California: AIDS/HIV Ward at San Francisco General Has Come Long Way in 30 Years
June 8, 2011
San Francisco General Hospital's (SFG) Ward 86, the world's first for AIDS inpatients, has weathered 30 years of the epidemic, transforming itself from a hospice for young gay men into a drop-in clinic helping patients take advantage of life-extending therapies.
Although life expectancy for AIDS patients has changed, Ward 86 nurse Diane Jones, one of the ward's original 12, said new patients' reaction to the diagnosis has not. "The first thought is they're going to die, the second is that they can't tell anyone and the third, if they're a woman, is that they can't have children. And none of those is true," said Jones.
Dr. Diane Havlir, chief of SFG's HIV/AIDS department, heralds the advent of antiretrovirals as "one of the greatest achievements in modern medicine." However, she blames fear of testing, and the resulting late diagnoses, for the fact that AIDS' five-year mortality rate of 10 percent has remained unchanged for the last decade.
Longtime Ward 86 patient-turned-advocate Steve Williams saw his T-cell count rebound from 32 to 1,112 due to antiretrovirals. Now, alongside his husband, Ward 86 nurse and social worker Guy Vandenberg, Williams routinely travels to Africa as an AIDS peer- advocate.
Ward 86 now boasts 90 staff members dispensing medical, housing, substance abuse, and mental health services. Its clientele is diverse: 80 percent male, 60 percent men who have sex with men, 50 percent white, 30 percent African-American, and 15 percent Latino. Stigma keeps many Asian/Pacific Islander individuals from testing, said Dr. Royce Lin, who treats most of the ward's API patients.
However, the most significant change may be the jump in average patient age to 47. "Plan for retirement," Dr. C. Bradley Hare, SFG's medical director, now advises his patients.
San Francisco Chronicle
06.05.2011; Heather Knight
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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