California: Coping Replaces Despair in San Francisco Gay Mecca as AIDS Turns 25
August 7, 2006
According to Stop AIDS Project, San Francisco has recorded nearly 18,000 HIV-related deaths since the first diagnoses 25 years ago.
In the early days of the epidemic, the city was ground zero for HIV/AIDS. Dr. Eric Goosby, director of Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, recalled being a medical intern at San Francisco General Hospital where many young men dying of pneumonia-like symptoms were admitted. "We didn't know what we were dealing with," said Goosby. "We were flying pretty blind. The hospitals were overwhelmed with young men." Nearly 80 percent of SFGH's patients were infected with HIV, he said, and some frightened staffers asked to be transferred to other facilities.
By 1983, almost half the residents of the city's largely gay Castro District were HIV-positive, according to medical records. The next year, Stop AIDS Project was formed by volunteers, said spokesperson Jason Riggs. Bathhouses that were once havens for gay sex were closed, and safe sex messages popped up everywhere.
The advent of protease inhibitors in 1994 helped slow the disease's hold on the city's gay population. "Protease inhibitors were like a small bomb you could drop on the virus and effectively kill it," said Goosby. Now, many gay men in the city are too young to remember the "bad good old days," said Richard Broussard, a 44-year-old San Francisco man diagnosed with HIV two decades ago. "It seems like such a different game. Back then, it was more about death," he said. "Now, it is more about coping."
Agence France Presse
08.07.2006; Glenn Chapman
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.