Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), at the White House, January 2021 Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Anthony Fauci, a doctor from New York, reveals that he suffers from PTSD as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Fauci was a doctor who treated AIDS patients. He also oversaw HIV/AIDS research during the 1980s and 1990s.
Some Americans viewed him back then as an enemy, just like others now.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci was the US's leader in the response to COVID-19. But he also led the country through a completely different epidemic, the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Fauci, then the head of a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases laboratory, discovered that an increasing number of Americans, mainly young and gay, were dying from cancers and infections in 1981. Although scientists thought that a virus could be the cause, it was only 1984 that researchers discovered that HIV can lead to a variety of life-threatening diseases now called AIDS.
As patients declined rapidly, doctors watched helplessly. Fauci shares the horror of these cases in a National Geographic documentary, "Fauci," streaming on Disney Plus.
He says that it was "all bad, bad and worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worse, worst, bad, terrible, worse" in the film. It was so frustrating to be able to fix things when it's not possible.
Fauci cries at one point in the documentary when he remembers an AIDS patient who lost his sight due to an infection that had destroyed his retina. Fauci says that the man was always positive and would often compliment Fauci's smile.
"One day, we walked into the office in the morning. I walked up the desk to ask him who he was and he replied, 'Who is there?' Fauci explains that it was obvious that he was completely blind.
Interviewer: Fauci replies, "Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome - That's what it is."
Interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the NIH Bethesda in Maryland. National Geographic for Disney+/Viskohatfield
Fauci was a target during major health crises
A February study revealed that almost 25% of US healthcare workers have signs of probable PTSD. Their odds of developing PTSD were higher if they had been exposed to more media or felt stigmatized by their profession.
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These stressors have been a constant for Fauci's life for many decades. He was at the centre of a cultural backlash due to the HIV/AIDS crisis and COVID-19.
In 1988, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, sits in his Bethesda office. Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images
Act Up protested in front of the National Institutes of Health in 1990 to demand faster HIV/AIDS treatment research. Activists charged Fauci with causing AIDS deaths through his inability to speed up clinical trials.
This documentary features footage of Fauci's speech at the International AIDS Conference in 2001. He mentions how the backlash has affected him.
Fauci stated that activists are wrong to assume scientists don't care about them. This is a devastating statement for a physician scientist who has devoted many years to AIDS research, especially when they see their patients dying and suffering.
Fauci sees a clip from the speech in the film and starts to weep again.
Protesters gather in front of the Indiana Governor. Eric Holcomb protests a stay at-home order on April 18, 2020. Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
He says that the difference between HIV/AIDS, and the current pandemic is that "divisiveness dominates COVID-19."
Fauci and his family have been subject to violent threats for the past two years. These threats were mainly from far-right extremists, who claim that COVID-19 or vaccines are dangerous hoaxes. Fauci was sent a letter with white powder in one of the most severe cases of harassment. Although the substance was harmless, Fauci was concerned that it could be anthrax, ricin or some other deadly poison.
Scientists and AIDS activists finally came together in the 1990s to design clinical trials. Fauci is not so optimistic about bridging the country's divisions.
He said, "I believe we're going through it." "But, we're going through it in spite of this division and this politicization."
Business Insider has the original article.