Monkeys Rpq and Rcq – named Pasquale and Cinqua by their caretakers – were juvenile Rhesus macaques. They’d been infected with SIV, which causes AIDS in macaques. When I knew Pasquale and Cinqua, they lived alone in 4 sq. ft. stainless steel cages in Yerkes’ Virology Building, in a windowless room filled with other macaques in identical cages. Among all of the monkeys I watched succumb to AIDS, Pasquale and Cinqua both stand out in my memory because of what they went through while I was their caretaker.
Pasquale was an anxious individual, and highly skeptical of humans. He was underweight, and his hair was always rough. But what was most striking about him was the incessant blood and mucosy discharge that ran from his nose – it never stopped, and was accepted by the research and veterinary staffs as an acceptable consequence of his SIV infection.
Cinqua was a handsome fellow, and was calm and cooperative. For several frightening days, he went through an unexplained period of blindness. The vets suggested a brain tumor, and were beginning to consider his euthanasia, when his sight returned.
It was hard to know Pasquale and Cinqua well. They lived in a building with over 150 other monkeys, and it was my duty to care for them all in the course of a day. I assume that these boys have passed away by now. It’s been about six years since I knew them; SIV infected macaques generally succumb to disease very quickly. They were just kids, who never learned what it was to be a monkey, and only what it was to be a biomedical research subject. While these individuals were unique, their stories are not.