An Interview with Dr. Gail Barouh: Long Island’s History with HIV/AID LIAACGailBarouh

An Interview with Dr. Gail Barouh: Long Island’s History with HIV/AIDS and the Accomplishments of LIAAC This July, LIAAC congratulates President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Gail Barouh, for her incredible career with LIAAC and noble service to the Long Island community. As she begins her retirement we offer sincere gratitude to Dr. Barouh for her dedication and knowledge, leading the agency in successfully navigating the grips of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and expansion into a service provider for many other infectious and chronic diseases. Dr. Barouh recently sat down to look back on her 31-year journey with LIAAC, and provide her insight on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 1986, America was in the midst of the nation’s most infamous epidemic. New York had the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the nation, and though largely considered “a New York City problem,” the epidemic was rapidly taking its toll on Long Island. It was at this time the Long Island Association for AIDS Care (LIAAC), the nation’s first suburban-based AIDS service organization was founded. Dr. Gail Barouh, President and Chief Executive Officer of LIAAC since its inception, recalls people showing up at hospitals for care and being “put in cabs to go elsewhere,” and refers to this as a time of great prejudice, and more than prejudice, a time of tremendous fear. Looking back, she recalls that a large part of the fight against HIV/ AIDS came down to being a long education process, both for families and medical providers. Dr. Barouh took her background in health education, and the diagnosis of a personal friend, as motivation to facilitate the first Long Island support and bereavement groups for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, as well as family members, loved ones, and friends of those infected. During a time of great adversity towards a disease that was not fully understood, and targeted populations of people believed to be responsible for it, Dr. Barouh envisioned an agency that would not only combat stigma, but assist individuals in navigating obstacles for necessary services. Dr. Barouh states that in developing LIAAC, the needs of HIV/AIDS patients were “too great” for LIAAC to be a walk-in facility. With this foresight, LIAAC developed a hotline to rapidly screen questions and created a mobile unit that would assist people within their own communities. In doing this, LIAAC was able to ensure optimal support, medical attention, and quality of life throughout Long Island. Both of these programs still exist and have proven to be invaluable in connecting people with support and help. LIAAC remains Long