Responding to AIDS - Home |
About this Exhibit - Introduction |
AIDS Emerges |
Poised to Respond |
New Programs: Working Together |
Responding to Fear |
The AIDS Prevention Project |
A Leader in Research, Education, and Housing
| Expanding Outreach | Needle Exchanges | The AIDS Omnibus Act: New Mandates | Safer Sex: The New Normal? | The Legacy | Gallery | Oral Histories | References and Resources
New Programs: Working Together
Partnerships and Programs Develop
The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health initially focused on providing accurate information about AIDS through community meetings, press releases, newspaper interviews and recorded telephone information. The Department set up an AIDS information hotline at Public Health’s STD Clinic located at Harborview Hospital in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. The hotline was originally staffed by a single volunteer, Will Jones, who would later become a paid employee, training new volunteers as the hotline grew.
Partnerships and Programs Develop
By early 1983 community groups had taken the lead in organizing support and services for people with AIDS. The Northwest AIDS Foundation, who would become an important partner to the Public Health Department, invited community leaders and public officials to serve as honorary board-members (see invitation to King County Executive Randy Revelle, below).
The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health focused on providing accurate information about AIDS through community meetings, press releases, newspaper interviews and recorded telephone information. The Department also set up an AIDS information hotline at Harborview Hospital, staffed by volunteers from the Seattle Gay Clinic.
A Surveillance and Education program is proposed
Working in partnership with established community groups was key to building a successful public health program to combat the disease. In 1983, the Department proposed an AIDS surveillance and education program to track the disease's spread, to coordinate care for ill patients, and to provide accurate information to a fearful public.
The proposal had originated in the gay community and would establish a formal partnership between the Department and the Seattle Gay Clinic. Public Health project administrator Tim Burak described this relationship in his 1983 program summary, "The Gay Community's Involvement in Creating an AIDS Assessment Project in Seattle."
A Community Partner: The Northwest AIDS Foundation
The Northwest AIDS Foundation was the lead organization in the local community-based response to AIDS. Dr. Robert Wood was an early NWAF Board president.
NWAF was instrumental in helping promulgate Public Health’s prevention messages and strategies. State and local officials, including King County Executive Randy Revelle, Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, and City and County Councilmembers, along with other community leaders, served on NWAF’s Honorary Board of Directors. From the mid 1980s, most public funding of other AIDS service organizations passed through NWAF. NWAF later merged with the Chicken Soup Brigade to become the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
Emergency funding for a Surveillance and Education program
In 1983, the Department proposed an AIDS surveillance and education program to provide assessment, referral, and counseling services; to gather data and contribute to national research; and to provide accurate information to at-risk groups and a fearful public. The plan was developed in collaboration with the Seattle Gay Clinic and included funding for the AIDS hotline and one nurse practitioner.
King County Executive Randy Revelle recognized the need to fund AIDS programs without waiting for the next County budget cycle. He understood the implications of AIDS and its coming storm and supported emergency action, in spite of advice to the contrary from some advisors.
"In Seattle we really couldn't wait for help....What we are trying to do is get ready"
Tim Burak, Seattle Gay Clinic volunteer and Seattle King County Department of Public Health employee, spoke at a meeting of the American Public Health Association about community involvement in establishing the AIDS assessment clinic. Above, listen to the recording of Burak’s presentation from November 15, 1983.
What is "surveillance"?
Sharon Hopkins, AIDS Prevention Project Epidemiologist (1983-1999), explains her work and what surveillance means in a public health context. (Oral history interview, September 2015.)
By August 1, 1983, both the Seattle City Council and the King County Council had passed emergency funding ordinances. Together they became the second local jurisdiction in the United States, after San Francisco, to allocate public funding directly for the fight against AIDS.
"There is no test for AIDS.
The AIDS clinic does not diagnose AIDS. It assesses risks...
There is a lot more about AIDS that we don't know, than there is that we do know. A lot of doctors and nurses have been exposed to AIDS and they don't know what to do about it any more than we lunks on the street do."
-From "My Trip to the AIDS Clinic," Seattle Gay News, 1984.
Responding to AIDS
Content warning: The archival records featured in this exhibit discuss sexual behavior and illegal drug use. Please direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright King County Archives, Seattle Washington, June 2016.
Please note: This exhibit features historical materials relating to HIV/AIDS. For current health information, please visit Public Health, Seattle & King County - HIV/AIDS and STD Prevention and Education.
Oral histories produced with support from a 2015 4Culture Heritage Projects Grant.