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Contract Establishes First U.S. AIDS Research And Treatment Center

July 30, 1986

HOUSTON (AP) _ A new effort to combat AIDS is getting under way in Houston with the nation’s first hospital established solely to research and treat the deadly disease.

Officials of American Medical International Inc. and the University of Texas System capped two years of negotiations Tuesday by signing a working agreement to create the hospital, to be known as the Institute for Immunological Disorders.

Richard R. D’Antoni, group vice president of American Medical International, said the agreement is a milestone.

″We want to provide the type of environment that will allow the medical people and researchers to affect significant strides in fighting this particular immunological disease,″ he said.

″What we’re embarking on here is an exciting journey into the unknown,″ added Roger Bulger, president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The 150-bed Citizens General Hospital is being converted from a general care hospital to a research and treatment center for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

″A year from now, I’d like to be in a position of developing an anti-viral drug,″ said Peter Mansell, medical director of the new center. ″Then I’d like to start looking at synthesizing drugs. The opportunities this facility offers for advancement in AIDS research, diagnosis and treatment are almost limitless.″

Under the agreement, American Medical International provides the hospital, management and staff of 100 to 150 people, while the University of Texas System supplies faculty and direction for medical and research activities.

AIDS cripples the body’s disease-fighting immune system, leaving its victims vulnerable to life-threatening infections and certain cancers.

It is caused by a virus believed to be passed through the blood and semen, but not through casual contact. Groups at highest risk for getting AIDS are male homosexuals, intravenous drug users and recipients of contaminated blood products.

As of July 21, AIDS had struck 22,815 people in the United States and killed 12,530, according to the National Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Mansell said the number of victims is expected to double again by the end of next year.

Mansell, professor of medicine in the Department of Clinical Immunology and Biological Therapy at the University of Texas Cancer Center, initially will direct a staff of seven.

The first AIDS patients will be accepted Sept. 2, with about 30 patients anticipated after three months and then a gradual filling of the beds, officials said.

In San Francisco, where the city’s Department of Public Health in 1983 opened the first ward exclusively for AIDS patients at San Francisco General Hospital, AIDS Clinic assistant director Donald Abrams was cautious about the Houston effort.

″Certainly the center they are describing is very ambitious,″ he said. ″I wish them good luck and it will be something we’ll be watching as a potential model as delivery of AIDS care.

″But I just have some concerns with moving AIDS patients from a general hospital environment.″

Benjamin Schatz, director of the AIDS Civil Rights Project of the National Gay Rights Advocates, had mixed sentiments.

″It is important for AIDS to get more attention,″ he said. ″But there wouldn’t be a need for facilities of this nature if the federal government was taking care of the problems instead of relying on the private sector.″

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