Speaking to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Dr. Fauci discussed visiting the Gay Bathhouses to understand how the AIDS virus was spreading.
“The activists were justified in their concerns that the government, even though they weren’t doing it deliberately, were not actually giving them a seat at the table to be able to have their own input into things that would ultimately affect their lives,” Fauci said.
“So even though they were very theatrical – they were very iconoclastic – they seemed like they were threatening, but never for a single moment did I ever feel myself threatened by the AIDS activists.”
“When you listened to what they were saying and put aside the dramatics, the theatrics, the iconoclastic behaviour, and listened to what they said, which I did, because I felt, if these young men were going to this extent, they must be suffering terribly,” Fauci said.
“So I tried to become, and easily became, as empathetic as I could possibly be and say: ‘Let me put myself in their shoes. If I were in their position, what would I be doing?’ And I rapidly came to the conclusion that, if I were in their position, I would be doing exactly what they were doing.”
“We integrated the activists into the process that we were doing that very, very heavily involved them, their lives, and their health, and things really turned around,” he said.
“We were seeing these large numbers of mostly gay men who were formerly otherwise well who were being devastated by this terrible mysterious disease, and it was so concentrated in the gay community that I really wanted to get a feel for what was going on there that would lead to this explosion of a sexually transmitted disease,” Fauci said.
“I went into the bathhouses to essentially see what was going on, and the epidemiologist in me went, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a perfect setup for an explosion of a sexually transmitted disease.’ And the same thing going to the gay bars and seeing what was going on, and it gave me a great insight into the explosiveness of the outbreak of the sexually transmitted disease.”