Former CDC doctor who helped discover AIDS compares and contrasts HIV to COVID-19

"The first cases of what we know term AIDS were discovered and reported to CDC in June of 1981," says Jim Curran, Dean of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. 

In the early 1980s, Dean Curran was at the forefront of history. At the time he and a devoted team of CDC scientists did the first fieldwork that helped lead to the discovery of what we now call AIDS. 

"There was a major increase in a terrible fatal condition,”' said Dr. Curran.

I first met him in the '80s when his team worked across the globe, while scientists searched for the cause and a cure for the mysterious new virus. 

Dr. Curran sees two key parallels to today’s COVID19 virus. First, the extreme importance of caring for the desperately ill. And, second...

"There had to be prevention because, in the long run, prevention had to be as much a priority as care,' said Curran

Dr. Curran says there are dramatic differences as well. Anyone can get COVID-19. AIDS was largely confined to gay men and IV drug users. 

"Now the ways it was transmitted carried a huge stigma the coronavirus doesn't really have," said Curran.

"Oh, it is no comparison," said former AIDS  activist Frank Scheuren.

I met Frank Scheuren in the early '80s when he as a gay activist, advising the Atlanta Police during the Missing and Murdered Children investigation. 

Scheuren, now a restaurant owner, says reaction to COVID19 is a far cry from AIDS.  

"In this one people are going out of their way to be loving, sharing and compassionate. Back then the people were almost like they were lepers," said Scheuren.

Dr. Curran, worked on the AIDS pandemic with two other now very familiar doctors. Two doctors Americans see virtually every day: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

Curran says public health is always political because it involves individuals and groups of people. But, in a crisis, it should never be partisan. The best politicians, he insists, are those who listen to those who know the most. 

"I am greatly relieved to see that the White House has chosen some scientific experts rather than only political people discussing this. I think the American public is listening a lot more to people who are knowledgeable about the virus, who are scientifically knowledgeable than they listen to politicians," said Curran. 

Dr. Curran told me it is remarkable how much scientists have discovered and developed with COVID19 in just four months. A stark contrast, he says, to the slow scientific advances with the AIDS virus nearly 40 years ago.