A new industry grew out of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s: the secondary trade in life insurance policies. Victims of HIV and AIDS faced certain death-half within the first year after diagnosis, and eighty-five percent within three years. Meanwhile, AIDS rendered its victims both physically debilitated and socially untouchable, often cutting them off from employment and employer provided health insurance. Treatment, though largely ineffective, cost the average patient up to $8o,ooo. Those infected-at first, predominantly gay men-were often abandoned by their families, and government programs provided little support.

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