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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


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.

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1983 poster advertising a community forum on AIDS in King County. Sponsored by the Seattle Counseling Service, the Seattle Gay Clinic, the Northwest AIDS Foundation, and the Gay/Lesbian Student Organization at Seattle Central Community College, the forum featured guests from San Francisco: Bobby Reynolds, a man with AIDS, and Jim Geary of the Shanti Project. Public Health worked closely with such community-based organizations. (Series 1825.12.1 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.)

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It may be hard to remember (or for younger people, to imagine) what communication was like before email and the Internet. The 1983 flyer above advertised recorded AIDS information heard over a telephone hotline. (Series 11.6.6, Clipping and press release files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health.)

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.

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(Images link to PDF's.)

Northwest AIDS Foundation letter to County Executive Randy Revelle, 1983. (Series 1406, Agency Files, King County Executive Randy Revelle)

1983 AIDS Surveillance and Education Program Proposal.

The Gay Community's Involvement in Creating an AIDS Assessment Project in Seattle, by Program Coordinator Tim Burak, 1983.


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."

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It may be hard to remember (or for younger people, to imagine) what communication was like before email and the Internet. The flyer pictured above advertised recorded AIDS information provided over a telephone hotline. (Series 11, Clipping and press release files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health.)

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.

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1984 AIDS Foundation Honorary Board of Directors. (Series 1825 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.). Click on the image to read the full document.
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.

The Proposal: The AIDS Surveillance and Education Program

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Community activists, organized by the Dorian Group, the Greater Seattle Business Association, and the Seattle Gay Clinic, rallied at City Hall and spoke before the Seattle City Council. Representatives from the Northwest Physicians for Human Rights, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Seattle Mayor’s Office, the Seattle Office of Women’s Rights, and Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, all supported emergency funding. (Series Series 1825.1.10 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.). Click on the document to read the whole proposal.

The Gay Community's Involvement in Creating an AIDS Assessment Project

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The proposal would establish a formal partnership between the Department and the Seattle Gay Clinic. Tim Burak described this relationship in this 1983 program summary referred to in his APHA presentation (audio above).(Series 1825.1.10 – History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program.). Click on the image to read the full summary.

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.

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.

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What was it like to visit an assessment clinic in the days before there was an HIV test and when there was no known treatment for AIDS?

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First person account published in the Seattle Gay News, September 7, 1984. Click on the image to read the full document.

"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.

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Nurse practitioner Joanne Tilton and Frank Chaffee, posing as a patient for the photo, at the AIDS assessment clinic (ca. 1986). (Series 1825.10.19 - History 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.