AIDS History Materials at Archives & Special Collections

First Investigators Weekly Meeting of the HIV Center, 1988

It has been almost 40 years since the CDC published the first case report on a then mysterious disease seen in gay men in Los Angeles and New York.  In the intervening decades, HIV/AIDS has become a worldwide pandemic killing at least 70 million people and infecting millions more.  Although the introduction of antiretroviral treatments in the mid-1990s slowed the disease’s mortality rate in the developed world, HIV/AIDS remains one of our most serious health challenges with almost 38 million persons living with HIV/AIDS – a total being added to by about 1.7 million each year[1].

Archives & Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library has acquired significant holdings documenting the response to this ongoing health crisis. Among them are:

Mathilde Krim Papers, circa 1948-2016 (65 cubic feet, 182 boxes). Research scientist and co-founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), Krim help raise millions for AIDS research and was an outspoken champion of the human rights and dignity of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Her papers largely document her work with amfAR in the 1980s and ‘90s. For more information, consult the finding aid.

Michael Merson Collection on the Global AIDS Response, circa 1987-2001 (circa 11 cubic feet, 14 boxes).  Papers documenting Merson’s leadership of the World Health Organization’s Global Programme on AIDS (GPA) in the 1990s. Included are correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, speeches, press clippings, and printed material.  In addition, there are the full transcripts and audiotapes of the interviews Merson did with his GPA collaborators. While the collection is not cataloged, Archives & Special Collections staff will try to facilitate researcher use under certain conditions.

HIV Center's information table in the lobby of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, World AIDS Day, 2007.
HIV Center's information table in the lobby of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, World AIDS Day, 2007.

New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University. HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, 1987-2012 (circa 19 cubic feet, 19 boxes). This joint Columbia University-NY Psychiatric Institute center was established in 1987. The Center has conducted research on HIV prevention and treatment through the lens of gender, sexuality, and mental health, with a goal of designing effective interventions to reduce risk for HIV infection for a wide variety of populations.  Records include newsletters, brochures, grant applications and reports, photographs, DVDs, training and intervention manuals, workshop materials, and reprints of scientific articles by HIV Center staff members. While not yet completely cataloged, the records are available for research under certain conditions.

Zena Stein Papers, circa 1980-circa 2010 (circa 14 cubic feet, 14 boxes). Stein was the co-founder of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies and was active in its work until her retirement in 2004.  Included are correspondence, grant project records, talks and lectures, records of symposia and meetings, and published articles.  Although unprocessed, the papers may be used by researchers under certain conditions.

Mervyn Susser Papers, 1907-2008 (26.6 cubic feet, 80 boxes).  Though the bulk of Susser’s papers document his distinguished career as a professor of epidemiology at Columbia, about two boxes hold records of the Committee for Health in Southern Africa (CHISA), an organization he helped found to combat unequal health conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, including efforts against AIDS. For more information see the finding aid.

Mailman School of Public Health. Office of the Dean. Records, 1945-2007 (23.25 cubic feet, 55 boxes).  Allan Rosenfield, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health, 1986-2008, was deeply involved in combating AIDS, both in the U.S. and in the developing world and he was active in the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), one of the most important American organizations fighting the epidemic.  His records include correspondence, subject and conference files, lectures, and audiovisual materials.  For more information see the finding aid.

[1] Kaiser Family Foundation. Global Health Policy – The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic: accessed February 5, 2020.

Top: First Investigators Weekly Meeting of the HIV Center, 1988.  Co-founders Dr. Anke Ehrhardt, center, and Dr. Zena Stein, right, can be seen at the far end of the table.