History of HIV/AIDS Section

History of the HIV/AIDS Section


The HIV/AIDS section, as best can be recollected, had its origin in the first official organization created by the APHA Executive Board to address the issues surrounding what was, at the time, an emerging new health crisis.


The Executive Board, sometime in the 1980’s, created an official group, the AIDS Working Group.  This organization started with a president of APHA, Caswell Evans, as chair.  The organization had a membership of approximately ten people, from all sections in APHA, representing epidemiologists, clinicians, and administrators.  Shortly after the inception, the new chair, Robert Newman, was one of the most distinguished members of APHA, the CEO of Beth Israel Hospital in New York, at the time, perhaps the institution with the largest number of patients infected with the virus causing AIDS.


The task of the AIDS Working Group was not to develop innovative documents or policies, but to take established and accepted literature, and formulate this into pamphlets, which could then be utilized to educate both the public and the professional sector regarding issues associated with HIV infection.  One of the first documents was Public Health Implications of Early Intervention, and advocated testing, even in the face of a lack of treatment options.  This document was cited by many as helping expand testing.  Other documents, on Women and HIV; Tuberculosis and HIV; and Testing Methods followed.


There was a change in staff assisting this Group, and the Chair through the early 1990’s, David Rosenstein, requested that there be a rotation of the membership, so that the AIDS Working Group would be infused with new members and be revitalized.  Rather than rotate membership, the Executive Director disbanded the AIDS Working Group in 1995.


There was some activism by now former members of the Group, and an attempt was made in 1995 to create an AIDS Caucus.  This attempt was led by Basil Vareldzis.  The Executive Board denied the establishment of an AIDS Caucus.


The former AIDS Working Group chair, David Rosenstein, had been active in APHA and was a former section chair, Governing Councilor, and member of the Joint Policy Committee, and immediately after the 1995 denial by the Executive Board, worked with Basil Vareldzis to present a petition to the Executive Board, containing some 200 names.  The request this time was not to become a Caucus, but the become a SPIG, on route to becoming a section, with all the rights of a section.


The first meeting of the HI/AIDS SPIG, which had been approved by the Executive Board in 1996, was in Washington, DC, in 1996.  The HIV/AIDS SPIG was the first newly established group in decades.


The first meeting was attended by many of the current leaders, including a young student, April Winnigham, our current chair, and her former faculty advisor, Susan Fulmer.  Brenda Woods-Francis worked diligently to develop by-laws, while the membership committee aggressively recruited members, with the SPIG very quickly exceeding the section requirement of 300.  The chair of the SPIG, David Rosenstein, sought section status, almost as soon as the SPIG was established.  By 2000, the SPIG had some 400 or more members, and at the annual meeting, he and Basil Vareldzis, both Governing Councilors, managed the resolution that affirmed the creation of the HIV/AIDS Section.


The current section membership represents 3% of the organization and has been active in policy creation as well as having members hold influential positions on the executive board, such as student caucus chair and as Chair of the Joint Policy Committee.