In Dr. Bill Valenti’s inspirational book AIDS: A Matter of Urgency, we travel back in time to the dawn of AIDS and AIDS treatment. In the timeline of the world, it’s an infinitesimal speck on the timeline: a mere 35 years. But for the families of anyone afflicted by the disease and hoping for a cure, it’s an eternity. The virus that was once a certain death sentence can now be controlled, and the infected individual can live a fuller life on regimented treatment. Some of the opportunistic diseases that were once merciless killers have virtually disappeared.
One of my takeaways from our discussion and from reading the book is that Doctor Valenti is a hero. He would undoubtedly scoff at that description and humbly reply that he is part of a much larger team and that he is “just the catalyst,” a phrase he uses often. While he may well be a catalyst, he deserves the many accolades he receives: catalysts only work when they have the power, and in this case, the passion to mobilize action.
Without that passion and determination, he’d never have pushed through the many years when there were no effective treatments, and he saw patient after patient, many of whom became friends, fall victim to the epidemic. The learning garnered through his work and that of his colleagues and associates provide significant advancements so that those now treating epidemics like zika and ebola have strong foundations of knowledge on which to stand, toward the more effective control and even eradication of viruses that have the potential to become pandemics.
I feel very fortunate to have taken this journey with Dr. Valenti, who speaks candidly about how he felt reliving the episodes of his personal and professional life, as he wrote this book.
I hope you will watch both part 1 and part 2 of this episode, then go out and buy Dr. Valenti’s poignant, insightful and educational book, AIDS: A Matter of Urgency. Not only will you be helping Dr. Valenti and his colleagues end AIDS and HIV by 2020, you’ll also be moved by the fight that took on global magnitude through the work of modern heroes.
1:40 – Dr. Valenti talks about the experience of reliving the journey of being The AIDS Doctor during the writing of AIDS: A Matter of Urgency
3:15 – Candid discussion of emotionally balancing the professional rewards of treating AIDS against the loss of lives of friends and patients
6:45 – How the global sharing of research happened that evolved into effective treatment
10:30 – Discussion of changes in the survival rate of those infected with AIDS, and the use of multiple drugs in treatment
12:52 – Discussion of ending AIDS and HIV by 2020, and the ramifications of learning to treat AIDS for future epidemics, particularly in relation to the learning about the immune system and targeted therapies; addressing epidemics like zika and ebola through the learning from AIDS treatment
17:00 – Discussion of both the science and art of medicine, and where intuition comes in; the evolution of Dr. Valenti’s career and patient “bedside manner”
19:30 – Discussion of the correlation between the rise of homophobia and the rise of the AIDS Epidemic; the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and how AIDS created a setback in LGBTQ rights; how the medical community helped fight homophobia through education
24:00 – A Discussion of “The War Games” against AIDS
25:00 – A Discussion of the art within AIDS: A Matter of Urgency
Many thanks to Archer Communications for introducing us to Dr. Valenti.