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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


A Leader in Research, Education, and Housing

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 the subjects (gay and bisexual 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.

Being a Star while remaining anonymous

The APP’s innovative solution to ensuring anonymity was to organize participants into six groups, each named for a “camp” cultural icon.

Every six months the men were reminded through public advertisements that it was time for their assigned “star” group to return to the APP for follow-up interviews and optional HIV testing. With these public notifications, there was no need for APP staff to directly contact participants.

In addition to notification through public advertising, participants received wallet-sized reminder cards like the one shown below to help them remember when to return for their follow-up visit. (Series 1825.2.13 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

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Each participant was also assigned a unique code that APP used to track that individual’s data over time without the records being associated with a name.

By the time the study ended in 1992, 2,676 men had participated. Initial data from the study helped the APP target its programming and improve counseling services. Later data assessed the impact of APP interventions on sexual behavior change.

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In the above photo from the 1987 Seattle Gay Pride Parade, volunteers portrayed the study’s “stars” to recruit participants. From left to right are Billie Holiday, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Oscar Wilde. The sixth star, not pictured, was James Dean. (Series 1825.2.13 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

 

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Front and back covers of “The Seattle Star,” a semi-annual report targeted to the gay community, summarizing findings from the Be a Star study. The second report is linked to here. (Series 1825.2.13 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

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Flyer advertising the Be A Star study. (Series 1825.6.5 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

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Be A Star poster. (Series 1825, History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division/HIV-AIDS Program.)

Be a star

With CDC grant funding, the AIDS Prevention Project (APP) undertook research studies. One of the first and largest studies was called “Be a Star.” It was a longitudinal study (conducted over a span of time) of gay and bisexual men, and APP researchers developed a system that allowed subjects to remain anonymous while participating. The study's anonymity plan was designed to protect privacy while at the same time serving as a marketing technique, identifying Be A Star study participants with cultural icons.

BeAStar1991_1

Be A Star Study, 1991 Report Number 2. (Series 1825, History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division/HIV-AIDS Program.)

Working against Stigma and Fear

Anonymity was critical when the Be A Star study began in 1986. Some people worried that government agencies might not keep identification information confidential. Others did not wish friends or employers to find out that they identified as gay or that they might be HIV positive.

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Be A Star poster: Billie Holiday. (Series 1825, History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division/HIV-AIDS Program.)


Personal and Profound

Frank Chaffee describes what it was like counseling patients and interviewing study participants. (Oral history interview, January 2016.)


Wide-Ranging Research

Beyond 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.

Sharon Hopkins describes research. (Oral history interview, September 2015.)


Education Campaigns

Much work under the Centers for Disease Control grant centered on reducing risk-taking behaviors among high-risk groups through clinical and peer counseling, through testing, and especially through education.

Education was carried out through the telephone hotline; a Speakers’ Bureau to respond to hundreds of community requests for up-to-date AIDS information; flyers and brochures; media spots and advertisements containing risk-reduction messages and news of available services; and model school curriculum materials.


Ask Dr. Bob

One 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.

AskDrBob4

Left: Text of "Ask Dr. Bob" column for the Seattle Gay News (ca. 1989), responding to the question of how to be hopeful in the time of AIDS. Click to read the full answer.

 

Dr. Robert Wood on the "Ask Dr. Bob" column. (Oral history interview, August 2015).


Public Understanding

Education campaigns aimed at the general public sought to help people understand risks, ease unfounded fears, and reduce the stigma around being HIV-positive.

In 1986, the Public Health Department helped support the Northwest AIDS Foundation’s “Please Be Safe” campaign, using a road-sign theme, urging people to practice safer sex.

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Poster from the Northwest AIDS Foundation’s “Please Be Safe” campaign, produced with funding from Public Health. [Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Item A025195]


Ann Downer talks about the general public’s knowledge about AIDS around 1986. (Oral history interview, August 2015.)

Fear and Stigma in the Workplace 

AIDS 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.

Fighting AIDS discrimination at work

In late 1987, King County Executive Tim Hill issued an executive order, the King County Employee AIDS Protocol, prohibiting discrimination against King County employees with AIDS or the AIDS virus. It also required accommodation for County employees who were ill with AIDS, as was the law for other disabilities.

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(Series 1861.4.4 – Subject files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.) Click on the image to read the entire order.

 

 

Work-site visits

Karen Hartfield, describes visiting work sites, including one where an employee had been diagnosed with AIDS. (Oral history interview, July 2015.)


Training for Healthcare Providers

Public 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.

Tim Burak and Dr. Bob Wood on how Public Health worked with the medical community to support quality care for AIDS patients.


Housing

The 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.

 

 

 

Listen to stories of people who have lived at Bailey-Boushay House, the first housing facility specially designed for people with AIDS, on the Bailey-Boushay Web site (external link).


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Cover for the report on the 1987 planning study for housing disadvantaged people, including people with AIDS. Bridging the Housing Gap helped establish the need for housing for people with AIDS, separate from already existing facilities. (Series 872.735 - King County documents collection).


What's in a name? MSM 

Starting in the 1980s, the academic and clinical research communities used a collective term to describe one of the principal risk groups: men who have sex with men (MSM; sometimes ngi-MSM or MWM). This term was viewed as more clinically accurate, as it included men who had same-sex partners but did not personally identify as gay. The abbreviations may also have reassured people who were uncomfortable using the word, “gay.” Some gay men, however, objected to the use of “MSM,” saying that it reduced one’s identity to only a sexual act. In Seattle in the 1990s, an MSM Task Force reorganized as the Gay Men’s AIDS Prevention Task Force, or GayMAP

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Graphic from the 1995 MSM retreat schedule, by “Stella Seattle” artist Dominic Capello. (Series 1861.5.24 – Subject files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

Responding to AIDS

An exhibit and oral history project from the King County Archives.

Content warning: The archival records featured in this exhibit discuss sexual behavior and illegal drug use. Please direct questions or comments to archives@kingcounty.gov

Copyright King County Archives, Seattle Washington, June 2016.


 

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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.


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Oral histories produced with support from a 2015 4Culture Heritage Projects Grant.