Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Robert K. Bolan Papers
MSS 97-03  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (124.67 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Restricted material
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Robert K. Bolan papers
    Dates: 1967-1989
    Bulk Dates: (Bulk 1982-1985)
    Collection number: MSS 97-03
    Creator: Bolan, Robert K.
    Collection Size: 3 cartons, 2 boxes, 1 half box

    5 linear ft.
    Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Library. Archives and Special Collections.
    San Francisco, California 94143-0840
    Abstract: This collection documents Dr. Robert Bolan's participation, as a community doctor and as President of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), in the identification and prevention of AIDS and HIV. Bolan was also active in the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR), and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGSTD), and consulted with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Risk reduction and safe(r) sex guidelines were two areas of special focus for Bolan. Included in this collection are minutes, correspondence, newsletters and various other items connected to these organizations, as well as drafts of articles written/talks given by Dr. Bolan and materials on AIDS and Educational methods collected by Dr. Bolan.
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection open for research.

    Restricted material

    Box 5:1,2 are RESTRICTED.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Library & Center for Knowledge Management. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Archives & Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Library & Center for Knowledge Management as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    Robert K. Bolan papers. MSS 97-03, Archives & Special Collections, UCSF Library & CKM.

    Acquisition Information

    The Robert K. Bolan Papers were donated to UCSF by Dr. Bolan via Sally Smith Hughes after she completed her oral history interviews with him in 1996.


    Robert K. Bolan was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in the greater Detroit area. He graduated from the University of Detroit in 1964 and then went on to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for medical school. He received his M.D. in 1968. He was briefly married during medical school (2.5 years) and has a son. He started his residency in Madison, Wisconsin (1972/1973) [where he met his first lover and came out to himself]. There was an active gay network in Madison. After a short break from medicine he completed his residency (1975/1976) in Milwaukee. While in Milwaukee he became aware of the "STD problem with gay men" and began volunteering at a gay VD clinic. This was the beginning of the gay medical movement and he enjoyed working with and serving his peers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) had become concerned about the high and growing rates of Syphilis and Hepatitis B within the gay male community and, in a rare move, partnered with these community clinics. This started Bolan's association with the CDC. Bolan joined the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGSTD) after being introduced to the group by its chairperson Mark Behar. The NCGSTD issued the first "safe sex" pamphlet, Guidelines and Recommendations for Healthy Gay Sexual Activity. Started in 1979, it was published in 1981, just as physicians were becoming aware of the illnesses that would later be called AIDS.
    In 1979 Bolan left his practice in Hartland, Wisconsin and moved to San Francisco to fulfill his dream of being able to combine his interest in family practice medicine and gay VD into a single practice. One of his first moves on arrival in San Francisco was to contact the two year old organization, Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR), a landmark gay physicians group. In 1980, at the 3rd Annual National Gay and Lesbian Health Organization Conference, Bolan organized a related sub-conference, the 2nd meeting of the NCGSTD, "Current Aspects of STDS II". The following year at the June 1981 BAPHR Conference, Alvin Friedman-Kien, who was added to the schedule at the last moment, reported on the strange outbreak of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) in young gay men in New York. Thirteen days previously the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) first reported on incidence of pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) among gay men. The MMWR did not report on KS until July 3, 1981. Bolan had already heard of the PCP cases at the CDC STD meeting held in San Diego in May. Soon the incidences of KS and PCP became linked under the short-lived acronym GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) before being classified as AIDS.
    BAPHR served a dual purpose; it was both a support group "safe haven" for gay physicians and a gay medical organization. Bolan was outspoken about medical issues, especially STDs and the growing concern, speculation, and research on AIDS. He became BAPHR's spokesman on the subject and a self-described "Media Queen" before burning out on publicity. He became known to Marcus Conant through Conant's KP Discussion Group, which Bolan attended when he could. Conant saw Bolan as a link between the academics and the private practice physicians, though Bolan never thought of himself that way. He served on BAPHR's KS Task Force from 1981-1983 and became the president-elect of BAPHR in 1983. The same year Conant asked him to become the Chair of the KS Foundation (formed in April 1982). Bolan took over the KS Foundation (shortly to be renamed the AIDS Foundation) in June 1983. He was also running a private practice, keeping up on research, being a media spokesman and maintaining a relationship. Something had to go. He resigned as President-elect of BAPHR and cut back on his media role. Bolan served as chair of the AIDS Foundation until January 1986. After a long practice in the Bay Area, Bolan moved to the Los Angeles area to serve as Associate Professor of Clinical Family Medicine and Director of HIV Services at the University of Southern California. However, shortly after moving south Bolan was also asked to serve as Medical Director at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Services Center, which has one of the largest HIV Clinics in Southern California.
    Bolan was actively involved with the discussions about and research on this new disease and its possible causes. Before the discovery of HIV virus one of the main theories was immune overload caused by repeated STD infections and perhaps enhanced by the use of inhaled amyl nitrates or "poppers". After the first blood transfusion cases had been identified it became clear to Bolan and others that AIDS was caused by a new type of virus. Most AIDS/HIV research, especially in the early years, was done in the "laboratory in the field", by physicians referring patients to drug trials, and their own attention to the things that didn't fit. Bolan found the uncertain and constantly evolving aspect of HIV disease as intellectually stimulating, which is why he didn't burn out like many others did. The final question, in Sally Smith Hughes' oral history interview with Bolan, concerned what Bolan saw as his greatest contribution to HIV. His answer was:
    Persistence. Showing up. And an attempt to approach this disease from a multifaceted approach: from an educational approach, from a social activism approach, and community organizational approach, and finally from a medical approach.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection documents Dr. Robert Bolan's participation, as a community doctor and as President of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) formerly the Kaposi's Sarcoma Foundation, in the identification and prevention of AIDS and HIV. Bolan was also active in the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR), and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGSTD), and consulted with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Risk reduction and safe(r) sex guidelines were two areas of special focus for Bolan. Included in this collection are documents connected to these and other organizations, as well as manuscript drafts and a few more personal items. There are also articles and other research materials on AIDS and on educational methods collected by Dr. Bolan.
    This collection consists of the documents brought by Robert Bolan, M.D. to the first of three oral history interviews with Sally Smith Hughes in 1996. Several of the documents are mentioned and/or discussed during the ensuing interviews. The collection includes: correspondence, published and unpublished papers by Bolan and others, magazines and clippings, pamphlets and flyers, agendas, financial documents, and newsletters. Scattered throughout the collection are folders containing handwritten drafts and notes from a variety of events or projects.
    Most of the documents in the collection are connected with Bolan's roles in the Bay Area Physicians for Responsibility (BAPHR) and the San Francisco Kaposi's Sarcoma Foundation, later the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF). There are also significant runs of two newsletters: The BAPHRON (BAPHR) and the NGSTDS Newsletter. A smaller amount of documents illustrate other aspects of Dr. Bolan's career, including drafts of articles he wrote, personal and business correspondence received, and a research study into the efficacy of non-oxynal nine that he was involved with. [Two folders in the collection are housed separately and restricted due to HIPAA regulations and/or personnel related issues.]
    The Collection is divided into 5 Series:

    I. Personal and Professional Papers

    II. Bay Area Physicians for Responsibility (BAPHR)

    III. SFAF (San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

    IV. Other Organizations and Projects

    V. Periodicals

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    AIDS (Disease)--Social Aspects--United States
    AIDS (Disease)--Prevention
    Minorities--Health and hygiene--United States
    Social Action--United States
    San Francisco AIDS Foundation
    Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights
    Bolan, Robert--Archives

    Related Collections

    • MSS 98-39 Marcus A. Conant Papers
    • MSS 94-60 San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records
    • AR 91-19 Sixth International Conference on AIDS Records