Policies dominated by overreaction threaten to build walls around sick people and victimize them, and even the most robust democracy may not be strong enough to withstand such divisive forces. But knowledge brings with it the power to escape from the crippling stance of past generations, who were condemned to cower in ignorance be- fore the Black Plague or the invisible menace of yellow fever. The challenge is not merely to learn from history, but especially to cull the pertinent messages from those that are archaic or irrelevant.

Those historic lessons include sobering glimpses of the social price of fear, and they must be collated with the facts of the new [AIDS] pandemic, so that understanding based on biomedical achievement can minimize the social cost. There could be no more profligate error than to have invested so deeply in the scientific insights of recent years and then to fail...

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