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
Controversy around testingWhen the HIV test became available, medical treatment was limited. People debated testing’s potential benefits and risks.
Fear of being testedAnn Downer, AIDS Prevention Project Health Educator. (Oral history interview, 2015.)
Frustrations in the early yearsHunter Handsfield, Seattle-King County STD Program Director (1978-2005), on Public Health services to AIDS patients before effective treatment was available. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Should you or shouldn’t you?Tim Burak, AIDS Prevention Project Coordinator, discusses community concerns over testing in the early years. (Oral history interview, June 2015.)
In favor of testingRobert Wood, AIDS Prevention Project Medical Director. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
Federal fundingThe federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), impressed with both Seattle-King County’s ability to obtain local public funding for AIDS work and its collaboration with community groups, awarded the Public Health Department one of the first AIDS Prevention Demonstration Project Grants in the United States, along with Dallas, Denver, Long Beach and New York. The grant of $365,000 developed model programs: AIDS education for the general public and prevention and control projects among one of the groups of King County citizens at highest risk: men who had sex with men (by far the largest group.) The grant also provided coordination and support for community-based AIDS services, such as the medical resources program of the Northwest AIDS Foundation. A second CDC grant of $70,000 funded epidemiological work.
The AIDS Prevention ProjectThe grant allowed the Public Health Department to expand its AIDS Program into a more consolidated and independent unit: the AIDS Prevention Project (APP). The project originally had a staff of thirteen: a medical director, a project coordinator, an epidemiologist, a health educator, two information/outreach specialists, two nurse-practitioners, two health advisors (counselors), and a front office staff of three.
Dr. Robert Wood (known affectionately as “Dr. Bob”) was hired as Medical Director for the APP, where he served as until his retirement in 2010. Here he discusses his professional and personal background. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)
APP staff formed a close-knit unit. In addition to the daily challenge of assessing, testing, and counseling people who might be diagnosed with AIDS or found to be HIV positive, over the years, some staff members, community partners, and friends would also become ill with AIDS and pass away.