UCSF Archives and Special Collections acquires and makes available the papers of Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb, pioneer HIV/AIDS researcher and clinician

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accesioning Archivist

June 5, 1981 is widely known as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States because it was the day that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the appearance of a cluster of diseases that would later come to be known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome). The report, titled “Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles,” was authored by five UCLA doctors: MS Gottlieb, MD, HM Schanker, MD, PT Fan, MD, A Saxon, MD, JD Weisman, DO, of the Division of Clinical Immunology-Allergy at the UCLA Medical Center. The article reports, “In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.”[1] The primary author of this report, Doctor Michael S. Gottlieb – then 33 years old – made history as the person who discovered AIDS.  UCSF Archives & Special Collections is pleased to house Dr. Gottlieb’s archives, which are now processed and available for the first time. 

Photo of Dr. Michael Gottlieb by Elizabeth Nathane, originally published in the Los Angeles Blade

A record of his professional life and accomplishments, as well as the many honors and awards he received over the course of his career, the Michael S. Gottlieb papers contain published papers by Gottlieb and many others on AIDS-related topics. They also include information on various AIDS drug treatment studies (including AZT), professional and personal correspondence, and information about various talks and events attended by Gottlieb during the 1980s – a busy decade for him. They also document his prodigious philanthropic activities and AIDS advocacy.

Gottlieb figures prominently in this UCSF-generated timeline of the AIDS epidemic. The timeline, which begins with the 1981 MMWR report, notes that, in 1985, Rock Hudson – star of classic Hollywood films like Giant, All That Heaven Allows, and Written on the Wind – announced that he had AIDS and later died, becoming “the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease.”[1] Later that same year, the timeline reports, “The American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded with the help of movie star Elizabeth Taylor.” Gottlieb, who served as Rock Hudson’s physician from the time of his AIDS diagnosis to his death from the disease, was also one of the founding chairs of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, along with medical researcher Mathilde Krim and Taylor, who was a close friend of Hudson’s and his costar in Giant. The Foundation was established with a $250,000 gift from Hudson’s estate.  The Gottlieb papers also contain a fascinating trove of letters, which he dubbed “Crazy letters,” that he received after becoming publicly associated with Hudson in newspapers and the press. The letters indicate a fascination with the disease, which was still very new and widely misunderstood by the world at large.

If you’re interested in checking out the Michael S. Gottlieb papers, you can consult the finding aid or the library catalog record for the collection. The papers were a gift from Michael Gottlieb.


[1]Center for Disease Control. (1981, June 5). Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/june_5.htm

[2] Cisneros, Lisa. (2021, June 4). 40 Years of AIDS: A Timeline of the Epidemic. UCSF News. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/06/420686/40-years-aids-timeline-epidemic


UCSF Receives NNLM PSR Subaward: “The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records”

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This Fall the UCSF Archives & Special Collections received a $138,370 subaward from the  Network of the National Library of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, for a project titled The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records.

Black-and-white poster of on African American man reaching for another; Brothers offers services for African American gay/bisexual men and transgender people. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 22.
Black-and-white poster of on African American man reaching for another; Brothers offers services for African American gay/bisexual men and transgender people. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 22.

UCSF’s project supports a priority area for NLM and NIH by digitizing approximately 45,000 pages from 15 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area with the objective of making them widely accessible to the public. This project will chronicle the experience and struggles of communities of color and other marginalized communities during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

This project will make publicly accessible experiences of communities that are “absent or excluded from the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States” [Jennifer Brier,  The Oral History Review, Volume 45, Issue 1]. Its goal is to include the voices of underrepresented and marginalized groups in the historical record and increase public impact of these archival collections. These collections cover diverse issues communities are faced with: poverty, racial and socio-economic segregation, health care policy inequalities, public health and sexual education and prevention, disparities in the HIV response, the impact of HIV on migrant communities, and the intersection of the criminal justice system and HIV.

It will build on the success and expand the UCSF’s AIDS history digital collection that was developed with the assistance from the Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017-2019 and resulted in digitization of 160,197 pages from 35 archival collections from the three collaborating institutions: UCSF, San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBT HS).

Poster for AIDS Awareness week; San Francisco Community College district; San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1986, artist: T.P. Ranger. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 23.
Poster for AIDS Awareness week; San Francisco Community College district; San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1986, artist: T.P. Ranger. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 23.

The materials that will be digitized range from hand handwritten correspondence and notebooks to typed and printed reports and agency records. Photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, and posters will also be digitized. They will be added to a growing digital collection documenting the AIDS crisis established by UCSF on the California Digital Library platform, Calisphere and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) becoming publicly accessible around the world.  The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. All materials selected to be digitized will be carefully examined for privacy concerns and the archivists will consult with an existing Advisory Board.

UCSF plans to partner with NLM’s History of Medicine Division and DPLA to create a collaborative AIDS history primary source set on the Digital Public Library of America in order to disseminate the project results and enable their educational use. UCSF will also promote the availability of this resource to organizations in the San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA areas. This project is led by Polina Ilieva and Edith Escobedo serves as a project archivist.

Digitization-on-Demand

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Blog post was written in collaboration with Jazmin Dew.

When the UCSF Library closed back in March, the Archives team had to change its projects to adjust working from home. One of the projects that we were able to work on while sheltering in place is the digitization-on-demand project. This project consisted of describing and publishing digital items on Calisphere. We hoped that by working on this project we would help the public have more access to our collections remotely while the library is still closed. The digitization-on-demand project has let us create new collections and also expand existing collections. We are excited to announce that approximately 710 digital items from various collections have been publish on Calisphere. Some of these include:

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

San Francisco AIDS Foundation is an organization founded in 1982 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care. Many of the new items digitized for this collection include photographs, letters, and flyers.

MSS 94-60, San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

UCSF School of Nursing

The UCSF School of Nursing collection includes photographs, correspondence, and reports. One of the items that we were able to digitize is the 50th anniversary booklet “Fifty Years A Great Beginning”. The booklet celebrates the progress of the UCSF School of Nursing and has some great photographs from the past.

AR 87-34, UCSF School of Nursing records

Laurie Garrett Papers 

Laurie Garret was a public health and policy advocate, research, and Peabody, Polk, and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist, writing about global health system global health systems, bioterrorism, and chronic and infectious diseases. The new materials added to the Laurie Garrett Papers collection detail Brazil’s national response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

MSS 2013-03, Laurie Garrett papers

Nancy Stoller Papers

Nancy Stoller was a researcher, writer, and political activist. She wrote about the AIDS epidemic and healthcare equality under the pen name Nancy Shaw. Stoller’s two most prominent works were Lessons from the Damned: Queers, Whores, and Junkies Respond to AIDS and Women Resting AIDS: Feminist Strategies of Empowerment. Two interesting essays added to the Nancy Stoller Papers collection discuss how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected the Asian and Pacific Islander community, including the impact of the Asian/Pacific AIDS Coalition (A/PAC).

MSS 2000-06, Nancy Stoller papers

Robert K. Bolan Papers 

Robert K. Bolan was a community doctor, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), Center of Disease Control (CDC) consultant, and active participant of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR) and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGST). The new materials added to the Robert K. Bolan collection include multiple articles by the NCGSTD and how they informed the GLBTQ community and others about the AIDS epidemic. 

MSS 97-03, Robert K. Bolan papers

To explore more new material, check out these collections on Calisphere:  

David Powers Photograph collection

UCSF Black Caucus Records

School of Medicine, Office of the Dean records

Eric L. Berne Collections

Jerome Motto Papers

If you are interested in exploring more of our digital collections please visit us on Calisphere.

Save Our Stories: Support AIDS History Archive

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https://givingtogether.ucsf.edu/fundraiser/2359886

Over the past three decades, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has played a vital role in documenting the AIDS epidemic.

We are seeking your help to maintain and grow the AIDS History Project (AHP) archive as a critical, one-of-a-kind public record of the institutions and individuals involved in containing and treating the HIV both locally, and worldwide.

Please help support the UCSF AIDS History Project. We are hoping you will donate today and help us raise $50,000 by 2/1/2020 – please take a moment to do it now.

Your generosity advances vital work to collect, preserve, and provide universal access to stories of the AIDS epidemic.

35 years have passed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and many of the original researchers, health care providers, and community activists who were on the front lines of defense against HIV have now begun to retire from public service. There is an urgent need to collect, preserve, and provide open access to their collections.

Your support will allow us to:

  • Catalog and digitize recently acquired collections, including, papers of Drs. Jay Levy and Steven G. Deeks, SF AIDS Foundation records
  • Record a new set of oral histories with clinicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech scientists, health care workers, activists, community members, patients, and their family members
  • Expand the AIDS History Project statewide scope, solicit and acquire material fro regional community health centers
  • Organize exhibits and public events to share materials and stories preserved in the archives

Read more and donate.

With gratitude,
UCSF Archives & Special Collections team

California Digital Library profiles AIDS History Project

Through its newsletter CDL “highlights new collections on Calisphere that feature community voices and stories. These collections are made available in close collaboration with local community members and broaden our worldview through the diverse narratives and myriad perspectives that resonate in the collections.

Spotlight on the AIDS History Project

The UCSF Archives & Special Collections was a pioneering repository that collected materials documenting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, one of the most significant public-health events of the late twentieth century and an ongoing challenge throughout the world. 

The AIDS History Project (AHP) began in 1987 as a joint effort of historians, archivists, AIDS activists, health care providers, and others to secure historically significant resources reflecting responses to the crisis in San Francisco. Starting in 1991, the Archives received several grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to fund the survey, acquisition, arrangement, and description of carefully selected records from numerous San Francisco-based agencies and organizations whose work focused on the AIDS crisis.” Continue reading: https://cdlib.org/cdlinfo/2019/10/30/diverse-narratives-and-myriad-perspectives-new-collections-on-calisphere/

They Were Really Us, AIDS History Exhibit, Opens on October 1

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This is a guest post by exhibit curator Sabrina Oliveros 

When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century.

On October 1, 2019, UCSF Archives & Special Collections is opening the exhibit They Were Really Us: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS. Featuring materials from the Archives’ extensive AIDS History Project Collections, the show highlights ways individual professionals affiliated with UCSF acted to address HIV/AIDS following its outbreak. Their responses included working in and with the larger San Francisco community – and continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today.

The exhibit title comes from a statement by Dr. Paul Volberding, who co-founded the country’s first dedicated AIDS Clinic in 1983; he now serves as the Director of UCSF’s AIDS Research Institute:

“The patients were exactly our age… all those other ways that we tend to separate ourselves meant very little when you realize that the patients had gone to the same schools, they listened to the same music, they went to the same restaurants. So they were really us… which added to the commitment that I think all of us had.”

Early milestones

The first proofs of that commitment are traced through displays on the main lobby (third floor) of the UCSF Library.

Here, papers, slides, photographs, and artifacts help outline early milestones in HIV/AIDS research and care. These include the foundation of the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Clinic at UCSF, which sought to understand the mysterious “cancer” that turned out to be AIDS; the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983 by Dr. Jay Levy; the establishment of the outpatient and inpatient AIDS clinics at San Francisco General Hospital; and the development of the holistic San Francisco Model of AIDS Care.

Pioneering and compassionate, this model treated people with AIDS not simply as patients requiring medical attention, but as complex individuals also in need of psychological, social, economic, and political support.

Excerpts from the diary of Bobbi Campbell – a UCSF nursing student who championed the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement – help tell some of these individual stories. So do a selection of newsletters and other materials that lend voices to persons with AIDS.

A loaned section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt caps off the displays.

Community voices

The outbreak of HIV/AIDS devastated the city of San Francisco; it also mobilized the community. Exhibits on the first floor of the library showcase the work done by community organizations that, beyond the medical front, fought HIV/AIDS.

Reproductions of posters – mostly from UCSF’s longest-running partners, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Shanti Project – represent outreach and educational campaigns necessary to combat the disease. Materials from Mobilization Against AIDS and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) speak to the political battle that AIDS became.

How much of an impact did these advocacy groups make? A selection of letters, written to the leaders of Mobilization Against AIDS and AIDS Treatment News, offer an idea.  

Continuing care

On the fifth floor of the library, displays touch on two more milestones following the 1980s.

The first, UCSF’s sponsoring of the 6th International Conference on AIDS, is one of the many examples of how physicians and researchers have expanded their work on a global scale. Revisiting this 1990 conference is timely, as the 23rd International Conference on AIDS will take place in Oakland and San Francisco in July next year – the first time the conference will be in the Bay Area in nearly three decades.

The second milestone, the founding of the AIDS Research Institute in 1996, puts a focus on the UCSF’s continuing efforts to find a cure, and end HIV/AIDS once and for all.

They Were Really Us will be on view until September 2020: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/archives/lectures-exhibits/

John S. Greenspan Papers Update: The Women’s Interagency HIV Study

We are currently processing and digitizing material from the John S. Greenspan papers as part of our National Archives NHPRC grant, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections.”

John S. Greenspan and Deborah Greenspan. Photograph by David Powers. AR 2015-31, carton 2.

Included in the Greenspan papers are files related to the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). WIHS was organized in 1993 to investigate the impact of HIV infection on women. It is one of the largest and longest ongoing U.S. studies of its kind, with clinical sites and cohorts throughout the country. John Greenspan and Deborah Greenspan, his wife and longtime research partner, participated in research activities associated with WIHS.

In the collection are copies of WIHS newsletters created for and by women living with HIV. The newsletters include updates on WIHS research, stories and letters from participating women, event announcements, and other related information. Below are sample pages from the Spring 1997 issue of Health WIHS, a publication of the Women’s lnteragency HIV Study in Chicago.

To learn more about the Greenspan papers read our earlier post, “Processing the John Greenspan Papers.”

You can view the complete Greenspan digital collection on Calisphere.

Processing the John Greenspan Papers

As part of our current National Archives NHPRC grant, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections,” we’ve been processing the papers of John S. Greenspan. Greenspan served as the founding Director of the UCSF Oral AIDS Center and the UCSF AIDS Specimen Bank. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology in the Department of Orofacial Sciences and the former Associate Dean for Global Oral Health in the School of Dentistry at UCSF along with Director-Emeritus of the campuswide AIDS Research Institute at UCSF.

John S. Greenspan and Deborah Greenspan. Photograph by David Powers. AR 2015-31, carton 2.

Greenspan’s work has played a major role in HIV research and care. He and his longtime collaborator and wife Deborah Greenspan, BDS, DSc, discovered the lesion hairy leukoplakia and determined the significance of this and other oral lesions in HIV/AIDS. He has published and lectured widely on the oral aspects of AIDS, oral pathology, and immunopathology.

Photographs of the Second International Workshop on the Oral Manifestations of HIV Infection, 1993. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

Greenspan’s research interests include the global health aspects of AIDS and his professional service reflects this. He has served as President of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). He is the founding President of the IADR Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network (IADR-GOHIRN) and of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s Global Oral Health Interest Group (GOHIG).

Conference programs. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

Greenspan’s papers include records of his research and work developing the Oral AIDS Center and the AIDS Specimen Bank. They also include material related to his teaching and service in professional organizations, including AADR and IADR. Greenspan’s papers feature correspondence with members of his global network of researchers and healthcare providers and records of the various national and international conferences and meetings of which he was a part. The collection includes some unique types of material, including audiovisual recordings, glass microscope slides, health science instruments, and conference posters and photographs of events.

Dissection instruments. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

At the conclusion of the Greenspan processing project, a detailed finding aid will be available to researchers online and a small portion of the collection will be digitized and made available on Calisphere.

AIDS Treatment News Digital Collection

We’re announcing the publication of the AIDS Treatment News (ATN) digital collection.

The collection includes a sampling of the ATN records that we house at UCSF. ATN is a publication created by John S. James that investigates and reports on both conventional and experimental treatments for HIV/AIDS and related social and political issues. It began publication in 1986.

This collection is made possible through the generous support of an NHPRC grant from the National Archives.

The digital collection includes ephemera, photographs, and documents that illustrate AIDS-related activism and ATN’s operations.

Notable material includes images of the 1988 protest at the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) offices in Washington, DC, flyers related to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and ACT UP San Francisco material.

View the complete digital collection on Calisphere. Contact us to visit the reading room and work with the ATN records.

Volunteer Report: Working on the AIDS History Project

This is a guest post by Edith Martinez, UCSF Archives Volunteer.

Volunteering at the UCSF Archives has been a great learning experience. I have been able to help with the NHPRC grant project, Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collectionsan expansion of the AIDS History Project.

AIDS National Conference booklet, 1987. ATN records, MSS 94-28.

I have specifically been working on material from AIDS Treatment News, a biweekly newsletter started by John James in 1986 that reports on experimental and conventional treatments for HIV/AIDS and related conditions. ATN articles are based on information that James gathered from meetings, conferences, interviews, publications, and correspondence.

VIIIth International Conference on AIDS in Africa and VIIIth African Conference on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1993. ATN records, MSS 94-28.

Working on this collection I realized that it is a lot of work organizing and processing. I’ve also learned more about the history of AIDS and found some really interesting items that I thought were fascinating. John James attended many conferences and saved many of the booklets from these conferences. The booklets for the VIIIth International Conference on AIDS in Africa and the AIDS National Conference in San Francisco are just some examples. Looking through these booklets and reading about the talks and workshops listed in each, one can see how AIDS prevention and treatment has progressed and changed over the years. It’s a true learning experience, and working on this collection has really helped me better understand AIDS history and archival work.