25 years with the 1917 AIDS clinic

By on April 26, 2013
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The first cases of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the United States appeared in the early 1980s. A short time later, the 1917 Clinic at UAB opened to take on the disease. Now, 25 years later, the clinic is going strong and celebrating all of the birthdays achieved through its research, education, and care.

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“Around the mid-1980s, more and more patients with AIDS-related illnesses were being referred to UAB from across state,” said Michael Saag, M.D., UAB professor of medicine and director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). “They couldn’t get the treatment elsewhere.”

Saag went on to propose starting a comprehensive health clinic for patients with HIV and AIDS. On January 28, 1988, the 1917 Clinic opened its doors at its now former location, 1917 5th Avenue South, with Saag serving as founding director.

“Our first day we saw several patients,” Saag remembered. “Soon after we launched the azidothymidine (AZT) study which enrolled well over 70 patients.”

The AZT study was just the beginning. Of the 27 antiretroviral drugs now approved for AIDS, seven were tested first in patients at the 1917 Clinic in Phase 1 clinical trials.

“We’ve done a lot of evaluation of how host and virus interact, and how the virus causes disease, and we’ve developed a better understanding of the biology of HIV,” Saag explained. “A lot of the work done by researchers at the 1917 Clinic interfaces with research done at the CFAR, and it’s as good as you can find anywhere else in the world.”

Current 1917 Clinic Director James Raper, D.S.N., CRNP, who first joined the staff in the mid ’90s, explained that, looking back over the history of the clinic, there is a lot to be proud of and commemorate.

“It’s a jubilee; it is truly a jubilee,” Raper noted. “The legacy that has occurred here and continues developing here at the clinic is heartwarming and a professional gift.”

In observance of 25 years of birthdays through research, education and care, a weekend of events will be held starting with a scientific symposium on Friday, April 26. The event is from 9a.m. to 3p.m. at UAB’s Cudworth Hall Auditorium.

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