A young Anthony Fauci, MD, was ensconced in his office on the 11th floor of a National Institutes of Health clinical center in 1981 when a paper crossed his desk that would completely change the course of his life. It was a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a rare form of pneumonia reported in a small group of gay men in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
"I thought, Oh my goodness. This is an infectious disease, and it's sexually transmitted. The only difference is that it's killing these men. That kind of scared me," Fauci, now the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recalled in an appearance April 18 at Stanford School of Medicine.
He went to his boss at the time, predicting that this strange new disease was likely to "explode." He presaged what would become one of the largest pandemics in human history - the AIDS pandemic - which has collectively infected some 65 million people around the globe. Fauci would shift his priorities and dedicate the next 30 years of his career to combating AIDS, both in the laboratory and in the political arena.
Today, he is making a different kind of prediction. In a presentation today at the School of Medicine, he said he envisions an end to the epidemic, thanks to the extraordinary scientific effort that has propelled progress over the last 30 years. Together with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other figures in the world of AIDS, he is working toward the day when there will be an AIDS-free generation.
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben