Dan Coulston – I’d Like You to Know

“It wasn’t for lack of trying.”

[The 1980s] were hard times. There was a lot of death. There were a lot of good people who died, and there wasn’t much you could do about it then. It was very, very hard. A lot of people carry a lot of burden, a lot of scars from those years, because they saw, despite their best efforts, people died. Good people died. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. You know, when I hear that medicine could’ve done better, [that] we could’ve done things better if there’d been more money . . . It’s just, there wasn’t the knowledge there. We’re just beginning to even develop the whole process of flow cytometry, virology . . . Ten years earlier that technology wasn’t there. I know it wasn’t there because I was doing research and that type of stuff. That wasn’t there. We had nothing in those days. It wasn’t until I was, I think, a senior resident before we even had a pocket calculator. I was still using a slide rule until then. That was in ’81? ’82? In there. There was no technology. To see how we came, in that time, from literally nothing to a knowledge base . . .

As perverse it is, HIV has impacted so much in medicine. There’s an old saying in public health—in the ‘70s when I was there—that if you understood syphilis you understood everything about the human body. Really in a lot of ways this was true. Syphilis was the disease that affected everything, and it was so subtle. You want to say, “If you understand HIV, you understand a hell of a lot about the human body, the way things work.” It has taught us so much. So, as tragic as it has been, and horribly tragic, there has been some good out of all of it. The pushing for development of more and more research, the money that’s gone there, the knowledge that’s been gained for other disease processes is an offshoot for that.

I have to think that those people died for a reason. And not because they did something wrong. They died for a reason that’s beyond me. We’ve learned from it and they’ve not sacrificed themselves just for wrong choices. That’s my thought.


Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 10 July 2013.