Could Lessons From The Early Fight Against AIDS Inform The Coronavirus Response?

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04/10/2020

AIDS began as a frightening medical mystery, with clustered outbreaks in California and New York City. Dr. Paul Volberding, who later helped San Francisco General Hospital open a dedicated AIDS ward, remembers seeing his first AIDS patient on July 1, 1981, although he didn’t know it at the time. “I had just finished my training as an oncologist, as a cancer specialist,” Volberding says. On the first day of his new job at San Francisco General, during “rounds” when doctors visit patient rooms and discuss their cases, he saw a patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma, which he would later learn was a symptom of AIDS. Volberding was fascinated, because he had never seen that kind of cancer, and the patient was surprisingly young. “It was very interesting cancer,” he recalls. “And I looked in the books and it wasn’t supposed to be in 22-year-olds at all.”

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