Etymology: Full Blown AIDS

I have long been curious about the etymology of the term “full blown.” I don’t recall hearing it before it became associated with “full blown AIDS.” It seems to evoke imagery of oral sex. Seems like a prankish sort of medical term to me. It doesn’t even seem grammatically correct.
Did this term have any uses before its association with AIDS? I can’t imagine someone describing “full blown tuberculosis” or whatever.

I believe I have heard the term “full blown” used before in regards to infections…though often in terms of general course of a disease outbreak rather than symptoms in one individual. for instance I have heard the usage…“New York is experiencing a full-blown epidemic of flu infections.” Any associations with oral sex I can not comment on.

Roget’s relates it to full-grown and i am quite sure it predates Aids. I think it is just a graphic expression and not related to what you have in mind.

I’ve generally heard it used in the context of someone who is being hard hit by various symptoms of the intermediate to more advanced stages of AIDs or whose viral counts have gone through the roof, which is generally synonomous with the latter situation.

This stems from the unusual gestation period of the HIV virus.

What do people say about Magic Johnson? Most people say he has AIDS. They’re wrong. He is HIV positive.

The distinction has to be made because most people just don’t get it.

According to Merriam Webster, the first reference of “full-blown” was in 1635, and (originally) meant “fully bloomed.”

So, the term has been around a loooooooong time.

Well, that wasn’t really the question. I mean, how did it come to be associated with AIDS? Someone commented that they had heard it used with epidemics, but I’ve never heard it used with an individual with a disease. It seems odd to describe someone as having full blown or (for that matter, fully bloomed) influenza, tuberculosis, athlete’s foot, etc. “Fully Blown” has formed some sort of linguistic linkage to AIDS that has come into widespread use. How? Why? Am I the only person that thinks this expression is really strange?

Because I believe in the beginning stages of AIDS they used to call it AIDS Related Complex. If I remember correctly. I cannot remember the pathology behind these distinctions. Someone correct me if I am wrong. I suppose in the beginning you become more susceptable to certain things and as the immune system breaks down the variety and severity of infections increase.


But you’re correct. There once was another acronym ARC, which (I think) meant they were showing enough symptoms to show that their bodies were being affected, but not enough to show that the immune system was being ravaged.

I think CDC might have changed their definition of what constitutes AIDS, and, really, “full-blown AIDS” is redundant.

My guess (and this is just a WAG), back when they called these early symptoms ARC (a term which has since been abandoned), it made a more obvious verbal distinction between “AIDS-related complex” and “AIDS.”

Mjollnir is very close - the only change I’d make is that ARC was symptomatic. In medical terminology now, there are three stages to HIV infection - asymptomatic HIV+, symptomatic HIV+, and AIDS. In the earlier days of the epidemic, what is now called symptomatic HIV+ was called ARC. ARC reflected some of the confusion the medical types had in the early days - they couldn’t figure whether the lesser symptoms of ARC was an early stage of AIDS or a related but different disease (i.e., that people with ARC had a different strain of HIV and might never develop AIDS).

So, “full blown AIDS” was an easy way to distinguish between AIDS and ARC without having to explain. Now that ARC is recognized as simply an earlier stage of HIV infection, the term has disappeared, but “full blown” survives as a vestigal term.