HIV specialist and leading infectious diseases physician John G. Bartlett, MD, doesn’t mince words when you ask him about what his AIDS patients faced in the early days of the epidemic.
“They were the scourge of society – people didn’t like them because they were either gay or injection drug users, and there was a fear of contagion, that if you were in the same room with someone with AIDS you might get AIDS… They had diarrhea and dementia and wasting. It was an awful way to die. And besides that, everyone around you hated you. Can you imagine living to die that way?”
Dr. Bartlett became a ray of hope for people living with HIV/AIDS. He directed some of the first clinical trials of new treatments that prevent HIV from replicating, and pioneered the development of dedicated in-patient and out-patient medical care for HIV-infected patients.
In our third interview in a Science Speaks series commemorating 30 years of AIDS, Dr. Bartlett speaks frankly about hiding his treatment of AIDS patients from hospital administrators in the early ‘80s, key scientific breakthroughs over the years, and his views on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program moving forward.