"We stand nakedly in front of a very serious pandemic, as mortal as any pandemic there ever has been," said Halfdan Mahler, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). "I don't know of any greater killer than AIDS, not to speak of its psychological, social and economic maiming. Everything is getting worse and worse with AIDS and all of us have been underestimating it, and I in particular. We're running scared. I cannot imagine a worse health problem in this century." When asked to compare AIDS to other epidemics, such as smallpox, that have infected and killed over the course of history, Mahler said he "could not think of anything else that matched the estimates that one hundred million people will be infected with AIDS within ten years of its discovery."

In the years immediately before the world learned of the baffling and deadly new disease that would come to be called AIDS, there were forewarnings that something truly ominous was stirring.

This article originally appeared in a 1988 issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Volume 4, Issue 1): http://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol4/iss1.



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