Pioneers in AIDS care : reflections on the epidemic's early years

Bayer, Ronald; Oppenheimer, Gerald M.

In 1995, Constance Wofsy, who had been a leader in San Francisco's response to AIDS in the 1980s, recalled the way she and other physicians had been drawn to the nascent epidemic. “How gripped we were,” she said, “How separate we were from everyone who wasn't part of the thing. There were the involved and uninvolved, and they just didn't understand one another.” In July, a tape recording of these recollections, made a year before Wofsy's death, was heard by 17 doctors who had come together in New York to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases. The participants were among 76 first-generation AIDS doctors whom we had interviewed in the 1990s for an oral history documenting the U.S. epidemic.1 At the day-long July meeting, they looked back on their work, shared memories of the darkest years, recalled the exhilaration of the first prospects for effective AIDS treatment, and ruminated about who would step in to care for future patients.

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New England Journal of Medicine

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Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health
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February 22, 2013