Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed in a new NPR interview that long before the coronavirus hit the US, he visited gay bathhouses to gather insight into the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Fauci, who has been known for his HIV/AIDS work, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic unfolded, he sought to better understand how the outbreak affected gay and bisexual men.
“This was the very, very early years of the outbreak. In fact, it may even have been before we even discovered that HIV was the cause,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with NPR. “And we were seeing these large numbers of mostly gay men who were formerly otherwise well, who were being devastated by this terrible, mysterious disease.”
The doctor’s quest for more information led him to several bathhouses throughout the nation.
“It was so concentrated in the gay community that I really wanted to get a feel for what was going on there that would lead to this explosion of a sexually transmitted disease,” Dr. Fauci told NPR. “So I did. I went to the Castro District [of San Francisco]. I went down to Greenwich Village, and I went into the bathhouses to essentially see what was going on.”
Dr. Fauci indicated that these sites were a typical hotspot for men engaging in unprotected sex.
“The epidemiologist in me went, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is a perfect setup for an explosion of a sexually transmitted disease!’ And the same thing going to the gay bars and seeing what was going on,” Dr. Fauci told NPR. “And it gave me a great insight into the explosiveness of the outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease.”
Much of what Dr. Fauci learned during the AIDS epidemic is being applied to fighting COVID-19, including garnering support from people on the ground. Years later, LGBTQ people are still facing the brunt of these health issues — and as COVID-19 rages across the US, advocates are battling a lack of research and resources on the converging health crises.
Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include people living with HIV after advocates pressured the state to clarify the underlying conditions defined as “immunocompromised.” Last year, findings from a study in New York found people living with HIV are more likely to be diagnosed, hospitalized, and die from COVID-19.
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