Oral history interviews were conducted by Michael Brown, Lawrence Knopp, and David Reyes—volunteers with the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project—and by former AIDS Prevention Project Program Manager Tim Burak.
Tim BurakTim Burak served Public Health – Seattle & King County for 35 years, beginning in 1974 as Dental Program Coordinator. In 1985, Tim was hired as Program Manager for the AIDS Prevention Project, and then from 1995 through 2006, he worked as Community Health Center Program Manager. In 2006 Tim became Program Manager for HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Grants and retired in 2010.
Ann DownerAnn Downer has worked as a public health professional in domestic and international settings for more than 35 years. She began her public health career as an educator with Planned Parenthood International and later worked as a trainer, curriculum specialist, and manager in public and private schools, clinics and hospitals, non-profits/NGOs, health departments, and with Ministries of Health and Education around the world. Dr. Downer was a member of the original team that founded the Seattle-based Committee for Children in 1981. Committee for Children is a non-profit organization based in Seattle that has taught millions of children the skills needed for managing their emotions, problem solving, and seeking help if they are being hurt. Teachers in schools all over the world now use the social and emotional learning materials of Committee for Children. Dr. Downer joined the Seattle-King County Dept. of Public Health (SKCDPH) in early 1986 as the first Health Educator on the CDC-funded demonstration project called The AIDS Project. Dr. Bud Nicola led the well-regarded SKCDPH at that time, and Ann reported to Dr. Bob Wood, a pioneering HIV/AIDS specialist. Ann and her team supported development of behavioral research protocols and produced some of the first AIDS prevention campaigns in the state of Washington. Many of those mass media campaigns, curriculum products, and behavioral interventions are still in use today. Dr. Downer left the health department in 1989 for an appointment on the faculty of the University of Washington (UW), Department of Health Services. She transferred into the newly formed Department of Global Health when it was established in 2007. During her many years at UW, Dr. Downer has taught courses on mass media in health, educational theory, health promotion planning, and management and leadership. She founded two centers at UW during this time, including the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) that now employees more than 600 people worldwide and operates 12 offices outside the US. I-TECH, the second largest program in the history of UW’s external funding, provides technical assistance to strengthen national healthcare systems and increase human capacity for health throughout the developing world. Much of its work is focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. Dr. Downer holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Frank ChaffeeFrank Chaffee joined the AIDS Prevention Project in 1986 and currently serves as Manager of Public Health – Seattle & King County’s HIV/STD Program. He plans to retire soon, after 30 years with King County.
Gary GoldbaumTrained as a physician, Gary Goldbaum joined the AIDS Prevention Project in 1989 as Assistant Medical Director after earning his Master of Public Health from the University of Washington. In 2007, Gary moved to his current position as Director of the Snohomish Health District in Snohomish County, Washington. Gary also served as Associate Professor with the University of Washington from 1996 through 2013.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MDDr. Handsfield is Professor Emeritus of Medicine, University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD. From 1978 through 2005, he directed the Public Health – Seattle & King County STD Control Program, and for the first three years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was the main public face of AIDS prevention and public education in Seattle and King County. He also was among the national experts first consulted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to formulate HIV prevention strategies and the national response to AIDS. During four decades of research, clinical services, and education on STDs, Dr. Handsfield has authored or co-authored over 200 research papers, monographs, reviews, chapters, and a book, Color Atlas and Synopsis of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, currently in its third edition. He continues to consult frequently for CDC on STD prevention and treatment and twice served CDC as a visiting scientist. In 2010 Dr. Handsfield received the American STD Association’s Distinguished Career Award (formerly known as the Thomas Parran Award), the nation’s highest accolade for lifelong contributions to STD research and prevention. He remains active as an Associate Editor of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the main journal for STD research, and as an attending physician at Harborview Medical Center.
Karen HartfieldKaren Hartfield joined the AIDS Prevention Project as HIV Prevention Planner in 1988 and worked in that capacity for 15 years. Prior to joining Public Health, she worked for the Seattle Urban League as a sex educator for parents and their children. Karen was also a founding board member of the People of Color Against AIDS Network. Her current role with Public Health – Seattle & King County is as Health Services Administrator for the Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunizations Section. Karen has been a lecturer with the University of Washington School of Public Health since 2001. Karen obtained her Masters in Public Health, Maternal and Child Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Harvard University.
Sharon HopkinsSharon Hopkins was Senior Epidemiologist for the AIDS Prevention Project from 1986 to 2003. After 17 years with the APP, she returned to her original professional field of veterinary work and served the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health as Public Health Veterinarian from 2003 to 2014. Sharon is now retired.
Patricia McInturffPatricia McInturff received her MPA in 1977 and was hired by the Seattle King County Department of Public Health in the same year. She began her career as a public health administrator in charge of grants and contracts and risk management. In 1982 she moved into the program side of the organization and became the Section Administrator for TB, Epidemiology, Sexually Transmitted Disease, and AIDS. In 1986 she was promoted to Director of the Regional Division which included the AIDS Services and Prevention Program, Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Program, Tuberculosis Control Program, Epidemiology Program, Public Health Laboratory, Vital Statistics Program, and Jail Health Services. She was a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University Washington Department of Health Services, School of Pubic Health and Community Medicine from 1994 to 2000. Patricia co-chaired the Ryan White Title I Council and was a member of the National Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS for the Centers for Disease Control. She was the Principal Investigator for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Health Resources and Services Administration grants for AIDS Services. In her volunteer life she was a founding member of the Board of AIDS Housing of Washington, which built Bailey Boushay House, and a Trustee of Harborview Medical Center. Her awards related to her work in HIV/IAIDS included the Governor’s AIDS Service Award for Public Service (1992) and Public Employee of the Year Municipal League of King County—Civic Awards Recipient (1994). After leaving the Health Department she was Visiting Scholar at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and finished her career as Director of the City Seattle Human Services Department. In addition to funding and operating program and services to meet the basic need of the most vulnerable in our community, the Department directed the City’s investment in public health and provided public health policy direction to the Mayor and City Council.
Robert WoodDr. Bob Wood, a native of central New York State, is an academic general internist educated at Hamilton College, the University of Rochester School of Medicine (’70), Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the University of Washington, after which he joined the University of Washington faculty as an assistant professor of medicine. Initial research involved using computers in medicine, and to investigate cost-effective standards of care for common clinical problems as used by mid-level medical practitioners. In 1986 he became an associate professor based on his health services research. He is now a UW Clinical Professor of Medicine. A gay physician leader of a local group of about 100 LGBT physicians in the late 70s and early 80s, Bob became involved in AIDS medical care in 1982, with an early case of extensive lymphadenopathy and then taking on the care for one of the region’s first AIDS cases. In 1983 he joined the first board of the NW AIDS Foundation, and became its second board president. In May 1985 Bob tested HIV seropositive. In 1986 he was appointed Director of the HIV/AIDS Control Program for Public Health – Seattle & King County. Bob was appointed to the Governor’s Council on HIV/AIDS in 1987 and was its chair for 4 years in the early 90s. He remained a member until retirement in 2010. From 1994-1999 Dr. Wood was a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS & STD Prevention, and he twice represented US and Seattle model AIDS prevention efforts to the World Health Organization. Before AIDS work Bob was the Principal Investigator (PI) for a 6-year grant from the US Army, and an NIMH grant studying depression among emergency room patients in Seattle. His AIDS work included being PI for several CDC AIDS Community Demonstration Projects (“Be-A-Star” Study targeting men who have sex with men, and harder to reach targets, 1986-1994), NIDA’s National AIDS Demonstration Research targeting injection drug users (1987–1991), and for the Viral Hepatitis Integration Project (2000-2004). In 2006, he became Deputy Director for the Sociobehavioral Prevention Research Core (SPRC) of the UW’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). He has authored or co-authored nearly 100 papers and chapters on such topics as management of upper respiratory infections, cough, and back pain, on HIV/AIDS clinical care, epidemiology, and prevention, and on end of life options. He has also helped mentor 18 medical and masters in public health students. Since retirement from his Public Health post in early 2010, Dr. Bob remains a very part-time on the faculty of the CFAR’s SPRC, provides HIV/AIDS lectures both at the UW and Seattle University, and has been volunteering as the lead medical advisor for End of Life, Washington (formerly Compassion & Choices of Washington) a non-profit community organization which provides education about end of life planning to the elderly and personal assistance to terminally ill persons who seek the option of using the state’s “death with dignity” law, enabling qualifying persons to obtain physician prescriptions for life-ending medication. Bob is now involved in educating physicians and other providers nationwide about this new option available to the terminally ill.
Tim Burak interviews Robert WoodIn this follow-up interview, Dr. Bob Wood and Tim Burak discuss the work of colleagues Ann Collier, King Holmes, Pam Ryan, Wayne McCormick, Mark Dion, Andy Krusich, Jane Crigler, and Carol Wood, among others. They discuss how Public Health supported local doctors who were treating AIDS patients through training and sharing of best practices, ensuring safety and quality care; the meaning of “the community”; the AIDS Planning Council; the impact of effective AIDS treatments that became available beginning in 1994; and the impact of the AIDS epidemic on LGBT rights in the United States. [Airplane noise in audio.]
Additional oral histories
Carol DunphyCarol Dunphy was the first nurse practitioner for the AIDS Prevention Project, where she served in that capacity for 20 years. Prior to joining the APP, Carol worked as a nurse practitioner in various contexts, including in the King County Jail in downtown Seattle. Oral history interview transcription (PDF)
Anne BremnerAnne Bremner worked the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office from 1983 through 1988, including two years in the Special Assault Unit, which was one of the first such units in the nation. Anne served as prosecutor for the initial case against Steven Farmer (see section in The AIDS Omnibus Act: New Mandates). Oral history interview transcription (PDF)
Michael BrownMichael Brown is Professor of Geography at the University of Washington. His research is on urban politics, sexuality, and public health. His early research was on the local responses to AIDS in Vancouver, Canada.
Lawrence KnoppLawrence Knopp is Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator for the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (University of Washington Tacoma), Adjunct Professor of Geography; Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies (University of Washington Seattle), and Affiliate Professor, Comparative History of Ideas (University of Washington Seattle).
David Reyes is Assistant Professor, Nursing & Healthcare Leadership Program at the University of Washington Tacoma.
Images from the King County Archives
AIDS Prevention Project Staff
AIDS: no longer a death sentence
Robert Wood on the development and impact of effective treatment. (Oral history interview, June 2016.)
New medications: a sea changeIn 1994, researchers reported that the medication AZT was found to decrease the chance that babies of HIV-infected women would be born HIV-infected. Testing and treatment for pregnant women were quickly adopted. The new medications were also found to be effective in slowing or preventing AIDS-related illness in HIV-positive individuals. At first, treatment was provided to those who were close to becoming ill with AIDS. Then, from 2009, increasingly earlier treatment proved to be more effective in preventing illness, and, more recently, antiretroviral medications have been found to be effective in preventing new HIV infections. The availability of effective treatment changed people’s views on testing, partner notification, and HIV case reporting, as early knowledge of one’s HIV-status could prove life-saving. No longer a death sentence, HIV came to be regarded with less stigma and fear. A negative impact of this change was that some people began to abandon safer-sex practices, leading to an increased incidence of other STD’s, in response to which Public Health renewed its education and prevention efforts.
The epidemic peaks1996 was the first year the CDC reported a national decline in AIDS deaths, attributed both to new medications and a slowing of the epidemic and new cases of HIV. In the third quarter of 1996, Dr. Robert Wood, looking back at the first ten years of AIDS control, announced in the state’s HIV/AIDS Quarterly Epidemiology Report “the first (and very welcome) news that the local AIDS epidemic has reached a peak.”
1995577 new cases
2,852 deaths to date
1996493 new cases
3,164 deaths to date
1997319 new cases
3,302 deaths to date
“I think it has been beneficial for society to have had to struggle with a very serious disease for which there is yet no cure or preventative vaccine. [Instead of relying on medicines], HIV control has had to rely on…behavior change, targeting socially disparate and disadvantaged communities. “More frighteningly than many diseases, HIV has also highlighted for us the tight interconnections between diseases and social factors like poverty, homelessness, stigmatization, discrimination, and lack of fully effective sex and drug education.”
– Dr. Robert Wood, 1996.
HIV today in Seattle and King CountyBy 2015, HIV infection rates had dropped by one-third nationwide. Most of that decline occurred among heterosexuals and injection drug users. On the national level, the infection rate among men who had sex with men remained the same. But, in contrast to other areas of the country, Seattle-King County showed a decline in HIV among gay men.
In a July 2014 radio interview, Dr. Matthew Golden, director of the Public Health Department’s combined HIV/STD program, credited several historical factors contributing to the department’s comparative success in combatting AIDS:
Better funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care in Washington State and King County than nationally
A demographic that did not disproportionately include injection drug users
Excellent collaboration with engaged community groups to bring AIDS prevention messages to groups at risk, particularly gay men
An efficient public health system
AIDS is not historyPublic Health continues to fight HIV/AIDS today. Between 1996 and March 31, 2016, over 2,000 people in King County died of AIDS. And, in the past five years, over 1,200 people have been newly diagnosed as HIV-positive. (Source: Public Health Seattle/King County HIV/AIDS Quarterly Surveillance Report, through March 31, 2016).
Looking backThe AIDS epidemic has had a lasting impact on the nation, on the region, and on individuals. In the following clips from the oral histories, interviewees reflect on the epidemic and the AIDS Prevention Project.
Heady times and sad timesPatricia McInturff: creating something from scratch.
LGBT rightsRobert Wood and Tim Burak on how AIDS (and the response to AIDS) led to greater acceptance of LGBT individuals.
Behavior change and outreachKaren Hartfield: bringing the concept of behavior change into the public health, and community-oriented outreach.
Changes in medical practiceGary Goldbaum: how AIDS activism led to changes in public health and medicine, such as accelerated drug testing and trials.
Personal impactSharon Hopkins: the personal impact of working for the AIDS Prevention Project.
Grassroots fundraisingRobert Wood: AIDS Walks as a model for grassroots fundraising campaigns for other diseases and issues.
Stigma and quality careGary Goldbaum: how AIDS made us recognize the potential impact of stigma around a disease, and the need for sustained resources to ensure that those in need receive quality care.
The ground shiftedAnn Downer: everything changed with AIDS.
Expanding Education: Condoms in SchoolsThe AIDS Omnibus Act required AIDS education in public schools for grades 5 through 12. The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, which had supported outreach programs to schools since the mid-1980s, now undertook new initiatives.
Controlling HIV while protecting civil rightsDiscrimination due to the stigma of being HIV-positive was so potentially damaging that lawmakers saw the need to change long-standing public health policies. With other diseases, there had been less concern for protecting patient privacy. Practices such as reporting names to local and state health offices, forced testing, and notifying partners of an infected individual were standard. From the beginning of its response to AIDS, the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health had held firm that protecting patients’ privacy was critical to an effective program. They argued that if people trusted the Department and its community partners, they would be more likely to get tested and engage in prevention efforts. The AIDS Omnibus Act created standard, statewide rules in an effort to balance civil rights and patient privacy with public health and safety. In practice, implementation could still prove challenging.
New protections under the ActGary Goldbaum on how AIDS and the AIDS Omnibus Act changed public health practices. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Balancing interests: mandatory testingFrank Chaffee served as the Public Health Official who screened cases where mandatory testing or partner notification might be required. (Oral history interview, October 2015.)
The Steven Farmer CaseIn 1987, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Seattle resident Steven Farmer with felony exploitation of a minor for taking inappropriate photographs of teenage male prostitutes. (The subjects were 16 and 17—the age of sexual consent in Washington State. The state’s exploitation law, however, protects individuals under 18.) The photos had been seized in what was found to be an illegal search, causing the charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor in a plea bargain.
A prosecutor’s perspective
“There was a real mix of reactions back at that time, obviously illustrated by the fact that the judge had to be escorted out of the courthouse.….there was a real public health concern and there was a real concern for these kids. They’re vulnerable, they live on the street, they don’t have any support system. You know, when we look at human trafficking issues today – when I look back at that time, at those boys, they didn’t really have anything or anybody. So part of the concern was making sure they’re protected in all respects, not just from HIV but from sexual assault or any kind of exploitation. We didn’t have the kind of mindset back then…the sensitivity that we have today. I think our office had that, but I don’t know if it was as widespread as it is today, where we embrace our vulnerable and try to make sure that they’re protected. ….it was an important moment in history and it was one where you had concerns about public safety…where a judge found there should be a test compelled. Of course our system works when it goes all the way to the Supreme Court and they can say yea or nay, and they said that was exceeding authority. The thing is, our laws are always changed through the courts…. Our courts really have to handle some of these social, impactful issues. I think we had the first Special Assault Unit in the country in Seattle, and we had a long-term prosecutor that was extremely fair and principled, so if a case is to be tested anywhere on that issue, I think King County would be one of the best places, if not the best…to deal with the issue.” Anne Bremner, Prosecutor in the Special Assault Unit of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office 1983-1988. Bremner prosecuted the initial case against Farmer. (Anne Bremner. Oral history interview, October 2015.)
A softer approachSome felt that public health agencies should take a more aggressive approach to testing, tracing contacts, notifying partners, and reporting HIV infections. The Seattle King County Department of Public Health argued that a softer touch worked better to keep people engaged and to fight HIV’s spread.
Debate over closing bath housesGary Goldbaum explains why Public Health chose not to pursue shutting down bath houses. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Debate over mandatory testingHunter Handsfield argues that a heavy-handed approach to HIV testing would have worked against the goal of containing the epidemic. (Oral history, September 2015.)
AIDS activism’s impact on the “Ivory Tower”Frank Chaffee describes how AIDS activism challenged the medical profession to treat people more humanely. (Oral history interview, January 2016.)
Partner notification: the real true story
“Behaviors endangering”Frank Chaffee describes enforcing the AIDS Omnibus Act in cases where a person is knowingly putting others at risk of contracting HIV. (Oral history interview, January 2016.)
Federal funding and the HIV/AIDS Planning CouncilThe State of Washington provided funding for programs required by the AIDS Omnibus ACT. In 1990, the federal Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act also allocated money to be used for local AIDS programs. The Ryan White Act required establishment of local councils to coordinate distribution of funds. The first HIV/AIDS Planning Council in King and Snohomish counties was appointed by King County Executive Tim Hill in August 1992 with a membership composed of both Public Health Department representatives and community partners. This was the first time local AIDS funding decisions were consolidated under one regional entity. The Planning Council had to overcome initial opposition from gay and AIDS activists who feared conflicts of interest among Council members, and who questioned the early models used to prioritize and allocate funds. The Council still works today to distribute AIDS funding equitably to organizations in King, Snohomish, and Island counties. By law, one third of the Council members must be agency-unaffiliated people living with HIV who are consumers of care services. The Council is now known as the Seattle Transitional Grant Area HIV Council. Read more about its work here (external link ).
Leadership and recognitionPatricia McInturff led the Department’s response to AIDS as Section Administrator and then Regional Division Director for the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health from 1982 to 1994. She influenced state and national health policy, such as through her service as co-chair of the Ryan White Title I Council and as a member of the National Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS for the CDC. In 1992, McInturff was awarded the first Washington State Governor’s AIDS Service Award for Public Service for her work as Regional Division Director. In 1994, she was awarded the Municipal League of King County’s Public Employee of the Year.
A second wave of infectionsTen years into the AIDS epidemic, there was still no cure for AIDS. But new drugs showed promise against AIDS-related diseases. Some, thinking that “AIDS could be treated,” began to abandon safer-sex practices. The HIV infection rate began to climb. The Public Health Department responded with new outreach efforts, stressing the need to continue practicing safer sex and encouraging condom use. More edgy and explicit materials were designed to catch people’s attention and were narrowly distributed to predominantly gay venues.
1990328 new cases
1991353 new cases
1992371 new cases
Dr. Bob on the resurgence of HIV infections
How do you help people change?From the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, Public Health saw that condom use was critical to preventing the disease’s spread. The challenge was to help people learn to accept safer sex practices as the norm.
King Condom: resistance to condomsFrank Chaffee describes the reaction he received distributing condoms before condom use was widely accepted. (Oral history interview, January 2016.)
What was learned about changing behaviorGary Goldbaum discusses how APP research has informed Public Health efforts at changing people’s behavior. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Believing you can changeKaren Hartfield explains the current understanding of how people’s beliefs affect their ability to change. (Oral history interview, July 2015.)
The Condom CampaignIn 1994 and 1995, Public Health promoted condom use to the general public through a series of signs appearing on Metro buses.
Public standards and the Smut CommitteeStandards around what content was considered appropriate for the public (what was “decent”) changed over time. In the 1980s, grant-funded outreach and educational materials had to be vetted by the CDC for approval or censorship. Later, the APP was allowed to form its own review committee, informally referred to as the Smut Committee. Members included health educators, medical professionals, and the media. The APP gradually became freer to create attention-getting content that resonated with at-risk groups. Public Health sought to strike a balance: creating materials that were engaging and accurate, while not crossing over into what might be seen as indecency. The most explicit materials were not designed for the general public and were placed in targeted venues such as gay bars or bath houses.
The Power of a WordAn award-winning poster designed by the ad firm Cole & Weber (at no charge to Public Health) was intended for a gay male audience, but it drew so much attention that Playboy Magazine asked permission to feature it in its Forum section. Public Health expressed concern that publication outside the intended arena (Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade) might jeopardize the program and would serve no legitimate public health purpose. Playboy editors chose to feature the poster regardless, with a jab at local politics.
Stella SeattleOne prominent campaign from this period was Stella Seattle, a serial comic about a health educator and his friends, illustrated by Dominic Cappello using the pen name Paul Hornby. The single-panel comics were printed on postcards placed in gay bars and bathhouses and were published in gay newspapers. Stella Seattle also had a 1995 calendar, mugs, T-shirts, magnets, posters, and, at the end of its run, a comic book with all of the episodes.
19932,012 deaths to date
19942,454 deaths to date
OutLOUDPublic Health collaborated with with the Asian Pacific AIDS Council, Entre Hermanos, the Northwest AIDS Foundation, POCAAN, and YouthCare for the OutLOUD campaign (1994-1996). Outreach materials in the form of tabloids, ‘zines, and trading cards told true stories to provide real-life role models for safer-sex practices.
Successful needle exchange programs abroad and at homeNeedle exchanges originated in Europe, Canada, and Australia around 1984 as a means to minimize the risk of HIV and Hepatitis B transmission among people unable or unwilling to cease injection drug use. New sterile syringes were exchanged for old contaminated ones. Needle sharing and reuse were more likely in states like Washington, where state law prevented the purchase of syringes without a prescription. In the United States, the first publicly funded needle exchange was established in Tacoma in 1988.
Public, professional, and political controversyPatricia McInturff discusses how she encountered opposition from a colleague and the public, as well as support for needle exchanges from King County Executive Tim Hill and County Councilmember Greg Nickels. (Oral history interview, September 2015.)
Harm reductionThe idea of distributing free syringes was seen by some as encouraging drug use. But the harm reduction approach to public health argued that even when a person’s behavior (in this case, drug use) doesn’t change, the harmful impact of that behavior could, and should, be minimized. Reducing the harm of contracting HIV and spreading it to others took priority over demanding abstinence.
Even if you can’t cureGary Goldbaum on how AIDS helped the medical community begin to accept the concept of harm reduction. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Seattle’s first needle exchangeSeattle’s own needle exchange began in March 1989, operated by the local branch of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).
1989252 new cases
What is ACT UP?A grassroots activist group, ACT UP formed in Manhattan in 1987 to draw attention to the AIDS epidemic and to help improve the lives of people with AIDS. From its beginnings, ACT UP used politically savvy demonstrations and civil disobedience to critique the roles of homophobia, racism, sexism, and capitalism in what they saw as an indifferent and flawed national response to the AIDS epidemic.
The People of Color Against AIDS NetworkThe People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN), a Seattle-based, multi-racial community coalition, provided HIV/AIDS education and training aimed at Latino, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American communities. King County’s administrative director for AIDS programs, Patricia McInturff (formerly Patricia Canova), saw that the AIDS epidemic would not spare communities of color. She supported POCAAN’s principles and committed the Public Health Department to working closely and often with the group. In one early collaborative project, POCAAN, using seed money from the AIDS Prevention Project, created the 1988 “Famous Last Words” educational campaign to increase awareness of AIDS among people of color.
At risk and hard to reachIn 1989 the federal Centers for Disease Control renewed the APP’s original Community Demonstration Project Grant. The grant expanded the program to target hard-to-reach populations, including street youth and sex industry workers. The candid personal stories used by outreach programs such as Street Kids AIDS Training and Education (SKATE) and Girlfriends Talking reflected the reality of people’s lives.
Street Kids AIDS Training & EducationWith funding from Public Health, POCAAN produced a series of posters that shared stories from homeless youth learning to adopt condom use and other STD prevention strategies.
People in dangerKaren Hartfield outlines the groups who were at the highest risk of contracting AIDS and who were the focus of the APP’s outreach and education programs.
1987290 new cases of AIDS
Barriers to AIDS Education
Outreach to Latinos and Native Americans
1988219 new cases
Be a Star
With grant funding, the AIDS Prevention Project (APP) undertook research studies.One of the first (1986) and largest studies was called “Be a Star.” It was a longitudinal study—a study in which data is collected about the same group of individuals over a span of time. The APP developed a way that subjects, gay and bi-sexual men, could participate anonymously. Anonymity was important for those who were concerned that government agencies might not keep their information confidential and who did not want friends or employers to find out that they identified as gay or that they might be HIV-positive.
Personal and profoundFrank Chaffee describes what it was like counseling patients and interviewing study participants. (Oral history interview, January 2016.)
Wide-Ranging ResearchBeyond the Be a Star study, the APP conducted research on an array of topics, many in partnership with the University of Washington, the CDC, and Washington State. By 1988, APP research included blind testing of blood samples at blood banks and hospitals to measure the prevalence of AIDS in the general population; surveys of knowledge and attitudes among students in response to AIDS curricula; research on the cost of AIDS care; validation of the completeness of AIDS case reporting; and studies on the effectiveness of counseling intravenous drug users in prevention methods; among other subjects.
1986134 new cases of AIDS
Ask Dr. BobOne form of targeted education was “Ask Dr. Bob,” an advice column by APP Medical Director Dr. Robert Wood, which appeared in the Seattle Gay News. In the column, Wood responded to readers’ questions about safe sex practices and other AIDS-related issues.
Public understandingAnn Downer talks about the general public’s knowledge about AIDS around 1986. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Fear and stigma in the workplaceAIDS education also happened face-to-face. APP educators visited groups who wanted to learn more about AIDS, including work-sites where employees feared contracting AIDS from their co-workers.
Work site visitsKaren Hartfield, describes visiting work sites, including one where an employee had been diagnosed with AIDS. (Oral history interview, July 2015.)
Training for health care providersPublic Health identified and reached out to private doctors who were willing to accept AIDS patients and provided training on safety precautions and how best to treat unfamiliar AIDS-related illnesses. Public Health also coordinated the sharing of clinical information so that doctors in private practice and those at Harborview (the local public hospital specializing in AIDS treatment), could learn from one another’s observations.
HousingThe Northwest AIDS Foundation had approached King County in 1985 to help with housing for people with AIDS. In 1986, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded King County a planning study grant to look at housing disadvantaged demographic groups, including people with AIDS. Public Health hired local AIDS activist Betsy Lieberman, whose research demonstrated the need to fund specialized residential care facilities for AIDS victims. With the opening of Bailey-Boushay House in 1992, King County became a model in compassionate end-of-life housing and care for AIDS patients.
Scientific progress: HIV testingIn 1984, scientists discovered the HIV virus, the cause of AIDS, and developed an experimental antibody test. The test was offered by the AIDS Assessment Clinic and the Seattle Gay Clinic. The Puget Sound Blood Center, in conjunction with the Public Health Department, became a leader in developing blood screening policies.
AIDS in King County
198452 new cases of AIDS
198582 new cases of AIDS