Alvin Novick

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 12 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1152

Physician and bat expert who became a prominent AIDS campaigner

In 1982, when the AIDS epidemic was in its infancy, it took an unusually prescient person to recognise that this was a disease like no other. One such person was Alvin Novick, professor of biology at Yale University and a former clinician.

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The term AIDS had only just been coined. President Reagan had not mentioned the word in public (that took him a further three years), though his press secretary had joked about AIDS in a press briefing. The virus had yet to be identified; the first AIDS drug, AZT (zidovudine), was not to reach the marketplace for another five years.

Alvin Novick, then aged 58, ended his 30 year study of bat sonar systems to confront the crisis. He ceased doing laboratory science and devoted the rest of his life—a further 20 years—to tackling AIDS.

Insightful, decisive, compassionate, and rigorous in everything he did, Novick was ahead of his time on almost every issue. From the beginning, he …

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