The chief of medicine of Johns Hopkins Hospital announced today the creation of a special unit for patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the first such treatment facility in the mid-Atlantic region.
The unit, said Dr. John D. Stobo, is designed to ease the sense of isolation that AIDS victims often feel from having a fatal, communicable disease. In departments with patients suffering from other diseases, such as cancer, AIDS patients are sometimes shunned by other patients and fearful health care workers, specialists said.
Hospital operations also will run more smoothly, Hopkins officials said. They said that while they have continuing efforts to educate the hospital staff on how to avoid contracting AIDS from patients and the remote likelihood of that occurring, some fears remain. The new AIDS ward will be staffed by trained employes who want to work there, they said.
Stobo said the new ward, which is expected to be financially self-supporting, also will allow Hopkins to acquire grants to do research on AIDS, particularly in the area of treatment to combat the disease. Officials said they will be better able to gather data on drug trials and other tests by having a group of patients in one place.
Patients who do not wish to be placed in the AIDS ward will continue to receive treatment in other hospital departments, as they do now.
The 10-bed unit, modeled after San Francisco General's AIDS treatment unit, is scheduled to open early next year.
"AIDS patients can benefit from being with one another," said Dr. Clete Di Giovanni, a Hopkins psychiatrist who will be part of the team of specialists on the AIDS ward. "They want to talk to other patients with AIDS."
Peter Laqueur, director of a Baltimore-based AIDS education group who worked with Hopkins officials in planning the ward, agreed that it would encourage the empathy and understanding that AIDS patients need. "Mutual support is very important," he said.
Psychiatrists, social workers and clerics trained in AIDS counseling will work with the patients on the new ward, along with three full-time physicians. The hospital also plans to have legal counselors available so patients can make out their wills and take care of their financial affairs.
Hopkins officials said they have treated 120 AIDS patients since 1983 -- nearly 60 percent of them this year. On average, the hospital has eight or nine patients at any given time receiving treatment for AIDS.
AIDS, which reduces the body's resistance to disease, leads to serious illness and almost always death. It is most often found in homosexual men and intravenous drug users and, according to authorities, cannot be spread through casual contact. Statewide, there have been 246 reported cases of AIDS to date, and of that number, 145 of the victims have died.
In another development on AIDS treatment, a patient with the disease was admitted today to a private nursing home in Baltimore, one of the few such facilities in the country to do so and the first one in Maryland.
Seton Hill Manor, a 310-bed institution that is primarily a home for the elderly, took in a 33-year-old AIDS victim who is recovering from pneumonia.
State health officials have been trying to get more private nursing homes to accept AIDS patients, who often need some nursing care but not the full facilities of a hospital.