gay men in the area have reduced having unprotected anal sex but have increased in oral sex. This practice may reduce HIV rates, but increase KS rates.

Information from www.sfgate.com