UCSF Experts to Kick Off AIDS Walk at Forum on May 17

By Lisa Cisneros

A physician who faced the dawn of the AIDS epidemic 30 years ago, a patient advocate who leads efforts to combat the disease and an attending physician who works on Ward 84 at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) will share their perspectives on the disease at UCSF on May 17.

The UCSF community is invited to hear from these experts at a forum titled, “Thirty Years of AIDS: The Challenges Ahead,” on Tuesday, May 17, from noon to 1 p.m. in Health Sciences West, room 302 on the Parnassus campus.

The guest speakers are:

  • Paul Volberding, MD, professor and vice chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine, co-director of the UCSF-Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and chair of the medical service at San Francisco’s Veteran Affairs Medical Center;
  • Jeff Sheehy, director of communications at the UCSF AIDS Research Institute and governing board member of the California Institute for Regeneration Medicine since its inception and a longtime HIV/AIDS activist serving on the board of the AIDS Policy Project; and
  • Annie Luetkemeyer, MD, assistant professor of medicine and attending physician at the Positive Health Practice at SFGH.
Paul Volberding, MD

Paul Volberding, MD

Volberding, who is widely considered one of the world's leading AIDS experts, will share his insights on AIDS as the University marks 30 years since the first cases were reported in the US. Michael Gottlieb, MD, was a 33-year-old assistant professor specializing in immunology at UCLA when he saw a man suffering from a syndrome that had not previously been reported. Gottlieb authored the first report to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981 identifying the deadly virus that would be known as AIDS.

This UCSF forum on May 17 will serve as a springboard to kick off UCSF’s collective effort to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and raise funds for patient care, research and education through AIDS Walk San Francisco. This year also represents the 25th year of the AIDS walk, which is slated for Sunday, July 17. Consistently among the top 10 San Francisco AIDS Walk fundraisers, UCSF has already formed 10 teams that are vying to win the coveted UCSF AIDS Walk Trophy. Last year, UCSF raised more than $45,000, finishing in fifth place overall.


UCSF’s Response to AIDS

Jeff Sheehy

Jeff Sheehy

UCSF and SFGH were considered ground zero when the mysterious disease appeared in San Francisco in 1981. Volberding saw his first patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a cancer that develops from the cells that line blood vessels, on his first day at SFGH that year in July. The abnormal cells of KS form violet-colored tumors on the skin and in many organs throughout the body.

In 1983, UCSF clinicians and researchers developed the country’s first outpatient AIDS clinic and inpatient ward at SFGH, a clinic that has evolved into the top-rated medical care facility for AIDS in the country. That same year, UCSF professor and researcher Jay Levy, MD, co-discovered HIV along with researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France.

Those attending the May 17 forum will get to see a trailer of the film, “Life Before the Lifeboat: San Francisco’s Courageous Response to the AIDS Outbreak.” The brainchild of Volberding, the film features interviews with doctors and nurses who were there when the disease first surfaced, as well as news-clip montages and pages from dying patients’ journals. UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann is interviewed in that film, which will be broadcast on KQED during the month of June to commemorate three decades of AIDS and UCSF’s leadership role in the fight against AIDS.

Annie Luetkemeyer, MD

Annie Luetkemeyer, MD

In a recent interview with the San Francisco AIDS Walk Foundation, Volberding talked about the advances made in battling the disease and what challenges remain.

“We have learned an immense amount when you think of starting from absolute zero, and the changes in outcomes are completely gratifying,” Volberding said. “I think the challenges are making sure that, in this country, we help everyone with HIV infection learn their status, be diagnosed, remove any barriers to care that we can, and ensure that patients have continuous access to expert care, testing, and medicines. Each of those is necessary to the best outcomes and that’s still going to be a challenge for us.”

Related Links