AIDS activist John James talks about COVID-19

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, James sees treatment slip under the radar again. While the federal government poured $ 18.5 billion on vaccine research, about $ 8.2 billion on treatment. One drug that caught a lot of attention, hydroxychloroquine, turned out to be largely nonsense. Even so half of all American adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, COVID-19 treatment studies remain vital; tens of thousands of Americans are still hospitalized with the coronavirus, and better treatment can help them. Meanwhile, for COVID-19 truckers engaged in prolonged exposure to the virus, treatment may give better hope for a return to normal. As part of COVIDSalon, James is inclined to believe that he and other veterans of the AIDS epidemic helped in the 80s: patients can become experts on their own illness, and it starts with providing them with the information they need.

When James launched ATN, the situation was terrible. In 1985, 8,406 Americans died AIDS, almost doubling the number of deaths from a year earlier. But few drug trials have been conducted against AIDS, and those that have rarely spread. Because doctors did not know how to treat the new disease, people with AIDS had to investigate their own symptoms and sometimes plan their own course of treatment. Activist groups, such as ACT UP, “really promoted the idea Let’s figure it out [treatment] information there“says Patricia Siplon, an AIDS activist and professor of political science at St. Michael’s College, but few people had the time or opportunity to do research on the Internet. When the queer community remained unaware of how to fight the epidemic, James began accessing computers. a database on which new treatment studies were conducted, as well as FDA and drug reports.Every two weeks, he summarized his findings in a two-page bulletin.

Once his bulletin began to attract, James turned his San Francisco apartment into a makeshift newsroom. He and his assistant made copies in a few blocks and mailed subscribers one by one. Volunteers edited, verified facts and issued a newsletter at any time. “When I needed to sleep at night when they were still working, I put a piece of cardboard on my face to block out the light,” James said. He broke the breaking news, including about steroid hormones, and sent people with AIDS to research in which they could sign up and access experimental drugs.

ATN has become a source of search for many people looking for treatment news: by the early 1990s the bulletin had collected more than 7500 subscribers, including both people with AIDS and health workers working from James ’five employees. Even after the high-performance “AIDS cocktail” arrived in 1996, James focused on the high cost of available drugs before finally shutting down the newsletter in the summer of 2007 to work on other studies.


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