Galveston County Daily News (Internet / Print) 05/21/06 Dressed in full battle gear, William O’Brien was petrified as he prepared to wage war on a deadly microscopic enemy lodged in the bloodstream and cells of some of his patients. “We knew it was an infectious disease, but no one knew if it was spread like a cold or something else,” recalled O’Brien, who was seeing dozens of patients suffering from the ailment, dubbed gay-related immune deficiency. “We wore masks and gowns and two pairs of gloves just to go in to examine a patient in an isolated, protected room and never really touched them directly. The unknown — seeing relatively healthy young men get sick and die — was terrifying to everybody.” “In those early years, people would come in for my care, and I would watch them get sick, lose weight and die. It was so discouraging,” said O’Brien, now a professor and chief of the AIDS pathogenesis research program at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “For the first time, a sexually transmitted disease could kill you.”