History

MMR
June 5, 1981
CDC Reports Initial Cases of HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles.

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The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report described the men as having additional infections, indicating that their immune systems were compromised. Two of the young men were already dead by the time the report was published.

The edition of the MMWR marked the first official reporting of what would become known as the AIDS epidemic. The initial five-patient study was reported to the CDC by Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a young immunologist at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles).

Dr. Gottlieb encountered his first patient with unusual infections in November 1980, when one of his medical school residents reported a young patient suffering from a severe yeast infection in his throat.  When the patient began having breathing difficulties, Dr. Gottlieb arranged to receive a scraping of his lung tissue through a non-surgical procedure.  He was astounded by the test results.

The patient tested positive for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in addition to oral candidiasis, also known as thrush.  Dr. Gottlieb then reached out to a colleague who specialized in the new science of T-cells, the white blood cells important to the immune system.  The colleague tested the patient’s blood and found that the sample had no T-helper cells, a result so astounding that he ran the test again, with the same results.

In February 1981, Dr. Gottlieb would come across another young man suffering with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and depleted T-cells, and shortly after that, a third patient was referred to him.  Thorough examinations of the patients about their lifestyles yielded the information that were gay, but Dr. Gottlieb couldn’t determine how their sexual identity was relevent.

A fourth PCP patient appeared in April 1981, and then a report of a fifth man who already died (an autopsy found PCP).   Seeing an alarming trend, Dr. Gottlieb contacted an editor at the New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the U.S., and was told that the submission-review-publication process would take at least four months.  He believed this information needed to get out to the medical community fast, so he instead submitted his report to the CDC’s weekly newsletter, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a weekly report read by medical officials concerned with infectious disease and public health.

Assisting Dr. Gottlieb in publishing his report was Dr. Wayne Shandera, who worked in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as a CDC liaison.

“Gottlieb talked through the charts while Shandera put the information into the dry, turgid prose that the MMWR preferred,” wrote Randy Shilts in his epic recounting of the early years of the AIDS pandemic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.  “The report noted the links between PCP, CMV (cytomegalovirus), and the oral candidiasis that commonly preceded the pneumonia.”

Dr. Gottlieb’s report also stated, “The fact that these patients were all homosexuals suggests an association between some aspect of homosexual lifestyle or disease acquired through sexual contact and Pneumocystis pneumonia in this population.”

Of course, the five Los Angeles men in Dr. Gottlieb’s report were not the only early cases of the disease that years later would be called AIDS.  In 1979, 1980 and 1981, previously healthy men in New York City and San Francisco were their seeing doctors and baffling them with a range of symptoms that included fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes, flat purple lesions, oral candidiasis, shortness of breath, eczema, fevers, and amebic dysentery.  Their medical charts would be marked with notes like “fever of unknown origin,” “Kaposi’s sarcoma,” “cytomegalovirus,” and “toxoplasmosis.”   But the traditional treatments for these conditions were not working.

Now it is known that HIV originated much earlier, around 1920, likely in the Democratic Republic of Congo when HIV crossed species from chimpanzees to humans.  Up until the 1980s, there is no record of how many people were infected with HIV or developed AIDS.

While sporadic cases of AIDS were documented prior to 1970, available data suggests that the epidemic started in the mid- to late 1970s.  By 1980, HIV may have already spread to five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia), and in this period, it is possible that up to 300,000 people were already infected.

In April of 1980, the CDC received a report on Ken Horne, a gay man in San Francisco who was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma.  Horne died on November 30, 1981.  The CDC would retroactively identify Horne as the first American patient of the AIDS epidemic.

Following Dr. Gottlieb’s report in the CDC’s MMWR, he and his team published a more detailed report in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 10,  1981.

Today, Dr. Gottlieb is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and still treats patients exclusively at AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA Health).  He is also a member of the Council of Advisors to STORIES: The AIDS Monument.

1981
Rare Kaposi’s Sarcoma Found among Gay Men in NY & CA

New York City dermatologist Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien calls the CDC to report a cluster of cases of a rare and unusually aggressive cancer — Kaposi’s Sarcoma — among gay men in New York and California.

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Like pnuemocytis carinii pneumonia (PCP), Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) is associated with people who have weakened immune systems.

Dr. Friedman-Kien told New York magazine:

“In February 1981, I saw a young man who was perfectly healthy except for a number of spots on his skin.  I’d never seen anything like it, so I did a biopsy.  Under the microscope, the cell structure was clear: it was Kaposi’s sarcoma.”

Dr. Friedman-Kien continued:  “A week later, another physician sent me another patient, also a gay man in his late thirties, also with disseminated KS.”

June 8, 1981
CDC Report Receives Nationwide Media Attention

News media begin to report out on the MMWR article, and within days, the CDC receives reports from around the country of similar cases of opportunistic infections among gay men.

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These news stories — which were published by the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press — captured the attention of the gay community and medical personnel nationwide.

In response to the outpouring of reports and concerns to the CDC, the Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections was created to identify risk factors and to develop a case definition for the as-yet-unnamed syndrome.  The Task Force worked under the CDC’s Field Services Division in the Epidemiology Program.

To coordinate the task force, the CDC selected James W. Curran, M.D., who would dedicate much of his life to HIV/AIDS research and would publish numerous research papers on the disease.

Task force members included David M. Auerbach, M.D.; John V. Bennett, M.D.; Philip S. Brachman, M.D.; Glyn C. Caldwell, M.D.; Salvatore J. Crispi; William W. Darrow, Ph.D.; Henry Falk, M.D.; David S. Gordon, M.D.; Mary E. Guinan, M.D.; Harry W. Haverkos, M.D.; Clark W. Heath, Jr., M.D.; Roy T. Ing, M.D.; Harold W. Jaffe, M.D.; Bonnie Mallory Jones; Dennis D. Juranek, D.V.M.; Alexander Kelter, M.D.; J. Michael Lane, M.D.; Dale N. Lawrence, M.D.; Richard Ludlow; Cornelia R. McGrath; James M. Monroe; David M. Morens, M.D.; John P. Orkwis; Martha F. Rogers, M.D.; Wilmon R. Rushing; Richard W. Sattin, M.D.; Mary Ellen Shapiro; Thomas J. Spira, M.D.; John A. Stewart, M.D.; Pauline A. Thomas, M.D.; and Hilda Westmoreland.

In its first year, the Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections received case reports from the following doctors working in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles:

Donald F. Austin, M.D.; Erwin Braff, M.D.; James W. Buehler, M.D.; James Chin, M.D.; J. Lyle Conrad, M.D.; Selma Dritz, M.D.; Diane M. Dwyer, M.D.; Shirley L. Fannin, M.D.; Yehudi M. Felman, M.D.; Stephen M. Friedman, M.D.; Robert A. Gunn, M.D.; John P. Hanrahan, M.D.; Robert J. Kingon, M.D.; Michael D. Malison, M.D.; Stanley I. Music, M.D.; Mark A. Roberts, M.D.; Alain J. Roisin, M.D.; Richard B. Rothenberg, M.D.; and R. Keith Sikes, M.D.

June 16, 1981
First Person with AIDS Admitted to NIH

A man exhibiting symptoms of severe immunodeficiency is the first person with AIDS to be admitted to the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health.

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The 35-year-old, white gay man from New York City was transferred from a Connecticut hospital to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland after researchers at the National Cancer Institute, an NIH branch that studied immunodeficiency diseases, heard about his case.

Almost immediately after the new disease emerged on the medical scene, researchers recognized that patients with this unnamed syndrome often developed a rare cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma as well as other tumors, such as high-grade B-cell lymphomas. As a result, some of the earliest AIDS patient care and research was performed by cancer specialists at the NIH and elsewhere.

The man admitted to the NIH was, for privacy purposes, referred to as “Patient D.”  He came to the NIH from Hartford Hospital, where he had been hospitalized for two months with neumocystis carinii pneumonia, lymphocytopenia, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex II, Candida esophagitis, and Mycobacterium avium tuberculosis of the lung, bone marrow, and esophagus.

The patient had been healthy through adulthood until February 1981, when he began experiencing fatigue and weakness, followed by weight loss and fever.

Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D., one of the NIH doctors who was first to examine “Patient D” said in a 1990 NIH interview:

“The pattern that we observed in our patient was the kind of pattern one saw in Hodgkin’s disease patients who were profoundly anergic [i.e., a condition in which the body fails to react to an antigen], or in patients with a form of profound immunodeficiency called ‘severe combined immunodeficiency of infancy,’ where the patient cannot make an effective cellular or antibody immune response. What we were seeing was an acquired form of cell-mediated immunity.”

Dr. Waldmann said the medical team performed every test they could think of to try to determine the cause of Patient D’s condition, to no avail.

“We were all groping, trying to understand what was going on,” Dr. Waldmann recalled.  “In that era, one couldn’t be fatalistic, even when someone was in an apparently irreversible state. One had to assume that somehow one might be able to reverse the immunodeficiency and with that bring into control the infectious disease.”

Members of the NIH’s Metabolism Branch joined forces to study the patient’s cells in a variety of tests.  Once doctors determined that Patient D suffered from a rare case of cytomegalovirus retinitis, the National Eye Institute became involved, photographing and studying Patient D’s deteriorating eyesight.

In addition to the research, the doctors were scrambling to find a treatment that Patient D would respond to, but these treatments failed to reverse the course of the symptoms.  In fact, it would later be discovered that chemotherapy, the traditional treatment for many forms of cancer, would be ineffective for (and even harmful to) AIDS patients because of their weakened immune systems.

“At the end, the patient had massive cerebral necrosis and autolysis. We had a great number of people involved in treating all the different systems,” Dr. Waldmann said in 1990.  “His disease continued, and the patient finally died on October 28, 1981 of hypotension and respiratory failure, with multisystem involvement.”

An autopsy of the body revealed an even wider spectrum of infectious diseases, including massive necrosis, encephalitis, and degeneration of the brain.

AIDS researcher and early human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drug developer Robert Yarchoan, M.D., recalled the gravity of the moment:

“AIDS showed us that something that no one ever worried about before suddenly could become a major problem for the country and for mankind.  And when HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS, it became apparent that, in addition to persons known to have AIDS, thousands of people in the United States were already infected with this new virus without knowing it.  Moreover, at this time, infection with HIV was in most cases fatal.”

July 1, 1981
Doctors Identify More Cases in San Francisco & New York City

As his first day as an oncologist at San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Paul Volberding treats his first HIV-positive patient, a 22-year-old man with Kaposi sarcoma.

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After completing a three-year fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Volberding was ready to become a cancer specialist under renowned virologist Dr. Jay Levy.  Instead, he found himself on a lifelong journey of treating people living with HIV/AIDS and fighting the spread of the virus.

Dr. Volberding remembered his first patient with clarity.

“Twenty-two-year-old man, grew up in the Deep South, and as I recall he was estranged from his family,” Dr. Volberding told the San Francisco Examiner almost 35 years later. “He ended up in San Francisco working basically sex for food, and had innumerable previous sexually transmitted infections.”

The man died within a few months, without his family present, Dr. Volberding recalls.

Around this same time in the early summer of 1981, two doctors in the Bronx started to see HIV/AIDS symptoms in their own patients.  Dr. Gerald Friedland identified several cases of Pneumocystis pneumonia in injection drug users, and became one of the first to see the connection between IV-drug use and HIV transmission.

Pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubenstein began to identify the immunodeficiency of his pediatric patients, the children of drug addicts, as a symptom of what would be eventually called AIDS.

Dr. Rubenstein, who had been seeing this particular kind of immunodeficiency in children and sometimes in their mothers in his Bronx practice since the late 1970s, was one of the first to connect pediatric cases to the new disease affecting homosexual men.

These doctors who treated some of the first known cases of HIV/AIDS went on to do important, transformative work in the fields of treatment, research and public health policy.

In 1983, Dr. Volberding established what would make San Francisco General Hospital the model for HIV care: the country’s first AIDS treatment center (Ward 86).  Later the same year, he joined the medical team at Ward 5B, the world’s first in-patient clinic for AIDS patients.

Dr. Volberding continued to treat HIV/AIDS patients until 2012, when he became director of the UCSF AIDS Research Institute.  Volberding would also become co-director of the Center for AIDS Research.

In the years to come, Dr. Friedland also dedicated his life to AIDS treatment and research.  Following 10 years of working with HIV/AIDS patients in the Bronx, Dr. Friedland became director of the HIV/AIDS Program at Yale and Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Friedland also became involved in HIV/AIDS international research aimed at providing access to antiretroviral therapy in developing regions of the world.  The major focus of his work became the integration of HIV and TB care and treatment in co-infected patients in South Africa.

In 2018, on the occasion of delivering the keynote address at the 13th annual International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention, Dr. Friedland told The Body PRO:

“Many of these people living with HIV, I have cared for, for decades.  I know them extremely well. They know me.  We have gone through this together and have this close collegial relationship as a partnership, so it’s a wondrous pleasure to continue to provide.”

The other doctor working in New York City in 1981, Dr. Rubenstein, would decide to remain in the Bronx, caring for children with HIV AIDS.  In 1983, he received a grant from the National Institutes for Health to study the incidence of AIDS in women and children. In 1986, Dr. Rubenstein established that transmission of AIDS can occur in utero, and his breakthrough findings were published in the journal Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology.

By this time, Dr. Rubsenstein had treated more than a hundred HIV-infected children, and in the summer of 1985, he opened a day care center for pediatric AIDS patients at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.  He became Chief of the Division of Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology at Albert Einstein College.

In a 1987 interview with New York magazine, he spoke fondly of the parents, many of them former IV-drug users, of his pediatric patients:

“Many come from a low socioeconomic group, they’re poor, the family may have broken up, they may have used drugs, and now their child has AIDS because they gave it to him.  You wouldn’t be surprised if they threw up their hands, but many don’t.  They become the best parents in the world.  They straighten out their lives, they spend hours with their kids. They give up longing for material things and look for spiritual and religious values.”

 

July 2, 1981
Mention of ‘Gay Men’s Pneumonia’ Appears in Media

The Bay Area Reporter, a weekly newspaper for the gay and lesbian community in San Francisco, publishes the first mention of “Gay Men’s Pneumonia.”

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The short item advised gay men experiencing progressive shortness of breath to see their physicians.

NYT 070381
July 3, 1981
‘Gay Cancer’ Enters the HIV/AIDS Lexicon

Coinciding with the CDC’s release of another MMWR detailing opportunistic infections among gay men, The New York Times publishes the article “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” At this point, the term “gay cancer ” enters the public lexicon.

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The CDC report, titled “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men — New York City and California,” described cases of KS and PCP among 26 gay men (25 white and one black).

In an 18-paragraph story on Page 20 of the New York Times, reporter Lawrence K. Altman cited 41 reported cases of “a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer.”  Altman reported that eight of the 41 men diagnosed with the condition were already dead, and that the time between diagnosis and death from the disease was less than 24 months.

In the last paragraphs of the article, Altman wrote:

“The reporting doctors said that most cases had involved homosexual men who have had multiple and frequent sexual encounters with different partners, as many as 10 sexual encounters each night up to four times a week.

“Many of the patients have also been treated for viral infections such as herpes, cytomegalovirus and hepatitis B as well as parasitic infections such as amebiasis and giardiasis. Many patients also reported that they had used drugs such as amyl nitrite and LSD to heighten sexual pleasure.

“Cancer is not believed to be contagious, but conditions that might precipitate it, such as particular viruses or environmental factors, might account for an outbreak among a single group.”

According to Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, a New York City clinician who was among the first in the U.S. to recognize the emerging AIDS epidemic, this article was significant because of the Times‘ large, international readership.  But doctors treating New Yorkers from the gay community had been noticing strange symptoms and unusual illnesses in their patients for at least two years.

“I had been observing some clinical and laboratory abnormalities among my patients as early as 1979. These included enlarged lymph glands, an enlarged spleen, low blood platelets and a low white blood cell count,” Dr. Sonnabend told POZ magazine in 2020.

“Then, in April or May of 1981, I was stunned to learn that Kaposi’s sarcoma was being diagnosed in young gay men in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Joyce Wallace, a physician whose office was close to mine on West 12th Street in New York passed this information on to me,” he recalled.

When Dr. Sonnabend heard about the KS cases in young men, he reached out to a colleague, Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien, a dermatologist at NYU medical center.  Dr. Friedman-Kien was caring for several gay men with Kaposi’s sarcoma, and soon Dr. Sonnabend joined him at NYU’s virology lab.

Through their research, the doctors found high levels of interferon in their patients.  Early research and discoveries like this formed the foundation of HIV/AIDS research for many years to come.

August 4, 1981
Elizabeth Glaser Receives Blood Transfusion during Childbirth Process

A pregnant Elizabeth Glaser, wife of television star Paul Michael Glaser, is rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to give birth to her first child.  She hemorrhages heavily during labor and requires a transfusion of seven pints of blood.

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A former teacher who worked as exhibit director of the LA Children’s Museum, Glaser asked her doctor about the mysterious disease reported recently in the press, and her doctor dismissed her concerns, assuring her,  “Your nightmare is over.

In 1985, daughter Ariel experienced persistent stomach pains and doctors were unable to determine the source.  The four-year-old was tested for HIV “as just a precaution,” and the results came back positive for the virus.

Each member of the Glaser family was then tested, and would result in the additional HIV diagnosis of mother Elizabeth and 18-month-old son Jake.

Doctors determined that Elizabeth contracted HIV during her 1981 blood transfusion, and Elizabeth had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breastfeeding.  Jake, who was born in October 1984, had contracted the virus in utero.

When Elizabeth sought counseling for Ariel, she discovered that no child psychiatrist would take the case.  Aware of the stigma of AIDS, the Glasers pulled Ariel out of nursery school and erected a wall of secrecy to protect their children.

In August 1989 (one year after Ariel died of AIDS-related illness), the National Enquirer and other tabloids threatened the Glaser family with exposure.

Elizabeth Glaser would side-step the media ambush by sharing her harrowing story in her 1991 autobiography, In the Absence of Angels.   She and two frinds then started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and she became one of the most aggressive and effective pediatric AIDS activists in the country.

August 11, 1981
Larry Kramer Hosts First Meeting to Discuss Pandemic

Acclaimed writer and film producer Larry Kramer holds a meeting of over 80 gay men in his New York City apartment.

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Invited speaker Dr. Friedman-Kien, a dermatologist alarmed that the spread of Kaposi’s sarcoma among the gay male population of New York, asked attendees to contribute money to support his research, because he had no access to rapid funding.  The plea raised $6,635 — essentially the only new money, public or private, that would be raised to fight the epidemic in 1981.

This and other early efforts to raise funds and awareness around the disease that would later be called HIV and AIDS led directly to the creation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) Committee.  The committee would transition into a corporation in the summer of 1982, and become New York’s primary service organization for HIV/AIDS.

“The August 11, 1981 fundraiser at Kramer’s apartment and the efforts of a handful of volunteers on Labor Day weekend 1981 were intended to raise money, but they succeeded mainly in raising discussion about Kaposi’s sarcoma,” according to David Román in his book Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture and AIDS.

 

MMR 2
August 28, 1981
CDC Reports that 40% of Identified Cases Die of KS/PCP

Of the 108 known cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, 107 are male and 94% of those whose sexual orientation is known are gay/bisexual.  About 40% of all patients have already died.

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The MMWR article, “Follow-Up on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia,” reported that CDC received information on 70 additional cases of KS and/or PCP since its July 3 edition, making a total of 108 known cases.

September 15, 1981
Small Medical Conference is First to Address Epidemic

The National Cancer Institute and CDC cosponsor the first conference to address the new epidemic.  Fifty leading clinicians attend.

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At the event in Bethesda, Maryland, the clinicians discussed Kaposi’s sarcoma and other opportunistic infections, and began to develop recommendations for further studies in epidemiology, virology, and treatment.

September 21, 1981
World’s First AIDS Clinic Opens in San Francisco

The Kaposi’s Sarcoma clinic at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, opens its doors, becoming the first clinic to exclusively treat what would become to be known as AIDS.

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Overseen by Bay Area dermatologist Dr. Marcus Conant, the Kaposi’s Sarcoma clinic was also staffed by oncologist Dr. Paul Volberding, Dr. Constance Wofsy and Dr. Donald Abrams.  Collectively, the physicians guided much of the early response to AIDS in San Francisco.

Dr. Conant would go on to create the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (first called the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation) to address both the need to go into the community, which was still in denial about the disease, and the need to find non-government funding sources.

October 28, 1981
‘Patient D’ Dies at the National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health reports the death of the man who was admitted to its facility in Bethesda, Maryland in June at the age of 35 with severe immune deficiency.

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Known only as “Patient D” in NIH research reports, the patient had been transferred to the NIH Clinical Center from Hartford Hospital, where doctors had been unable to reverse the course of multiple infections spreading through his body.  He had previously been living in New York City.

The white, gay man said he had been healthy through adulthood until February 1981, when he began experiencing fatigue and weakness, followed by weight loss and fever.  By the time he was admitted to the NIH in June 1981, Patient D had been diagnosed with neumocystis carinii pneumonia, lymphocytopenia, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex II, Candida esophagitis, and Mycobacterium avium tuberculosis of the lung, bone marrow, and esophagus.

Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D., who at the time was chief of the Metabolism Branch of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, said in a 1990 NIH interview that Patient D was the first patient with AIDS seen at their facility.  He said that he could see that this disease, combined with the patient’s identity as a gay man, “had a devastating effect on his relationships to individuals who had been close to him in the past.”

He noted that, besides the occasional visit from family members, Patient D was largely left alone to die.  Through others on his medical team, he learned that the patient had been abandoned by his partner and others from his social circle in New York.

“No one visited this individual, who was in a critical and life-threatening condition, throughout his whole four-month stay,” said Dr. Waldmann.

The NIH medical team performed every test and issued every treatment they could think of, to no avail, he said.

“We were all groping, trying to understand what was going on,” Dr. Waldmann recalled.  “In that era, one couldn’t be fatalistic, even when someone was in an apparently irreversible state. One had to assume that somehow one might be able to reverse the immunodeficiency and with that bring into control the infectious disease.”

“We had a great number of people involved in treating all the different systems,” he said.  “His disease continued, and the patient finally died on October 28, 1981 of hypotension and respiratory failure, with multisystem involvement.”

An autopsy of the body revealed an even wider spectrum of infections, including massive necrosis, encephalitis, and degeneration of the brain.  The autopsy states: “This case represents an example of a recently described syndrome of acquired immunodeficiency in previously healthy young male homosexuals.”

The willingness of Patient D to spend what would turn out to be the last four months of his life in a NIH cancer research center would prove to be valuable to researchers, health officials, and the medical community for years to come.

Cells taken from Patient D led to the discovery of the first human retrovirus HTLV-I and ultimately to the discovery of HIV-1 as the cause of AIDS — one of the major scientific achievements during the last century, said Dr. Waldmann.  In addition, these cells played a critical role in the ability for Waldmann’s lab to achieve a major breakthrough in immunology with the production of the monoclonal antibody to the Il-2 receptor, anti-Tac.

By subjecting himself to research studies, Patient D provided critical information to the country’s top researchers during the very earliest months of the epidemic.  The handful of cases reported at that time to the NIH and Centers for Disease Control had included instances of young, gay men with Kaposi’s sarcoma, but the report of Patient D was the first to include malignant lymphoma as a condition.

Patient D was also diagnosed with other conditions that were unique to his case at the time, including his deteriorating eyesight and the failure of his body to repond to a tuberculin skin test, despite the fact that he had widespread Mycobacterium avium.

As these new conditions were reported widely to the medical community, the case study of Patient D helped to broaden the defnition of the disease early on and served to provide critical information to physicians and health officials across the country.

November 30, 1981
Ken Horne Dies of Kaposi’s Sarcoma in San Francisco

After falling ill in 1979 with unusual conditions related to a suppressed immune system, Ken Horne dies in San Francisco,

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In April 1980, the Centers for Disease Control received a report on Horne, a gay man who was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare disease.  The CDC would retroactively identify Horne as the first American patient of the AIDS epidemic.

Horne had grown up in Oregon and, when he was 21, he moved to San Francisco in 1965 to study ballet.  Within a few years, he abandoned his dance career and took an office job with the local transit system. He’d also discovered the city’s vibrant gay social scene and became a regular at the leather bars. By the fall of 1980, he’d become ill with the first reported case in San Francisco of what would eventually be called HIV/AIDS.  He was 37 years old.

Dr. James Groundwater, a dermatologist, was puzzled by the symptoms Horne presented to him in November 1980.  Horne told him that for two years, he was experiencing fatigue, diarrhea and nausea.  More alarming was Horne’s enlarged lymph nodes and the purple spots on his skin, one on his left thigh and another near his right nipple.  Dr. Groundwater took photos of the lesions and  biopsied of one of them.  He also drew some of Horne’s blood to be tested.

About a week later, Horne was back in Dr. Groundwater’s office to hear about the results of the tests.  The dermatologist told him that something was wrong with his white blood cells and his immune system seemed compromised.  Horne’s lesions represented something more mysterious; results were inconclusive.  He needed more tests.

Over the next four months, Horne’s condition worsened.  He suffered daily now from severe headaches and fever, and new lesions appeared on his face and back.  On March 30, 1981, Horne was admitted to St. Frances Hospital in San Francisco, where he was given a lumbar puncture.  The results showed he had cryptococcosis, an infection acquired by inhalation of contaminated soil.  This made no sense to Dr. Groundwater.

In the San Francisco AIDS Oral History Project, Dr. Groundwater recalled sending the biopsy of Horne’s lesion to as many as ten pathologists, trying to crack the mystery of the purple spots.

“In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, very few dermatologists, dermatopathologists even, had seen much Kaposi’s sarcoma. This was very rare. And so they missed the diagnosis. They read it as hemangioma and proliferating angioendotheliomatosis, et cetera,”  he said.  “But finally, I think it was Dick Sagebiel, a dermatopathologist over in the melanoma clinic at Mt. Zion, who was the first one who made the diagnosis of Kaposi’s sarcoma on these lesions.”

On April 9, Dr. Richard Sagebiel would give Dr. Groundwater the first “reading” of the biopsy that made any sense of Horne’s deteriorating condition.  But this just opened up a bunch of new questions.  KS trypically affected elderly men, usually of Jewish or Italian descent, and the condition was easily treatable.

Weeks later, things started to fall into place when Dr. Groundwater was attending dermatology rounds at the University of California San Francisco.  Clinic chief Marcus Conant, MD, asked attendees if any of them had seen any unusual cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

“At that moment, the realization was born that a new epidemic had arrived in San Francisco,” wrote Randy Shilts in his masterpiece of investigative reporting, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

Drs. Groundwater and Conant exchanged information; they had known eachother since the late 1960s, when Groundwater did his residency at UCSF.  Dr. Conant said that Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien in New York had some cases of KS in young gay men.

“So I called Alvin Friedman-Kien,” Dr. Groundwater said in the San Francisco AIDS Oral History Project.   “At that point, Alvin had, I think, six, seven, or eight cases of these young gay males with Kaposi’s sarcoma.”

On April 24, Dr. John Gullett, a key member of Ken Horne’s medical team at St. Francis Hospital, called the Centers for Disease Control to report the case of KS, making Ken Horne the first reported victim of the new disease.

Over the next seven months, doctors ordered the usual treatments for Horne’s KS, cytomegalovirus, and cryptococcal meningitis — but nothing was working.

“He went through one horrendous experience after another with these various opportunistic infections,” Dr. Groundwater said.  “But I think when he began to lose his vision from the cytomegalovirus retinitis, he gave up the battle.  When he went blind, he died within a couple of weeks.  I think he gave up.”

Ken Horne died of AIDS-related illness on November 30, 1981 at St. Francis Hospital at the age of 38.

* * * * *

It is now thought that the first HIV/AIDS patient in North America was Robert Rayford, a Black teenager from the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri.  Rayford was hospitalized in 1968 with shortness of breath, swelling in his lower body and other infections that he reported experiencing for about two years.

First suspecting that he had contracted an exotic illness, Rayford’s doctors were surprised to learn that the teenager had never traveled outside of the Midwest. They proceeded to administer numerous tests on Rayford’s blood and tissue, but were unable to determine an overall diagnosis or effective treatment.    He died of pneumonia in 1969 at St. Louis City Hospital.  An autopsy revealed small, cancerous, internal tumors throughout his body — Kaposi’s sarcoma. Almost 20 years later, a western blot postmortem test on Rayford’s tissue samples confirmed HIV.

Also relevent is the illness and death of Grethe Rask, a Danish physician and surgeon who spent years working in the Congo.  Over several years, she suffered from a number of opportunistic infections and severe immunodeficiency, and then died of pneumonia on December 12, 1977 in Copenhagen.  A 1987 blood test determined that she was infected with HIV.

Also, Arne Vidar Røed was a Norwegian truck driver and former sailor who contracted one of the earliest confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS.  While still a teenager, Røed worked in the kitchen of a Norwegian ship, travelling to Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Senegal.  When he returned to Norway in 1965, he married and became a father to two children.

Beginning in 1968, Røed suffered from joint pain, lymphedema, and lung infections, conditions which traditional medicine and treatments failed to resolve.  He died in April 1976.  His wife, who had come down with similar symptoms, died the following December.  Their eight-year-old daughter died, too.  Although the disease was not identified until long after their deaths, all three are believed to be the first confirmed HIV cases in Europe.   This was the first documented cluster of AIDS cases before the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s.

1981
Pediatric AIDS Cases Surface in New York City

At Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubinstein treats five black infants showing signs of severe immune deficiency, including pnuemocytis carinii pneumonia.

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The mothers of at least three of the children disclosed that they used drugs and/or engaged in sex work.  Dr. Rubinstein recognized that the children were showing signs of the same illnesses affecting gay men, but his diagnoses were dismissed by his colleagues.

December 5, 1981
Pamphlet on KS Distributed to Conference Attendees

In an attempt to alert the medical community to a mysterious fatal disease afflicting young gay men, three dermatologists from San Francisco and New York City distribute a pamphlet on Kaposi’s sarcoma to attendees of a dermatology conference.

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Drs. Marc Conant, Alvin Friedman-Kien, and James Groundwater stationed themselves at the entrance of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology and distributed to incoming attendees a pamphlet they hastily put together about Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of skin cancer that was being diagnosed in previously healthy young men in San Francisco and New York City.

Held on Dec. 5-10, the conference drew thousands of dermatologists in the United States and Canada to San Francisco to hear the latest developments in their medical field.  The pamphlet was likely the first information that most conference attendees received about Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and its role in the yet-unnamed disease of AIDS.

“At that point in time, not many people knew about this problem, and it wasn’t getting a whole lot of attention,” Dr. Groundwater later recalled for the San Francisco AIDS Oral History Project.  “I don’t think the seriousness of it was widely appreciated — the potential for major problems in the future.”

Dr. Groundwater said he wrote the copy for the brochure and used photographs of a patient’s KS lesions so dermatologists could see how the disease manifested.  The patient was Ken Horne, the first KS case to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control.  Horne had died on November 30, 1981, just days before the conference.

December 10, 1981
Bobbi Campbell Starts Publishing ‘Gay Cancer Journal’

Bobbi Campbell, a San Francisco nurse, becomes the first Kaposi’s sarcoma patient to go public — and in print — with his diagnosis.

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Campbell published a series of articles about his KS diagnosis for the San Francisco Sentinel, the first titled “I Will Survive: Nurse’s Own ‘Gay Cancer’ Story.”

Calling himself the “KS Poster Boy,” Campbell continued to share his experiences in the column “Gay Cancer Journal.”  His AIDS activism would go on to include being pictured in San Francisco’s first AIDS poster, organizing the first candlelight vigil to raise AIDS awareness, and eventually becoming one of the first openly gay men to appear on the cover of a major news magazine when he posed for Newsweek with his lover Bobby Hilliard.

Starting with a case of shingles in February 1981, Campbell suffered from a series of unusual illnesses, including Leukopenia later that summer.  After a hike with his boyfriend in September 1981, he noticed KS lesions on his feet.  He was formally diagnosed as having KS by dermatologist Marcus Conant, M.D., in October 1981.  This would be Dr. Conant’s first diagnosis of a patient with what would become known as AIDS.

After joining the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in early 1982, Campbell cowrote the first San Francisco safer sex manual, Play Fair!, using his nun persona, Sister Florence Nightmare RN.  The booklet was among the very first to use plain sex-positive language and humor to give practical advice.

In February 1982, Campbell and Dan Turner, who had just himself been diagnosed with KS, attended what would be the founding meeting of the KS/AIDS Foundation (which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation).  Campbell also became involved with the Shanti Project, which moved from its original focus of supporting people with terminal cancer, to providing emotional support to people diagnosed with AIDS.

Campbell also helped start the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement (PWA), arguing that people with AIDS should expect to participate actively in the response to the AIDS crisis. The PWA Movement rejected the term “AIDS victim.”

With others, Campbell drafted the Denver Principles, the defining manifesto of the PWA Movement.  Inspired by the Lavender Menace radical feminists storming the National Organization for Women convention stage in 1970, Campbell and other activists decided to do something similar at the closing session of the Second National AIDS Forum. As each of the 11 men read out one of the 11 statements of Denver Principles, they did so with a banner stating “Fighting for Our Lives.”  These words became the slogan of the PWA Movement.

Campbell gave one of his last speeches at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights, occuring while the 1984 Democratic National Convention was in San Francisco.  Campbell told the crowd that he had hugged his boyfriend on the cover of Newsweek, and then kissed Hilliard on stage “to show Middle America that gay love is beautiful.”

In a powerful speech, Campbell denounced the Christian right for their practice of using scripture to justify their homophobia, and he slammed the Reagan administration for its lack of action.  He held 15 seconds of silence for “the 2,000 who had died of AIDS at that point and for those who will die before this is over.”

Two weeks later, Campbell appeared on CBS Evening News in a live interview with Dan Rather.  While the rumors and fear of AIDS had reached the general public, the facts had not, so Campbell was placed in a glass booth, and technicians refused to come near him to wire up his microphone for the interview.

Soon after his TV appearance, he was admitted to a hospital and placed on life support.  With Hillard and his parents by his side, Campbell died on August 15, 1984, exactly a month after his DNC speech.  He was 32 years old.

December 20, 1981
‘Dreamgirls’ Opens on Broadway

Dreamgirls makes a splashy debut on Broadway with stars Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who both get involved fighting AIDS after some of heir cast mates become sick and die.

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The successful debut of Dreamgirls marked career breakthroughs for Holliday and Ralph, but also began a time of great loss.

In addition to cast members, Dreamgirls Director Michael Bennett would die of AIDS-related illness on July 2, 1987 at the age of 44.  He would be diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 and choose to keep his illness a secret from all but a few close friends.

“Friends and cast members just got sick and died,” Ralph would later write in the Huffington Post.  “They were sick today and dead tomorrow….  Then the deadly silence would set in because nobody wanted to talk about it, much less do anything about that disease, that shhhhh, gay disease. The silence was deafening.”

Ralph would go on to found the DIVA Foundation, which raises awareness about HIV/AIDS.  DIVA stands for Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware.

“It got to the point I couldn’t cross one more name out of my phone book, back when folks had such a thing called a phone book, when you would actually write a name in a book. That many people [died],” Ralph said in a 2008 Star Tribune interview.

Holliday also would dedicate much of her life to HIV/AIDS advocacy and activism.  In 2017, Holliday would release a song to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“I’ve been an advocate for AIDS assistance, because it took the lives of male chorus members and the creative team of Dreamgirls,” Holliday told the Broadway Blog.

“The gay community has really been a vital part of my whole existence. It’s been a vital program under the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition. They let people know that housing is available and want to serve people who need a place to stay.”

45 percent die
December 31, 1981
45% of Patients Die by Year-End

At the close of 1981, a cumulative total of 270 cases of severe immune deficiency are reported among gay men, and 121 of those individuals have died.

Ward 86
January 1, 1982
Ward 86: First Dedicated AIDS Outpatient Clinic Opens

Ward 86, the worlds first dedicted AIDS outpatient clinic, opens at San Francisco General Hospital, a partnership with the University of California San Francisco.  The clinic becomes the gold standard for treating patients living with HIV/AIDS .

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Ward 86 drew staff who were passionate about treating people with AIDS.  Over time, the clinic team developed the San Francisco Model of Care, which focused on treating patients with compassion and respect; providing an array of health and social services in one facility; and collaborating closely with the local health department and community organizations.

1982
Stonewall President Kenneth Schnorr Dies

Kenneth Schnorr, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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Schnorr would be among the first in the U.S. to die of AIDS.  After being found unconscious in his car in December 1981, he was hospitalized and Cedars-Sinai’s top-notch medical team was perplexed with his rapidly declining health.

West Hollywood activist Ivy Bottini, who was Schnorr’s friend, would tell the story of Schnorr’s illness and death in her 2018 memoir The Liberation of Ivy Bottini.

Bottini recalled receiving a phone call from Schnorr’s mother, who was sitting bedside with him at Cedars.

“He’s full of black and blue marks…. I don’t know what to do,” Schnorr’s mother told her.

Bottini asked to talk with Schnorr, and quickly realized that he had lost his hearing.  She eventually was able to speak with Schnorr’s doctor, Joel Weisman, M.D., who would go on to open one of the first medical clinics to treat HIV/AIDS.  When Dr. Weisman was unable to give Bottini a clear picture of what was going on, she felt a growing dread that Schnorr’s condition was an indication of a larger issue.

Schnorr died about a week after entering the hospital.  Bottini was among the members of the Stonewall Democratic Club who attended Schnorr’s funeral.

“After Ken died, something said to me there is more to this than we see,” Bottini said. “So, for some reason, I just picked up the phone and called the CDC.  I had never done that before.  ‘Look, this just happened to my friend. Do you have any answers?’  The hesitancy at the other end of the line, the hemming and the hawing before they would say anything — I just knew it was bad.”

The CDC official told her the black and blue marks was a symptom of Kaposi sarcoma, which was usually found in elderly Jewish men.

“And that was the explanation,” she said. “I thought, ‘No, this doesn’t make sense, because Ken was one of three first guys diagnosed with Kaposi in town, in West Hollywood, in LA, and that started me on working to find out what the hell was going on.”

After many phone calls and the realization that the government was failing to act on the crisis, Bottini called Dr. Weisman to invite him to update the community at a town hall she was organizing at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park.  She was hoping he would share any information he had and would provide his theory on how this new illness was transmitted.  She herself suspected that it was being passed during sex, through bodily fluids.

“That’s the only thing that made sense to me,” Bottini said.  “Because if it was airborne, women would be getting it, everybody would be getting it, and that wasn’t happening.”

On the night of the town hall, Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park was jam-packed.

“It was all guys — and (Bottini’s girlfriend) Dottie Wine and I,” Bottini recalled.  “And Joel talked about transmission and he believed it was bodily fluids, too.  And I thought, ‘I’m not crazy.’”

Schnorr’s legacy was that he may have saved many lives by inspiring Bottini and others to search for answers and share that information with the greater community in the earliest days of the epidemic.

GMHC
January 4, 1982
Gay Men’s Health Crisis Opens in NYC

Gay Men’s Health Crisis becomes the first community-based AIDS service provider in the U.S.

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The informal meeting that Larry Kramer held in his NYC apartment in 1981 to address the “gay cancer” was credited with being the genesis of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).

Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White officially established GMHC in early 1982.  It began with creating simple lines of communication for the community and medical personnel:  an AIDS hotline, a newsletter, a space to meet, and the landmark Buddy program to assist PWAs (People with AIDS) with their day-to-day needs.

GMHC would become New York’s leading AIDS service organization, serving approximately 10,000 people each year living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the five boroughs of New York City.  GMHC provides HIV and STI testing, food and nutrition programs, housing support, workforce development, legal assistance, advocacy for benefits and health insurance, mental health and emotional support, substance use counseling, and more.

Today, over 60% of GMHC clients are people of color, nearly 75% identify as LGBTQ+, and over 80% are people living at or below the Federal Poverty Line.

April 8, 1982
GMHC Holds First Major AIDS Fundraiser, Others Follow

“Showers: A Benefit to Aid Gay Men with Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Other Gay Related Immunodeficiencies” raises more than $50,000.  Hosted by the newly formed organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the event draws over 2,000 attendees to the Paradise Garage in New York City.

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“Showers” was considered a major success as both a fundraiser for people in need and as a way to address the gay community about the health crisis.

The mega-dance party featured live performances by Evelyn “Champagne” King, the Ritchie Family, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.  It also included a promise from GMHC President Paul Popham that his fledgling organization could be relied upon to be a clearinghouse for the latest information on the “medical emergency” facing the community.

During his address to attendees, Popham said that more than 150 people had already died of Kaposi’s sarcoma and other immunodeficiency diseases, and “about that many more are very ill and may leave us, too.”

At the time, federal funding was not yet available for reserach or disseminating information about the new fatal illnesses slowly spreading among members of the gay community.  The GMHC was among the first organizations to begin soliciting donations from its own community to put into place research funding streams, compassionate care programs, and awareness/information campaigns.

“The multiple successes of the fundraiser dramatically shifted the AIDS consciousness of gay New Yorkers,” wrote David Román in his book Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture and AIDS.  “It boosted the morale of a city under siege, and put into motion a series of smaller, more localized fundraisers throughout Manhattan.”

Among those fundraising events in 1982 were Maneuvers’ “tea dance benefit” for the St. Mark’s Clinic, a benefit performance by the cast of the Broadway show Dreamgirls, and various events at Don’t Tell Mama.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco community was busy planning its own fundraiser.  On June 13, 1982, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Hollywood star Shirley MacLaine hosted the Dog Show and Parade event, which benefitted the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Clinic at the University of San Francisco Medical Center.

In Chicago, performance benefits at venues like the Riverside Club and Park West helped to provide the funding needed to launch the Action AIDS program at the Howard Brown Memorial Clinic.

While the federal government and the White House seemed to be stymied by this new disease spreading in the country’s largest cities, local LGBTQ communities were spinging into action.  The age of the big-city AIDS benefit had begun.

Lenny Baker
April 12, 1982
Award-winning Broadway Actor Lenny Baker Dies

Lenny Baker, who won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Actor in a featured role (musical), dies of AIDS-related illness in a hospital in Hallandale Beach, Florida at the age of 37.

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Born Leonard Joel Baker in 1945 in Boston, he began his acting career in regional theater and spent several summers at the O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut.  He told an interviewer in 1977 that the center was instrumental in his career, partly because he saw performances of the National Theater for the Deaf there.

”It’s perhaps because of watching them work,” Baker said, ”that I can be so brazen with comic uses of my body.”

After moving to New York City in 1969, Baker acted in Off-Broadway stage productions until making his Broadway stage debut in 1974 in The Freedom of the City.  Baker won a Tony award and the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor  in 1977 for his performance in the musical I Love My Wife.

Baker also acted in films and television shows, including Paul Mazursky’s Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award.  His other film credits included The Hospital (1971) and The Paper Chase (1973).

Following Baker’s death, a memorial service was held at The Public Theater, located at 425 Lafayette Street in New York City.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman
April 13, 1982
First Congressional Hearings on AIDS Begin in Hollywood

Congressman Henry Waxman, whose district includes West Hollywood, convenes the first congressional hearings on AIDS at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center).

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“I want to be especially blunt about the political aspects of Kaposi’s sarcoma,” said Rep. Waxman, according to the Washington Blade.  “This horrible disease afflicts members of one of the nation’s most stigmatized and discriminated-against minorities…. There is no doubt in my mind that if the same disease had appeared among Americans of Norwegian descent or among tennis players — rather than among gay males — the responses of the government and the medical community would have been different.”

There was otherwise very little press coverage of the hearing, and what did appear was within the LGBTQ press.

The San Francisco newspaper The Sentinel published a very short blurb three days later, titled “House Holds Cancer Hearings.”  The paper would quote an unnamed subcommittee staffer saying the Centers for Disease Control “should not have to nickel and dime” for research funding.

The short article appeared next to a column written by gay nurse Bobbi Campbell, who wrote about going to the Shanti Project to get emotional support for his KS.

Speaking at the hearing, Dr. James Curran, head of the Center for Disease Control’s Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections, estimated that tens of thousands of people were already infected by the disease.

On the 40th Anniversary of the CDC’s first report on what would become known as AIDS, reporter Karen Ocamb wrote the Washington Blade article “AIDS @40: White House laughs as gays try to save themselves,” recalling the House hearing chaired by Rep. Waxman.

“Like so many others in California, lesbian feminist Ivy Bottini had high expectations for the federal government to finally intervene in the growing AIDS crisis after the first congressional committee hearing on the mysterious new disease,” Ocamb wrote.  “She was upset.  Her friend Ken Schnorr had died just before the hearing and Bottini had to explain to Ken’s distraught mother that he had not been abused at the hospital — the purple bruises on his body were KS lesions.”

Ocamb goes on to cite perhaps one of the most egregious examples of the Reagan administration’s homophobic callousness toward people with AIDS, which happened just weeks after Reps. Waxman and Phillip Burton (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill to fund AIDS research.

On Oct. 15, 1982, White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes was holding a press conference, during which reporter Lester Kinsolving asked Speakes about the new disease called AIDS.  After indicating that he didn’t know what AIDS was, Speakes dismisses the question and makes light of it, saying, “I don’t have it. Do you?”

When this response elicits chuckles from the members of the press corps, Speakes continues in this vein (“There has been no personal experience here, Lester”) to draw more laughter.

“The exchange goes on like that.  For another two years,” Ocamb wrote.

May 6, 1982
Hibiscus — Founder of Cockettes & Angels of Light — Dies

To the shock and dismay of many fans in San Francisco and New York City, The Advocate announces: “Founder of Cockettes, Hibiscus, Dead of GRID”

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Hibiscus was famous on both coasts for founding and performing with the flamboyant theatrical groups The Cockettes and Angels of Light.  He died of AIDS-related illness (then called “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency”) at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York at the age of 32, becoming one of the earliest casualties of the epidemic.

Born George Edgerly Harris III in Bronxville, N.Y.,  he was the child of theater performers who relocated the family to a home on El Dorado Avenue in Clearwater Beach, Fla.  Before long, George Jr. had founded his first theatrical group, the El Dorado Players, which performed in the family’s garage.

“He was fascinating even as a small child,” his mother Ann Harris told The New York Times Magazine in 2003.  “All the other kids followed him and acted out his fantasies. He did Camelot one time and had the kids on bicycles with the handlebars as the horses’ heads. Another time he directed Cleopatra, and used the garden hose as the serpent and our cats as Cleopatra’s gifts to Caesar. He was very much the little producer.”

When his family returned to New York in 1964, George Jr. reprised the El Dorado Players, augmenting the troupe with children he met in Greenwich Village.  He took acting and singing classes at Quintano’s School for Young Professionals, and soon he was cast as an extra in a milk commercial, a deaf-mute in a television series and an antiwar protester in an Off Broadway play called Peace Creeps, co-starring Al Pacino and James Earl Jones.

The latter role would be strangely prescient.  On October 21, 1967, an 18-year-old George Jr. would be photographed placing a flower in a gun barrel pointed at him while taking part in an anti-war demonstration at the Pentagon.  The photo, widely circulated in the media, became iconic of the anti-war movement and generational divide in the country.

Washington, D.C. was just a stop-over, through, of a trip he was taking to San Francisco with friend Irving Rosenthal, the author of the homoerotic novel Sheeper and the onetime lover of William Burroughs.  Inspired by an image in a Cocteau novel, he changed his name to Hibiscus, and started wearing the glittery makeup, diaphanous robes and floral headpieces that would become his signature.

He joined Rosenthal’s commune, KaliFlower, which was dedicated to distributing free food and creating free art and theater.  This was the fertile environment in which Hibiscus founded The Cockettes.

Hibiscus and other KaliFlower members first performed at the 1970 New Year’s Eve Show at the Palace Theater, an old Chinese movie house in North Beach.  They called themselves The Cockettes, a bawdy allusion to the Rockettes, and danced a cancan to the Rolling Stones’ song Honky Tonk Women.

Under the leadership of Hibiscus, the group’s act quickly evolved into bigger, wilder, and more lavish productions, and The Cockettes’ shows fast became not-to-be-missed events.  New shows were created every few weeks, with Paste on Paste, Gone with the Showboat to Oklahoma, and Tropical Heatwave/Hot Voodoo being some of the early productions.

Pearls Over Shanghai became the Cockettes first show featuring an original script, music and lyrics, and was an instant hit with fans.  Some members of the Cockettes, like Sylvester and Devine, began to garner their own fan followings.  During this time, Hibiscus found he could express his sexual identity with fearless abandon.

”He came out of the closet wearing the entire closet,” says Nicky Nichols, a fellow Cockette.

When some members of The Cockettes began insisting that they begin charging for their shows, Hibiscus refused and found himself expelled from the group he founded.  Unperturbed, Hibiscus formed a new theatrical group called the Angels of Light Free Theater. Their shows included Flamingo Stampede and The Moroccan Operette, which Hibiscus described as being ”like Kabuki in Balinese drag.”

Among the people he convinced to perform with the Angels of Light was poet Allen Ginsberg, who appeared in drag for the first time. Hibiscus found another collaborator in his new boyfriend, Jack Coe, also known as Angel Jack, who eventually moved to New York with Hibiscus in 1972, around the same time that the Cockettes disbanded.

Upon his return to NYC, he recruitd his mother and three sisters (Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou) into an east coast version of the Angels of Light.

“I wrote almost all the music for the Angels of Light,” said his mother, Ann. “George would say, ‘Oh, I need a sheik scene, with a sheik in it,’ and then I would come up with a song.”

The group performed at the Theatre for the New City, where John Lennon was known to jump on the stage and sprinkle glitter on Hibiscus.

In the early 1980s, he and his sisters and brother formed the glitter rock group “Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets,” supported by musicians Ray Ploutz on bass, Bill Davis on guitar and Michael Pedulla on drums.  But he had to stop performing in 1981 due to his escalating illness.

It’s testament to the power of his personality and creativity that the spirit of Hibiscus dominates the 2002 Cockettes documentary, even though the film’s focus is on the group.  Decked out in gender-bending drag and tons of glitter, the flamboyant ensembles of both The Cockettes and Angels of Light are considered to be the inspiration for later theater productions like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and acts like The New York Dolls.

 

1982
Los Angeles Activist Ivy Bottini Creates Informational Network

Lesbian feminist Ivy Bottini, upset by the January AIDS-related death of her friend Ken Schnorr, starts asking questions of the medical community, which lead her to found the AIDS Informational Network in Los Angeles.

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Bottini called the CDC to ask about the black and blue bruises that covered Schnorr’s body.  The CDC refered Bottini to Dr. Michael Gottlieb at the University of California Los Angeles, who co-authored the CDC’s first report on HIV/AIDS.

Bottini and Dr. Gottlieb became friends and met every Friday at Crest Coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake to discuss AIDS.  Fueled with trustworthy information, Bottini formed what would become to be known as the AIDS Informational Network, an informal group of leaders who discussed the crisis.

She organized a community town hall at Fiesta Hall in West Hollywood with Dr. Joel Weisman, Schnorr’s physician.  More than 300 gay men attended (Bottini and her friend Dottie Wine are the only women in the packed hall), and for years afterward, Bottini heard from men who claim that this event saved their life.

May 9, 1982
Genesis for San Francisco AIDS Foundation is Launched

Bay Area dermatologist Dr. Marcus Conant and gay activist Cleve Jones found the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later becomes the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

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The foundation’s goal was to provide information on Kaposi’s Sarcoma to local gay men.  Frank Jacobson, Richard Keller, Bob Ross, and Dr. Paul Volberding were also organization founders.

In the first year, the organization existed in a very small office on Castro and 18th Street, seeing a limited number of clients and operating a single-telephone information and referral Hhotline. The organization was operated entirely by volunteers.

It wasn’t long before the organization gained recognition locally and nationally as a trusted source of information.  As the epidemic grew, the organization expanded with funding from local and state sources and grassroots community fundraising. They were able to hire paid staff.

In 1983, the organization split into national and local chapters, and in 1984 the local chapter renamed itself the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and officially separated its affiliation from the National Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research & Education Foundation.

Still active today, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation continues to promote health, wellness, and social justice for communities most impacted by HIV, through sexual health and substance use services, advocacy, and community partnerships.  SFAF currently serves more than 25,000 a year.

May 11, 1982
Stigmatizing Label ‘GRID’ (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) is Coined

The New York Times publishes the first mention of the term “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), deepening public perceptions that HIV/AIDS is solely related to homosexuality.

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Under the headline “New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials,” the Times introduced its readers to “a serious disorder of the immune system” that had proved fatal in 136 people to date.

“It was colloquially referred to as GRID – ‘Gay Related Immune Deficiency’ or ‘Gay Related Immune Disease,’ as if there was something intrinsic about being gay that made people susceptible to it,” wrote Carla Tsampiras in The Conversation.

While the Times article identified 13 cases of the disease in heterosexual women, it went on to state, “Most cases have occurred among homosexual men, in particular those who have had numerous sexual partners, often anonymous partners whose identity remains unknown.”

Even once the disease was renamed HIV/AIDS, the stigmatization continued.  Early research elicited categories of people, referred to as “high-risk groups,” who were apparently at increased risk of having AIDS.  These were homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin users ( informally known as “the Four-H Club”).  There was a later addition – hookers.

“As a result, AIDS avatars — such as The Homosexual, The Prostitute, and The Drug Abuser — were created, drawing on long histories of social and medical prejudice and othering of certain groups of people,” said Carla Tsampiras.  “The avatars drew on existing stereotypes and reinforced them, reflecting existing prejudices or social attitudes relating to sexuality, sexual orientation, race, class and gender.”

May 31, 1982
Front-Page Story on AIDS Appears in Mainstream Press

The Los Angeles Times publishes the story “Mysterious Fever Now an Epidemic” on its front page, marking the first time the disease receives top coverage in the mainstream media.

June 18, 1982
Researchers Connect AIDS Transmission to Sex

The Centers for Disease Control publishes an MMWR article that is the first to suggest sexual transmission is the source of the spread of Karposi’s sarcoma and other opportunitic infections in gay men.

 

 

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“A Cluster of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Homosexual Male Residents of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California” describes a potential sexually transmitted agent as being the link to outbreaks of KS, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and other infections recently found among young gay men.

The report describes a study of 19 case subjects from June 1, 1981 to April 12, 1982 involving biopsy-confirmed KS and/or PCP among previously healthy homosexual male residents in southern California.

Following a report of possible associations among the KS/PCP case subjects in Los Angeles and Orange counties, interviews were conducted with the eight subjects still living and with seven of the close friends of the 11 subjects who had died.

Through these interviews, the CDC was able to collect data on sexual partners for 13 of the 19 subjects. The study considered “sexual contact” to be established if the KS/PCP case subjects was reported to have “exposure” to another person that was either substantiated or not denied by the other person involved in the relationship (or by a close friend of that person).

Within five years of the onset of symptoms, nine of the KS/PCP case subjects had had sexual contact with others who had KS or PCP.  They consisisted of seven case subjects from LA County who had sexual contact with other patients from LA County, and two case subjects from Orange County had sexual contact with one patient with KS who resided outside California.

Four of the nine KS/PCP case subjects had been exposed to more than one patient who had KS or PCP. Three of the nine KS case subjects developed their symptoms after sexual contact with persons who already had symptoms of KS.  One of these three subjects developed symptoms of KS about nine months after sexual contact, another subject developed symptoms 13 months after contact, and a third subject developed symptoms 22 months after contact.

The other four KS/PCP case subjects in the group of 13 had no known sexual contact with reported cases. However, one KS case subject had an apparently healthy sexual partner in common with two persons with PCP; one KS case subject reported having had sexual contact with two friends of the non-Californian with KS; and two PCP case subjects had most of their anonymous contacts (greater than or equal to 80%) with persons in bathhouses.

The editorial note to the report included these points:

  • An estimated 185,000-415,000 homosexual males lived in LA County in 1982.
  • If one assumes each homosexual male in LA County has between 13 and 50 different sexual partners per year during 1977-1982, “the probability that seven of 11 patients with KS or PCP would have sexual contact with any one of the other 16 reported patients in LA County would seem to be remote.”
  • With this same assumption, “the probability that two patients with KS living in different parts of Orange County would have sexual contact with the same non-Californian with KS would appear to be even lower.”
  • Thus, observations in LA and Orange counties imply the existence of an unexpected cluster of cases.

The CDC then puts forth the hypothesis that infectious agents are being sexually transmitted among homosexually active males.

“Infectious agents not yet identified may cause the acquired cellular immunodeficiency that appears to underlie KS and/or PCP among homosexual males. If infectious agents cause these illnesses, sexual partners of patients may be at increased risk of developing KS and/or PCP,” the CDC report posits.

The CDC proposes another hypothesis:  “Sexual contact with patients with KS or PCP does not lead directly to acquired cellular immunodeficiency, but simply indicates a certain style of life. The number of homosexually active males who share this lifestyle may be much smaller than the number of homosexual males in the general population.”

The CDC goes on to suggest the possibility of exposure to “some substance (rather than an infectious agent)” leading to immunodeficiency among homosexual males that share a particular style of life.

The report cites a New York City-based report suggesting a connection between amyl nitrite (commonly referred to as “poppers”) and an increased risk of KS.  This hypothesis would later be scientifically disproved.

Play Fair
June 27, 1982
Play Fair! First to Advocate for Safe Sex Practices

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence creates Play Fair! — the first “safer sex” pamphlet to address the growing AIDS epidemic.

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The Sisters distributed 16,000 copies of Play Fair! during the San Francisco Gay & Lesbian parade in June 1982.

Written by Sister Florence Nightmare and Sister Roz Erection, who outside the Order were known as registered nurses Bobbi Campbell and Baruch Golden, Play Fair! was among the first guides promoting safe sex and raising awareness around sexually transmitted diseases.

The Sisters originated in 1979 with three gay men who wanted to combine radical politics, street theater, and high camp, according to Will Kohler.  Having obtained nuns’ habits from a community theater production of The Sound of Music, these men (a.k.a., Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch, Sister Missionary Position, and Sister Roz Erection ) turned heads as they strolled Castro Street on Easter Sunday.

By 1982, the Sisterhood had many members and promoted a lively campaign around sex-positivity through a combination of fundraising, community outreach and events.  With growing anxiety and concern around the spread of Kaposi’s sarcoma and other immune disorders among gay men, it was inevitable that the Sisters would incorporate AIDS awareness into its mission.

For over 40 years, the order of queer and trans nuns has been spreading its ministry across San Francisco, the U.S., and the world.  Each professed nun takes a religious name (usually irreverent and hilarious).  For example, cities, events and venues have been ministered to by Sisters Psychedelia, Hellen Wheels, Innocenta, Rhoda Kill, Lotti Da, and Hysterectoria.

Although originally founded as an “Order of Gay Male Nuns,” the group now includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, and transgendered men and women. Many of their rituals are influenced by Eastern religious practices and beliefs, as well as by Roman Catholicism. Their doctrine stresses universal joy and the expiation of guilt.

Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who have died are referred by the Sisters as “Nuns of the Above.”

July 16, 1982
CDC Identifies Hemophilia-AIDS Connection

CDC reports three cases of hemophiliacs diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a common AIDS-related illness.  By the time the MMWR article is published, two of the three subjects have died.

Learn More.

The article, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Persons with Hemophilia A,” is the first report of immunosuppression in patients with hemophilia who have no other known risk factors for AIDS.

1982
San Francisco Dancer Larry Hinneman Dies

Larry Hinneman, a dancer with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness.  The exact date of Hinneman’s death is not known, nor is his age at the time of his death.

September 24, 1982
CDC Introduces the Term ‘AIDS’

In a report, CDC coins the term “AIDS” / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  The report also includes the first case definition for AIDS: “A disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known cause for diminished resistance to that disease.”

Learn More.

Today, AIDS is defined as a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by the HIV virus. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced.

September 28, 1982
AIDS Research Bill Introduced (and Dies) in Congress

Congressmen Phillip Burton and Ted Weiss introduce the first legislation for the allocation of funding for AIDS research. The resolution dies in committee.

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The first dedicated funding for AIDS research and treatment will be approved by Congress almost a year later, in July 1983.

1982
Activists Launch Hotline at Center for Los Angeles Community

After Los Angeles activists Nancy Cole Sawaya, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro attend a community meeting featuring a speaker from the Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, they create a hotline to serve the panicked community.

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The emergency meeting with the representative from San Francisco is held at the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now called the Los Angeles LGBT Center).  The four activists decide to set up the telephone hotline in a Center closet.

Sawaya, Drew, Redman and Munro, along with eight additional volunteers, would undergo training by Dr. Joel Weisman and then take turns answering the telephone and reading information from a carefully prepared fact sheet.  Word quickly gets out about the hotline, which would start to receive more than 20 calls a day.

In December 1982, the Los Angeles chapter of the Kaposi Sarcoma Foundation would host “Christmas Present,” a $25 event at a private home in Bel-Air to raise money for the hotline.  Music is provided by Mother Lode DJ Stewart Barkal, and refreshments are donated by local restaurants, coordinated by Truffles owner Steve Wilson.

Sawaya, Drew, Redman and Munro would go on to found AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), which would become the oldest and largest organization in Southern California providing educational and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

October 15, 1982
Question about AIDS Draws Laughter at White House Press Briefing

At White House Press briefing, a reporter asks Press Secretary Larry Speakes: “Does the President have any reaction to the announcement — from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta — that AIDS is now an epidemic and has over 600 cases?”

Speakes: “What’s AIDS?”

Reporter: “It’s known as the ‘gay plague.’”

Everyone laughs.

“I don’t have it,” Speakes replies. “Do you?”

Learn More.

The transcript of the press briefing, which is in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, is a sharp reminder of how governmental officials and journalists viewed the LGBTQ community.

On Dec. 1, 2015, Vanity Fair debuted a short documentary by Scott Calonico about this now-infamous exchange.

President Reagan would not mention AIDS until 1985, in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference.  He would not give a major speech about the epidemic until mid-1987 — at which point 20,849 people were already dead of the disease in the U.S.

 

November 5, 1982
AIDS Precautions Created for Medical Personnel

CDC lays out first set of precautions for clinical and lab staff working with people with AIDS symptoms.

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CDC’s report, “Current Trends Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Precautions for Clinical and Laboratory Staffs,” introduces precautions for medical personnel working with people exhibiting signs of AIDS.  The report notes that “airborne spread and interpersonal spread through casual contact do not seem likely.”

Native We Know Who We Area
November 8, 1982
Early AIDS Activists Issue Warning to NYC Community

In their New York Native article “We Know Who We Are,” Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz suggests “excessive promiscuity” as a risk factor for contracting AIDS.

Learn More.

Callen and Berkowitz, who wrote the article with the assistance of Callen’s partner Richard Dworkin, were New Yorkers living with AIDS.

After seeing the disease quickly progress and kill people they knew, they wanted to do something that could save lives.  In their article, they warned readers against “the cumulative effects of re-exposure to CMV [cytomegalovirus] and other infections.”

“Deep down, we know who we are and why we are sick,” they wrote for the November 8, 1982 edition of the gay weekly.

The reason why men were sick, they theorized, was because they lived a life of “excessive promiscuity on the urban gay circuit of bathhouses, backrooms, balconies, sex clubs, meat racks and tearooms.”

Callen and Berkowitz argued that AIDS was caused by a combination of factors associated with a “promiscuous lifestyle” – drug use, multiple sexual partners and repeated exposure to other sexually-transmissible infections.

After publication, the article drew a torrent of angry criticism from readers of the Native, as well as from gay periodicals across North America, including the Toronto newspaper Body Politic, which accused Callen and Berkowitz of creating unnecessary panic in the community and working against the tide of gay liberation.

“It was widely criticised – not least because it had no scientific basis, and also because it assumed that all gay men with AIDS had lived so-called ‘promiscuous’ lifestyles,” said Colin Clews, author of Gay in the ’80s.

Even so, the article served as a clarion call for many and offered a considerable amount of information that could be useful to its readers:

  • “If you live in or frequent New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any of several other metropolitan areas, it is likely you will be having sex with men who are sick.”
  • “If you have sex with sick men, you may get sick, too.”

The article also included these remarkably prescient suggestions:

  • “Educate yourself about how your body works — particularly the immune response.  Read about health, and in particular, read about the present epidemic of AIDS.”
  • “We need to support each other’s search for sexual alternatives  Certainly the future holds more options than phone sex!”
  • “We need to form support groups.  Some will want to consider group or individual therapy or other means of smoothing an admittedly difficult transition.”

Still, the criticism from the community stung.  In the months that followed, Callen turned his attention to his personal life, tending to his own health and that of friends.  But Berkowitz was not deterred; he began a new project which would eventually become the 46-page groundbreaking pamphlet How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.

Callen would eventually work with Berkowitz on the new project, and they would both take what they learned from the reponse to their Native article to develop an entirely new approach to fostering AIDS awareness.  Published in the summer of 1983, How to Have Sex in an Epidemic would be embraced by the community and eventually have a widespread impact on the sexual practices of gay men.

December 10, 1982
First Cases of Pediatric AIDS Reported

Twenty-two cases of “an unexplained immunodeficiency” and opportunitistic infections in infants are described in CDC’s report.

Learn More.

In the MMWR article, “Unexplained Immunodeficiency and Opportunistic Infections in Infants — New York, New Jersey, California,” CDC states, “It is possible that these infants had the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),” but the report stops short of making a definitive diagnosis.

The report describes the case of a 20-month-old San Francisco infant who developed AIDS symptoms.  One of the 19 donors of the blood components received by the infant during his first month of life was subsequently reported to have AIDS.  The report suggests that blood transfusion was the means by which the infant had acquired AIDS.

“If platelet transfusion contained an etiologic agent for AIDS, one must assume that the agent can be present in the blood of a donor before onset of symptomatic illness and that the incubation period for such illness can be relatively long,” stated the CDC report in an editorial note.  “This model for AIDS transmission is consistent with findings described in an investigation of a cluster of sexually related AIDS cases among homosexual men in southern California.”

December 17, 1982
CDC Reports Additional Pediatric Cases

In another MMWR report, the Centers for Disease Control reports four additional cases of immune-suppressed infants, none of whom received blood transfusions.

Learn More.

The CDC report provides background on the infant cases:

  • the mother of one was a prostitute and IV drug user;
  • two were the children of Haitian immigrants; and
  • one was the child of an IV drug-using woman who had died of AIDS.

Although the nature of the immune function described in the four cases was unclear, the report suggests that the infants likely were infected with the AIDS virus and that the death of one of the mothers from Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia was probably secondary to AIDS.

The CDC further stated that although the etiology of AIDS remained unknown, a series of epidemiological observations suggested the condition of the infants was caused by an infectious agent.

January 4, 1983
CDC Shares Data on AIDS & Hemophilia with Red Cross

The Public Health Service hosts a meeting convened by the CDC and attended by 200 members of the blood services community to address opportunistic infections in hemophiliacs.  At the meeting, the Red Cross and other blood supply organizations receive preliminary data on the indication of the AIDS virus within the blood supply.

Learn More.

At the conference, scientists from the CDC recommended that blood banks begin implementing donor screening measures, such as questioning donors about risk behaviors and running blood donations through a series of tests.  Faced with daunting data and the same uncertainties, the blood banks and the plasma companies came away from the conference with different plans..

Playing down the extent of the risk, leaders of the blood banks would decide that the CDC’s evidence did not show conclusively that HIV was a blood-borne disease, and they would decline to screen out potentially infected donors.  The blood bank physicians questioned the validity of the CDC data, which correlated of anti-HBc to AIDS cases among a cohort of homosexuals who attended an STD clinic.

By contrast, the plasma companies concurred with the CDC that there was a good chance HIV was being transmitted by their products.  They moved very quickly to switch the source of their supply and introduced new methods to inactivate viruses in plasma derivatives.  However, they also decided to keep older product batches on the market, and commercial plasma ended up infecting more people than did donated blood.

Getting blood or plasma out of one person and safely into another is a complex process.  Blood banks, such as the Red Cross, obtain almost all of their supply from voluntary donors.  They process and then distribute freely donated blood to hospitals, which they charge for their services.

Every year, about 14 million units of blood are donated in the U.S.  The American Red Cross collects about 45% of the total, blood banks about 42%, hospitals 11%, and the small remainder is imported.  About 3.6 million people receive transfusions of these products every year.

In the 1970s, blood collection and transfusion had a number of risks associated with it, in particular the prevalence of hepatitis in the supply.  In late 1982, when evidence began to show that a new disease might be spreading through blood products, things became more complicated.

The blood bank scientists accepted that HIV/AIDS appeared to be a threat to the blood supply, but found it difficult to measure the risk.  U.S. surveillance systems were ill-equipped to identify diseases with a long incubation period such as AIDS.

Francoise Barre Sinoussi
1983
French Researchers Discover Virus that Causes AIDS

French researchers Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann identify the virus that “might be” responsible for AIDS, calling it “LAV” (lymphadenopathy associated virus).

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The following year, U.S. researcher Robert Gallo announces he has found the “probable” cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HTLV-III.  The two viruses — HTLV-III and LAV — turn out to be one and the same, and in May 1986 it becomes officially known as the human immuno-deficiency virus, or HIV.

Barre-Sinoussi made her discovery while under French virologist Luc Montagnier, and both would go on to win the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for identifying the AIDS virus.  Barre-Sinoussi’s discovery ultimately led to the development of anti retroviral medications that have turned AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable chronic disease.

Barré-Sinoussi dedicated her career as a scientist and as an activist to halting the spread of AIDS.  Being on the front lines of the AIDS devastation was, she admitted, “very tough psychologically.”  The pressure was so intense that, once antiretroviral therapy was discovered in 1996, Barré-Sinoussi fell into a depression, and pulled back from her public commitments. But she soon returned to the fight, often travelling around the world to meet with political leaders and healthcare providers seeking solutions to local epidemics.

“Like everybody, I have some times in my life when I’m pessimistic,” she said.  “I wonder whether I should continue … Then I go and have a trip to Africa or Southeast Asia and have a small meeting with people affected by HIV, and I forget my mood. I say, ‘OK, let’s go on. Let’s continue. This is real life. Don’t think about yourself.'”

She currently directs the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Pasteur Institute, which is still looking for a vaccine or a functional cure.

January 7, 1983
Women Included in AIDS Case Studies

The CDC publishes its first article that includes women among those diagnosed with AIDS.

 

 

Learn More.

“Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York” described the first cases of AIDS in women that were part of a research study.

January 7, 1983
APLA Elects Founding Board of Directors

AIDS Project Los Angeles elects its first board of directors, which include Dr. Michael Gottlieb and political organizer Peter Scott.  Dr. Joel Weisman and attorney Diane Abbitt serve as the organization’s first co-chairs.

Learn More.

APLA moves into a converted motel built in 1955, located at 937 Cole Street in Hollywood.

HIV and the Blood Supply
January 26, 1983
Opposing Views in CDC & Red Cross Lead to Blood Screening Delays

Following a meeting hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opportunistic infections in hemophiliacs, an American Red Cross interoffice memo is released that indicates strong opposition to a widespread screening of blood supply products.

Learn More.

An American Red Cross interoffice memo blasts the CDC after its January 4 meeting, stating, “CDC is likely to continue to play up AIDS.”

The memo goes on to say;  “It has long been noted that CDC increasingly needs a major epidemic to justify its existence.  To the extent the [blood supply] industry sticks together against CDC, it will appear to some segments of the public at least that we have a self interest which is in conflict with the public interest, unless we can clearly demonstrate that CDC is wrong.”

Donor screening issues arose in mid to late 1982, when cases of AIDS in hemophiliacs were first reported, including the first transfusion-associated AIDS case in an infant.

Between December 1982 and December 1983, there were two critical events that presented opportunities for the blood services community to enact new donor screening and deferral policies to reduce the threat of HIV transmission through blood and blood products.

The first, which occured on January 4, 1983, was at the Public Health Service meeting convened by the CDC.  This meeting was widely publicized, and over 200 people attended, including representatives of the FDA, NIH, the National Hemophilia Foundation, the National Gay Task Force, blood banks, and the plasma fractionation industry.

This was where the blood services community first received data on the possibility of a transmissible agent within its blood supply.  CDC scientists recommended that blood banks implement specific donor screening measures (such as questioning donors about their risk behaviors and running blood donations through a series of tests).

Some participants in the Atlanta meeting and others in key decision-making roles expressed reservations about the validity of the CDC data and indicated that they did not believe the CDC to be a credible source of information regarding AIDS.  Following the conference, American Red Cross officials would encourage colleagues to resist recommendations from the CDC.

The ensuing resistance by blood banks to implementing the CDC’s donor screening measures is now viewed as a critical failure on their part in the effort to limit transmission of HIV early on in the epidemtic.

The second critical event would occur in December 15-16, 1983, when the Blood Products Advisory Committee of the FDA would convene a meeting to discuss all possible options of surrogate marker tests for HIV.  This meeting is notable for being the CDC’s second attempt to address the need to implement blood screening as a means to implement safeguards to the blood supply.

In the year between the two meetings, blood banks would continue to collect donations from unscreened members of the public.

1983
National AIDS Hotline Opens to High Demand

The U.S. Health & Human Services Department launched the National AIDS Hotline (NAH). and by the end of the first month, it’s receiving 8,000-10,000 calls a day.

Learn More.

Operated by the U.S. Public Health Service, the AIDS Hotline responds to public inquiries about the disease, and by July 28, the hotline has to be expanded from three phonelines to eight to accommodate the high volume of calls.

In 1985, HHS transferred the hotline to the Center for Disease Control and eventually services were expanded in October 1987 to become the National AIDS Clearinghouse, with electronic linkage to computerized referral databases.

Spanish-languages services on the hotline were not included until August 1988. A month later, the hotline adopted TTY services for the hearing-impaired.

By February 1991, the total of calls to the hotline in eight years of service was 5 million.

Deadly Odyssey
February 6, 1983
First In-Depth Article on AIDS Published in NYT Magazine

The New York Times Magazine releases “AIDS: A New Disease’s Deadly Odyssey,” the first indepth article on AIDS in the mainstream press.

Learn More.

The article describes how the virus — “the century’s most virulent epidemic” — is spreading in “big-city homosexual communities” and has become the second-leading cause of death in hemophiliacs.

Dr. James W. Curran, head of the AIDS task force at the Centers for Disease Control, told the NYT Magazine reporter that AIDS was moving into mainstream America, and scientists still have not identified the disease’s cause or a way to stop its spread.

“The incidence of AIDS has nearly tripled in the past year, from about seven new cases a week to 20 or more,” Dr. Curran says, citing recently released data that shows that the CDC received reports of 92 cases of AIDS in December 1982, about one-third more than had been received in any other previous month.

The article describes how the CDC is struggling to identify the cause of AIDS.  The work is being done by 20 full-time physicians and other professionals, with help from 80 professionals working part-time, focusing on four locations of the outbreak – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

The medical investigators have bee able to broadly trace the spread of the disease, the article states.

Beginning in spring 1981, clinicians in New York City began to see a surprising number of young male patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma, an extremely rare cancer usually seen in elderly Mediterranean men

At about the same time, infectious-disease specialists throughout the city noted a surge in another rare disease, Pneumocystis pneumonia.  At the weekly citywide infectious-disease meetings sponsored by the city’s Department of Health, where physicians present their most perplexing cases, medical professionals started sharing information about these cases.

In mid-1981, the CDC formed a special task force to investigate these unusual cases, and then published its first findings in June and July in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Of the 116 patients identified at the time, about 30% had Kaposi’s sarcoma, about 50% had Pneumocystis pneumonia, and about 10% had both.  The remaining 10% had unusual infections that also usually occur in immunosuppressed patients.

Half of the case subjects lived in New York City, and the next-largest group lived in California.  An indepth study of 13 patients in Los Angeles conducted by Dr. William W. Darrow and Dr. David Auerbach, both CDC researchers, was able to compare a list of all the sex partners that the patients (or their survivors) could name for the previous five years with a roster of all the AIDS cases in the country.

The result of the comparison revealed that nine of the 13 case subjects had common sexual contacts. This was the so-called “LA cluster” of AIDS patients.  Later, a missing link was found between LA and NYC: a patient from New York was identified as having been a sexual partner of four men in the LA cluster, as well as of four NYC men who also developed AIDS.

The widely-read article also quoted activist Larry Kramer:  “You don’t know what it’s like to be gay and living in New York.  It’s like being in wartime.  We don’t know when the bomb is going to fall.”

Kramer described losing 18 friends in the previous 18 months to AIDS, and said another 12 are seriously ill.

“Doctors and psychiatrists are pleading with the community to learn a new way of socializing.  They’re begging us, in the name of all who died, to learn how to date,” said Kramer.

The article also addresses the issue of whether the nation’s blood supply is safe.  At the time, the CDC had received a total of eight confirmed reports of hemophiliacs with AIDS, six of whom have died.

”I’m concerned and worried,” says Dr. Joseph Bove, chairman of the American Association of Blood Banks committee on transfusion-transmitted diseases and a professor of laboratory medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. ”But as a scientist, I have to look at the evidence. And the evidence is that ordinary blood transfusions are not transmitting AIDS.”

Dr. Bove cited the number of people who had received transfusions in the two years since AIDS was first identified — 20 million — and claimed that there was no “epidemic of AIDS spread by blood.”

Dr. Bruce L. Evatt, director of the CDC’s Division of Host Factors, cautioned against Dr. Bove’s theory.

“What Dr. Bove is not taking into account is the incubation period of AIDS,” said Dr. Evatt, adding that while the risk appears to be low, it may increase significantly.

At the time the article was published, the CDC had received reports of 958 individuals with the AIDS virus, and 365 were already diseased.

February 11, 1983
MECLA Briefing on AIDS Delivers Troubling News

An AIDS briefing hosted by the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles draws hundreds eager for more information on the epidemic. Speakers include Rep. Henry Waxman, who tells attendees, ““I believe that much of the lack of federal research on AIDS has arisen from discrimination intent and self-righteous neglect.”

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Held at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, the MECLA breakfast event also features presentations by Dr. Joel Weisman (APLA Co-Chair), Dr. Michael Roth of UCLA’s Department of Allergy and Immunology, Assemblymember Burt Margolin, and Mark Feldman, founder of the “Phooey on AIDS” emergency healthcare fund, according to a report from Pat Rocco.

March 4, 1983
CDC Issues Recommendations on AIDS Prevention

CDC issues recommendations for preventing the transmission of AIDS.  The report states that most AIDS cases are found among gay men with multiple sex partners, intravenous drug users, receipients of blood transfusions, and Haitians.

Learn More.

The report “Current Trends Prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations” is also notable in that it is the first to suggest that AIDS may be caused by an infectious agent that is transmitted sexually or through exposure to blood or blood products.

1983
Young Legislative Aide Steers AIDS Policy in California

Gay activist Stan Hadden, a state senate aide, leads the effort in Sacramento to establish the California AIDS Advisory Committee and set up a mechanism for funding AIDS education throughout the state.  The 26-year-old staffer would go on to author much of the state’s HIV-related legislation.

Learn More.

As a staff member of the Office of then-State Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti, Haddon would be credited with shepharding the passage of Senate Bill 910, which established the California AIDS Advisory Committee.  The bill included an initial appropriation of $500,000, channeled through the Department of Health Services to some of the state’s community programs which desperately needed funding.  While the amount seems very small, it was an accomplishment to get any funding at this time, during which the state was suffering from a financial crisis and many health programs were forced to reduce their budgets.

“AIDS is a national emergency,” Senator Roberti told the media in March 1983 when promoting the merits of SB 910. “It is occurring in epidemic proportions among previously healthy homosexual men, Haitian immigrants, and intravenous drug users, but 6% of those afflcted with the disease are neither homosexuals, IV drug users, Haitians or hemophiliacs.”

At that time, it was unusual for legislators to be educated about HIV.  The senator’s awareness of the urgent need for AIDS services could be largely attributed to the work and advocacy of his staffer, Hadden, and the location of his district, which was the Hollywood area.

According to Stephen Morin’s 1986 book What to Do About AIDS, Senator Roberti’s legislation, which was researched and drafted by Hadden, was the first significant action that California took in the early days of the AIDS crisis.

“SB 910 required a great deal of advocacy,” said Morin, who was an assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco at the time.  “In April 1983, on one of my early trips to the state capital to support that bill, I was joined by Gary Walsh, a friend and psychiatric social worker who had been diagnosed with KS in December 1982.  Although AIDS had recently been the cover story in Newsweek, more than half of the legislators with whom we met had never heard of AIDS.”

Around the same time, the California Assembly pushed forward $2.9 million in additional funding for  the University of California to work on AIDS research.  Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown, whose district was located in San Francisco, introduced an allocation to the UC budget after convening with university researchers working on discovering the cause of AIDS.

“Many of the early breakthroughs in research came from the UC system and were funded through this effort,” Morin wrote.  “The discovery of the retrovirus responsible for simian AIDS, for example, was discovered at UC Davis.  Later, in Jay Levy’s laboratory at UC San Francisco, a retrovirus responsible for AIDS was isolated.”

In 1985, Hadden would be the staffer behind state legislation to bring a coordinated approach to local HIV/AIDS programs and services.  California Senate Bill 1251 allocated about $17 million in funding for AIDS healthcare programs in 1986.  In addition, the state directed more than $5 mllion of its federal budget toward research projects and epidemiology studies.

Legislative staffers regarded Haddon as the “unofficial AIDS czar” of California.  He was one of only a few in Sacramento who were open about their LGBT identity, journalist Karen Ocamb would later write in The Pride.  Scores of administrative and political aides to California legislators remained in the closet, fearful that open knowledge of their sexual identity would end their professional careers.  Elected officials and potential candidates who identified as LGBT also remained silenced by the very real fear of ruination.

 

1112 a
March 14, 1983
Larry Kramer Publishes ‘1,112 and Counting’

Readers of the New York Native take notice of “1,112 and Counting,” AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s urgent plea for the NY Gay Community to get angry at the lack of government support and scientific advances in the fight against AIDS.

Learn More.

Published in the New York Native, Kramer provides a blistering assessment of the impact of AIDS on the gay community, the quickly rising numbers of sick and dying gay men and the slow pace of scientific progress in finding a cause for AIDS.

Kramer’s historic essay opens with:
“If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.”

This essay was just the beginning for Kramer, in what would become a lifetime of activism and advocacy.  He would go on to write The Normal Heart, the first serious artistic examination of the AIDS crisis, and he would found ACT UP, a protest organization widely credited with having changed public health policy and the public’s awareness of HIV and AIDS.

“There is no question in my mind that Larry helped change medicine in this country. And he helped change it for the better. In American medicine there are two eras. Before Larry and after Larry,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

1112 b
March 30, 1983
Frontiers Magazine Re-prints ‘1,112 and Counting’ on Cover

Los Angeles publisher Bob Craig publishes activist Larry Kramer’s essay “1,112 and Counting” in Frontiers magazine.  Many of the gay bars where the free community magazine is distributed throw it out.

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First pubished in the March 14-27, 1983 edition of New York Native, Kramer’s long, comprehensive essay expresses frustration, anger and despairA newcomer to the gay press, the bi-weekly news-magazine Frontiers gave the essay prominent placement on its cover.

After listing the names of 20 friends who had died of the disease (“and one more, who will be dead by the time these words appear in print”), Kramer closed with a plea: “Volunteers Needed for Civil Disobedience.”

By the end of 1983, 2,807 cases of (and 2,118 deaths from) HIV/AIDS had been reported in the U.S.

Joe MacDonald
April 1, 1983
First Male Supermodel Joe MacDonald Dies

Joe MacDonald — the most popular male model of his time and a favorite photography subject of Andy Warhol and Bruce Weber — dies of AIDS-related illness in New York at the age of 37.

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Square-jawed and classicly handsome, he was frequently featured in GQ magazine during its Haber-Coulianos-Sterzin era, described by Meredith Etherington-Smith, who was GQ’s editor in the 1970s, as “so Zeitgeisty, in a tiny window of time when homosexuality was chic but not yet widely accepted.”  Considered to be the first male supermodel, MacDonald counted David Hockney among his many friends and he enjoyed collecting art.

Friends were shocked to see how much MacDonald’s appearance had changed when his photo was featured in an early 1983 advertisement appearing in The New York Times fashion supplement, the results of MacDonald’s final modeling assignment.

“He looked very old,” Susi Gilder, a model who knew MacDonald personally, would tell New York magazine for an article published in June 1983. “The eyes were just very sad.”

In Vogue magazine’s 2020 retrospective on the AIDS crisis, fashion designer Michael Kors recalled MacDonald as the “first famous person who passed away” from AIDS.

“When we first started reading about [HIV/AIDS] and hearing about it, people did not want to acknowledge that this disease didn’t discriminate,” Kors told Vogue.  “People thought, oh, if you’re young and you’re healthy and you, quote, live a clean life, you’re not going to get it. And then they started seeing people like Joe MacDonald and realized this was not selective. The reality became very harsh at that point.”

As the first AIDS casualty in the fashion industry, the news of MacDonald’s death sent shockwaves through New York.

“I remember walking in NYC on Columbus and 83rd – on the corner – one summer night,” model Rosie Vela told The AIDS Memorial on Instagram.  “I passed Joe sitting at a crowded outdoors cafe.  It was a year before he died.”

“He stood up when he saw me, and invited me to sit with him,” Vela recalled.  “He was gorgeous, elegant and kind.  I’ll never forget how welcome he made me feel.  A true gentleman.”

April 30, 1983
Infant Diagnosed with AIDS following Blood Transfusion

Lancet medical journal reports on the case of an infant who received multiple blood transfusions during the first few days of life and then developed multiple opportunistic infections when 6 months old.  The infant dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 17 months.

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Between the age of 6-14 months old, the infant developed symptoms of hepatitis, thrush, Candida dermatitis, otitis media, and Mycobacterium avium intracellulare.  Tests revealed raised immunoglobulin levels, decreased mononuclear-cell responses to allogeneic cells and mitogen, and a decreased T-cell ratio.

It was determined that a blood donor, who was well at the time of blood donation, had died of AIDS about 17 months after donating.  The case study’s researchers find that the infant likely acquired AIDS (“a transmissible infectious agent’) from the blood transfusion.

April 30, 1983
Circus Event Collects $250,000 for AIDS Organization

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus holds a special one-night event to benefit the Gay Men’s Health  Crisis, raising $250,000.

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Considered a political milestone for the HIV/AIDS community, the event drew about 18,000 attendees and was remarkable for the galvanizing effect it had on the  LGBTQ and expanding AIDS communities.

Held at Madison Square Garden, the show featured Leonard Bernstein conducting the circus orchestra and opera diva Shirley Verrett singing The Star Spangled Banner.

“Leonard Bernstein walking across the length of the Madison Square Garden in his white dinner jacket to conduct the circus orchestra in the national anthem, while 18,000 gay men and their friends and families cheered, was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced,” recalled activist and organizer Larry Kramer in his book Reports from the Holocaust.

Proceeds raised by the event would go a long way to support programs at the Gay Men’s Health  Crisis, which had already distributed 250,000 copies of its safe sex brochure and coordinated hundreds of volunteers providing household assistance and compassionate care to men stricken with AIDS.

But the event was much more than a money generator, according to David Roman in his book Acts of Intervention.

“Gathering over 17.000 supporters of AIDS consciousness and intervention in 1983, and at the circus no less, was and could only be a political landmark,” writes Roman.

About a month after attending the circus event, Andrew Holleran would write of his experience in an essay for The New York Native:

“We sang the words of Francis Scott Key amidst the spotlights, in the great cavernous space filled with hearts dedicated to the same goal, and not a few moist eyes — I felt two identities which are most often separated in time and place, merge: homosexual and American.”

Candlelight 1
May 3, 1983
Candlelight Vigils Held in San Francisco & NYC

The Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation organizes the first AIDS Candlelight Vigils in New York and San Francisco, creating the first public demonstration with people living with AIDS and bringing global awareness to the epidemic.

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Photos of the event are circulated around the world, revealing for many the growing health crisis.  It is the first time that people with AIDS come together in a public demonstration.

May 3, 1983
5,000 Attend Candlelight March at Federal Building in Westwood

APLA sponsors a Candlelight March in Westwood attended by 5,000 people.  Activists from the Los Angeles area do their part to bring awareness about AIDS to the community and the nation.

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Tens of thousands of people also turn out in marches in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston.  In San Francisco, 10,000 activists walk for hours from the Castro to City Hall behind a banner reading “Fighting For Our Lives.”

Organizers Bobbi Campbell, Bobby Reynolds, Dan Turner and Mark Feldman succeed in their goal of putting “a face on the disease.”

1983
Daniel P. Warner Launches LA Shanti, Promotes Death with Dignity

Daniel P. Warner co-founds the non-profit LA Shanti Foundation, the first organization in Southern California to provide direct services for people with AIDS that also promotes death with dignity.

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Located on La Brea Avenue, L.A. Shanti becomes a leader in quality volunteer-driven programs that provide information and emotional support using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.

Warner serves as the organization’s first Executive Director.

“I have committed myself to helping the fight against the misconceptions and prejudices, which can overwhelm a person with this infection, by working as a health educator for the city of West Hollywood,” Warner would write to the Los Angeles Times in 1988.

Warner, who is HIV-positive, would receive Shanti’s first Commitment to Service Award in 1991. The same year, he would receive Los Angeles County’s Community Service Award and a certificate of recognition from the state Senate.
May 18, 1983
Congress Passes Bill with AIDS Research Funding

The U.S. Congress passes the first bill that includes funding specifically targeted for AIDS research and treatment — $12 million for agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ABC news
May 19, 1983
20/20 on ABC Broadcasts In-Depth Story on AIDS Crisis

The news show 20/20 broadcasts the first investigative report on AIDS for network TV with reporter Geraldo Rivera.

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The 17-minute story features footage of hundreds of activists in AIDS memorial marches in San Francisco, New York City and Houston, as well as interviews with persons living with AIDS Ken Ramsaur, Bob Cecchi, Ron Resio, and Bill Burke

Reporter Geraldo Rivera charts the history of AIDS, starting with the first AIDS cases appearing in New York City and San Francisco in 1979 and the early occurances with members of the gay population, intravenous drug users, and Haitian immigrants.

For the story, Rivera interviewed several people from the front lines of the AIDS crisis, including Marcus Conant, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, who warns that the “entire American public” should be concerned about the disease.  Dr. Conant tells Rivera that AIDS will become a major health crisis in the U.S. if research funds are not quickly allocated to develop effective ways to prevent and treat the disease.

“And so the evil genie is out of the bottle,” says Rivera, adding that AIDS has been diagnosed in 16 states already.

Rivera also interviews Larry Kramer, co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York.  In his characteristic animated fashion, Kramer criticizes The New York Times for failing to report on the AIDS crisis and expresses his frustration with the Centers for Disease Control for failing to add AIDS to its list of communicable diseases that public officials are required to report.

Rivera also includes footage of Rep. Henry Waxman in Congressional hearings, voicing criticism of the Reagan Administration for its lack of resources and action.

 

May 20, 1983
Pasteur Institute Researchers Discover AIDS Virus

Dr. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and her colleagues at the Pasteur Institute in France report the discovery of a retrovirus that could be the cause of AIDS.

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In 2008, Dr. Barré-Sinoussiwill share the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery with her colleague, Dr. Luc Montagnier.

Ken Ramsauer
May 23, 1983
Ken Ramsauer, First Person with AIDS on TV, Memorialized in Central Park

Ken Ramsauer, a businessman who was featured in reporter Geraldo Rivera’s investigative report for ABC’s 20/20, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City.  He was 29 years old.

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Ramsauer was a freelance lighting designer and hardware store manager who became the first person with AIDS to be the subject of a national television program when he was interviewed by Geraldo Rivera on 20/20.

His final televised wish was that people might gather in Central Park to remember those who had died of AIDS.  The following month on June 13, more than 1,500 would gather in Central Park for  a candlelight vigil to commemorate Ramsauer and others who died of AIDS.  The event featured a eulogy by Rivera, a speech by New York Mayor Ed Koch, and a reading of the names of the 600 people known to have died from AIDS by that time.

”Kenny Ramsauer wanted the people of New York and of this country to learn about the disease,” Rivera told the people gathered at the park’s Naumberg Bandshell on that early summer evening. ”He wanted society to know the discrimination and negative publicity that has allowed this disease a mortal head start.”

The vigil was considered the first large gathering acknowledging the existence of the epidemic.

David France, author of How to Survive a Plague, attended the vigil with a friend and later wrote:

“The plaza was crowded with 1,500 mourners cupping candles against the darkening sky.  As our eyes landed on one young man after another, it became obvious that many of them were seriously ill.  A dozen men were in wheelchairs, so wasted they looked like caricatures of starvation.  I watched one young man twist in pain that wsa caused, apparently, by the barest gusts of wind around us.”

Frances goes on to write that 722 cases of AIDS were reported in New York at the time, but judging from the scene around him, the numbers were likely considerably higher.

“We had found the plague,” he wrote.

AIDS No 1
May 25, 1983
AIDS Coverage Lands on NYT Front Page

The New York Times publishes its first front-page story on AIDS, “Health Chief Calls AIDS Battle ‘No. 1 Priority’.” The article reports on the federal response to the growing AIDS epidemic.

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By the time the article reaches newstands, 1,450 cases of AIDS have been reported and 558 of those individuals have died.

May 27, 1983
3,000 Marchers in LA Demand AIDS Research

A Candlelight March in Los Angeles brings 3,000 activists into the streets, reports the Los Angeles Times.  As reported cases in LA County jump from 19 in April 1982 to 81 in May 1983, activists mobilize to demand more AIDS research.

How to Have Sex in an Epidemic
1983
‘How to Have Sex in an Epidemic’ Hits the Streets

Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen publish How to Have Sex in an Empidemic: One Approach.

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Written by Berkowitz and Callen, both New Yorkers living with AIDS, the pamphlet was groundbreaking by being among the first to promote safer sex practices, offering pointed advice on condom use and promoting self-empowerment for those diagnosed with AIDS.

As one of the first publications to recommend the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs in men having sex with men, the pamphlet is considered one of the foundational publications in the advent of modern safe sex.

Sex in an Epidemic was widely read by gay men living in New York City.  In the melee of all the confusion and desperation about AIDS, a comprehensive guide appeared to help gay men navigate the risk of developing the seemingly fatal syndrome while also enjoying a sex life.

In 2017 — 34 years later — David France would write about Berkowitz and Callen’s efforts to educate their community about AIDS in his book How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS.

According to France’s account, Sex in an Epidemic originally started as an article proposed by Berkowitz with medical guidance from his openly gay doctor, Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., that proposed a new “sexual ethic” for men who had sex with men.

Berkowitz couldn’t find a publication willing to publish the article, largely due to his reputation of being “sex-negative,” which he and Callen unfairly acquired after they wrote an article about “the consequences of sexual overconsumption” for the gay publication the New York Native.

“Deep down, we know who we are and why we are sick,” they wrote for the November 8, 1982 edition of the Native.  After publication, the article drew a torrent of angry criticism from readers of the Native, as well as from gay periodicals across North America, including the Toronto newspaper Body Politic, which accused Berkowitz and Callen of creating unnecessary panic in the community.

Even so, Berkowitz, who was open about his history as a sex worker, was more determined than ever to find ways to save lives.  In the new writing project, he decided to take a different approach than the one he and Callen put forth in their Native article.

This time, Berkowitz was focused on a sex-positive message.  He wanted to share information about the kinds of intimacy gay men could engage in safely, rather than what gay men shouldn’t do.  When gay publications rejected the article Berkowitz proposed, Dr. Sonnabend recommended that they format the information as a pamphlet “in the model of left-wing and feminist political tracts,” according to France.

At that point, Callen got involved in the project.  He and Berkowtiz would meet to work on Sex in an Epidemic at Dr. Sonnabend’s office or at Callen’s loft in Tribeca.  Callen’s partner, Richard Dworkin, also assisted in assembling the editorial content.  Their process involved revisiting the painful mistakes of their approach to their Native article and applying lessons learned from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and other guides to influencing people.

“Their self-assigned mission was outsized, almost radical,” wrote France.  “In order for safe sex to staunch an epidemic, it had to be embraced by the entire community of gay men — a fundamental and universal change in behavior … This was how they invented what they called ‘safe sex.'”

Callen and Berkowitz took care to ensure all their advice was sex-positive and affirming.  They used frank and playful language in their risk assessment of various acts of sexual intimacy.  And, in a groundbreaking move, they promoted the use of condoms — something that very few gay men used at the time — as a way to avoid the AIDS virus as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.  They even included a passage on love.

“Men loving men was the basis of gay male liberation,” they wrote, “but we have now created ‘cultural institutions’ in which love and even affection can be totally avoided.”

They went on to advise that if readers love the subjects of their sexual intimacy — even those of the briefest of liaisons — then they will not want to make them sick.

The initial 5,000-copy printing of the 46-page Sex in an Epidemic cost about $1,000, donated by Callen and other patients of Dr. Sonnabend.  Berkowitz, Callen and Sonnabend distributed copies throughout New York City, primarily in shops and bars frequented by gay men.

Within weeks, the post-office box they included in the pamphlet began to receive letters.  They expected a response similar to the Native article, hate mail with accusations branding them traitors to the gay liberation movement.  But they were surprised to instead receive letters of appreciation for the work they produced and with requests to send copies to various locations around the U.S.  They immediately printed more copies to meet the demand that grew each week.

Then, on August 18, Jonathan Leiberson reviewed Sex in an Epidemic for the New York Review of Books.  Soon afterward, Sex in an Epidemic received attention from the Greenwich Village bookstore B. Dalton, which had created a window display around the 46-page guide.

Word was getting out.  Best of all, gay men began to use condoms.

“One night on Christopher Street, I watched a team of lesbians on a flatbed truck lovingly hurl the things into the air like rose petals over the heads of their gay brothers,” wrote France in How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS.

Condom manufacturers responded to the consumer demand in the largely gay communities by developing new products in a range of sizes, textures and colors that appealed to the market.  Transmission rates for all sexually transmitted diseases began to slow as a result.

 

 

Denver principles 2
June 12, 1983
Denver Principles Adopted after AIDS Forum Take-over

The Denver Principles are adopted after 11 gay men living with AIDS crash the stage at the National AIDS Forum and demand attention.

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At the National AIDS Forum in Denver, about 400 gay and lesbian healthcare workers had gathered to share information about the new disease creeping across various populations in the U.S.  Also in attendance were AIDS activists from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City and Denver.

It was the first time activists from different U.S. cities convened in one place for the first time for the purpose of taking action.  They found they had significant differences in their approaches to the AIDS crisis.  In particular, the contingents from New York, led by Michael Callen, and San Francisco, led by Bobbi Campbell, dominated the discussion between the activists, lobbying for their different agendas.

“The West Coast cadre saw the epidemic in starkly political terms,” wrote France in his book How to Survive a Plague. “They rejected the phrases ‘AIDS patient’ and ‘AIDS victim’ as being reductive.”

In comparison, the NYC contingent was focused on the theory that widespread auto-immune disorders in the gay population had been caused by promiscuity and sexually transmitted disease.  They were more concerned about getting this message out to the community and less concerned about how people outside the community viewed them.

The one area they could all agree on, according to France, was that “it was time for the sick to assert themselves.”

Led by Campbell, the activists crafted a statement on the rights of people living with AIDS which included the demands to be at the table when policy is made, to be treated with dignity, and to be called “people with AIDS,” and not “AIDS victims.”

After making copies of their statement, they attended the closing session of the conference and eleven of them siezed the stage, unfurling a banner that read Fighting for Our Lives.

“One by one, each of the eleven men declaimed one of the eleven points until the whote list of recommendations and responsibilities had been publicly uttered for the first time,” wrote France in How to Survive a Plague.  “The last line was Callen’s to deliver.  Looking from the dias, he saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  For many of the assembled delegates, representing parts of the country not yet touched by AIDS, seeing those doomed young men in that line was devastating.”

The statement became known as The Denver Principles, and it serves as the charter for the founding of the National Association of People with AIDS.

June 14, 1983
First Legal Services Provider for PWAs Launched

The AIDS Legal Referral Panel of San Francisco becomes the first legal services provider in the nation dedicated to meeting the needs of people with HIV/AIDS.

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The AIDS Legal Referral Panel was founded in 1983 by attorneys Frederick Hertz, Steven Richter, Mark Senick, and Gary James Wood.  It was originally a committee of the LGBT organization Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), but its founders recognized the group’s potential as a stand-alone non-profit organization.

Concerned that gay men in the Bay Area were near death from complications of AIDS, Hertz, Richter, Senick and Wood sought to create a legal resource that included the creation of wills and setting of durable powers of attorney.  Drafting legal documents such as these allowed individuals to die with dignity and fulfill their wishes about healthcare and disposition of assets.

The four began by publicizing a phone number where people with AIDS could call to receive legal help and by recruiting other attorneys to join them.  Soon, the legal community was leveraging its skills and resources through ALRP to respond to the AIDS crisis by providing those dying with AIDS the right to die with peace of mind.

As Hertz recounts, “[Preparing emergency wills] was wrenching.  But if people asked me how I kept my sanity, it was through using my legal skills in a way that really helped people.  I was doing something productive and meaningful and focused my grief on making a difference in people’s lives.”

Four founders and ten original Panel members sustained the organization for several years without any other infrastructure.  First led by BALIF co-chair Steve Richter with a list of telephone numbers, then by Gary James Wood when Richter developed AIDS in 1983, the organization operated solely as a volunteer-staffed organization until 1986, at which time ALRP hired attorney Clint Hockenberry.

With Hockenberry at the helm, ALRP grew from a grassroots community of concerned attorneys to an established lawyer referral service. Fundraising efforts excelled and extensive recruitment, training, and supervision of ALRP’s pro bono attorneys began. ALRP also partnered with the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program, which increased the legitimacy and visibility of the organization.

Hockenberry expanded outreach to better serve people of color, children, women, injection drug users, non-native English speakers, and the homeless. During his tenure, ALRP hosted the first national AIDS Law Conference and published the first AIDS Law Manual, extended outreach to other counties, garnered Ryan White CARE Act funds, and founded ALRP’s Public Policy Project. ALRP became an independent organization in 1990, separate from BALIF, with a formal Board of Directors.

In March 1992, Clint Hockenberry passed away from AIDS, but under his leadership ALRP had grown from an organization that formed in reaction to a crisis to an agency creatively and proactively responding to and anticipating the ever-changing needs of the HIV/AIDS community. As those with HIV/AIDS began living longer, Kristin Chambers, ALRP’s second Executive Director, and her successor, Irwin Keller, continued Hockenberry’s model of dynamic client services.

Under Chambers’ and Keller’s tenures, the 1990s saw an expansion of services and public policy efforts and an improved client referral system that better served the legal needs of the HIV/AIDS community. Full-time housing attorneys were hired when rising real estate prices left many in the HIV/AIDS community confronting homelessness.

In addition, “Working in the Cycle of HIV,” an educational manual published in conjunction with AIDS Benefits Counselors (now Positive Resource Center) and the Employment Law Center, was created to respond to the large numbers of people with HIV/AIDS who wanted to return to the workplace after experiencing positive outcomes from new treatments. On the public policy front, ALRP advocated for national health care reform, continued and improved HIV privacy and confidentiality protections, and Social Security reform to provide expanded, fair, and adequate access to benefits.

By 2000, when Bill Hirsh became ALRP’s fourth Executive Director, ALRP had grown from solely serving patients at San Francisco General Hospital to serving clients in seven Bay Area counties. From preparing emergency wills and powers of attorney, ALRP now provided legal assistance to clients in all areas of civil law. Instead of a simple lawyer referral service, ALRP was now an organization that provided both direct legal representation and personalized attorney/client referrals.

ALRP is the first organized legal outreach effort for those with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and many original Panelists from 1983 remain active in the organization to this day. Initially formed to draft emergency wills and other necessary documents for terminally ill clients, ALRP has shifted its focus to issues illustrative of the fact that those with HIV/AIDS are living longer lives than ever before and facing more complex legal needs.

What started in 1983 as a small circle of attorney friends has grown to a full-time staff of fifteen and a Panel of over 700 volunteer attorneys donating over $1 million each year in pro bono legal services. Since its inception, ALRP has handled over 76,000 legal matters for people living with HIV/AIDS.

By Jill DiGiovanni and Patricia Dunn

Baby AIDS
June 17, 1983
NYT Reports on Abandoned Infants with AIDS

Growing numbers of infants infected with AIDS in utero are abandoned in New York City hospitals, according to a New York Times article.

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On Page 22, the Times gives its report on the alarming cases of babies and young children who are born with the AIDS virus and subsequently left at New York hospitals.  The article carries no byline.

The article also exposes the discrepancy between the total number of pediatric AIDS cases nationwide being reported by the Centers for Disease Control (18) and the numbers of infants and children being treated by doctors in the NY metro area alone (more than 63).

In the article, New York pediatric immunologist Arye Rubinstein, M.D., blamed the CDC’s low case number on the federal government’s “unduly strict” definition of AIDS.  Because of this narrow definition, the CDC counted only children who had a malignancy or opportunistic infections.

Dr. Rubinstein told the Times that he was treating several patients whose symptoms did not fall within the CDC definition but most definitely were indications of infection by the AIDS virus.  The article cites Dr. Rubinstein’s pediatric AIDS caseload as consisting of 44 patients.  James Oleske, M.D, of St. Michael’s Hospital and the Newark College of Medicine was cited with a caseload of 18 pediatric patients and six more suspected cases.

In the years to come, Dr. Rubinstein would become very vocal about CDC case totals being undercounted and the need for the CDC to broaden its definition of pediatric AIDS — and he wasn’t the only doctor in the field to do so.  Finally in 1985, the CDC would broaden its defnition of AIDS, based on recommendations developed at the Conference of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the CDC would modify the definition again in 1987 and 1993.

The Times article also chronicled the plight of young children with AIDS who had been abandoned in NYC hospitals.  Doctors said the children have been left in hospitals by mothers who had died or are dying of AIDS.

Since the City did not have a place to house parentless AIDS children, they were left in the hospitals that were treating their conditions.  The Times reported that the City’s welfare agency, Special Services for Children, was seeking foster homes for the children, but no one would take them.

This article was among the first to focus on the heartbreaking situation of the population that would become known as “AIDS babies,” children born with the AIDS virus and then orphaned.  In the 1980s, most of these children died within two years.

Jerry Falwell
June 19, 1983
Televangelist Jerry Falwell Claims AIDS is Punishment for Homosexuality

Conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, tells his followers that “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

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A notious homophobe and segregationalist popular with religious conservatives, Falwell continues the campaign of stigmatization against the LGBTQ community that he began in the 1970s with Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign.

Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority publishes a report on AIDS headlined “Homosexual Diseases Threaten American Families.” It features a white couple with two young children, all wearing surgical masks suggesting AIDS is a gay disease that can be spread casually and that gays do not have families.

Many suspect that Falwell’s close ties to President Ronald Reagan directly contributed to the Administration’s refusal to address AIDS.

June 19, 1983
‘I Will Survive” Addresses Epidemic on Public Radio in Los Angeles

Produced for a gay audience, I Will Survive is broadcast on Los Angeles public radio station KPFK 90.7 FM as part of a day of programming celebrating gay pride month.

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In the one-hour radio show, producer David Hunt examined “the conflicting currents of fear, greed, despair and denial that confronted the gay community in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.”

“For its time, the documentary is a fairly clear-eyed look at the emerging AIDS epidemic,” writes Hunt on his website Tell Me David.  “It correctly emphasizes the medical consensus that a virus is the cause of the disease, and urges education, personal responsibility and collective action as the tools for fighting it.”

Hunt credits early activists with saving the lives of many people in the community in the early 1980s.

“Without the leadership of people like Larry KramerRandy Shilts, Harry Britt, Bobbi Campbell, Matt Redman and others, the suffering would have been far worse, the toll far greater,” he said.  “I remember wondering in the early days, in 1981 and 1982, whether any of us would survive. Titling the documentary I Will Survive was an act of false bravado as much as it was a hat tip to Bobbi Campbell, who wore a button emblazoned with that message.”

June 23, 1983
Stars Align for KS Benefit in San Francisco

Movie actresses Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine head the lineup for the annual benefit for the Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, founded by Cleve Jones, Marcus Conant, Frank Jacobson, and Richard Keller.

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“An evening with Debbie Reynolds and Friends” was the largest and most successful of the early San Francisco fundraisers, according to David Roman, author of Acts of Intervention.  The event raised $43,000 for the newly formed Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation.

In his book And The Band Played On about the early years of the AIDS crisis, Randy Shilts would write:

“The fundraiser for the National KS/AIDS foundation had all the raciness of a true San Francisco event. When host Debbie Reynolds introduced the surprise guest — actress Shirley MacLaine — with the comment that MacLaine had great legs, MacLaine responded by pulling down the top of her long strapless gown, demonstrating that she had other equipment to match. The crowd cheered enthusiastically: ‘We love you, Shirley!’  Not to be outdone, Reynolds lifted the rear of her slitted gown to reveal her brief black underwear.”

Reynolds would go on to appear in another benefit for the organization at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Reynolds was known to always be available, without perks, to lend her name and talent to fighting the AIDS epidemic,” writes journalist Karen Ocamb.  “And her fondness for the gays never disappeared either, landing the role as Kevin Kline’s mother in the satirical 1997 film In & Out, and playing her Emmy-nominated role as Deborah Messing’s eccentric mother in NBC’s Will & Grace.”

Reynolds’ last role would be Liberace’s mother in the 2013 HBO movie Behind the Candelabra.

In 1984, Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation would be renamed the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Pat Buchanan column (4)
June 23, 1983
Reagan Staffer Patrick Buchanan Vilifies Gay Men in Op-Ed

Patrick J. Buchanan, President Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter, publishes an op-ed in the New York Post, writing: “The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.”

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In his op-ed in the New York Post, Pat Buchanan repeats the Moral Majority position that the AIDS epidemic was God seeking revenge against gay people.

Buchanan concludes his essay by saying homosexuals should be banned from food-handling jobs, and that the Democratic party’s decision to hold its 1983 convention in San Francisco will endanger delegates and their families.

Visitors to the city, he writes, will be at the mercy of “homosexuals who belong to a community that is a common carrier of dangerous, communicable and sometimes fatal diseases.”

1983
Employer Puts Activist Michael Callen on Medical Leave Without Pay

Employed as a legal clerk, Michael Callen found himself put on medical leave without pay when his employer, a law firm, learned he was diagnosed with AIDS.

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Callen, who earlier that month was open about his condition in a New York magazine article, was not even allowed to return to his desk at work to collect his personal belongings.

“Too many of his colleagues had expressed fear about working with him,” wrote David France in his book How to Survive a Plague.

Stanford
July 1, 1983
Stanford Blood Bank Begins Screening Donations

Stanford Blood Center institutes the first blood testing program specifically intended to reduce the risk of transfusion transmission of AIDS.

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Between July 1983 and June 1985, a total of 33,831 blood donations were screened by Standord.  Of those donations, 586 were shown to have low CD4 counts and were discarded as possibly infected.

Stanford retained the serum samples from the 586 donations and years later, when a test became available, screened them specifically for HIV.  Dr. Engleman found that 1.9% of these donations were HIV positive — which translates to approximately 33 HIV-infections that were avoided.

As the first blood bank in the U.S. to screen donated blood for HIV/AIDS indicators, the new policy eliminated donations from people with low CD4 T cells.  The loss of CD4 T cells in AIDS is what renders patients susceptible to a wide range of infectious diseases.  Thus, the screening was considered a surrogate test, not necessarily identifying the presence of HIV/AIDS but instead identifying indicators of possible HIV/AIDS infection.

The new screening system came about due to an increasing awareness in the San Francisco medical community of AIDS and a skeptical view toward existing blood protection practices.  In the spring of 1983, Stanford Hospital treated two patients with AIDS.  Both had received transfusions at Bay Area institutions and neither had been identified as being in a high-risk group.

“At this point, my colleagues and I at Stanford Blood Center felt that the presence of the presumed etiologic agent for AIDS in the local blood supply could not be ignored,” recalls Ed Engleman, MD, of the Stanford Blood Center.  “Because of the potential lethality of this infection, we felt that self-deferral should not be relied upon as the sole means of protecting the blood supply.”

The self-deferral practice that Dr. Engleman refers to is the U.S. Public Health Service’s then-recommendation of relying on donors to voluntarily identify themselves as a member of a high-risk group.  Blood centers around the country commonly implemented the PHS recommendation with an information sheet provided to prospective donors that described AIDS risk groups and requested that donors exclude themselves if they met the definition of risk.

“It was predictable that this approach wouldn’t work very well,” says Dr. Engleman.  “First, it relied entirely on donor self-deferral.  Second, the PHS definition of homosexual AIDS risk behavior was vague, making it possible for a prospective donor with a history of homosexual activity to feel that he personally was not at risk for AIDS and to proceed with blood donation.”

Stanford University Blood Bank’s screening procedure was costly and had to be performed manually, but Stanford found it relatively easy to implement because it was already conducting immunological research and had access to a flow cytometer and the appropriate laboratory setting.

Around this time, the American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks, and the Council of Community Blood Centers released a joint statement estimating the risk of getting AIDS from transfusion as “one in a million.”  This was an overly optimistic view, it turned out.

Just a few years later, when the first HIV antibody test was made available in 1985, an estimated one in 700 units of blood donations in U.S. metropolitan areas were found to be infected with HIV.  In San Francisco, the frequency was closer to one in 100.

“We estimate that the total number of transfusion-related HIV transmissions that occurred from 1983 to 1985 was at least 10,000-20,000,” Dr. Engleman says.  “It seems evident that most of these cases could have been avoided had our test been used.”

Perry v Falwell
July 5, 1983
Rev. Troy Perry Debates Jerry Falwell on TV

Metropolitan Community Church founder Rev. Troy Perry debates Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell on the subject of “the AIDS controversy” on national TV.

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In the debate, Falwell calls for the mandatory closing of bathhouses, saying that AIDS is caused by homosexual promiscuity.  Then he walks back his previous statement regarding AIDS as a punishment against homosexuality.  He cites incorrect numbers regarding deaths and illness from AIDS.

The Rev. Perry responds, saying that diseases are the result of many variables, and that Falwell is dimishing the dangers of AIDS when he compares it with herpes.  He goes on to tell the TV audience that the majority of members in the LGBT community are in loving relationships, and that is the norm.

The Rev. Perry founded the LGBTQ-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 after recovering from an attempt to end his own life.  He is well-known in the community for filing suit against the Los Angeles Police Department to clear the way for the city’s first Pride parade in 1970.

July 17, 1983
WeHo Gay Bars & Bathhouses Empty as Misinformation Spreads

Gay bars in West Hollywood and Los Angeles report a 20% drop in business, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Six area bathhouses also report a 50% plunge in revenue.

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Some community members, like Circus Disco owner Gene La Pietra, think the drop may be related to an earlier news article that erroneously reported AIDS can be spread through casual contact.

5B
July 25, 1983
Ward 5B: Inpatient AIDS Ward Opens in San Francisco

San Francisco General Hospital opens Ward 5B, the first dedicated inpatient AIDS ward in the U.S.  The ward consists of all-volunteer caregivers and staff.

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Ward 5B is the answer to a petition organized by psychiatric nurse Cliff Morrison, demanding compassionate, holistic care for AIDS patients in San Francisco.  By August, the ward’s 12 beds are fully occupied.

Run by Morrison and an all-volunteer team, Ward 5B allowed patients to create their own family made up of friends and partners. The nurses recognized that many of the patients were isolated from their families or had long-term, though not legal, partners.

The ward was one of the first units in the country that allowed visitors at any time.

Congress
August 1, 1983
Congress Holds Hearings on U.S. AIDS Reponse

The Congressional Subcommittee on Government Operations holds hearings to examinethe federal response to AIDS.  It would take another four years before the Reagan Administration finally acknowledges the demands of AIDS activists.

Learn More.

Statement of Michael Callen of New York to Congress
(born April 11, 1955, died December 27, 1993)

In December of 1981 I had some blood testing done by my private physician, and those tests indicated that I was immune deficient. In December of 1981, there was very little known about this disease, but there was in the gay press beginning to be reports of increased instances of very unusual diseases, and they outlined some of the symptoms. I was very concerned because I had some of these symptoms — fevers, night sweats, general lymphadenopathy, swelling of the lymph nodes, malaise, fatigue.  So I had myself tested and, as I indicated, in December of 1981, I was told I was immune deficient.

The effect of being told that I was immune deficient was devastating.  I called my parents and said, “I am going to die.”

I was not hospitalized until the summer of 1982, when I was diagnosed with cryptospordiosis, which is one of the qualifying opportunistic infections, according to the CDC definition of this syndrome.

I was hospitalized for over a week with what is known as the wasting syndrome.  It was the lowest point of my life.  I was convinced from everything I read and heard that I was going to die.

But I recovered from that specific infection, and I was rehospitalized in the fall of 1982.  They suspected pneumocystis pneumonia. I had a bronchoscopy performed and other tests.  It turned out to be bronchitis.  But my story really illustrates one of the consistent stories for people who have this syndrome.  So little is known.

When my doctor indicated to me in December of 1981 that I was immune deficient, I said, “What does that mean?”

And he said, “We don’t know.”

So now a lot of people who are being told they are immune deficient are simply waiting, waiting for the next infection.

Now, I have come to believe that I am going to beat this disease.  I no longer think that I am going to die.  But it is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years.

So I guess that is my story — waiting around for infections, checking myself every morning for Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions and waiting for information about this disease to be forthcoming.

Statement of Roger Lyon of San Francisco to Congress
(born September 30, 1948, died November 4, 1984)

I was diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma on February 3 of this year.  Prior to that time, I was having absolutely no AIDS-related symptoms whatsoever.  On physical exam at that time, three lesions were found internally.  Prior to that, I was being treated for an amoebic disorder, no real symptoms of AIDS.

February 3, basically 100, I think more exactly 180 days ago, I became aware I had a life-threatening disease.  On February 4, I entered UC, I went to University of California without an appointment, at the suggestion of my doctor, and started what is called their staging process — a battery of tests to determine the extent of this disease.

At that time, I was basically numb.  I had no feeling.  I was just moving.  UC has been — they have been very kind and helpful.

However, it is a matter of day-to-day waiting, waiting for something to happen, living in constant fear that I am going to wake up one morning to find lesions, waking up finding that I have some other opportunistic infection, cryptospordiosis, possibly pneumocystis pneumonia.

At this time, I am basically living in fear of what is to come. Other than that, it is a day-to-day wait-and-see process.

Statement of Anthony “Tony” Ferrara of Washington, DC to Congress
(born in 1954, died June 4, 1984

The first idea there was something wrong with me was last summer.  I had lymphadenopathy, swollen lymph glands especially around the jaws and throat and under the arms.  That continued for a few months, but the whole time I felt quite good.  I continued to run and jog, and I experienced no fatigue, no night sweats, no fevers.  In fact, in November, I finished the Marine Corps marathon, when I was supposedly very, very ill.

The lymphadenopathy went away.  So I thought nothing further of it.  But all along, I had been reading about AIDS, and of course, as every conscious gay man should be, was very worried about it.

In February, I saw two small purple lesions, one on the inner aspect of each of my lower thighs, and I knew what they were, or I knew what they could be, and I said I would wait a month, and if they were still there in a month, I would seek treatment or seek a diagnosis.  Well, in the beginning of March they were still there.

I belong to the George Washington University HMO.  I went there and told them that they really should biopsy one of these lesions to see what it was, gave them my sexual history, and told them that there was a good chance I did have AIDS.  They biopsied it, and the diagnosis was Kaposi’s sarcoma. That was March 8.

Obviously, the first day I was very, very upset, and I went into a deep depression for about a month.  I came home that night and my significant other held me in his arms, and I said to him, “Why do I feel like Ali McGraw, it is just like a movie, it is really terrible, it is the most horrible thing that ever happened.”

My depression lasted a month, and I decided if there was any chance I was going to get over this, if I had any chance of surviving at all, I would have to have a more positive attitude and just continue on, live my life as best I can, and try not to worry about it too much.

I was very lucky. I had the choice of being treated at GW by a very good cancer specialist there, who instilled a great deal of confidence in me, or I had the choice of being treated at the National Institutes of Health.

I think it was an easy choice, because I think — NIH wanted me, because I was so healthy at that point.  I was a good specimen for research I think.  And also, I felt that if I have the disease and no one knows anything about it, the best place to be treated would be where they are doing the research.

 

Jobriath
August 3, 1983
Singer-Musician Jobriath Dies

Rock star Jobriath dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 36.  He was the first openly gay pop singerto be signed to a major record label, and one of the first internationally famous musicians to die of AIDS.

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Born Bruce Wayne Campbell and raised in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Jobriath started his music career in the West Coast production of the musical Hair, receiving positive reviews in the lead role of Woof, a character implied to be gay.  After leaving the production in 1969, he joined the folk-rock band Pidgeon as their lead singer and guitarist, followed by a two-album solo deal with Elektra Records in 1972.

His debut album Jobriath, released in June 1973, would feature an album sleeve design by photographer Shig Ikeda depicting a nude Jobriath as an ancient Greek statue.  This photograph was used in an extensive publicity campaign for the album release.

Critical praise for the album followed the hype, and he was often compared with David Bowie, some critics contending that Jobriath had more talent than Bowie.  But American music fans of the 1970s weren’t ready for a talent like Jobriath.

“At a concert at the Nassau Coliseum, chants of ‘faggot’ started from the minute he took the stage, along with rubbish thrown at him, and Jobriath was forced a flee the stage,” writes music historian Kevin Burke.

Elektra then rush-released Jobriath’s second album and ended its contract with him.  Jobriath would spend the rest of the ’70s in a new identity, “Cole Berlin” (an amalgamation of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin), whose professions were nightclub signer and sex worker.

Jobriath had begun to feel ill in late 1981 but still managed to contribute to the Chelsea Hotel’s 100th birthday celebration in November 1982.

“A decade after his billboards hung in Times Square, Jobriath Boone died alone and abandoned in his rooftop apartment at the Chelsea Hotel,” Burke writes.  “Sadly overlooking the New York skyline he once adorned, here his body lay decomposing for four days before it was found.”

Klaus Nomi
August 6, 1983
Singer-Performer Klaus Nomi Dies

Klaus Nomi, a rare countertenor with an eccentric act, dies of AIDS at the age of 39. Although Nomi’s work had not yet met with national commercial success, he has a cult following in New York and in France.

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Nomi is an important part of the 1980s East Village scene, a hotbed of development for punk rock music, the visual arts and the avant-garde.  Born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Germany, Nomi began his career in the 1960s, singing opera arias at the Berlin gay discothèque Kleist Casino.  His distinctive performances featured his wide vocal range and an otherworldly stage persona.

In 1972, Nomi moved to New York and appeared in a camp production of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold at Charles Ludlam‘s Ridiculous Theatrical Company.

In 1978, he caught the attention of the NYC art scene with his performance in “New Wave Vaudeville.”  Dressed in a skin-tight spacesuit with a clear plastic cape, Nomi sang the aria “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens to your voice”) from Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson et Dalila. After that performance Nomi was invited to perform at clubs all over New York City.

Nomi would go on to create the Klaus Nomi Band, release albums, and perform in NYC’s top clubs.  In 1979, David Bowie hired Nomi as a backup singer for his Dec. 15 appearance on Saturday Night Live.  During the performance of “TVC 15,” Nomi and Joey Arias dragged around a large prop pink poodle with a television screen in its mouth.

In the last several months of his life, Nomi would change his focus to operatic pieces and adopted a Baroque era operatic outfit complete with full collar as his typical onstage attire. The collar helped cover the outbreaks of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Nomi’s death at the Sloan Kettering Hospital Center in New York City is one of the first of many celebrity deaths from AIDS.

Bobbi Campbell on Newsweek
August 8, 1983
Newsweek Magazine Puts ‘Gay America’ on Cover

AIDS Activist Bobbi Campbell and his partner Bobby Hilliard appear on the cover of Newsweek magazine for the story “Gay America: Sex, Politics and the Impact of AIDS.”

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It is the first time two gay men are pictured embracing one another on the cover of a U.S. mainstream national magazine.

1983
San Francisco Dancer Graham Conley Dies

Modern dancer Graham Conley, who performed with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

August 17, 1983
Comedian Eddie Murphy Perpetuates Stigma in HBO Special

Comedian Eddie Murphy performs his comedy special “Delirious” on HBO with material that further stigmatizes gay men and HIV/AIDS.  In the show, he makes jokes about AIDS, uses a gay slur multiple times, and tells the audience he is “afraid of gay people.”

Learn More.

After its release to the public, the show would become watched by millions and go on to win a Grammy Award.

Murphy would apologize in 1996 for the homophobic remarks in his performances after gay rights activists in San Francisco mount a protest during one of his film shoots.  In a public statement, Murphy said that he deeply regretted “any and all pain” that he caused, adding, “Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981.”

David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign Fund in Washington, D.C., would respond:  “This statement certainly does sound as though Murphy recognizes the impact his past statements have had on the gay community.  It’s important for people in the public eye like Eddie Murphy to recognize they set a tone for the general public.

Debbie Reynolds
August 28, 1983
Debbie Reynolds & Rip Taylor Perform at AIDS Benefit at Hollywood Bowl

Film star Debbie Reynolds appears with comic performer Rip Taylor at the first public AIDS benefit in Los Angeles, which takes place at the Hollywood Bowl.

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The benefit for the Kaposi Sarcoma Foundation is technically the “second annual” fundraiser in Los Angeles, but it is the first to be held in a public venue.

As the featured star of the event, Reynolds is already an arden AIDS activist — long before Elizabeth Taylor becomes an advocate, journalist Karen Ocamb writes in The Pride LA.

Along with comedian Joan Rivers, singer-actress Rita Moreno, and actor Robert Guillaume, Reynolds is among the first Hollywood celebrities to appear in AIDS fundraisers at a time when HIV/AIDS is still a topic shunned by many.

AIDS Memorandum
1983
‘AIDS Memorandum’ Created for Research-Sharing

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases begins publishing an informal newsletter, the AIDS Memorandum, through which scientists can share unpublished research findings.

Learn More.

The publication lasts for two years, until mainstream scientific journals begin expediting publication for articles on AIDS.

PPE
September 2, 1983
AIDS Exposure Precautions Issued to Healthcare Workers

CDC publishes the first set of AIDS exposure precautions for healthcare workers.

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In response to growing concerns about the potential for AIDS transmission in healthcare settings, CDC publishes occupational exposure precautions for healthcare workers and allied health professionals.

September 9, 1983
CDC Rules Out AIDS Transmission by Casual Contact

In an MMWR article read around the world, CDC rules out transmission of AIDS by casual contact, food, water, air, or environmental surfaces.

Learn More.

In the CDC Report “Current Trends Update: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — United States,” CDC identifies all major routes of HIV transmission — and rules out transmission by casual contact.

September 30, 1983
First AIDS Discrimination Lawsuit Filed in NYC

After New York City physician Joseph Sonnabend is threatened with eviction from his office building for treating patients with AIDS, the state’s Attorney General and Lambda Legal join together to file the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit.

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Dr. Sonnabend and five of his patients sued and won what became one of the first AIDS-related civil rights cases.

With others including AIDS activist Michael Callen, Dr. Sonnabend founded the AIDS Medical Foundation, the first AIDS research group and now known as the Foundation for AIDS Research.

October 4, 1983
AIDS Patient Flown from Florida to California & ‘Dumped’

A Florida hospital arranged for a private jet to fly a patient with AIDS to San Francisco, where he was left at a local AIDS foundation with $300 cash.

Learn More.

Morgan MacDonald, 27, of Vero Beach, Florida, was brought to San Francisco in a chartered Lear jet after being discharged from Shands Hospital at the University of Florida at Gainesville.  MacDonald told Dr. Mervyn Silverman, San Francisco’s public health director, that he was transported to California against his will.

Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, spent $7,000 for a private jet to fly MacDonald to San Francisco last week and leave him on a stretcher at the office of a city-funded AIDS foundation.  He was immediately transferred to the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital.

Dianne Feinstein, then-Mayor of San Francisco, sent a telegram to Gov. Bob Graham of Florida, asserting that a hospital there dumped an unwanted AIDS patient by having him flown to San Francisco.  She called the incident “outrageous and inhumane.”

Gov. Graham’s press secretary said Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services would investigate the matter.

Virginia Hunt, Shands’ public relations director, defended the hospital’s actions, saying MacDonald no longer needed hospital care and the hospital was unable to find a Florida nursing home for him.  She contended that the AIDS Foundation in San Francisco agreed to give Mr. MacDonald 30 days’ free housing.

But Dr. Silverman said the Florida hospital had made contact with both the City of San Francisco and the AIDS Foundation and ”played us one off against the other.”

Silverman said MacDonald was free to return to Florida, but said his condition was acute and it was essential that he receive proper care.

MacDonald would die 21 days later at San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS Ward.  MacDonald was said to have no family. Before his hospitalization, he lived in a religious commune in Florida.

AIDS VIgil DC 1983
1983
Nationwide Vigil Draws Attention to Federal Inaction

At the first National AIDS Vigil in Washington, D.C., speaker Bobbi Campbell urges President Ronald Reagan to appoint a federal task force on AIDS that includes people living with AIDS and start addressing the “national health emergency.”

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“Let no one call us victims. We are citizens and some of us are dying,” Bobbi Campbell, 31, spoke to the crowd, who numbered about 1,500.  Campbell told The Washington Post that he has not worked since physicians told him two years ago that he had AIDS.

“We need the government to recognize our legitimate rights to exist,” Campbell told the crowd. “We are dying to be free.”

The demonstration, which was organized with support of the National AIDS Vigil Commission, ended with a candlelight rally around the reflecting pool at the foot of Capitol Hill.  Organizers said the march and vigil were “in memory of the approximately 1,000 people who have died of AIDS and the 1,500 who now have the disease.”

The commission that sponsored the event included Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.), D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein.

The next day, the Associated Press would report that memorial marches and services were held in cities across America, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Tampa and Denver.

“Thousands of homosexuals, their families and friends joined candlelight parades for whom they said were cast aside by an insensitive public scared of catching the deadly disease,” the AP would report.

footprints
1983
Pediatric AIDS Cases Presented to NY Academy of Science, and Rejected

Dr. Arthur J. Ammann presented case reports of immunodeficiency in infants as evidence of AIDS infecting children — but the medical community largely refused to accept the idea that a disease spread among gay men was being found in babies.

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Dr. Ammann travelled from San Francisco to New York City for an immunolgy conference hosted by the New York Academy of Science to report on his research on pediatric AIDS patients.  He announced that he had identified two new means of transmission of the virus, in utero mother-to-infant and blood transfusions.

Conference attendees responded to Dr. Ammann’s presentation with indifference and rejection.  Included in the nay-sayers was even his old mentor, Robert A. Good, M.D., who had served as president of the American Association of Immunologists and more recently as director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.

“Bob Good got up and said that he didn’t think that we were seeing AIDS in children, that he had seen this immunodeficiency with CMV [cytomegalovirus virus] before,” Dr. Ammann recalled for the San Francisco AIDS Oral History Series.  “I quickly responded, because I had looked up all the literature. I said, ‘If it’s been seen before, no one’s ever reported it.'”

Dr. Ammann said he had just met with Arye Rubinstein, M.D., another immunologist working with pediatric AIDS patients, who told him that he was receiving the same immediate resistance to his own case reports.

“People just didn’t want AIDS to affect infants,” said Dr. Ammann.  “They just didn’t believe it.  And they didn’t believe it until HIV testing became available.”

As the lead pediatric AIDS practitioners on the West Coast and East Coast, respectively, Drs. Ammann and Rubinstein did not let the initial rejection from the medical community deter them from their work.

Through 1985, Dr. Ammann would continue to serve as director of Pediatric Immunology and Clinical Research Center at University of California San Francisco.  In 1988, he would join the Board of Directors for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR), where he would serve as president in 1997-1998.  In 1997, Dr. Ammann would found Global Strategies for HIV Prevention to address the inequity of HIV prevention services provided around the world.

In a 1988 article for The San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Ammann would draw nationwide attention to the issue of pediatric AIDS when he predicts that at least 20,000 children will contract AIDS in the next four years.  Sadly, his prediction would be borne out.  By 1992, about 5,000 cases of pediatric AIDS would be reported to the CDC, with the actual number of HIV-infected children to be estimated at about 20,000.

In 2017, Dr. Ammann would publish a first-person account of the pediatric HIV/AIDS crisis, Lethal Decisions: The Unnecessary Deaths of Women and Children from HIV AIDS.  Dr. Ammann would die four years later, in San Rafael, California on August 15, 2021, at the age of 85.

Dr. Arye Rubinstein would also dedicate his life to the care of children and women with HIV.

The National Institutes for Health would award a grant to Dr. Rubinstein for the study of AIDs in women and children, the first to focus specifically on that population. In 1986, he established that transmission of AIDS can occur in utero, and he published his finding in the journal Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology.

By 1985, Dr. Rubinstein would estimate that he had treated about 100 children with the virus at his practice based out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

At the time, New York public health policy dictated that pediatric AIDS patients be confined to hospitals, so misunderstood was the nature of the virus.  So Dr. Rubinstein decided to open a day care center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine for the families of pediatric AIDS patients, and successfully petitioned the City of New York for the funds to build it.

He would take personal risks to come to the defence of his pediatric patients’ parents, many of whom had a history of drug use and sex work, and were not equipped to navigate the backlash of fear and anger directed at them.

“I was almost assaulted after testifying in court in Brooklyn,” recalled Dr. Rubinstein in an 2011 edition of Einstein Magazine. “The parents in one school wanted to remove children who were infected, but I testified that HIV was not transmitted through casual contact.  The parents got very upset, to the point where I had to be hauled out of the courtroom through a back door.”

In 1986, Dr. Rubinstein and colleagues would show that IV gamma globulin helps prevent infections and T-cell attrition in children with AIDS, significantly improving survival rates.  Later the same year, he would demonstrate that in pregnant women with HIV, transmission of the virus often occurs in utero and not just at delivery or through breast-feeding.

In the April 1987 edition of Pediatric Research, he would co-author a paper about the increase in AIDS cases of women whose only known risk factor was heterosexual contact with HIV positive men.  In another pediatric publication, he would report that the leading cause of death in 1987 for women between the ages of 24 and 35 was AIDS.

In 1989, Dr. Rubinstein would launch a summer camp in the Catskills for children with HIV and
their families (many more similar camps would open in the 1990s).   He currently is chief of the Division of Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Hospital in Montefiore and Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

November 22, 1983
WHO Brings Global Eye to Pandemic

The World Health Organization holds its first meeting to assess global AIDS situation, beginning international surveillance of the disease.

December 5, 1983
San Francisco Chronicle Exposes Delay in AIDS Funding

Reporter Randy Shilts of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that federal health officials were forced to pull funding from other projects to support important AIDS research in the spring of 1983 due to the lack of federal funding.

Learn More.

Top officials in the Department of Health and Human Services were pleading for more federal funds from the Reagan administration for AIDS research in early 1983, all while publicly saying that no more money was needed, according to Shilts’ reporting in The Chronicle.

Reporting from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Shilts wrote that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta ultimately were forced to divert millions of dollars from other important health projects in order to conduct AIDS research.

Dr. James Curran, director of AIDS research at the Atlanta center, said 2,513 cases had been reported to the CDC as of Oct. 17, 1983, and 1,048 people had died, reflecting a fatality rate of 41%.
“It has now reached the point where important AIDS work cannot be undertaken because of the lack of available resources,” wrote Edward Brandt, assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a May 13, 1983 memo.

In that memo obtained by Shilts, Brandt listed a number of important health areas other than AIDS in which work was “postponed, delayed or severely curtailed” because the center was diverting money to AIDS research.

But according to The Chronicle, Brandt also publicly supported the Reagan administration’s position just days before, testifying May 9 to Congress that extra funds to fight AIDS were “unnecessary.”

Dr. William Foege of the Centers of Disease Control sent Brandt a 12-page request for funds in early May, but two weeks later, Thomas Donnelly, Assistant Secretary for Legislation, wrote a Senate staff member that “we are not in favor of additional appropriations” for AIDS research.  The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation serves as the primary link between the Department of Health and Human Services and Congress.

Morris Kight
1983
Activist Morris Kight Starts Aid for AIDS in Los Angeles

Gay activist Morris Kight and a small group of friends create Aid for AIDS  to help those devastated by AIDS who have been evicted, fired or unable to pay for food, rent or  utility bills.

Learn More.

As AFA’s Director in the early years, Knight set ambitious goals, ensuring assistance was allocated to those who needed it most.

In the 1980s, most people who developed full-blown AIDS would die within a short time, and AFA prioritized the need for people to die with dignity in their own homes.  In the coming years, AFA would go on to help more than 16,000 men, women, and children.

December 15, 1983
FDA Hosts Conference to Consider Protections of Blood Supply

The CDC and FDA would convene a meeting of blood services organizations to discuss screening options for HIV/AIDS.  This is the CDC’s second attempt to address the need for blood screening as a means to safeguard to the country’s blood supply.

Learn More.

At the December 15-16 meeting, the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee facilitates a discussion of the options for HIV surrogate marker tests.  This conference is a follow-up to the one held in January 1983, where blood bank scientists remained unmotivated to begin blood screening.

After the January meeting, an American Red Cross interoffice memo stated, “CDC is likely to continue to play up AIDS.  It has long been noted that CDC increasingly needs a major epidemic to justify its existence.”

In the year between the two meetings, blood banks would continue to collect donations from unscreened members of the public.  The initial resistance by blood banks to implement the CDC’s donor screening measures is now viewed as a critical failure on their part in the effort to limit transmission of HIV early on in the epidemtic.

At the December 1983 meeting, industry representatives proposed the creation of a task force to deliberate the details of a recommendation made at the meeting by Dr. Dennis Donohue, director of the FDA’s Division of Blood and Blood Products.  Dr. Donohue proposed that hepatitis B anti-core testing be incorporated for routine plasma screening, since it would identify 90% of all potentially infectious or high-risk donors.

While Dr. Donohue was not enthusiastic about the task force approach, which was generally seen as the industry’s way to delay screening requirements, he agreed to it.

December 21, 1983
TV Medical Drama Tackles Subject of AIDS in Episode

NBC’s “St Elsewhere” airs the episode “AIDS and Comfort,” with the story about a former councilman diagnosed with AIDS.

Learn More.

In the episode, the presence of a person with AIDS at St. Elygius Hospital triggers the fears and prejudices of various hospital staff.

The episode attempts to call for compassion in its viewers while dispelling misinformation about the virus, using medical professionals as gateways to inform and educate a mainstream audience.

However, by depicting the patient with AIDS as a white, heterosexual, well-off character who’s the victim of an ill-timed affair and the subsequent confusion about whether the patient is straight or gay once he is diagnosed, the viewers are presented with the message that “gay = AIDS,” reinforcing the stereotype  stigmatizing the gay community.

John Ponyman
February 4, 1984
San Francisco Actor-Singer John Ponyman Dies

John Ponyman, an off-Broadway actor who migrated to San Francisco, dies of AIDS- related illness at the age of 41.

Learn More.

Ponyman regularly appeared in shows at Theatre Rhinoceros.  His final project was a solo show titled “Sawdust,” featuring several of his own songs.

March 6, 1984
Blood Supply Task Force Opposes Test for Screening Virus

The task force created at the December 1983 FDA/CDC conference with the blood services community issues a report with a majority opinion that opposes the implementation of incorporating hepatitis B anti-core testing into the routine screening of plasma, presenting another roadblock to the protection of the country’s blood supply.

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The task force reviewed several pilot tests performed at blood banks in areas with donors at high risk for hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc), which appears at the onset of symptoms in acute hepatitis B and persists for life.  Scientific data suggested that anti-HBc was found commonly in HIV-infected individuals.

Data showed:

  • 5-18% of blood and plasma donors had a positive test for anti-HBc;
  • 84% of homosexual males tested positive for anti-HBc; and
  • 96% of IV drug users tested positive for anti-HBc.

The discussion at the December BPAC meeting had stipulated that ”cost-benefit analysis and disease prevalence must be considered in the decision regarding whether or not to use the test,”  However, the task force could not agree upon the true cost of the test, with estimates as low as $2.50 per test for plasma collectors and as high as $12.00 per donation for whole blood collections

Additional costs were the blood that would be discarded and the recruitment of new donors.  With the task force unable to agree on the costs and the benefits of using the anti-core test as a surrogate for high-risk donors, the majority decided to oppose the adoption of screening procedures.

Gaetan Dugas
March 30, 1984
Canadian flight Attendant Gaëtan Dugas Dies

Gaëtan Dugas dies of AIDS in Quebec City at the age of 32.  A few years later, Dugas would be erroneously vilified as “Patient Zero” due to the CDC’s labeling of his case as “patient O” (as in the letter O).

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In 1987, three years after the death of Dugas, journalist Randy Shilts would publish the best-selling book And the Band Played On, an influential work on HIV that would help shame the U.S. Government into properly funding research.

In the book, Shilts would identify “patient zero” as Dugas, who had a home in Los Angeles and travelled to many cities, and implied that he was the first-known source of the HIV spread in the U.S.

The media would erupt: Dugas’ hansome face would be pubished everywhere, and he would be characterised as a kind of “typhoid Mary” who callously spread the virus in the early 1980s.

Flash-forward to 2016, when this would be scientifically disproven by a group of researchers led by evolutionary biologist Dr. Michael Worobey.  Worobey’s team conducted a genetic study of blood samples taken from gay and bisexual men in 1978 and 1979 as part of a hepatitis B study, and based on the results of the data, concluded that Dugas was not the source of the virus in the U.S.

“On the family tree of the virus, Dugas fell in the middle, not at the beginning” Worobey concluded.  “Beliefs about Patient Zero are unsupported by scientific data.”

Worobey’s paper, published in Nature in October 2016, finds neither biological nor historical evidence that Dugas was the primary case in the U.S.

It is also important to note that Dugas was particularly helpful and transparent with the CDC in tracing his network of partners, providing names and addresses for many of them (which was further expanded because others remembered his distinctive name).

Bill Kendall
April 4, 1984
Dancer-Choreographer Bill Kendall Dies

Performer Bill Kendall, who received rave reviews for his portrayal of “Mr. Peanut” in the long-running San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.  He is pictured with the cast (standing far left).

 

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Beach Blanket Babylon was the world’s longest-running musical revue at the time. The show began its run in 1974 at the Savoy Tivoli and later moved to the larger Club Fugazi in the North Beach district of San Francisco.

Kendall was in the production’s original 1974 cast and continued to be a featured performer through 1982, playing the roles of Superman, John Travolta Sat Night Fever, and The Original Mr. Peanut.

Beach Blanket Babylon was created by Steve Silver, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1995.  The San Francisco Chronicle described the show’s roots as a combination of “Vegas lounge acts, the Follies Bergere, God Rush-era extravaganzas, English music halls, a child’s birthday party gone mad and dopey beach party movies.”

Dennis Yount
April 7, 1984
U.S. Military Veteran Dennis Yount Dies

Dennis Yount, a Marine who served in the Presidential Honor Guard at President Kennedy’s bier in the Capitol Rotunda, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.

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Yount was born in North Carolina and attended North Carolina University at Columbia before joining the Marines.  In 1970, he moved to New York City and became a favorite bartender at the Village bar Trilogy.   He moved to San Francisco in 1980 and began tending bar at the Eagle.

Once relocated to the Bay Area, Yount also pursued his long-held interest in acting, being cast in stage productions of Delivery and Sunsets.

Gallo ids virus
April 23, 1984
Dr. Robert Gallo Identifies Retrovirus as Cause of AIDS

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler announces that Dr. Robert Gallo and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute have found the cause of AIDS, a retrovirus they have labeled HTLV-3.

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Heckler also announces the development of a diagnostic blood test to identify HTLV-3 and expresses hope that a vaccine against AIDS will be produced within two years.

Dr. Gallo and his research colleagues developed a process to mass-produce the retrovirus for the purpose of developing the tools needed to identify, treat and cure the disease that has afflicted more than 4,000 Americans to date.

The announcement follows the announcement by the Pasteur Institute in Paris of its discovery of LAV, which they say causes AIDS.

Heckler said she thought the two viruses ”will prove to be the same.”

Allan Estes
May 6, 1984
Theatre Rhinoceros Founder Allan Estes Dies

Allan Estes, the founding artistic director of Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.  His final project, “The AIDS Show,” would become the first work by a theater company to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

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Theatre Rhinoceros is the nation’s oldest and longest-running LGBTQIA+ theater, founded in 1977 by Estes.

Estes came to San Francisco from Boston in 1977 with one goal: to establish a theater where the gay community could go to make and see theater which reflected the realities and joys of homosexual life.

From 1977 until 1984, Estes and Theatre Rhinoceros produced works by gay New York writers that included Doric Wilson, Robert Patrick, Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally, and Harvey Fierstein, as well as several San Francisco playwrights including C.D. Arnold, Robert Chesley, Cal Youmans, Philip Real, and Dan Curzon.

In the early 1980s, Allan began transforming the Rhino from a gay men’s theater into a lesbian and gay theater, and invited lesbian screenwriters to stage their plays.

In 1984, he conceived the production Artists Involved with Death and Survival (“The AIDS Show”), which was brought to fruition by director Leland Moss (who would die from AIDS at age 41) and included the works of 20 Bay Area playwrights.  “The AIDS Show” became the first work by a theater company to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

In 1987, “The AIDS Show” and its touring company became the subject of a PBS documentary by Rob Epstein and Peter Adair and brought the Rhino national attention.

When Estes died, his friends and collaborators vowed to continue Theatre Rhinoceros as a monument to their fallen leader.

May 21, 1984
San Francisco Dancer Charles Butts Dies

Bay Area dancer Charles Butts — who performed with Dance Spectrum, Xoregos Dance Company, Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo and Valerie Huston Dance Company — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31.

June 4, 1984
Early AIDS Activist Anthony J. Ferrara Dies

Anthony “Tony” Ferrara, who came forward with two other Persons With AIDS in 1983 to testify before Congress at a special hearing, dies at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda at the age of 30.

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Ferrara twice testified before Congress to urge the federal government to increase funding for AIDS research and social services for people with AIDS.

The focus of Ferrara’s activism was often targeted at the critical need for financial support for those needing medical treatment.

“I think part of the problem is the drugs involved are so extremely expensive, the experimental drugs,” Ferrara told Congress in 1983.  “If any of them work, what my fear is is that, one, it is going to be too expensive to be widely disseminated, and two, the experimental status of the drugs may cause insurance companies to avoid paying for them.”

He returned to testify again before a Congressional hearing on AIDS in April 1984, just several weeks before he died.  And again, he stressed the need for the government to make healthcare and medication affordable.

“I implore you to remember the needs of these people beyond adequate funds for research,” Ferrara said.  “Unless you have looked into the tortured face of a person with AIDS and seen the terror, not only at the thought of dying, but at the thought of being tossed out of their home because they haven’t the money to pay their rent, or of having their phone service, electricity, or heat terminated because they cannot work … you cannot fully appreciate the tremendous need that exists with regard to this aspect of the disease.”

Ferrara was being treated by the NIH and volunteered to be the first person to undergo massive doses of Alpha Interferon as part of his treatment, according to his partner Michael Farrell.

So dedicated was he to help the NIH in its research into AIDS treatment, Ferrara also underwent a month-long experimental protocol of plasmapheresis, an exchange of blood plasma that takes five hours per session, and was one of the first recipients  of Gamma Interferon and natural Interluken II.

Ferrara’s memorial mass was held at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, where hundreds gathered to mourn and pay their respects.

June 13, 1984
Portugese Pop Star António Variações Dies

Singer-songwriter António Variações, Portugal’s first gay superstar, dies of AIDS-related illiness in Lisbon, Portugal at the age of 39.

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Variações made his TV debut in 1981 during the Sunday variety show on Portugal’s sole broadcaster, recounts Pedro João Santos in his Guardian profile.

“He sang a punk metaphor about pills while a dancer dressed as a giant aspirin threw Smarties at the dumbfounded audience,” writes Santos.  “Nothing so transgressive had ever graced Portugal’s airwaves.”

His 1983 bestselling debut album, Anjo da Guarda (Guardian Angel), features Variações’ Portuguese folk-style singing set to new-wave music.  His follow-up album, Dar & Receber, fused disco-rock with synthpop.

In May 1984, Variações was admitted to hospital due to illness, according to The AIDS Memorial. Except for his family and close friends, he received few visitors during his hospital stay. A month later, the media reported that his health had deteriorated and rumours began to circulate that he had AIDS.

The initial cause of Variações’ death would be reported as bilateral bronchial pneumonia.  At his funeral on June 15, 1984, the coffin would be sealed shut by order of the Portugese government.

Michel Foucault
June 25, 1984
French Philosopher Michel Foucault Dies

Paul-Michel Foucault, one of the most influential and controversial scholars of the post-World War II period, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 57.

 

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A day later, French newspaper Libération would include in the death notice a mention of the rumor that it had been brought on by AIDS. The day after that, Le Monde would issue a medical bulletin cleared by his family that makes no reference to HIV/AIDS.

On 29 June, Foucault’s la levée du corps ceremony would be held, in which the coffin is carried from the hospital morgue. Hundreds attend, including activists and academic friends, while French philosopher Gilles Deleuze gives a speech using excerpts from Foucault’s extensive examination of sexuality in the Western world, The History of Sexuality.

His body is then buried at Vendeuvre-du-Poitou in a small ceremony.

The son and grandson of a physician, Foucault was born to a bourgeois family.  A distinguished but sometimes erratic student, Foucault gained entry at the age of 20 to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1946, and established a reputation as a sedulous, brilliant, and eccentric student.

After graduating in 1952, Foucault travelled Europe, issued monographs of his work and, in 1969, published L’Archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge), which won him attention as one of the most original and controversial thinkers of his day.

A year later, he was awarded a chair position at the Collège de France, the country’s most prestigious postsecondary institution, and began conducting intensive research.

Between 1971 and 1984 Foucault wrote several works, including Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison (1975; Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison); three volumes of a history of Western sexuality; and numerous essays.

Foucault continued to travel widely, and as his reputation grew he spent extended periods in Brazil, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the U.S.  He became particularly attached to the San Francisco Bay area and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley for several years.

Although Foucault reportedly despised the label “homosexual,” he was openly gay and occasionally praised the pleasures of sadomasochism and the bathhouse.  Foucault died of a septicemia typical of AIDS, with the fourth volume of his history of sexuality still incomplete.

Foucault’s partner Daniel Defert would go on to found the first HIV/AIDS organisation in France, AIDES; a play on the French language word for “help” (aide) and the English language acronym for the disease.  On the second anniversary of Foucault’s death, Defert would publicly reveal that Foucault’s death was AIDS-related.

July 13, 1984
CDC Cites IV Drug Use & Needle Sharing as AIDS Transmitter

U.S. Centers for Disease Control pubishes research demonstrating that avoiding injection drug use and reducing needle-sharing would help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Bobbi Campbell
August 15, 1984
Activist Bobbi Campbell Dies

AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell dies of AIDS-related illness at age 32.

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Just one month earlier, Campbell spoke at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

Campbell told the crowd that he had hugged his boyfriend on the cover of Newsweek, “to show Middle America that gay love is beautiful.”  He held 15 seconds of silence for the 2,000 who had died of AIDS at that point “and [for] those who will die before this is over.”

He then laid-out a series of concerns for politicians to address — including increased funding for both research and support services and a warning of the potential for discrimination with the advent of a test for HTLV-3 (now known as HIV) — and appealing to all candidates in the upcoming elections to meet with people with AIDS.

Two weeks after his DNC speech, Campbell appeared on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. While the rumors and fear of AIDS had reached a mainstream audience, the facts had not, so Campbell was placed in a glass booth, with technicians refusing to come near him to wire up microphones for the interview.

At noon on August 15, 1984, exactly a month after his DNC speech and after 2 days on life support in intensive care, Bobbi Campbell died at San Francisco General Hospital.   His parents and his partner Bobby Hilliard were by his side.  Bobbi Campbell was 32 years old and had lived for over 3½ years with what was by then called AIDS.

His partner Bobby Hilliard would succumb to the deadly disease not long afterwards.

Leather PRide flag
September 23, 1984
Vulnerable Leather Community Defends SoMa Territory with Street Fair

In a San Francisco neighborhood known as “South of Market” (or SoMa), people from different parts of the community band together to create a street fair to celebrate the distinct flavor of the locale.  The event is the first of what would become to be widely known as the Folsom Street Fair.

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“Dianne Feinstein was mayor, Mondale’s Democratic Convention had just blown through town, and the ‘gay cancer’ that had stirred genuine fears of a government conspiracy against the LGBT population had recently been dubbed AIDS and connected to sexual activity,” wrote Joe Kukura in SFist.  “It was against this backdrop that Feinstein — who had just refused to march in the Pride parade — was waging an ‘urban renewal’ campaign intended to evict a large number of SoMa’s bathhouses and gay bars and replace them with high-rises, on the claim that SoMa was a mess of urban blight.”

The street fair was created by local activists Kathleen Connell and Michael Valerio to create a counter-narrative and demonstrate that the neighborhood was thriving, noteworthy and rich in culture and counter-culture.  While the street fair did not start off as a leather community-focused event — that would come a few years later — it was from the start a celebration of all things South of Market, including the area’s leather and BDSM culture.

Event co-founder Michael Valerio was a SoMa “leatherman” whose day job was as an affordable housing coordinator at the still-existing nonprofit TODCO.  His event partner, Kathleen Connell, also worked at TODCO, but they met at a meeting of the South of Market Alliance, a community advocacy group contesting the decisions being made by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) and the city’s Board of Supervisors.  Inspired by the Castro Street Fair, Valerio and Connell worked with Harry Britt, Harvey Milk’s replacement on the Board of Supervisors, to arrange for SoMa streets to be closed from 12th Street to 7th Street between Howard and Harrison, with Folsom at the center.

On the day of the street fair, dubbed “Megahood,” some attendeees wore leather and other free-spirited outfits, while others wore more typical festival clothing.

Valerio and Connell smartly designed the event to promote the neighborhood’s small businesses and unique culture.  But they also built in another goal: helping to fight for the survival of the LGBT communities as the AIDS epidemic devasted many of its members.

“The fair was to be a healing, celebratory response,” Kathleen Connell and Paul Gabriel wrote in their article The Origin and Evolution of the Folsom Street Fair.

The leather communities in major cities were hit particularly hard by HIV, and none hit harder than San Francisco’s SoMa leather community.  In HIV in the Leather Community: Rates and Risk-Related Behaviors (2011), a study showed that Leathermen were 61% more likely to be HIV-positive than non-Leathermen, and that decreased condom use found in HIV-positive Leathermen (relative to HIV-positive non-Leathermen) was a potential factor contributing to heightened HIV rates.

Among its 37 booths were those from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Shanti Project, conducting community outreach to fairgoers.   In recent years, the number of booths at the Folsom Street Fair has grown to 200 and the number of attendees to over 400,000, making it the third largest street event in California.

October 9, 1984
NYT Article Erroneously Suggests AIDS Transmission via Saliva is Possible

The New York Times reports that new scientific evidence has raised the possibility that AIDS may be transmissible through saliva . It will be another two years before proof emerges that this is false.

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Epidemiologic studies to date point to sexual contact as well as transfusions of blood or blood products as the major risk factors leading to AIDS.

”Right now epidemiological studies do not point to saliva as the key mode of spread of AIDS and data show that close contact is much more important,” Dr. Robert C. Gallo, a leading AIDS researcher, told The New York Times.

Even so, this article spread fear among the public and further stigmatized those living with AIDS.

October 10, 1984
San Francisco Closes 14 Bathhouses

The City of San Francisco orders 14 bathhouses closed due to reports of high-risk sexual activity occurring in these venues.

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“It has been established that the bathhouses contribute to the spread of AIDS and they ought to be closed,” Mayor Dianne Feinstein said.  Frustrated with gay rights groups that were blocking her two-year campaign to close the bathhouses, Feinstein decided on a different approach: closing them one by one.

Under Mayor Feinstein’s direction, the City hired private investigators to go undercover into baths and other venues that were known to serve the gay community and report on anything considered by them to be an unsafe sex act.

The city’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Mervyn Silverman, did not approve of these tactics, but when the investigators submitted an 85-page report that listed the types of sexual activity taking place at these venues, he felt compelled to respond, according to Randy Shilts’ book And the Band Played On.

At a news conference, Dr. Silverman ordered the closure of baths and several other establishments identified in the report as places where gay men partook in unsafe sex, citing them by name, stating, “These 14 establishments are not fostering gay liberation. They are fostering disease and death.”

Within six hours of the order, two would re-open.  An additional 10 re-opened within 24 hours.

The controversy over gay bathhouses and sex clubs and the roles they play in the spread of AIDS was not limited to San Francisco.  Every major city with a significant gay population was struggling with this issue.  Even within the gay community, members debated each other over which was more important — public health or gay civil liberties.

But it was in San Francisco where political debates first broke out.  New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Seattle and Portland followed, with local policy approaches varying from a citywide closure of all bathhouses to collaborations between health agencies and community members to introduce education and precautions for patrons.

Why were bathhouses the focus of so much intense debate?  Because, to the gay community in the 1970s and 1980s, they were places that took decades of social evolution to establish.

“Early American bathhouses evolved out of traditional 1920s and ‘30s Turkish and Russian baths, which offered communal hot tubs and showers to all men,” according to Stephan Ferris in Out of the Tubs, and Into the Streets! Tracing the history of bathhouse regulations in San Francisco, CA  “Gay bathhouses, in contrast, distinguished themselves from these venues by permitting sex among
members and by offering food, entertainment, and private rooms.”

Bathhouses catered to a mixed male clientele, serving those seeking social networking as well as providing a space for anonymous sexual encounters. Membership was driven by a common desire to engage with other members.

“They are not for taking baths,” the Washington Post stated in its reporting of “The Bathhouse War.” “Some of the houses have steam rooms, or saunas, or more lavish facilities that include jacuzzis and swimming pools, but that is not why men pay their $5 or $10 for a locker or a tiny private room in a dimly lit San Francisco bathhouse. Men use them to meet other men, to engage sometimes in what the clinical language calls ‘multiple, anonymous sexual contacts.'”

But for many gay men, the bathhouses of the 1980s represented much more; they were a refuge.

“We were paying money to get in there, and sometimes it was too much, but we weren’t paying for sex. We were paying for the territory — to get in there,” San Francisco historian Allan Be’rube’ told The Post.  “They have a tremendous symbolism.”

In 1984, Be’rube’ submitted a historical brief to the California Superior Court that provided evidence on the social and cultural importance of bathhouses.  He also described the potential role the venues could play to educate the community about AIDS prevention.  A year later, when the City of New York was immersed in a similarly stormy debate, Be’rube’ updated his legal brief and submitted it to the NY Supreme Court.

Be’rube’s defense of the bathhouses stressed the right of gay men “to use them for associational purposes that were sexual as well as social and political.”  A version of this historical brief was later published in 1996 in Policing Public Sex, edited by the scholar-activist group Dangerous Bedfellows.

 

Roger Lyon
November 4, 1984
Early AIDS Activist Roger Lyon Dies

Roger Gail Lyon, famous for being among the first three Persons With AIDS to testify to Congress about the epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 36.

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“I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available — there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered,” said Lyon in 1983 in his testimony before Congress.

“We do not need in-fighting, this is not a political issue,” he said.  “This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue.  This is a human issue.”

Lyon travelled from the Bay Area to the nation’s capital to speak before a Congressional hearing on the government’s (largely nonexistant) response to the AIDS crisis.  Accompanying him on the panel were activists Michael Callen of New York and Anthony Ferrara of Washington.

Lyon was born in 1948 in Houston, later moved to Chicago and then San Francisco.  He was a branch manager for the San Francisco Maritime Shipping Company when he was diagnosed with AIDS in early 1983.

Little more is known about Lyon, because his health began to decline in the year following his moment in the political spotlight.

However, his contribution to the fight against AIDS survives at the National Museum of American History.  In 1990, the museum added his section of the AIDS Quilt to its collections.

Lyon’s ashes were scattered, along with the ashes of many others who died of AIDS, on the White House lawn during an ACT UP protest in 1996.

November 29, 1984
West Hollywood is Born with LGBT-Majority Council

Hundreds gather in a drafty auditorium to attend the first City Council Meeting for the newly chartered City of West Hollywood.

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A county sheriff’s deputy led the new mayor, Valerie Terrigno, through the crowd to the stage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Terrigno’s family members sat in the front row.  Attendees in the packed auditorium (a space which fire marshalls restricted, leaving scores of additional people outside in West Hollywood Park) included a composite of the city’s residents: elderly Russian-Jewish renters, members of the LGBTQ community, and plenty of activists.

The meeting started with the council officially appointing Terrigno to the office of mayor.

“I’ve worked to become a leader of our dreams and our future, and I know with power comes great responsibility,” she told the crowd.  “It’s a responsibility I eagerly accept … Our dreams are a sound investment.  Don’t let them waver.”

The Council then moved to adopt a ban on sex-orientation bias, and moratoriums on new construction, rent increases and evictions.  Councilmembers voted to roll back rents to August 1984 levels.

The new city was created out of the unrest and fear of rising rents and housing insecurities in the early 1980s, set to the backdrop of a new disease that was spreading among members of the gay community.  An area populated primarily with renters, West Hollywood established itself as a safe place for gays and lesbians.  As a result, many of its residents were living with AIDS and involved in AIDS activism.

In the months that follow, Mayor Terrigno would receive letters from fans and admirers.

On crumpled yellow legal stationery, a woman from Missoula, Montona, wrote to her: “I’ve always been a dreamer, always wanting to find a utopia and always without much luck.  I envy you finding yours, Ms. Valerie.”

From Tahiti, a vacationing Frenchwoman named Vera sent a postcard saying she would stop in West Hollywood before returning to Paris.  The card read: “Felicitation for your victory. You are an escample for a French people homosescule.”

And from Turkey, a teacher afraid to give his name sent a rambling two-page letter. “Homosexuelity is completely forbidden,” he wrote. “Please, please, help me, take me near you — dear my friend, my sister.”

Each week, dozens of such letters arrived at Terrigno’s office in West Hollywood’s temporary City Hall.  They continued to come for months, missives from gay men and women who read about the new city and saw Terrigno as a symbol of the pride they still struggled to achieve.

Before the West Hollywood election, there had been only 13 openly gay elected officials in the country. Now there were three more. In the summer of 1985, Terrigno would go on a hectic three-month cross-country speaking tour, appearing before somber audiences of upwardly mobile gay business leaders and parading before cheering masses at gay-pride events.

But within a year, Terrigno would be charged and convicted of embezzling $7,000 in federal funds during a previous job with a job-referral agency.  Her trial in March 1986 would last three days, and the jury would convict her after just four hours of deliberation.  She was sentenced to 60 days in prison or in a halfway house, five years’ probation, restitution and 1,000 hours of community service.

Terrigno would tell the LA Times: “A situation like this shakes your sense of what life is about.  I feel sad about everything.  I have no idea where to pick up from this point.  I just hope this won’t change peoples’ attitudes about the city or the gay movement.”

January 11, 1985
CDC Updates AIDS Definition & Issues Guidelines for Blood Screening

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revises the AIDS case definition to note that AIDS is caused by a newly identified virus. CDC also issues provisional guidelines for blood screening.

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The report includes the following “recommendations for the individual” judged most likely to have an HTLV-III infection:

1. The prognosis for an individual infected with HTLV-III over the long term is not known.
However, data available from studies conducted among homosexual men indicate
that most persons will remain infected.
2. Although asymptomatic, these individuals may transmit HTLV-III to others. Regular
medical evaluation and follow-up is advised, especially for individuals who develop
signs or symptoms suggestive of AIDS.
3. Refrain from donating blood, plasma, body organs, other tissue, or sperm.
4. There is a risk of infecting others by sexual intercourse, sharing of needles, and possi­
bly, exposure of others to saliva through oral-genital contact or intimate kissing. The efficacy of condoms in preventing infection with HTLV-III is unproven, but the consis­
tent use of them may reduce transmission.
5. Toothbrushes, razors, or other implements that could become contaminated with
blood should not be shared.
6. Women with a seropositive test, or women whose sexual partner is seropositive, are
themselves at increased risk of acquiring AIDS. If they become pregnant, their offspr­
ing are also at increased risk of acquiring AIDS.
7. After accidents resulting in bleeding, contaminated surfaces should be cleaned with
household bleach freshly diluted 1:10 in water.
8. Devices that have punctured the skin, such as hypodermic and acupuncture needles,
should be steam sterilized by autoclave before reuse or safely discarded. Whenever
possible, disposable needles and equipment should be used.
9. When seeking medical or dental care for intercurrent illness, these persons should
inform those responsible for their care of their positive antibody status so that ap­
propriate evaluation can be undertaken and precautions taken to prevent transmission
to others.
10. Testing for HTLV-III antibody should be offered to persons who may have been infect­
ed as a result of their contact with seropositive individuals (e.g., sexual partners, per­
sons with whom needles have been shared, infants born to seropositive mothers).
March 2, 1985
Blood Test for HIV Becomes Available

The U.S Food and Drug Administration licenses the first commercial blood test, ELISA, to detect HIV. Blood banks begin screening the U.S. blood supply.

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Today, many options are available to test for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), including an FDA-approved, at-home test called OraQuick.

Approved in 2012 for sale to anyone age 17 and older, the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test tests fluid from the mouth and delivers results in 20 to 40 minutes.  The kit does not require sending a sample to a lab.

HIV screening is covered in the U.S. by health insurance without a co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act.  If you do not have medical insurance, some testing sites may offer free tests.

When people know their HIV status, they have powerful information they can use to take care of themselves.

The FDA still regulates the tests that detect infection with HIV.  An estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and about one in seven don’t know they have it, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years old be screened for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care. More frequent testing is recommended for people who have a higher risk of infection because of behaviors such as having sex without condoms, having sex with multiple partners, or injecting drugs using shared needles.

March 20, 1985
Musical Director James Thomason-Bergner Dies

James Thomason-Bergner, musical director and conductor for the San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness on his 40th birthday.  He was also a vocal coach and headed the musical theater program at Lone Mountain College.

April 5, 1985
Atlanta Hosts International AIDS Conference

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization  host the first International AIDS Conference  in Atlanta, Georgia on April 15-17.

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More than 2,000 researchers gathered at the conference to share information and assess prospects for controlling the disease, not yet realizing that the worst was yet to come.

The Atlanta conference featured 392 presentations and generated considerable excitement among participants eager to learn about how this new disease was playing out within specific populations in the U.S.

Much of the news was discouraging, however, as presenters introduced new data that showed that many of those dying in 1985 had been infected before 1981, and that within especially vulnerable populations, the epidemic was becoming entrenched.

At a side meeting before the day the conference opened, gay activists protested Reagan administration proposals to implement mandatory HIV testing policies, arguing that this would do little to halt the spread of the disease and would only intensify discrimination against vulnerable groups.

April 10, 1985
Haitians Removed from CDC’s High-Risk List

CDC removes Haitians from the list of those at increased risk for AIDS, because scientists can no longer justify including them on statistical grounds,

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The CDC, which began investigating the mysterious and often-fatal disease in 1981, initially identified Haitian immigrants, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and homosexual or bisexual men as groups at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

The CDC’s weekly reports of AIDS statistics included all four groups, but starting in April 1985, Haitians were no longer included as a separate listing.

The April 1985 report cited a total of 9,405 cases of AIDS reported in the U.S.  Of those cases, 285 (about 3%) were Haitians, said Dr. Walter Dowdle, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases. Previously the rate for Haitians had been as high as 5%. By contrast, about 75% of the cases were of males who identified as homosexual or bisexual.

”The Haitians were the only risk group that were identified because of who they were, rather than what they did,” he said.

The Normal Heart
April 22, 1985
‘The Normal Heart’ Opens at the Public Theatre

AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play, The Normal Heart, opens Off-Broadway at the Public Theater.

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The play covers the impact of the growing AIDS epidemic on the NYC gay community, highlighting growing rifts between those — like the play’s protagonist, Ned Weeks (Kramer’s alter ego) — who are desperately banging on the doors of government and science in an attempt to stave off the annihilation of gay men, and those who focus instead on building new institutions that will care for the sick and the dying.

“The blood that’s coursing through ‘The Normal Heart,’ the new play by Larry Kramer at the Public Theater, is boiling hot,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

“In this fiercely polemical drama about the private and public fallout of the AIDS epidemic, the playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage.”

As Is
May 1, 1985
‘As Is’ Opens on Broadway

William M. Hoffman’s play As Is opens on Broadway.

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The plot focuses on a gay couple who have broken up — but when one of them develops AIDS, his ex-partner comes back to take care of him — “as is.”

The play gets excellent reviews and runs for 285 performances.

“Strange as it may sound, Mr. Hoffman has turned a tale of the dead and the dying into the liveliest new work to be seen at the Circle Repertory Company in several seasons,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

May 10, 1985
AIDS Infections Reach 10,000, per CDC Headcount

The Center for Disease Control reports that as of April 30, 1985, the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased substantially.  Of the 10,000 reported cases, 9,887 are adults and 113 are children.

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Since the initial reports of AIDS in the spring of 1981, the number of cases reported each half-year has increased significantly, with more than half of the 10,000 cases being reported within the last year.

Of the 10,000 reported AIDS cases, 4,942 are known to have died (49% of the adults and 69% of the children).  About 75% of patients diagnosed before January 1983 are known dead.

The CDC report states that 90% of adult patients are 20-49 years old, and 94% are men.  The racial breakdown of the cases are: 60% white; 25% black; and 14% Hispanic.

The report also notes that the proportion of AIDS cases in transfusion recipients has increased significantly.

At this point, AIDS has been diagnosed in patients from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.  Among cases reported before May 1983, 47% of the adults were residents of New York.  As the virus spread geographically between 1984 and 1985, the proportion of adults reported with AIDS from New York decreased to 34%.

Among the 113 pediatric patients, 58% percent were under 1 year old at diagnosis; and 72% came from families in which one or both parents had AIDS or were at increased risk for developing AIDS, 13% had received transfusions of blood or blood components before their onsets of illness, and 5% had hemophilia.

Pediatric cases were reported from 17 states; 82% were from New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.  Of the 81 pediatric patients with a parent with AIDS or at increased risk for AIDS, 69 were residents of New York, New Jersey, or Florida.

August 27, 1985
Ryan White Refused Entry to School

Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, is refused entry to his middle school.

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His family’s protracted legal battles to protect Ryan’s right to attend school call national attention to the issue of AIDS, and Ryan chooses to speak out publicly on the need for AIDS education.

August 31, 1985
Pentagon Announces Testing of Military Recruits

The Pentagon announces that, beginning October 1, it will begin testing all new military recruits for HIV infection  and will reject those who test positive for the virus.

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Two Pentagon officials, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition they not be identified, said the new directive was promoted most vigorously by top Army officials, out of concern about the potential high cost of treating soldiers who are found to have the disease. Pentagon officials said about 50 soldiers are being treated in military hospitals for the disease.

The U.S. military does not universally test potential recruits for any other disease or disorder as a condition of enlistment, although new recruits are usually tested for syphillis and German measles soon after they enlist.

The announcement was condemned by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which asserted that the testing would unfairly stigmatize many people who have been exposed to the virus but who do not have the disease.

Timothy Sweeney, executive director of Lambda Legal, also contended that military testing for HIV might become a precedent for AIDS screening in private industry.

September 17, 1985
Reagan Finally Mentions ‘AIDS’ in Public Remarks

President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority” and fending off criticism that funding for AIDS research is inadequate.

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By the end of 1984, AIDS had already ravaged the United States for a few years, affecting at least 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. Scientists had identified the virus that caused AIDS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified all of its major transmission routes.

This is why it is notable that it took until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, for Reagan to first publicly address the subject of AIDS.

Exchanges between the Reagan administration and journalists in the early 1980s demonstrate that Reagan and his staffers didn’t take the epidemic very seriously, for which the Reagan administration is still heavily criticized.

Reagan’s successors in the White House eventually acted, albeit often very slowly, on the crisis — leading to much more research, programs like the Ryan White CARE Act that connect people to care, and the development of antiretroviral medication that increases the life expectancy of a person living with HIV by decades.

 

Rock Hudson
October 2, 1985
Film Legend Rock Hudson Dies

Actor Rock Hudson dies of an AIDS-related illness at age 59. As the first major U.S. public figure to publicly acknowledge AIDS diagnosis, Hudson’s death marks a turning point in public perceptions about the epidemic.

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Hudson leaves $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Actress Elizabeth Taylor serves as the organization’s founding National Chairman.

 

October 2, 1985
Congress Allocates $190M for AIDS Research

 Congress allocates nearly $190 million for AIDS research — an increase of $70 million over the Reagan Administration’s budget request.

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The House Appropriations Committee also urges President Reagan to appoint a coordinator for the AIDS effort, “in other words, an AIDS czar.”

“Nine agencies have been engaged in this effort. … What we need is a well-coordinated, well-planned effort, with one person running the show,” said Rep. Silvio Conte, (Mass), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

The National Institutes of Health would receive $140.6 million, the Centers for Disease Control would receive $45.6 milion and $3.5 million would go to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

During debate on the appropriations bill, the House accepted an amendment by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), that would allow the surgeon general to use some funds to close bath houses “that may be responsible for transmitting AIDS.”

1985
New City of West Hollywood Launches AIDS Response

About one year after West Hollywood is officially incorporated as an independent city, it begins actively addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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HIV/AIDS had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men, which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths among the city’s population.

Following the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city on November 29, 1984, elected officials and city staff begin working on a plan to address the epidemic in their own backyard.

In October 1985, the city launches an AIDS awareness campaign, one of the first in the country.  The City of West Hollywood also becomes one of the first government entities to create a program for awarding social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations.  The city’s response to the AIDS crisis would go on to be recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Also during its first year of cityhood, West Hollywood would adopt landmark legislation to establish rent control and prohibit the discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.  Today, many of the city’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.

Ricky Wilson 1
October 12, 1985
B-52s Guitarist Ricky Wilson Dies

New-wave rock musician and founding member of the B-52s, Ricky Wilson dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

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The B-52s become popular for their dance tunes — “relentless, rhythmic songs built around Ricky Wilson’s scratchy, one- and two-chord guitar riffs, Kate Pierson’s throbbing keyboard bass lines, and Keith Strickland’s propulsive drumming,” writes James Henke in a 1980 feature in Rolling Stone.

Wilson’s musical inspirations were children’s music, The Mamas & The Papas, and Esquerita, writes Stephen Rutledge in The WOW Report.

“At first, The B-52s did not have a bass player, so Wilson invented his own tunings on a guitar, grouping the strings into a bass course,” Rutledge says.  “It was quite an original sound. It was a sound that I still continue to really dig.  I had some major fun on the dance floor in the late 1970s-early and 1980s, courtesy of the B-52s.”

In the beginning, the Athens, Georgia-based band would scrape together the resources to take trips to New York City to perform at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s and Club 57.

“My parents lent us their station wagon,” Ricky tells The Rolling Stone in a 1980 interview, “and we borrowed Keith’s parents’ charge card.”

By the winter of 1978, The B-52s would become the hottest club band in New York, and everyone would be trying to get a copy of their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster.

“At a time when an overwhelmingly straight, male punk scene ruled, The B-52s’ knowingly kooky aesthetic, along with their hilariously surreal lyrics in songs like ‘Quiche Lorraine,’ read as queer to those with the eyes to see it,” writes Billboard reporter Kera Bolonik.

Much of queer aesthetic came from Wilson’s songwriting.

“I remember seeing him write some music and laughing to himself,” says band member Cindy Wilson, who was Ricky’s sister.  “I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’  He said, ‘I just wrote the stupidest riff.’”

It would be for their first single, “Rock Lobster,” which became an instant hit with East Village audiences but wouldn’t reach mainstream listeners until the mid-1980s.  Wilson would go on to become the principle songwriter for the band’s first four albums.

“We were writing [fourth album] Bouncing Off the Satellites, and Ricky just got thinner and thinner,” band member Kate Pierson recalled in an interview years later.  “And we suspected, but we didn’t know.  One day he wasn’t there at rehearsal.  The next day, Keith [Strickland] called me and said, ‘Ricky’s dying of AIDS.’”

Wilson had confided in band member Strickland about his illness, but wanted to keep it a secret — even from his sister Cindy — so no one would worry about him or fuss about it.  Just a few days later, Wilson would die, Kate says.

“We were all mourning Ricky, and I was in a deep depression,” recalls Cindy Wilson in Classic Pop magazine.

The band would wait almost a year to release their fourth album and consider calling it quitsIn 1988, still mourning the loss of his close friend, Stickland isolated himself in the upstate New York countryside and began working on new songs.

“Eventually, he called Kate and me to see if we were interested in working on new music,” Cindy Wilson would tell Classic Pop.  “When we started jamming, it felt like Ricky was in the room with us. I was having a really hard time with the grieving and sorrow, but creating this music was such a wonderful thing. Ricky’s spirit was there and it was amazing.”

For Cosmic Thing, the first album without Ricky Wilson, band members reject the idea from industry professionals that they find a new guitarist.  Instead, Strickland would learn how to play guitar in Wilson’s unique style.

Inspired by Wilson, the band’s song “Roam” is “a beautiful song about death,” Cindy says.  “It’s about when your spirit leaves your body and you can just roam.”

Steve Pieters
1985
Televangelist Tammy Faye Interviews PWA Steve Pieters

Tammy Faye Bakker, a televangelist with a nationwide following, interviews AIDS activist and ordained pastor Steve Pieters on her show Tammy’s House Party, becoming one of the very first nationally broadcast, longform interviews with an HIV-positive gay man.

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Rev. Pieters, who agreed to the interview with Bakker on the condition that it be broadcast live so that it could not be edited or taken out of context, presented Christian TV fans with a novel viewpoint, one that never had been heard from outside the LGBTQ community.

At the time, homophobic rhetoric dominated televangelist TV shows, according to Religion & Politics, an online news journal from the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

“As a pastor, [Rev. Pieters] stood in sharp contrast to the often-vitriolic rhetoric about AIDS from conservative Christian spokespeople,” wrote Emily Johnson, author of This Is Our Message: Women’s Leadership in the New Christian Right and a professor specializing in the U.S. histories of gender and sexuality.  “While others quoted the Bible to condemn people with AIDS, Pieters drew on his faith and his theological training to make sense of his diagnosis and to preach about hope and community.”

Although weakened by his illness, Dr. Pieters was a highly capable interview subject.  He had been pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded in Hartford, Connecticut by activist Troy Perry as a place for people from the LGBTQ commuity to worship God.

“There were some virulently anti-gay groups,” Dr. Pieters wrote in a 2022 article for The National Geographic.  “I would find myself on TV arguing with homophobic priests or ministers that I would later see in the gay bars in Hartford around the same time.  So I learned early on how to handle myself in the media around issues of being gay.”

In his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters talked about his life as a gay man and his own battle with AIDS.  During the broadcast, Bakker sat in a studio with a monitor streaming Rev. Pieters from San Francisco.  At that point, Rev. Pieters had been living with AIDS for three years and had survived a near-death experience two weeks earlier.

“She’d say on air that I was having chemotherapy, and that I was being interviewed from Los Angeles because the journey would be ‘too hard on me.’ I think she thought this was true, maybe,” Dr. Pieters wrote in The National Geographic.  “What I heard later was that they were afraid that I might not be treated well, that the camera crew wouldn’t work if I was in the studio.”

After two years battling various illnesses and infections, Rev. Pieters was diagnosed with stage-four lymphoma and Karposi’s sarcoma in April 1984, and given eight months to live.

“I wasn’t actually diagnosed with AIDS; I was diagnosed with GRID — gay-related immunodeficiency — which is what they were calling AIDS back then,” he told Religion & Politics in a 2022 interview.  “In 1982 and 1983, I was sick with hepatitis, thrush, pneumonia, mono, herpes, shingles, and a variety of awful fungal infections.”

However, one of his doctors believed that if he could stay alive, there still was hope that doctors could find a way for him to manage his condition.

“So I set out to do everything I could to take care of myself and create the conditions for healing in my body,” he said.

During his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters also talked about how his faith in God helped him survive.

“When I was finally diagnosed with AIDS, after this long period of feeling abandoned by God and my friends … I fell apart.  I absolutely lost my sense,” he told Bakker.  “My chaplain, my pastor, Nancy Radcliffe, was with me, and she held me, as did several other friends, as I sobbed and cried my despair, cried out for God.’

“Do you know something?  In that deepest, darkest moment, that’s when I found God.  When God touched me, and I realized that my life was not yet over, that I still had time, that God was with me against this disease — not having given me this disease — but was with me against this disease.”

When word of the interview spread, many in the gay and lesbian community became Bakker’s fans.  She, in turn, continued to openly support the LGBTQ community, preaching compassion and risking her standing within the world of conservative Christian televangelism.

Her obituary in The New York Times noted that she attended LGBTQ pride events.  In 1996, Tammy Faye partnered with openly gay actor Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort, ALF) on the talk show The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Show, but left the show after just a few months when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Bakker (who later changed her surname to Messner) died in Kansas City in 2007 at the age of 65.

The Bakker-Pieters interview was recreated in the 2021 biographical drama The Eyes of Tammy FayeJessica Chastain, who portrays Tammy Faye Bakker in the film, won an Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and a BAFTA Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.”

Listen to Jessica Chastain tell the story of Rev. Pieters for STORIES: The AIDS Monument.

Watch the entire interview with Rev. Pieters and Tammy Faye Bakker here.

October 25, 1985
NY Moves to Close Gay Bars & Bathhouses

The New York State Public Health Council empowers local health officials to close gay bathhouses, bars, clubs , and other places where “high-risk sexual activity takes place.”

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The Public Health Council resolution went beyond recommendations made by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Health Commissioner David Axelrod by defining “high-risk sexual activity” to include oral sex.

Mayor Edward I. Koch announced that the new regulation takes effect immediately and is to be enforced by NYC Health Department inspectors who will enter bathhouses in uniform and undercover.

The National Gay Task Force opposes the regulation, citing discriminatory practices.

“This appears to be an unequal application of law” because many experts say AIDS can be transmitted by heterosexual activity, said Ron Najman, a spokesman for the National Gay Task Force. “They are concentrating on the homosexual aspect.”

 

December 4, 1985
LA County Imposes Regulations on Bathhouses

Los Angeles County enacts strict regulations on local bathhouses to stop the spread of HIV, and bathhouse owners file suit to stop the regulations from going into effect.

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The LA County Board of Supervisors introduced new county regulations that could put patrols inside bathhouses to ensure that patrons don’t participate in sex acts considered to be unsafe.

“If someone showed me data substantiating a correlation of the spread of this disease and my club, I would deliver the keys to City Hall tomorrow. But so far it’s only been speculation, hysteria and panic, ” Silver Lake bath house owner Steve Downard told the Los Angeles Times.

“The sexual activity at the club is the same as at the Biltmore Hotel, but there are no health posters, no monthly health screening and no free condoms at the Biltmore.”

Under the new County rules, unsafe sex is defined as anal and oral intercourse between men, with or without a condom. Clubs with repeated violations could face closure.

The fact that the county rules make no mention of heterosexual acts, which also can spread AIDS, is proof, Downard says, that homophobia, not health concerns, are behind the regulations.

December 6, 1985
CDC Issues Precautions to Prevent Mother-to-Infant Transmission

CDC issues recommendations on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.   It is believed that HIV is transmitted from infected women to their fetuses during pregnancy, or to their infants shortly after birth.

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The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recommends that HIV-infected women delay pregnancy until more is known about the risks of transmission, and advised new mothers to avoid breastfeeding.

Transmission of the virus during pregnancy or labor and delivery is demonstrated by two reported AIDS cases occurring in children who had no contact with their infected mothers after birth.

With studies on the subject of pediatric AIDS is just beginning, the rate of perinatal transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women is unknown and the limited amount of available data suggests a high rate.

However, the report contends that perinatal transmission (from an infected mother to her newborn) is not inevitable.

Of three children born to women who became infected with HIV by artificial insemination from an infected donor, all were in good health and negative for antibody to the virus more than 1 year after birth.  Another child, born to a woman living with AIDS, was HIV-negative and healthy at birth and at 4 months of age.

In December 1985, a total of 217 cases of AIDS have been reported among children under age 13, and 60% of them have died.

Dwight Burk
December 13, 1985
Infant Dwight Burk Dies

Dwight Burk , aged 20 months, dies of AIDS in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of a hemophiliac known to be born with AIDS.

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Dwight’s case prompted the National Hemophilia Foundation in April 1985 to advise hemophiliacs to postpone having children for a few years until scientists can perfect a technique to kill the AIDS virus in blood clotting concentrates.

Dwight’s father, 27-year-old Patrick Burk, was infected with HIV from his hemophiliac treatment of blood clotting concentrates. More than a year before learning he had HIV, he passed the virus to his 25-year-old wife, Lauren, who became pregnant with Dwight.

Doctors believe Dwight most likely contracted the disease in utero.

Burk told the Associated Press that an autopsy was to be performed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and that the body would be used for medical study.

December 13, 1985
France Sues U.S. for Credit for Discovery of AIDS Virus

The Pasteur Institute files a suit against the U.S. Government in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, DC., seeking recognition that French researchers were the first to discover the virus that causes AIDS.

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The long-simmering transatlantic feud over who will receive royalties on a test for the AIDS virus has erupted into a legal battle, with French scientists seeking recognition in the U.S. courts for their claim that they discovered the virus before their American counterparts.

The Pasteur Institute ‘s suit also seeks the right to grant permission to sell the blood test without being sued by the U.S. for counterfeiting, and the right to share in royalties collected by the U.S. for sales of blood tests by U.S. licensees.

The French scientists were the first to publish a paper on the virus, said Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the U.S. scientist credited with discovering HIV. But he asserts in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I was the first to suggest it was a retrovirus.”

“We had this virus in 1982. We didn’t publish on purpose because we didn’t understand it well enough to stick our necks out. To me, ‘discovery’ is a complicated word. Who first reported discovery of a virus?  They did.  But if the idea comes first — that was us.”

In July 1994, U.S. health officials would concede for the first time that American researchers used a virus obtained from French competitors to make the first American AIDS test kit. At that time, the U.S. would announce the signing of an agreement that would give the French a bigger share of royalties from worldwide sales of AIDS tests.

The contract would end the long-standing and sometimes acrimonious dispute that strained relations between the two countries.

 

December 19, 1985
LA Times Poll Indicates Americans Support AIDS Quarantine

An Los Angeles Times poll contends its that a majority of Americans favor quarantining people who have AIDS.

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The LA Times poll found that more than half of its respondents support quarantining AIDS patients, nearly half would approve of ID cards for those who test positive for AIDS antibodies, more than a third would be willing to pay a one-cent national sales tax to finance greater research, and one in seven would favor such radical action as tattooing those with the disease.

The poll results came from interviews with about 2,300 across the U.S. — a very small pool of respondents — yet the announcement of the poll results garnered considerable attention nationwide with little regard to the small number of Americans involved in taking the survey.

In its article about the poll results, the LA Times also stated that most responents were adverse to electing homosexuals to office and were disinclined to support candidates who espoused homosexual causes.

“Even a whisper of suspicion about homosexuality was enough to turn almost 60% of the voters against a candidate for the office of President,” stated the LA Times article written by political reporter John Balzar.

“Respondents in the poll were given characteristics of make-believe candidates,” Balzar wrote.  “When a rumor of homosexuality was included in the descriptions, support for a make-believe candidate dropped from 70% to 11%.”

 

1985
Global Scope of Epidemic Becomes Manifest

The United Nations announces that at least one HIV case has been reported in each region of the world, indicating that the epidemic is becoming a global issue.

Charles Lee Morris
January 6, 1986
AIDS Hospice Founder & Publisher Charles Lee Morris Dies

Charles “Chuck” Lee Morris, former owner and publisher of the San Francisco Sentinel, dies of AIDS-related illness in Denver at the age of 42.  Morris is also the co-founder of two AIDS hospice programs in California.

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Believed to be one of the longest-living victims of AIDS, Morris had reportedly been seriously ill since April 1978, but he wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until 1982

Morris was a confidant of then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and often was sought for political endorsements from such people as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale.

In the early 1980s, Morris helped found two hospice programs in California for those dying of AIDS.

Morris and his partner moved to Denver in the spring of 1984.  Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick, Morris’ physician and an AIDS researcher at National Jewish Hospital, said Morris survived four to five times longer than most AIDS patients. He said the average survival time of someone with full-blown AIDS is 12-18 months.

January 16, 1986
Virus Spread Grows at Increasing Rate in U.S.

More people were diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 than in all earlier years combined, according to the CDC.  Public health experts predict twice as many new AIDS cases in the next year.

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The CDC report states that, on average, people diagnosed with AIDS die about 15 months after the disease is diagnosed.  The report also shows:

  • Between 6/1/1981 and 1/13/1986, there have been 16,458 cases of AIDS (16,227 adults and 231 children) reported in the U.S.  Of these, more than half of the infected people have died.
  • The number of cases reported each 6-month period continues to increase.
  • Cases have been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.

“One million Americans have already been infected with the virus, and this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci tells The New York Times.

Howard Greenfield
March 4, 1986
Award-winning Lyricist Howard Greenfield Dies

Howard Greenfield, the 20-year songwriting partner of Neil Sedaka, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 49.

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Born in 1936, Greenfield grew up in the same Brighton Beach apartment building as Sedaka, who was three years older than Greenfield.

“After Howie’s mother Ella had seen me, he came ringing my doorbell,” Sedaka would tell Goldmine magazine years later.  “I was playing Chopin, and he said, ‘My mother heard you play and thought we could write a song together.'”

The first Greenfield-Sedaka hit would be ‘‘Stupid Cupid,” recorded by Connie Francis in 1958.  Later collaborations with Sedaka included ”Calendar Girl,” ”Oh! Carol” and ”Next Door to an Angel.”

Greenfield would write the lyrics for ”Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,’‘ ”Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” ”Love Will Keep Us Together” and more than 450 other songs throughout his career.

Greenfield was openly gay at a time when it was particularly courageous to do so. His companion from the early 1960s until his death was cabaret singer Tory Damon.

The two lived together in an apartment on East 63rd Street in Manhattan before moving to Los Angeles in 1966.  Damon would die of AIDS-related illness just 26 days after Greenfield’s death.

Greenfield’s and Damon’s bodies are interred side-by-side at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.  Damon’s epitaph reads: Love Will Keep Us Together…, and Greenfield’s epitaph continues: … Forever.

March 18, 1986
NYT Columnist William F. Buckley Proposes AIDS Tatoo

William F. Buckley, seen by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes in The New York Times that people diagnosed with HIV should be tatooed with a warning on their arm and buttocks.

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Under the heading “Critical Steps in Combating the AIDS Epidemic,” Buckley writes:

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

Buckley, founder of National Review magazine, also proposes that everyone seeking a marriage license must “present himself not only with a Wassermann test but also an AIDS test.”

He goes on to write that the couple could marry only after “the intended spouse is advised that her intended husband has AIDS, and agrees to sterilization.”

Looking back at this time, Michael Spector would write in The New Yorker in 2021, “Several years into a harrowing epidemic, gay Americans were told that an act of consensual sex could not only infect them with a fatal disease; it could also, at the will of a state, send them to prison. The fears of internment were not easily dismissed as hysteria.”

Buckley would later withdraw the proposal, because “it proved socially intolerable.”

At the time of his death in early 2008, Buckley would no longer be considered a journalist of any repute, although convervative cicles would continue to champion his ideas.  When he died, he was working on a book about President Ronald Reagan.

Barry Robins
April 1, 1986
Actor Barry Robins Dies

Barry Robins, best known for his portrayal of troubled teenager “Cotton” in the 1971 film Bless the Beasts & Children, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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In New York Times article, “The Gay Film That Changed My Life,” actor John Cameron Mitchell credits Robin’s portrayal of “Cotton” as having a profound impact on him as a boy.

In particular, Mitchell is moved by the scene in which Robin’s character saves another character, a “delicate, blond shiksa” named Gerold, from a gang of bullies.

“The mean boys part for Cotton as he reaches a hand out to the boy,” Mitchell recalls.  “Branded on my 10-year-old brain was Gerold’s heartbreaking expression when he realizes that for the first time there is someone he can trust and, just maybe, love.”

Mitchell adds, “It was sad to hear that Robins succumbed to AIDS in 1986.  If we’d met, I would’ve thanked him for helping me out of the pond.”

In 2013, actor and comedian Jason Stuart would tell A&U: Art & Understanding magazine:

“When Barry got really sick, he stopped seeing people, including me.  I was devastated.  I remember going by his apartment, knocking on his door, and he would not answer it.  He would tell me, ‘Go away. It’s better that way.’  I respected his wishes.  To this day I regret that.”

 

April 13, 1986
Comic Actor Stephen Stucker Dies

Stephen Stucker, the scene-stealing comic performer in the Airplane! movies, dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Stucker was known for zany portrayals in comedies, notably the manic air traffic controller Johnny in the 1980s Airplane! movies.

Created by the directing-writing team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker, the Airplane! movies featured Stucker in a non-essential role that wasn’t crucial to the plot.  But in a movie with established stars, larger-than-life performances and endless jokes, Stucker managed to steal every scene he’s in with his comic performance.

Some may see the character as an offensive stereotype that hasn’t aged well, but Stucker’s performance can also be viewed as progressive for its time, a character that is unapologetically gay in an era where that was still taboo.  Johnny is never harassed or bullied by the over-the-top manly-men characters (played by Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen) that dominate Airplane!  Instead, Johnny turns the joke around on them and provides the perfect foil to their authority, gruffness, and self-importance.  The screenwriters developed the character specifically for Stucker, who wrote his own lines for the part and ad-libbed many of them.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Stucker moved with his family to Alameda, California, where he attended Lincoln School.  During his school days Stephen was known as both an accomplished pianist and a class clown with a dry wit.  Stucker made his film debut in 1975 as a crazed asylum escapee in Delinquent School Girls (also released as Carnal Madness).

He went on to perform in the 1977 earthquake-disaster comedy Cracking Up, alongside Fred Willard, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.  Stucker had been a scene-stealing member of the cast of the Madison, Wisconsin Kentucky Fried Theater sketch comedy troupe founded by Abrahams and the Zucker brothers and, in 1977, he appeared in the film based on the troupe’s comedy sketches.  The Airplaine! movies soon followed.

Stucker also appeared on Marie Osmond’s TV show, Marie (1981), and on one of the last epidodes of Mork and Mindy (1982), playing a wildly enthusiastic TV producer intent on capitalizing on Mork’s fame.

Stucker was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1984, and was one of the first celebrities to go public with his diagnosis.  He appeared on talk shows like Donahue, where his unrestrained and acerbic personality sometimes bumped hard against an audience ignorant and fearful of AIDS.

Ed Mock
April 25, 1986
Dancer-Choreographer Ed Mock Dies

Dancer and choreographer Ed Mock — who fused modern dance and jazz dance, acting, improvisation and mime in his work — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

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Born in Chicago, Mock performed as a boy in his family’s pool hall, tapping out steps for customers.  Athletic in high school, he chose to pursue dance because, as he would tell the San Francisco Examiner in 1980, “I just love body movement, it was all just movement for me, and sports was just a function of that. I just was always aware of my body in a sort of a dance sense. I never try to tell anybody it’s an easy life, but not a day has ever gone past that dancing didn’t make me feel good emotionally and spiritually.”

As the founder of the West Coast Dance Company (1974-1979), Ed Mock Dancers (1980-1985), and the Ed Mock Dance Studio, Mock’s dance style and teaching influenced future generations of dancers and artists.

Brontez Purnell, Director of the documentary Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock, states, “I believe Ed Mock is the missing choreographic link between Alvin Ailey, Anna Halprin, and Bill T. Jones.  He is my direct predecessor, creatively.  We – artists, black queers, Bay Area dancers, gay men – have to extract our collective past and create the historical record.”

Mock would teach and perform taught and performed up until weeks before his death.  In 1988, he would posthumously be elected to the Bay Area Dance Coalition Hall of Fame.

 

 

May 1, 1986
AIDS Virus Officially Called ‘HIV’

The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses announces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus ” (HIV).

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An international committee of scientists is proposing that the AIDS virus be called by a new name: human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Until now, the closely related variations of the virus have been most frequently referred to as HTLV-3, for human t- cell lymphotropic virus type 3, or LAV, for lymphadenopathy associated virus.

HTLV-3 is the designation given by Dr. Robert Gallo and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, co-discoverers of the virus and leaders in the American research effort. LAV is the name used by Dr. Luc Montagnier and associates at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, also credited as discoverers of the virus.

 

 

May 20, 1986
San Francisco Costume Designer Herman George Dies

Herman George, the first in-house costume designer for the long-running stage show Beach Blanket Babylon,” dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.

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George also designed costumes for Charles Pierce and the San Francisco Opera.

Perry Ellis
May 30, 1986
Fashion Designer Perry Ellis Dies

Top fashion designer Perry Ellis dies at the age of 46.  Ellis presented his first collection under his own name on Seventh Avenue in 1979 and almost immediately achieved star status.

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Both women and men adored Ellis’ fashion sense for its clean-cut, all-American look.  What the designer did best was take elements of classic American style — like stadium coats, tweed jackets, and homey sweaters — and adapt them to suit the consumer passion for gender-neutral, high-quality separates.

His ethos earned him accolades — including the Coty Award for his first show in 1979, which he would go on to win eight more times, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Designer of the Year Award in 1982.  And in 1984, he became the head of the CFDA, extending his influence on designers worldwide.

At the time, the cause of Ellis’ death was listed as viral encephalitis, but rumors of Ellis’s HIV-positive status made news after it came to light that his lover and business partner, Laughlin Barker, died earlier in the year of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

In a controversial move, some media organizations mentioned the rumor that Ellis was HIV-positive in his obituary.

While the vast majority of newspapers omitted mention of the rumor, the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsday and the San Francisco Examiner decided to publish it.  Among the news magazines, Newsweek mentioned the AIDS rumor, and Time did not.

This started a conversation among media professionals worldwide about whether media outlets should mention AIDS as a cause of death if AIDS can be proved or is openly acknowledged — as was ultimately the case with actor Rock Hudson.  Or, they posited, should they mention AIDS if it is only widely believed but neither acknowledged nor proved?

At the time, disclosure of HIV-positive status was a very sensitive subject, involving matters of privacy — medical and sexual — since many media consumers automatically assumed someone was gay if he had AIDS.

But many close to Ellis, including top industry professionals, already knew the fashion designer was ill.

“What really, truly, abruptly woke up the entire fashion industry was Perry walking out at the end of his last fashion show,” fashion designer Michael Kors recalled.  “He barely could walk, and here was someone young, talented, great-looking, full of charm and life, and suddenly this was a shell of a human being.”

The show took place on May 8, and afterward Ellis checked himself into New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where he died 22 days later.

June 30, 1986
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Georgia Sodomy Law

Bowers v. Hardwick was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld, in a 5–4 ruling, the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults.

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The majority opinion, by Justice Byron White, reasoned that the Constitution did not confer “a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”  A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger cited the “ancient roots” of prohibitions against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone’s description of homosexual sex as an “infamous crime against nature,” worse than rape, and “a crime not fit to be named.”

The case arose on August 3, 1982, when a police officer who had been admitted to the home of Michael Hardwick in Atlanta witnessed him and a male companion in a bedroom engaging in sex.  The officer had been executing a warrant for Hardwick’s arrest for failing to appear in court on a charge of public drinking (it was later determined that the warrant was invalid because Hardwick had already paid the $50 fine).  The officer promptly arrested both men for violating Georgia’s antisodomy statute.

In its decision, the Court ruled that while the “right to privacy” protects intimate aspects of marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing from state interference, it does not protect gay sodomy because “no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated.”

The Supreme Court decision would stand for 17 years until 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas would overturn Bowers.

Black Community
July 18, 1986
Black Community Mobilizes for Action

At the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, minority leaders meet with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop to discuss concerns about HIV/AIDS in communities of color.

National Minority AIDS Council is founded at the conference.

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The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsors the National Minority AIDS Council, and the National Conference of Black Mayors, and was funded by a U.S. Public Health Service grant.

Other conference topics include:

  • the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans,
  • the role of IV drug use and heterosexual transmission in the AIDS epidemic within black communities,
  • the need for culturally competent AIDS education for black communities,
  • the lack of representation in gay and black media outlets of the epidemic among African Americans, and
  • a plea to black churches to respond to the epidemic.

Frederick Garnett, a black man living with AIDS, addresses the conference, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in Washington, DC, where he lives.

A staff psychologist at St. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett says that although African Americans make up half of the people with AIDS in Washington, DC, they are largely absent from clinics and support groups.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett had studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.

Fifteen months after the 1986 National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, Garnett would die at the Hospice of Northern Virginia on Oct. 22, 1987, of complications resulting from AIDS, at the age of 32.

Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities.  Garnett served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.

 

Roy Cohn (2)
August 2, 1986
Notorious Lawyer Roy Cohn Dies

Roy Cohn, best known for his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s investigation of alleged Communist sympathizers, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 59.

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A graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of 20, Cohn quickly made a name for himself in his first job with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, prosecuting cases of people with alleged ties to the Communist Party.

Impressed with Cohn’s performance at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would recommend that Cohn be hired as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McCarthy, who chaired the panel, hired the 24-year-old Cohn in January 1953.

“People born in the 1940s or earlier remember Cohn and his master performing on television,” writes Mary Ellen Clark in her 1988 book The Snarling Death of Roy M. Cohn.  “They remember coming home to be hushed by a mother or aunt who was watching the hearings; they remember a father’s opinion, expressed at the family table when families still ate together.”

“For younger people, however, Roy Cohn was simply another name for a très smart lawyer, for Disco Dan, for the international, I-go-by-private-plane man,” writes Clark.

Throughout his later life, Cohn was well known for his lavish Washington parties, with wealthy and famous friends among his guests.

“He was a figure very tough and in on things, a champion of the underdog, though definitely running with the overdog pack,” Clark writes.  “He nested on the nighttime radio call-in shows; he spread his wings over Koppel on Nightline.  He appeared to be able to avoid all taxes and all penalties, maybe because he was connected, or on the A list, or known to the headwaiters and hostesses of New York.”

Cohn would be indicted four times from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s — for stock-swindling, obstructing justice, perjury, bribery, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail, and filing false reports.  He is acquitted in three of the cases, and in the fourth, he would escape with a mistrial.  This experience would give him “a kind of sneering, sinister sheen of invulnerability,” writes Michael Kruse in Politico.

Cohn would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984 after having a doctor examine a small cut from shaving that wouldn’t stop bleeding.  During the visit, the doctor would re­move two suspicious growths and the tests would reveal Cohn is HIV positive.

Cohn’s lover Peter Fraser, a New Zealander roughly half Cohn’s age, reported that, “When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears.”

Cohn would publicly deny that he was HIV positive and would keep his sexuality closeted for the rest of his life.  According to Robert E. Bauman, who says he first meets Cohn on the day McCarthy dies in 1957, Cohn paradoxically had a reputation for “fag bashing” and loudly opposed laws that protected gays from discrimination.

In his last months of life, Cohn would be disbarred from law practice in New York for old fraud charges and he would lash out at the bar ethics committee, calling members “a bunch of yoyos.”

Cohn once said he wanted the first line of his obituary to read: “Roy M. Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.”

“Cohn didn’t quite get his wish,” writes Bauman.

When Cohn dies, the headlines would trumpet the fact that he died from complications of AIDS.  The mention about McCarthy would come second.

Way Bandy
August 13, 1986
Celebrity Make-Up Artist Way Bandy Dies

Way Bandy, one of the fashion world’s best-known makeup artists and a best-selling author, died of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center at the age of 45.

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Prior to his death, Bandy requested that media outlets report his death as AIDS-related, which was then uncommon.

Born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bandy pursued childhood interests that included sewing, music, painting and movie magazines.  His family moved to Tennessee, where he graduated from high school.  He returned to Birmingham to attend college for two years and then dropped out to model for department stores. He later earned a degree in education at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, and became an English teacher in Alabama. He married, but separated from his wife shortly after visiting New York City for the first time in 1965.

Bandy moved to New York, changed his name (from Ronald Duane Wright) and enrolled at Christine Valmy’s makeup school. Within a few months, he was heading the salon there.

Considered the “greatest makeup artist in the world” by Vogue fashion editor Polly Allen Mellen, Bandy was in high demand throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.  He worked with hundreds of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Farrah Fawcett, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Cher.

He worked closely with top photographers, such as Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Horst, Hiro and Victor Skrebneski.  In 1977, he authored a bestselling makeup manual entitled Designing Your Face, and followed this in 1981 with another manual, Styling Your Face.

Bandy was one of the first to use color and texture innovatively.  For example, he recommended blending moisturizer with a little water and “red-colored fluid” and “spreading all over the face for a rosy glow.”  This was decades before the use of red liquid cheek stains became popular.

A pioneer of contouring, Bandy instructed his subjects to “reveal to our mirror only our best angles and most flattering illusions of reality, as seen through blurred vision and whatever other tricks we have at our disposal.”

Bandy’s techniques sought to create what he referred to as a “Personal Sculpture Portrait” through contouring with “light and dark.”

The opening paragraph of Designing Your Face contains this piece of advice: “I was bored for most of my youth because I tried to do not only what was expected of me, but also many other things I did not enjoy.  One day I realized that when you do something with your whole being simply because you love to do it, you experience life as it should be lived.  It was then I decided to be free and to do something I loved doing – creating beauty.”

Bandy’s makeup techniques continue to inspire generations of beauty pros and consumers.

August 24, 1986
San Francisco Actor-Drummer Chaz Watson Dies

Charles “Chaz” Watson, who acted in stage productions in the Bay Area, dies at the age of 37.  Watson was also a drum major for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band.

September 22, 1986
Historian Anthony Herschel Perles Dies

Transportation historian Anthony Herschel Perles — author of Tours of Discovery, co-author of The People’s Railway and Inside MUNI — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

September 23, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Raymond Tasco Dies

Raymond Tasco, an actor and director with Oakland Ensemble Theatre and Black Repertory Group, dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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Tasco directed several works at Theatre Rhinoceros and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.  He also co-founded the Bay Area Black Artists’ Connection support group.

1986
AIDS Health Services Program Launches in 11 U.S. Cities

The AIDS Health Services Program launches with $17.2 million in funding for patient-care projects in 11 major cities.

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Created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AIDS Health Services Program seeks to replicate Ward 86’s San Francisco Model of HIV Care nationwide — but with an emphasis on tailoring programs to meet the needs in local context.

The goals of the program are to develop community-based services for persons with AIDS and to determine factors that facilitate or impede service.

The foundation starts with nine projects located in 11 communities: Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Nassau County (NY), New Orleans, Newark, Jersey City, Seattle, and West Palm Beach.

The AIDS epidemic in each site varies substantially.  Lack of health insurance represents a problem for the majority of clients in states having the most restrictive Medicaid policies (Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas) and in communities where a large proportion of clients enter the program before their condition progresses to AIDS (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach).

Between 1987 and 1990, the average annual population with AIDS in program sites increase 126% (with increases ranging from 91% to 175%). During that period, the average increase in the number of persons alive with an AIDS diagnosis in these eleven cities is 191%, ranging from 181% to 257%.

The men and women attempting to build a network of coordinated services for persons with HIV/AIDS find themselves with an extremely difficult task.  As the epidemic progresses, there is a substantial increase in the scope of the epidemic as well as change in the racial, sex, and risk-group composition of HIV-infected persons.

Program staff have to cope with confusing state and federal policy, complicated by changes in medical treatment and in the conceptualization of AIDS. In 1986, AIDS is still perceived as an acute, fatal illness, and policies for expanding terminal care benefits are the focus of discussion. However, soon the focus would shift to early intervention and ongoing treatment programs for a new chronic disease.

October 6, 1986
APLA Founder Nancy Cole Sawaya Dies

Nancy Cole Sawaya, co-founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies in Sherman Oaks Community Hospital from AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Two months before, on August 4, Sawaya publicly disclosed that she had contracted AIDS, apparently from sexual encounters with men prior to her marriage, at least one of whom later died of AIDS complications.

“I just wish people would realize that it could happen to anybody,” Sawaya would tell the Los Angeles Times.  “I do this couple support group on Monday nights, and all these people are a group of well-educated, down-to-earth, loving, successful people.  It’s not the image like when you see on TV — they immediately shoot to Santa Monica Boulevard, somebody in leather, groping the other person, and it’s not like that.”

Sawaya began her HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when she helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease.  In December 1982, she hosted a Christmas party to raise $8,000 for a new organization — AIDS Project Los Angeles.  In early 1983, APLA would open its doors on Cole Avenue, with herself, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro as Founders.

In the beginning, APLA had five clients, which would grow to 100 by the end of the year, and by the middle of 1984, APLA would serve 200 clients — and the numbers kept growing.  Sawaya was the first to manage APLA’s client services operation, often working 60 hours a week.

Sawaya would leave behind her husband, Louis; and an adopted daughter, Morgan.

1986
U.S. Grant Program Feeds Growing Healthcare Needs

The U.S. launches the AIDS Service Demonstration Grants program, allocating $15.3 million in available funding to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

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The grant program is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  As the HRSA’s first AIDS-specific health initiative, program focused its funding on cities hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS.

In the years to come, the HRSA would create the HIV/AIDS Bureau and develop a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medications, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV.

The HIV/AIDS Bureau will oversee the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and play a critical role in helping diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond as part of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative.

Koop report (2)
October 22, 1986
Surgeon General Releases Report on AIDS

The Surgeon General issues the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS. The report makes it clear that HIV cannot be spread casually.

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The report, issued by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., also calls for a nationwide education campaign that includes early sex education in schools, increased use of condoms, and voluntary HIV testing.

“By the end of 1991, an estimated 270,000 cases of AIDS will have occurred with 179,000 deaths within the decade since the disease was first recognized,” Dr. Koop states in the report’s preface.

“In the year 1991, an estimated 145,000 patients with AIDS will need health and supportive services at a total cost of between $8 and $16 billion.”

October 24, 1986
Black & Latinx Cases Grow at Higher Rate

CDC reports that AIDS cases are disproportionately affecting black and latinx communities. This is particularly true for children in these communities, who make up 90% of perinatally-acquired AIDS cases.

October 29, 1986
Report Calls for Nationwide Education Campaign

The National Academy of Sciences issues a report calling for a “massive media, educational and public health campaign to curb the spread of the HIV infection,” as well as for the creation of a National Commission on AIDS.

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The report, titled  Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research,  is issued by  the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the principal health unit of the NAS.  The IOM anticipates that the cost of the public health campaign will reach $2 billion by 1990.

The mission of NAS is to provide scientific advice to the government “whenever called upon” by any government department. The Academy receives no compensation from the government for its services.

Prop 64
November 4, 1986
Activists Defeat California Prop 64, Attempt to Expose PWAs

LGBT activists organize voters to overwhelmingly defeat Prop 64, a Lyndon LaRouch-backed initiative on the California ballot requiring “carriers of the AIDS virus” to be reported to government authorities.

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Proposition 64 would have declared that HIV/AIDS and the “condition of being a carrier” of the virus  are communicable diseases and, therefore, subject to the reporting requirement to the State Department of Health Services.

Proposition 64’s supporters, led by the LaRouchian group PANIC (Prevent AIDS NOW Initiative Committee), say it would require any individual who carries the AIDS virus, even without the disease’s symptoms, to be reported to state authorities and barred from schools or jobs in restaurants.  State officials could quarantine such carriers, they contended.

LGBT activists in California argue that the initiative would lend an air of legitimacy to job discrimination against homosexuals, and public health authorities say it would deter people with HIV/AIDS from seeking treatment if there were a requirement to report them.  This, they say, would further the spread of the disease undetected.

Proposition 64 is opposed by the 34,000-member California Medical Association and most statewide elected officials, including members of both political parties.  Nearly every major newspaper has recommended a “no” vote.

Torie Osborn, the southern California coordinator of the No On 64/Stop LaRouche campaign, told the Washington Post that campaign leaders had considered focusing on LaRouche’s bizarre politics — based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism.

But polling data suggested that to many voters, “it really doesn’t matter who is behind the initiative,” Osborn said.

LaRouche’s PANIC team operated their campaign out of a Los Feliz headquarters, which became besieged by death threats and vandalism.

November 21, 1986
Actor Marcelino Sánchez Dies

Marcelino Sánchez, best known for his starring role as Rembrandt in the 1979 cult classic, The Warriors, dies of AIDS-related illness in his Hollywood home at the age of 28.

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Born in Puerto Rico, Sánchez began acting in the late 1970s, according to the Los Angeles Blade. He played Ricardo on The Bloodhound Gang mystery vignettes featured on the 1980s children’s educational television show 3-2-1 Contact.  He also appeared in TV shows CHiPs, Hill Street Blues and the film 48 Hrs.

In an interview with Noblemania.com, Bloodhound Gang co-star Nan-Lynn Nelson recalled:

“Marcelino had actually contacted me months prior to his passing to let me know that he was sick. We met and spent an entire day together while he was here in NYC, basically to say good-bye.  I still think of Marcelino often.”

In 1986, Sánchez’s health would decline quickly.  His sister and brother would come to Los Angeles to take care of him until his death just a two weeks shy of his 28th birthday, according to the tribute to him on Gran Varones, a website dedicated to pop culture, queer history & storytelling through a Afro-Latinx Queer lens.

 

In the Life
1986
Redbone Press Publishes ‘In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology’

A breakthrough book that dared to explore the experiences of gay Black men, In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology hits bookshelves to little fanfare.

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In the Life was the first collection of writings about being gay in the age of AIDS written by 29 Black, gay authors.  The collection includes stories, verses, works of art, and theater pieces, all voicing the point of view of “an often silent minority.”

Editor Joseph Beam began collecting this material in 1984 after years of frustration with gay literature that overlooked the experience of Black gay men.

“The bottom line,” Beam wrote, “is this: We are Black men who are proudly gay. What we offer is our lives, our love, our visions… We are coming home with our heads held up high.”

The book received little mainstream attention at publication, but goes down in history as a watershed moment in gay literature.  A showcase for new literary talent, a source of inspiration for its readers, and a literary and cultural milestone for the gay community, In the Life advanced the visibility of gay Black men in a lasting way.

“For the first time,” wrote James Charles Roberts, a contributor, “Black gay men got to tell about their lives and experiences in their own words.”

Charles Stephens, co-editor of Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call, recalled coming across In the Life at a pivotal moment.

“I lacked the language to describe what I was longing for, and perhaps in a sense Beam, and his stunning vision of community, provided that language for me,” said Stephens in an interview for Lambda Literary.  “I absorbed his words, and found a home in them. In the Life became a compass for me, to first locate myself, and then others that shared my commitments.”

Beam would die of AIDS-related illness in December 1988, three days before his 34th birthday. His unfinished manuscript for a second anthology would be completed by his friend Essex Hemphill and published in 1991 as Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men.

Arthur Conrad
November 25, 1986
Bay Area Opera Director Arthur Conrad Dies

Arthur Conrad — director of more than 200 productions for the Marin Opera, West Bay Opera, Oakland Opera, Sacramento Opera and the Lamplighters — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 51.

December 2, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Chuck Solomon Dies

Founder of the Gay Men’s Theater Collective and co-creator of its pioneering production Crimes Against Nature, Chuck Solomon dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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As an actor and director, Solomon worked with several local companies, including the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Theatre Rhinoceros.

He is immortalized in Marc Huestis’ 1987 documentary “Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age,” which received the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.  In the film, Solomon is celebrated by members of his family and about 350 friends on his 40th birthday.

AIDS Quilt 1 - Marvin Feldman
1987
Cleve Jones Creates First Panel for AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman, who died on October 10, 1986 of AIDS at the age of 33.

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The quilt panel measures three feet wide by six feet long — the size and shape of a typical grave plot.

The idea of the quilt comes to Jones in November 1985 while he’s planning the annual candlelight march honoring the 1978 assassinations of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

While planning the march, Jones learns that over 1,000 San Franciscans have been lost already to AIDS.  He asks each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of loved ones who have died of AIDS, and at the end of the march, Jones and others stand on ladders taping the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building.  Jones notes that the wall of names look like a patchwork quilt, and an idea is born.

 

AIDS SIDA
February 1, 1987
Global Response Begins with WHO Program

The World Health Organization (WHO) launches the Special Programme on AIDS to serve as the architect and keystone of a global AIDS plan.

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The mission of the Special Programme is to:

  • raise awareness;
  • formulate evidence-based policies;
  • provide technical and financial support to countries;
  • initiate relevant social, behavioral, and biomedical research;
  • promote participation by nongovernmental organizations; and
  • champion rights of those living with HIV.

With the technical and financial support of the Special Programme, AIDS programs rapidly begin to be established in nations throughout the world.  The program recogizes that AIDS affects both the developing and the industrialized worlds; and, therefore, every country will need a national AIDS program.

WHO puts forth the idea that a global response is vital not only for national interests but also because “ultimately AIDS cannot be stopped in any one country unless it is stopped in all countries.”

At the global level, the Special Programme is responsible for strategic leadership, developing consensus, coordinating scientific research, exchanging information, assuring technical cooperation and mobilizing and coordinating resources. By the end of 1988, the Special Programme would support every country in the world that requests collaboration.

In 1988, it will be renamed the Global Programme on AIDS.

AIDS Quilt 12 - Liberace
February 4, 1987
Pianist-Showman Liberace Dies

Emmy-Award winning pianist and mainstay of the Las Vegas entertainment scene Liberace dies at his Palm Springs, California home at the age of 67.

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Liberace’s doctor claims that the man called “Mr. Showmanship” died of a heart attack caused by an underlying brain infection. But an autopsy by the county coroner reveals that Liberace died of AIDS-related illness.

Just weeks before his death, Liberace was treated at Eisenhower Medical Center for what his staff called “the effects of a watermelon diet.”  Hundreds of friends and tourists kept vigil outside of his Palm Springs home as rumors of his real illness became rampant.

When death seemed imminent, his attorney would tell reporters that Liberace chose his Palm Springs home to die because, “I think he wanted to rest in the place he loves. He’s always thinking about his fans. He wants to be remembered as he was — an entertainer. I think it’s nice that fans are here and supporting him.”

The news of Liberace’s death demonstrates the powerful stigma of AIDS and leads to a national discussion about the rights of people living with AIDS to privacy, both before and after death.

AIDS Quilt - Neil LoMonaco
February 12, 1987
Sacramento Musician Neal Lo Monaco Dies

Neal Lo Monaco, the pincipal cellist of the Sacramento Symphony and a member of the Sacramento String Quartet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

Fight Back Fight AIDS
March 12, 1987
Activist Larry Kramer Founds ACT UP

Activist Larry Kramer founds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP ) at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City.

Learn More.

Kramer’s goal is to create a political direct-action group that will force governments, elected officials, public health agencies, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and religious institutions to act to protect those at risk of HIV, and those who are sick with AIDS.  The organization was founded in response to the U.S. government’s lack of action on the growing number of deaths from HIV infection and AIDS.

ACT UP quickly made its name with tactics that were unapologetically confrontational, says David France, the author of a history of AIDS activism called How to Survive a Plague, as well as a 2012 documentary by the same name.

Time magazine calls ACT UP “the most effective health activist [group] in history ” for “pressuring drug companies, government agencies and other powers that stood in their way to find better treatments for people with AIDS — and, in the process, improving the way drugs are tested and approved in the U.S.”

AIDS Quilt - Antonio Lopez
March 17, 1987
Fashion Illustrator Antonio Lopez Dies

Antonio Lopez, whose drawings appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Interview, dies of AIDS-related illness at the UCLA Medical Center at the age of 44.

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Based in New York, Lopez had come to Los Angeles for a showing of his drawings at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica when he became ill and was hospitalized, according to fashion model Susan Baraz.

Lopez is credited with launching the careers of Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, Tina Chow and Grace Jones, and he also was the first artist to use black models in his work, which was seen in the top fashion magazines in the mid-1960s.

He also was credited with being the first artist to draw not only the inanimate creations of the haute couture but to idealize the models behind them.

His family migrated to New York City when Lopez was seven and he attended P.S. 77 on East 104th Street.  To keep her son preoccupied and away from street violence, Lopez’s mother, a seamstress, would ask him to draw flowers for her embroideries, according to the tribute to Lopez on the Visual AIDS website.

While a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he received a work-study assignment at Women’s Wear Daily, where his talent was immediately recognized.  WWD put him on staff and he left FIT.

At the time of his death, Lopez had been in California for an exhibition of his fashion drawings and personality portraits at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. An exhibition of his drawings was also taking place in Munich, West Germany.

Lopez’ creative partner, Juan Eugene Ramos, would die of AIDS-related illness eight years later, on Nov. 3, 1995, at the age of 53.

In 2016, a retrospective of Lopez’ and Ramos’ work was exhibited at El Museo del Barrio in New York.  The exhibit, “Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion,” was curated to evoke serious discourse on gender, sexuality, race, and heritage, and simultaneously invited viewers to revel in Lopez’ and Ramos’ legacy.

azt-1985
March 19, 1987
U.S. Approves AZT, First Medication for AIDS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first medication for AIDS — AZT (zidovudine), an antiretroviral drug initially developed to treat cancer.

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FDA directors approve AZT treatment, even though they have serious concerns about the toxicity of the medication.

As the only medication available to treat HIV, AZT becomes a highly sought-after treatment, one fraught with side effects.

AZT therapy can lead to the damage of muscle tissues, including the heart, and also suppresses the production of red blood cells, neutrophils, and other cells in the bone marrow, causing symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, and anemia.

Many patients taking AZT experience gastrointestinal intolerance, nausea and vomiting. Rarer side effects include lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis.

The drug’s approval remains controversial to this day, but in a world where treatment options are so far advanced, it can be hard to imagine the sense of urgency permeating the medical community in the 1980s.

Today, if someone is diagnosed with HIV, he or she can choose among more than 40 drugs that can treat the disease. And there’s a good chance that with the right combination, given at the right time, the drugs can keep HIV levels so low that the person never gets sick.

March 24, 1987
FDA Accelerates Drug Approvals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues regulations that expand access to promising new medications that have not yet been approved or licensed by the agency. This accelerates the approval of drugs by two to three years.

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In a few months, the FDA would go on to issue treatment IND (investigational new drug) regulations on May 22 to permit new drugs to be used to treat patients before clinical trials are completed where no alternative therapy exists for a “serious disease.”

In its explanation of the regulations, the FDA mentions advanced cases of AIDS as the first example of an immediately life-threatening disease, but did not include AIDS in its list of examples of serious diseases.  It explained that some diseases, like multiple sclerosis, are not serious at earlier stages, and that the Treatment IND regulations would not apply to drugs intended to treat those earlier stages of disease.

AIDS Protestors Arrested 03 1987
March 24, 1987
ACT UP Marches on Wall Street

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) stages its first protest on Wall Street, bringing widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic.

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ACT UP’s first-ever demonstration takes place at the busy intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, near Trinity Church, a location selected with the goal of disrupting the morning rush hour.

Formed in New York City in 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (more commonly known as ACT UP) brought widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic and helped make significant advances in AIDS research.

ACT UP’s first demonstration in 1987 targeted pharmaceutical companies that were profiteering from the epidemic (especially Burroughs Wellcome, manufacturer of AZT).  ACT UP also accused the industry of not doing research to find a cure or better treatments for AIDS.

Some 250 protestors, many of whom laid down in the street and/or held signs, call for corporate and government action to end the AIDS crisis.  The protest targets pharmaceutical companies that are profiteering from the epidemic, specifically Burroughs Wellcome, the company manufacturing the high-priced AZT.

Demonstrators chant “We are angry! W want action!” and “Release those drug!”  Seventeen people are arrested.

A flyer announcing the protest lists several immediate demands, including:

  • the release of life-saving drugs by the FDA,
  • the availability of affordable drugs,
  • a program to educate the public to combat the spread of AIDS, and
  • enacting policies to end AIDS-related discrimination in the workplace, housing, insurance, and medical treatment.

Soon after the demonstration, the FDA would announce it would shorten its drug approval process by two years, a process that normally took up to nine years.

ACT UP would stage three more demonstrations on Wall Street, the world’s leading financial center and home to the New York Stock Exchange, in the 1980s and 1990s.

March 31, 1987
American & French Researchers Share Credit for Discovery of Virus

President Ronald Reagan and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac end an international scientific dispute when they announce that researchers from the two countries will share credit for discovery of the AIDS virus.

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The countries agree that patent rights to a blood test that emerged from that discovery will also be shared, with most of the royalties to be donated to a new foundation for AIDS research and education.

This settles a years-long rift between the two countries, each laying claim to the valuable patent for the first HIV-antibody test.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed virologist Robert Gallo first developed the test, while the Pasteur Institute claimed it was French virologist Luc Montagnier.

Gallo had won the prestigious Lasker Award in 1986 for his share of the work (his second Lasker, having won in 1982 for his work on retroviruses).

Years later, the National Institutes of Health would conduct an investigation that proves Gallo and his colleagues first had isolates of HIV with the exception of one sample that originated from the Pasteur Institute’s lab (which was requested by the Gallo lab and sent to them from Paris).

Gallo and Montagnier later agree to share the title of co-discovers of the virus and they write several papers together describing their work in Science (Dec. 29, 2002) and the New England Journal of Medicine (Dec. 11, 2003).

However, in 2008 when Stockholm would call with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, it was only for Luc Montagnier.  The scientific world would be shocked to learn that the Nobel Committee was snubbing Gallo’s work, but because those archival records are locked up until 2058, we will not know the precise argument behind this decision for many years.

koop
April 6, 1987
Dr. Koop Focuses on Children with AIDS, Calls for Sex Ed

At a four-day workshop at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop draws attention to the plight of the growing number of children who acquire AIDS from their mothers or through blood transfusions.

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The workshop kicks off with a large press conference, where Dr. Koop announces that AIDS is a growing menace to the nation’s children and reiterates his call for early sex education as part of the general effort to halt its spread.  He recommends that sex education start in kindergarten and include information about AIDS.

”It’s the responsibility of parents, and it should begin before children go to school,” Dr. Koop says.

He mentions that parents are often reluctant to discuss sex with their children, and so the burden falls upon schools, churches and synagogues to teach children and youth about sex and AIDS.

“If parents don’t do it, they’ve abrogated their responsibility and somebody else has to do it,” Dr. Koop says.

Dr. Koop’s stance for early sex education puts him at odds with some of his fellow conservatives.

The workshop brings together families affected by HIV, leading HIV researchers and clinicians, mental health professionals, public health officials, and representatives from the insurance, legal, and nonprofit organizations.

In the last week, the number of children under 13 years old diagnosed with AIDS reaches 471, double the number of cases reported a year ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, there are 139 cases among teen-agers.

But Dr. Koop says these figures do not include as many as 2,000 children who have some AIDS symptoms but who do not meet the strict Federal definition of the illness, and he says the number of infected children is expected to continue to increase ”dramatically.”

Dr. Koop also notes that a disproportinate number of children infected with AIDS are members of minority groups: about 50% are black and 33% are Hispanic.

”We have, therefore, a segment of society that is very difficult to reach,” Dr. Koop says.

gold condom
April 7, 1987
FDA Declares HIV Prevention as Indication for Condoms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes the sale of male condoms to include HIV prevention as an indication for use, marking a major stride in public health communication and safe sex and HIV/AIDS transmission.

Learn More.

AIDS brings condoms back to the forefront for sexually active people of all sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, condom use does not equal 100% protection from HIV, and its effectiveness largely depends on correct and consistent use.  Also, some people are allergic to the latex, lubricants, and perfumes.

The FDA also begins to test latex condoms for leaks, resulting in an improvement in the overall  quality of condom products.

AIDS Quilt 8 - Willi Smith
April 17, 1987
Fashion Designer Willi Smith Dies

Fashion star Willi Smith dies in New York at the age of 39.

Smith was apparently unaware that he had contracted the virus and had shown no symptoms.

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Thinking he was suffering from an attack of shigella, a form of dysentery, acquired on a textile-buying trip to India, Smith admitted himself to the hospital, where tests showed he was HIV positive.

At the time of his death, Smith was regarded as one of the most successful African-American designers in the fashion industry.  His company, WilliWear Limited, launched in 1976 and by 1986 was grossing over $25 million in sales.

“Smith was, in the truest sense of the word, a streetwear designer, long before anyone used the term,” writes Jenny Comita in W magazine.  “Even as he was collaborating with some of the most avant-garde artists of the day and staging fashion shows that doubled as performances, he was taking his cues as a designer from the women he saw on the sidewalks of midtown.”

Smith was born in Philadelphia, the son of an ironworker and a homemaker.  He studied drawing at Mastbaum technical school and, later, fashion illustration at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art.

His big break came through his grandmother Gladys, who worked as a housekeeper. One of her clients had a connection to the famed couturier Arnold Scaasi and secured an internship for Willi.

Smith’s first major role, in 1969, was as head designer of the sportswear label Digits, where he quickly made a name for himself with bright, bold prints; flowy high-waisted pants; and an ahead-of-its-time marketing campaign featuring women on the gritty streets of New York. Two years later, he became the youngest designer to be nominated for a Coty Award, then the fashion equivalent of an Oscar.

In 1976, he and his former assistant Laurie Mallet founded WilliWear; she handled the business side and he the design. WilliWear’s affordable, wearable clothes were picked up by Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and eventually hundreds of stores.

Smith designed the costumes for “Secret Pastures,” a 1984 work by dance pioneers Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane; Keith Haring created the sets.  Smith also contributed to Spike Lee’s 1988 musical comedy-drama School Daze, making the gowns for the homecoming court.

Many of his friends wonder what would have happened if Smith had lived.

Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, curator of the Willi Smith: Street Couture exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. says:

“We’ve been told that he wanted to move to India permanently, a place he visited constantly.  He might have gone to Hollywood to produce films full-time after making a short film called Expedition.”

Smith’s legacy is the streetwear that lives on in menswear season after season.

Princess
April 19, 1987
U.K. Princess Extends Hand to Person Living With HIV

Princess Diana makes international headlines when she is photographed shaking the hand of an HIV-positive patient in a London hospital.  She goes on to become a passionate advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Learn More.

The 26-year-old Princess of Wales reportedly was living with the specter of AIDS every day. In the loneliness of her failing marriage to Prince Charles, gay men arere the bedrock of her private world: fashion designers, ballet dancers, art dealers and numerous members of the palace staff. They sympathize with her, escort her, lighten her load. It pains her to watch them sicken and die.

When London’s Middlesex Hospital invited Princess Diana to open the Broderip Ward, the U.K.’s first dedicated ward for AIDS and HIV-related diseases, she agrees to do it.  She is intensely nervous, but she knows it is the chance to dispel the stigma surrounding the disease.

“With her instinctive understanding of the power of gesture, she resolved not only to open the new ward but to shake the hands of 12 male patients without gloves,” writes Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles.

In a time when fear and misinformation runs rampant surrounding the transmission of a disease widely associated with gay men, the simple act of shaking an ill patient’s hand was a headline-making moment that helped educate the public.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Princess Diana would go on to use her platform to bust myths about how HIV/AIDS could be contracted, and spends time with people affected by the virus around the world.

She would become an official patron for the National AIDs Trust, and spoke of the impact on mothers and children, further dispelling the myth that it was purely a problem for the gay community.

Even after her death, her legacy continues with her sons, who would continue to help fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDs.  Prince Harry would take an HIV test on live TV to show how easy it is, and Prince William would appear on the cover of Attitude Magazine to discuss the mental health issues faced by victims of homophobia and transphobia.

April 29, 1987
Western Blot: FDA Releases Updated HIV Test

FDA approves a new, more specific test for HIV antibodies, the Western blot blood test kit.

Learn More.

For several years, the HIV-1 Western blot would be considered the “gold standard” for laboratory diagnosis of HIV-1 infection, but is no longer recommended. The two main reasons for this are the inability of the Western blot to detect acute infection and the potential to misclassify HIV-2 infection as an HIV-1 infection.

A report in Nature in June 1993 would conclude that researchers need to “reappraise” the use of the Western blot antibody tests as a diagnostic and epidemiological tool for HIV infection.

GMHC Founders
May 7, 1987
GMHC President Paul Popham Dies

Paul Popham, founder and first president of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, dies at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of AIDS-related illness at the age of 45.

Learn More.

Popham was a Bronze Star Medal-winning Vietnam veteran who had a successful career as a Wall Street banker.  He was politically inactive until 1981, when he first read about the disease that later became known as AIDS.

In January 1982, Popham, along with Larry Kramer, Lawrence Mass, Nathan Fain, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White, founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and Popham became the organization’s first president.

At the time of its founding, GMHC was the largest volunteer AIDS organization in the world.

Popham’s leadership style was infused with charm and diplomacy, which some found to be an ideal approach in the new fight against AIDS.  However, others thought Popham should have lead the organization with more urgency and ferocity.  The latter camp included Larry Kramer, who thought Popham’s approach was overly accommodating and ineffective.

Tensions between Kramer and Popham led to Kramer leaving GMHC in 1983 and, later, their contentious relationship would be portrayed in Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, one of the first plays to address the AIDS crisis.  Popham was the basis for the character of Bruce Niles.

In the program notes for one of GMHC’s earliest benefits, Paul Popham wrote, “I think the most impressive thing I’ve seen over the last year and a half is how affectionate men have grown. We are finding out who we are, what we can do under pressure.  Although we’re paying a terrible price, we’re finding in ourselves much greater strength than we dreamed we had.”

Popham also helped found the AIDS Action Council, a lobbying organization in Washington, and was chairman of the group.

Popham was diagnosed with AIDS in February 1985.  He remained active with GMHC until his illness became too severe.

In July 1986, Popham testified before Congress about allowing AIDS patients to receive drugs that were still undergoing clinical trials. This was less than a year before his death and he was clearly ill. However, he still spoke in his usual calm and resolute manner.

“As a person with AIDS, I am luckier than many in that I know resources that I can use,” he told members of Congress.  “But there are many people who have AIDS that don’t have the advantage of coming with the knowledge that I have of where to go to get the resources they need.  There is no place to go that is providing up-to-date information about the drug trials going on and how to get into these trials.”

May 15, 1987
U.S. Bans HIV-Positive Immigrants & Travellers

The U.S. Public Health Service adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration and travel exclusion list. The HIV ban will not be lifted until 2010.

Learn More.

“It was not the discovery of HIV alone, but the economic and political climate of the 1980s that led to the introduction of the ban,” writes Dr. Susanna E. Winston and Dr. Curt G. Beckwith in AIDS Patient Care STDS.

In the early 1980s, a worldwide economic recession drove immigrants to enter the U.S., fueling American fears of foreigners taking jobs and becoming a burden on the health and welfare systems.  This coincided with the explosion of the AIDS epidemic, with fear and misunderstanding about the disease feeding into the growing xenophobia.

It is in this environment that HIV/AIDS is added to the U.S. list of dangerous contagious diseases.

At first, only individuals whose illness advanced to AIDS are excluded from U.S. travel (based on the argument that AIDS affects a person’s wage-earning capacity). But then, under pressure to demonstrate efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, President Reagan moves to require all immigrants be tested for HIV, and that HIV infection (with or without AIDS) be included as a disease of public health significance.

This adds HIV to the list of dangerous diseases that includes leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis and gonorrhea.

The U.S. starts mandatory AIDS testing of the 500,000 applicants seeking permanent residence.  The ban includes travellers from other countries who test positive for HIV.

The ramifications of the HIV immigration and travel ban would come to light both domestically and internationally with the case of Hans Paul Verhoef.  While traveling to San Francisco to attend the 1989 National AIDS Forum, Verhoef, an HIV-infected Dutch citizen and rising chair of the Dutch HIV Foundation, would be detained and arrested when Immigration and Naturalization Service agents find AZT in his luggage.

Verhoef’s arrest sets off an outcry from the international AIDS community in objection of the ban, with protests and threats of boycotts of the two upcoming international conferences, planned for San Francisco (1990) and Boston (1992).  For the 1990 International AIDS Conference (IAS), President George H.W. Bush issues an executive order temporarily waiving the ban for all attendees.  But IAS organizers decide to hold no further conferences in the U.S. until the ban is revoked, and the 1992 IAS conference is relocated from Boston to Berlin.

The travel ad immigration ban would be lifted 22 years later, on January 4, 2010.  A new federal rule under President Barack Obama’s administration would be heralded as a monumental achievement, accomplished through the hard work of advocates.

 

AIDS Quilt - Charles Ludlam
May 28, 1987
Ridiculous Theatrical Company’s Charles Ludlam Dies

Charles Ludlam, whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company had become one of New York City’s more popular attractions, dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.

Learn More.

An actor, writer and director, Ludlam was one of the more prolific artists on the off-Broadway scene.  His productions in a small basement theater Greenwich Village included such parodies as Bluebeard, Galas (a spoof on operatic diva Maria Callas) and Reverse Psychology.

Jeremy Gerard of The New York Times memorialized Ludlam, calling him was one of the most prolific and flamboyant artists in the theater avant-garde.

“He was a master of travesty, creating in a tiny grotto theater on Sheridan Square critically and popularly acclaimed parodies of such familiar genres as the dime novel (The Mystery of Irma Vep), film noir (The Artificial Jungle) and opera (Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet),” Gerard wrote.

Ludlam’s productions received a Drama Desk award and six Obie awards.  The Ridiculous Theatrical Company has toured extensively in the United States and Europe.

Recently, he was retained by producer Joseph Papp to direct the production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus for the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park.  However, the play was postponed when Ludlam was admitted to the hospital on April 30.

”We lost an extraordinary artist who was just on his way to a tremendous breakthrough in theater and opera,” Mr. Papp said of Ludlam’s untimely death.

At a July 13 memorial event for Ludlam, about 1,000 people crowded the Second Avenue Theater to pay tribute to the king — and sometimes queen — of downtown theater and celebrate his work.

The most moving remembrance was offered by Everett Quinton, Ludlam’s longtime partner and his successor as artistic director of the company.

”I’ve never felt so alone in my life, but it’s going to be all right,” Quinton said. ”We’re going to continue to do wild theater and wonderful theater.”

May 31, 1987
President Reagan Makes His First Public Speech about AIDS

President Ronald Reagan makes his first public speech about AIDS at the American Foundation for AIDS Research Awards Dinner.

The epidemic is now six years old; 36,058 people have been diagnosed with the disease and 20,849 have died.

Learn More.

amFAR event attendees “boo” Reagan when he says he asked the Department of Health and Human Services “to add the AIDS virus to the list of contagious diseases for which immigrants and aliens seeking permanent residence in the United States can be denied entry.”

Attendees also shout out their opposition when the president says he is ordering testing for active members of the military, those seeking care at veterans’ hospitals, applicants for marriage licenses, and federal prisoners.

Among the event attendees are amfAR Founder and National Chairperson Elizabeth Taylor and amfAR President Dr. Mervyn Silverman.

After Reagan speaks, Taylor tries to move ruffled feathers by telling the audience, “While there are differences of opinion on AIDS testing,” Reagan’s remarks are ”basically in concurrence with what we all hope and pray for,” namely a cure for the disease.

AmfAR advocates for voluntary, confidential testing accompanied by intense counseling, adds Dr. Silverman.

After the event, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop said he ”found no fault with the speech” and that he considered it reasonable to test Federal prisoners and immigrants and to offer the test to marriage applicants.  He also said he was embarrassed by the reaction of some in the audience.

“I never heard anyone boo the President before,” Dr. Koop said.

June 24, 1987
President Reagan Creates Commission on AIDS

President Reagan signs an Executive Order creating the first Presidential Commission on AIDS

Learn More.

On June 26, Reagan would appoint Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to chair the commission.  Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force would object to the appointment of someone with no experience with the disease, but others praise Mayberry’s experience in both medical research and clinical services.

The president also appoints commissioners:

  • Dr. Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of nursing at Vanderbilt University
  • John J. Creedon, CEO of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • Dr. Theresa L. Crenshaw, a sex educator and opponent of condoms as a means of preventing the spread of HIV
  • Richard M. DeVos, president of Amway
  • Dr. Burton J. Lee III, a physician at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Dr. Frank Lilly, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Lilly served on the board of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and is “one of the first openly gay Presidential appointees”
  • Dr. Woodrow A. Myers Jr., an African American, the health commissioner of Indiana, and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers
  • Cardinal John O’Connor, an opponant of including instruction about condoms in AIDS education programs in schools
  • Penny Pullen, an Illinois legislator. advocate of mandatory premarital HIV testing who would go on to found the conservative Christian organization Illinois Family Institute
  • Corinna “Cory” SerVaas, editor of the Saturday Evening Post
  • Dr. William B. Walsh, president of Project HOPE, a medical relief organization
  • James D. Watkins, a retired admiral

Dr. Lilly of the GMHC is considered to be the most controversial appointment, opposed by conservaties including Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-New Hampshire).

“The President should strive at all costs to avoid sending the message to society – especially to impressionable youth – that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle,” Sen. Humphrey tells The New York Times.

At the commission’s first meeting, Lilly finds himself seated next to Cardinal O’Connor, and they would be observed “chatting cordially.”

AIDS Quilt - Althea Flynt
June 27, 1987
Hustler Publisher Althea Flynt Dies

Wife of Larry Flynt and publisher of Hustler magazine, Althea Flynt drowns in a bathtub in her Bel-Air mansion in Los Angeles at the age of 33.  Her husband says she was diagnosed with AIDS four years ago and likely fell asleep while bathing.

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Althea is Larry Flynt’s fourth wife, and because she married him in 1976, she is the only partner who joins him in his rise to celebrity.  She would meet Flynt in Ohio, while working in one of his clubs as a go-go dancer.

Born in poverty in a Kentucky mining town, Althea Flynt was orphaned at eight years old, when her father murdered her mother and her grandfather and her mother’s best friend, and then killed himself.  Flynt recounted her childhood ordeal in a 1978 interview with New York magazine:

“They put you in a bare room with dirty floors and a single mattress that was stained and filthy and stank,” she said. “I still remember the smell. They put a pot and a roll of toilet paper in the room. Then they locked you in.”

In the late 1960s, she and Larry Flynt started a relationship that would last until the rest of her life.  As partner in her husband’s publishing business, she would be known to come to work in outrageous attire, including in leather dog collars and bangled chains that ran from her ear to her nostril.

As documented on video from Flynt’s library, Althea’s style was complex and highly unusual, particularly once she came into money and moved to Los Angeles. Her attraction to drug culture, Sunset Strip clubs and punk rock led her to patronize Hollywood shops like North Beach Leather and Trashy Lingerie.

In March 1978, her husband would be shot by a religious extremist, leaving him paralyzed and in pain, and she would remain with him, for better and for worse.

In a 1983 magazine article by the Washington writer Rudy Maxa, the Flynts would descibe how Larry tried to manage the pain with methadone, marijuana, cocaine, sleeping pills, morphine, and Dilaudid.  Althea would experiment with drugs with her husband, and soon both would become addicted to narcotics.

She would be diagnosed with HIV in 1983, reportedly from a blood transfusion while undergoing a hysterectomy.  Larry Flynt explained that Althea “always used clean needles when using drugs.”

The cause of Althea’s death is a perscription drug overdose-induced drowning, according to the coronor’s report.  Her husband, however, states that she was in the advanced stages of AIDS and would have died within that year, regardless.

Flynt’s body is buried in Saylersville, Ky., where her husband keeps a family burial plot.

In 1997, Althea would be portrayed by singer-actress Courtney Love in The People vs. Larry Flynt; Love’s performance with garner her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

AIDS Quilt - Michael Bennett
July 2, 1987
Broadway Director Michael Bennett Dies

Director and choreographer Michael Bennett, the mastermind behind A Chorus Line, dies at his home in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 44.

Learn More.

Bennett was the ultimate Broadway ″gypsy,″ a dancer in the chorus who went on to become a successful choreographer, director and producer, associated with such hit shows as Promises, Promises; Company; Follies; Dreamgirls; and of course, A Chorus Line.

″I went from dancer to choreographer to director to producer to sometime writer,″ he once said. ″But I never had to deviate from my ambition, which was to work in theater.″

Born Michael Bennett DiFiglia in Buffalo, New York, Bennett started dance lessons as the age of 3.  As a teen-ager, Bennett studied dance during the summer in New York with Aubrey Hitchins, Matt Maddox and others.

He dropped out of high school at age 16 to perform in a European tour of West Side Story, directed by Jerome Robbins, one of Bennett’s dance idols. Upon his return to New York, he found work dancing in several Broadway shows, as well as TV shows like The Dean Martin Show.

Bennett made his debut as a choreographer in 1966 with A Joyful Noise.  Two years later, he had his first Broadway success with the choreography for Promises, Promises, the Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical based on the film The Apartment.  This was quickly followed by more hits: Coco starring Katharine Hepburn, and then Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

In 1971, he both choreographed and co-directed Follies, another Sondheim show, and won Tony Awards in both categories. In 1975, he directed, choreographed, and wrote A Chorus Line, which became the longest running musical on Broadway up to that time.

Compared with his contemporary Bob Fosse, Bennett did not have an immediately recognizable choreographic style, according to Masterworks Broadway’s tribute to Bennett.

“Like Jerome Robbins, whom he endeavored to emulate, he strove for unity of style within each separate work, shaped by the story and the characters in it,” Masterworks’ tribute states.  “Thus the movement might be jazzy or balletic, romantic or angular, athletic or even a little bumbling, depending on the circumstances.  Even in A Chorus Line, the dancers’ execution becomes progressively more polished as the ‘show within the show’ crystallizes.”

Michael Riedel, theater columnist for the New York Post, said A Chorus Line came at a privotal time for Broadway.

“By the mid-1970s Broadway was starting to flounder and so was the city,” Riedel said.  “The 1960s rock revolution had changed everything, and new musicals were mostly doing mediocre business or they simply tanked.  Times Square had become the preserve of pimps and prostitutes and drug-pushers.”

When A Chorus Line moved to Broadway from its original downtown location of the Joseph Papp Theater, many of the surrounding theaters were dark.  But that soon changed.

“Somehow it caught the moment, and when it transferred to the Shubert Theatre on Broadway people started to flock back to Times Square,” said Riedel.  “It was the Hamilton of its day. I don’t think any show has ever been so vital to the New York economy.”

In 1986, Bennett determined he was too sick to work, sold his New York property, and moved to Tucson, where he stayed until his death.

Donna McKechnie, an original star of A Chorus Line who was briefly married to Bennett, thinks that if he survived, he could have gone on to even greater things.

“But I learned on Chorus Line to relish the moment you’re in as a performer, because it can end any moment – especially for a dancer,” McKechnie said.

Bennett’s striking panel was among the first to be included in the original display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

July 2, 1987
San Francisco Ballet Dancer Sean O’Neill Dies

Dancer Sean O’Neill, who performed with the Pacific Ballet and also edited the San Francisco Ballet program, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.

AIDS Quilt 7 - Tom Waddell
July 11, 1987
Gay Games Founder Tom Waddell Dies

Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 49.

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Waddell was a superior athlete, good enough to take sixth in the world in the decathlon in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, writes Mart Dobrow of ESPN.  He was a paratrooper in the Army, and a doctor with a sense of adventure — working in Africa on patients with tropical diseases and becoming the physician for the Saudi Arabian Olympic team in 1976.

“To Waddell, the symbolism of the Games spoke to his highest ideals: the five interlocking rings, the parade of nations, the torch being lit,” writes Dobrow.  “In some ways, this felt like sports at its most pure. It brought people of the world together.”

After his athletic career, Waddell would worked for years as a medical consultant for Whittaker Corp., enjoying the opulence of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh.  When he wasn’t in the Middle East, he settled in San Francisco.

There, in the hub of American gay life, Waddell embraced the bacchanal fully, its drug use and promiscuity, before finding what he hoped was true and lasting love with Charles Deaton, a 50-year-old former CIA operative.

Then Waddell had a grand vision; it started out as the “Gay Olympic Games.”  Waddell was aware that for many gay people, sports had meant a door slamming shut.  His goal was to open the door of completitive sports wide open to the LGBTQ community.

He modeled the Gay Olympic Games after what he considered to be the true principles of the Olympics: equality, fairness, human dignity.  Except that the U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t see it that way.

Just 19 days before the games were to begin, the USOC persuaded a federal court to issue an injunction prohibiting Waddell and his group, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, from using the word “Olympic” because of copyright infringement.

Waddell was incredulous and wounded to the core. He pointed out that in the past there had been no opposition to multiple other uses of the term (e.g., the Special Olympics).

With no legal recourse, Waddell and the SFAA scrambled to remove the offending word from a slew of merchandise and promotional material.  The hastily rechristened “Gay Games” played out nevertheless in the summer of 1982 with some 1,300 athletes from 12 countries participating.

By the next summer, as Gay Games 2 came to a now-besieged San Francisco, Waddell knew his days were numbered. He checked himself out of the hospital, marched in the opening ceremonies, and delivered a stirring opening address as part of the Games, which attracted some 3,500 athletes from 17 countries.

In one final feat of athletic strength, Waddell managed to win the gold medal in the javelin.  Within a year, he was gone.

Today, the Gay Games live on and are help in locations all around the world, including Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris and Hong Kong.  Since 1986, The Federation of Gay Games Scholarship Fund has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships to underfunded LGBTQ+ individuals from 70 countries around the world, where the daily struggle for equality is harsh and often dangerous.

Tom Waddell’s core principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best continue to bring thousands of athletes together to compete.

Every four years in conjuntion with the Gay Games, the Tom Waddell Award is presented to a person or organization involved in the Gay Games that embodies the standards of commitment, selflessness, and love of humanity, and inspires pride through leadership and excellence in sports, culture, or volunteerism.

AIDS Quilt - Arthur J Bressan
July 29, 1987
Gay Cinema Pioneer Arthur J. Bressan Jr. Dies

Arthur J. Bressan Jr., best known for his devastating 1985 AIDS drama Buddies, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 44.

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A pioneer of independent gay cinema in the 1970s and ’80s, Bressan is best known for his 1985 drama Buddies, the first feature film about the AIDS pandemic.  He also directed the largely influential Gay USA, the first documentary by and about LGBT people, and the feature film Abuse (1983).

“If you want to submit one director as the auteur for the post-Stonewall, pre-New Queer Cinema era of Gay Liberation, Arthur J. Bressan Jr. is that director,” writes film critic Caden Mark Gardner.

Bressan’s first credited film work is that of a documentary short called Coming Out, about the first official San Francisco Pride march in 1972.  Shot in 16mm and in color, it offers a snapshot of many people who made the pilgrimage to San Francisco.

Bressan would expand this cinematic approach for his 1978 feature-length documentary, Gay USA, made during the National Gay Freedom marches across the country in 1977, the year Harvey Milk became America’s first openly gay elected official.

“Many of the interviewers and testimonies in Gay USA are not just talking about the pleasantness of seeing themselves and being out at this Pride parade, but are speaking with righteous indignation about homophobic violence and systemic homophobia,” Gardner writes.

Bressan’s 1983 film Abuse, a drama with an intensely provocative portrayal of child abuse, is hailed by film critic Rex Reed as “a film of astonishing power and emotional impact.”

“Artie loved butch men and women, drag queens, black, brown and white,” writes Emmy Award-winning director Greta Schiller.  “Artie was exceptional in that he loved women. He had none of the misogyny that was (and still is) rampant in our culture, even in the LGBT community. He knew who and what he was, and he was not threatened by women.”

Schiller, who met Bressan in 1983 through activist Vito Russo at a screening of Abuse, said she went to the event “angry that it was a film about a man in authority sleeping with an abused teen.”

After watching the film, she emerged “with my mind blown by the complexity of what I’d seen.”

Russo convinced Schiller to share her reaction to Abuse with Bressan.

“I told him it was a brilliant film that made me realize not all older men who fall in love with a younger man are predators,” she recalled.  “The story and acting made me think of Italian postwar neorealist films.”

Schiller says that when Bressan became sick, he was determined to complete Buddies.

“He cut the film on a flatbed in his tiny apartment. He poured his heart and soul into making one last film,” she writes.  “I lived a few blocks away from him [in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City], and I would come get him for a walk around the block. Soon, he could only make it to the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue, a block from his home. He would gaze at the high-school boys and talk about the ones he fancied, and how those who were gay would have a better, freer life.”

About 10 years after Bressan’s death, his sister Roe Bressan and LGBT film historian Jenni Olson would launch The Bressan Project to preserve and promote Bressan’s films.

August 4, 1987
Cost of Ongoing AIDS Treatment Estimated at $50 Billion

A task force of the Society of Actuaries issues a report claiming that the cost of AIDS to insurance companies could exceed $50 billion by the year 2000.

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The study, commissioned by the 10,000-member Chicago-based organization, also predicts that future life insurance policies could add $30 billion to $60 billion to the total, depending on whether applicants are screened for the AIDS virus.

The study bases its findings on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, which suggests that 15% of those infected with the AIDS virus develop the fatal disease after five years and up to 36% are stricken after seven years.

The CDC reported there were 8,000 AIDS deaths in 1986, and is projecting that the number to rise to 54,000 by 1991.

The authors of the study, who are actuaries for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, contend that based on the Federal projections, AIDS claims are expected to go up by a factor of 10 by the 1990s.

August 5, 1987
Florida Schools Ordered to Enroll HIV-Positive Brothers

A federal judge orders the DeSoto County School Board in Florida to enroll HIV-positive brothers Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray.

The board had refused to allow the three boys, who have hemophilia, to attend the district’s schools in their hometown of Arcadia, Florida.

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After the court ruling, some town residents would refuse to allow their children to attend school, many would anonymously call the Ray home with threatening messages, and ultimately someone would set fire to the Ray house, destroying it and forcing them to move.

“Arcadia is no longer our home,” their father, Clifford Ray, tells the press the day after the fire. “That much was made clear to us last night.”

Ricky, Robert and Randy, who were 10, 9 and 8 at the time, were all born with hemophilia, a condition that required them to receive blood transfusions.

Ricky would go on to become an activist in the fight against AIDS.  President Bill Clinton reaches out to him and thanks him for his work raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The young teenager allows camera crews to document his declining health and states he wants America to see what AIDS did to people.  Ricky Ray dies in 1992 at age 15.

Robert would die of AIDS-related causes in 2000 at the age of 22.  Shortly thereafter, their father would attempt suicide but survives.

Randy Ray would marry in 2001 and settle in Orlando, Florida, managing his HIV through medication.

August 9, 1987
LA Times Publishes ‘AIDS: A Global Assessment’

In a 16-page special section, “AIDS: A Global Assessment,” the Los Angeles Times attempts to present the latest data reflecting the magnitude of the global AIDS epidemic.

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William F. Thomas, editor of The Times, was reportedly pleased with the section, but commented: “Even after you read it, you’ve got your hands full of smoke … Everything is still so inconclusive. It’s hard to decide what to do (with AIDS) in the paper. All you can do is chase the bouncing ball.”

The Times estimates the number of people infected with the AIDS virus worldwide as somewhere between 5 million and 10 million.

The report provides the following estimates for “individuals considered AIDS virus carriers”:

United States 1-2 million
Brazil up to 238,000
France 175,000-200,000
Italy more than 100,000
Haiti 100,000
West Germany up to 100,000
Canada 50,000
England 30,000-50,000
Switzerland 20,000
Mexico 25,000-50,000
Netherlands 10,000-20,000
Denmark 10,000-15,000
Sweden 9,000-11,000
Belgium 5,000-10,000
Japan 2,500-10,000
Greece 5,000-7,000
Israel 1,000-2,000

About two months later, on October 13, 1987, The New York Times would publish editorial writer Phillip Boffey’s examination of the nation’s initial reponse to the AIDS crisis.  He would dedicate much of his article to addressing the charges laid out by Randy Shilts, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, in his just-released book And the Band Played On: People, Politics and the AIDS Epidemic.

As if to continue the conversation, Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw would suggest in December 20, 1987 that the press and other outlets of journalism played an outsized role in the failure of the U.S. to appropriately address the early AIDS crisis.

“Most critics say the biggest shortcoming of the press on the AIDS story, especially in the first few years, was not medical/scientific coverage but political coverage; the press didn’t aggressively pursue the public policy and funding aspects of the story,” Shaw writes.

He goes on to point out that during the early years, the press reported various Reagan Administration statements about AIDS largely without question or investigation.  This included the administration’s statement that the nation’s blood supply was “100% safe” at a time when HIV-tainted blood was being circulated to hospitals and clinics in many cities.

The media also reported the administration’s promise to start trials of an AIDS vaccine within two years, but failed to hold it to account when the first clinical tests did not start for another three years.  (Decades later, a successful vaccine still has not been developed.)

Shaw cites the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the very few papers to report on federal AIDS policy in the early years, largely due to the dedication of reporter Randy Shilts.  Most major media outlets did not dedicate a full-time reporter to cover AIDS until about 1987.

The media “went to sleep on the story,” Shilts told Shaw.  “I’m not God’s gift to journalism. I’m a good reporter, but I didn’t get [stories] because I’m a brilliant reporter. I just did … the work that any reporter could have done.”

August 14, 1987
CDC Updates Guidelines for Counseling & Antibody Testing

The CDC releases guidelines for public health agencies to help them reduce fear and concerns as they implement HIV testing programs.  The report encourges agencies to target outreach to at-risk populations and strengthen policies for patient confidentiality.

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The report, titled Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Public Health Service Guidelines for Counseling and Antibody Testing to Prevent HIV Infection and AIDS, reflects the strong stance by the CDC against the unauthorized disclosure of personal information and inappropriate discrimination against those who seek to be tested.

Per the guidelines, health agencies should endeavor to provide ready, confidential access to HIV testing to those most at risk of HIV infection.

As examples, the report cites programs offering counseling and testing to gay men, IV-drug users, persons with hemophilia, the sexual and/or needle-sharing partners of these persons, and patients of sexually transmitted disease clinics.

The report also addresses the issue of false-positive HIV test results and its impact, stating that most false-positives are due to human error and more precautions should be used by medical personnel to ensure the accuracy of results.

“All laboratories should anticipate the need for assuring quality performance of tests for HIV antibody by training personnel, establishing quality controls, and participating in performance evaluation systems,” the report advises.

 

August 18, 1987
Human Testing of HIV Vaccine Begins

FDA sanctions the first human testing of a candidate vaccine against HIV.  While the clinical trials do not lead to a vaccine, the FDA approval marks an important milestone in the development of HIV/AIDS treatment options.

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Manufactured by MicroGeneSys of West Haven, Conn., the vaccine will move forward to clinical trials supervised by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Just months ago, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the FDA was considering several candidate vaccines and that human trials could begin in 1987.

In early 1993, MicroGeneSys would pull the vaccine, called VaxSyn, from National Institutes of Health trials because the pharmaceutical company could not agree with the NIH over the dosing schedule. The vaccine has already been selected for inclusion in a $20 million U.S. army trial program.

Today, there is no vaccine available to prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it.

However, scientists are working to develop one. NIH is investing in multiple approaches to prevent HIV, including a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine. These research efforts include two late-stage, multinational vaccine clinical trials called Imbokodo and Mosaico.

 

August 21, 1987
Universal Precautions Introduced to Medical Environment

CDC updates its recommendations for the prevention of HIV transmission in healthcare settings, calling for medical workers to practice universal precautions.

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The report emphasizes the need for healthcare workers to consider all patients as potentially infected with HIV and/or other blood-borne pathogens and to adhere rigorously to infection-control precautions for minimizing the risk of exposure to blood and body fluids of all patients.

The CDC defines healthcare workers as “persons, including students and trainees, whose activities involve contact with patients or with blood or other body fluids from patients in a healthcare setting.”

Universal precautions are listed in the report, along with precautions for invasive procedures, dentistry, dialysis, laboratory procedures, and autopsies and mortuary work.

dont just worry about it 1
September 30, 1987
HIV/AIDS PSAs Pop Up in America

The CDC launches its PSA campaign, America Responds to AIDS, to kick off the newly designated AIDS Awareness Month (October).

Reaching millions, the campaign is the first on the subject of AIDS prevention, and becomes a central prong in the “everyone is at risk” strategy of AIDS prevention.

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From 1987 to 1996, the America Responds to AIDS campaign reaches a wide range of audiences variously defined by identity or behavior, from heterosexual single mothers, to teenagers of all races, to young adult African Americans, to people who live in rural areas.

The five-phase campaign releases materials to the general public in various mediums, including a national mailer. The themes of the five phases were:

  • General Awareness: Humanizing AIDS, October 1987
  • Understanding AIDS, the national mailout, April 1988
  • Women at Risk/Multiple Partner, Sexually Active Adults, October 1988
  • Parents and Youth, May 1989, and
  • Preventing HIV Infection and AIDS: Taking The Next Steps, July 1990

The campaign suggests that the best way to respond to HIV/AIDS is to engage in honest conversations about risk behaviors, including the potential consequences of multiple partners, unprotected sex, intravenous drug use, or any activities that compromise the ability to make a sound, safe judgment.

Not all applaud the effort.  Service providers working with groups with a high incidence of HIV/AIDS (most notably young men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users) see the campaign as ignoring the particular needs of these communities in favor of supporting low-risk individuals.

While the CDC claims to be engaging with all Americans, critics argued that the campaign failed to provide adequate outreach and education to those who needed it most.

1987
Most Americans Cite AIDS as World’s Most Urgent Health Issue

By the time Gallup would field its next survey in 1990, national AIDS policy had developed to the point that the U.S. Congress was passing the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, and the share of the public naming AIDS as a top problem had fallen to 49 percent.

This measure further declined in the 1990’s, a decade that saw major advances in HIV treatment including the development of effective combination anti-retroviral therapy. By 2009, the proportion who named AIDS as the nation’s top health problem had fallen to single digits.

However, in the coming years, black Americans would continue to be prevalent among those naming HIV as the nation’s most urgent health problem.

October 11, 1987
AIDS Memorial Quilt Displayed on National Mall in DC

The AIDS Memorial Quilt goes on display for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The display features 1,920 4×8 panels and draws half a million visitors.

leather man
October 11, 1987
Helms Amendment Imposes Restrictions on AIDS Education

In a 94-2 vote, the U.S. Senate adopts the Helms Amendment, which requires federally financed educational materials about AIDS to stress sexual abstinence and forbids any material that “promotes” homosexuality or drug use.

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The Helms Amendment is incorporated into the $129 billion Labor, Health and Human Resources and Education appropriations bill for fiscal 1988, containing $310 million for AIDS education efforts overseen by the Centers for Disease Control.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) initially proposed that none of the money allocated to the CDC be used for material or activities that promote, encourage or condone homosexuality, illegal drug use or any sexual activity outside marriage.

During floor debate, Sen. Helms exhibited sex-positive comic books created by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York and announced that federal money helped to pay for GMHC’s education program.

″If the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt,″ Helms said.

Helms says he showed the comic books to President Reagan at the White House, and told him the group had received $674,679 in federal funds. According to Helms, Reagan looked at a couple of pages, ″shook his head and hit the desk with his fist.″

Helms then admitted that the comic books were not paid for with federal funds, but said taxpayer dollars did pay for a series of educational sessions he contended were equally offensive.  He said the sessions included assignments to write a personal ad for publication in a gay newspaper and list alternatives to high-risk sex, as well as instruction in the use of safe sex photos.

″I may throw up,″ Helms said.

Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Connecticut) and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) are the only two Senators to vote against the Helms Amendment.

Weicker lectured Helms for moralizing and said his amendment ″means unnecessary lives lost.″

″We don’t have time to get into philosophical or academic or moralistic debates. We’d better do what the experts have told us to do — put our money into research and put our money into education.″

The response from Lori Behrman, spokeswoman for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is: ″Jesse Helms, first of all, is playing with the lives of thousands of Americans. It sends a message that the gay community is expendable in this epidemic.″

The Helms Amendment will have a chilling effect on CDC’s ability to stop the spread of AIDS among drug addicts, homosexuals and sexually active heterosexuals, particularly young people.

This is the latest in a long conflict among lawmakers about what federal AIDS education materials should say and how graphic they should be.

AIDS Quilt - Frederick Garnett
October 22, 1987
Advocate & Educator Frederick Garnett Dies

National Minority AIDS Council co-founder and board member Frederick Garnett dies at the age of 32 of complications resulting from AIDS, at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.

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Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities.  Garnett also served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.

Fifteen months before his death, in July 1986, Garrett addressed the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in his adopted hometown of Washington, DC.

A staff psychologist at St. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett expressed his concerns to conference members that although African Americans made up roughly 50% of people living with AIDS in Washington, DC, they were largely absent from clinics and support groups.

The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsoring organizations National Minority AIDS Council and National Conference of Black Mayors.

October 22, 1987
Worldwide Impact of AIDS Tops Concerns at United Nations

At the 42nd convening of the United Nations, AIDS becomes the first disease ever debated on the floor of the General Assembly.  The UN resolves to mobilize in the worldwide struggle against AIDS.

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“AIDS is one of those critical issues, like nuclear weapons, global development, and environmental pollution, which affects the future of all peoples in all countries,” says UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in his address.

“It is, in many senses, a global combat, and it threatens us with all the consequences of war – not only of massive death tolls and even greater an numbers of disabled,” he said, “but of orphans, of mass displacements, of loss of productivity, of overwhelming and bankrupting demands on financial, administrative and human resources, of fear, anger and panic, and of social instability.”

In closing, Pérez de Cuéllar says:  “We must combat fear with knowledge, panic with reason and isolation with compassion. We must affirm through solidarity that we are but one human family.”

After the World Health Organization gives a presentation on the global status of AIDS, the UN General Assembly designates WHO to lead the worldwide effort to end HIV/AIDS.

1987
And the Band Played On: Book Recounts Early Years of HIV

Journalist Randy Shilts’ book about the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, is published.

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When Shilts joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 he was the publication’s first openly gay journalist. He had been hired to cover issues in the gay community, though he also reported other stories. As part of his beat, he wrote about the growing number of immune system-related diseases occurring in gay men in San Francisco.

In the early 1980s, he persuaded The Chronicle to let him report on AIDS full time.  “And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic,” a history of the first five years of the epidemic, is largely the result of his newspaper work.

In the book, Shilts charges the Reagan Administration, the medical establishment and even some gay organizations with indifference to the disease.

The book would make Shilts a trusted commentator on AIDS, to the point that he becomes the closing speaker at the Fifth International AIDS Conference in Montreal in 1989.

Shilts also wrote The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982) and the bestselling Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (1993).

Shilts would die of AIDS-related illness on Feb. 17, 1994 at his ranch in the Sonoma County redwoods, at the age of 42.

Debra Fraser-Howze 2
1987
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is Founded

Debra Fraser-Howze , director of teenage services at the Urban League of New York, founds the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS .

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The organization works to educate, mobilize, and empower black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.

Fraser-Howze would lead the NBLCA for 21 years as President and CEO.  She would also become advisor to two U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) while serving on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1995-2001.

As the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization of its kind, dedicated to educating, mobilizing and empowering Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS, the NBLCA would evolve to become a comprehensive advocacy, policy and action organization that addresses multiple health disparities affecting Blacks/African Americans.

In 2019, the organization would change its name to National Black Leadership Commission on Health (Black Health), with an expanded focus that includes not only HIV/AIDS, but also Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health.

November 13, 1987
AMA Declares Ethical Obligation to Treat PWA’s

The American Medical Association declares that doctors have an ethical obligation to care for people with AIDS, as well as for those who have been infected with the virus but show no symptoms.

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In a response to reports that some doctors are refusing to treat patients who are HIV-positive , the AMA advises physicians that it is unethical to deny care in such situations if the care required is within the doctor’s normal range of practice.

AMA ethics council also tells physicians that if a patient carrying the AIDS virus refuses to discontinue dangerous sexual practices, a doctor should notify public health authorities and even take it upon himself to directly inform individuals who may be in danger of infection.

The new AMA strictures conflict with California law, under which it is illegal for a doctor, without the patient’s consent, to tell anyone a person has tested positive for the AIDS virus or has AIDS.

The AMA states that no evidence exists that large numbers of doctors have refused to treat patients who tested positive for the AIDS virus.

But an AMA spokesperson concedes, “There have been physicians who have chosen to make public statements that they will not treat HIV-positive people. Those statements have generated tremendous amounts of discussion and debate.”

November 28, 1987
Washington Ballet Choreographer Goh Choo San Dies

Goh Choo San, a Chinese ballet dancer and choreographer with the Washington Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at his New York City home.  He was 39 years old.

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As the Washington Ballet’s first resident choreographer, Goh worked with the company from its 1976 founding until his death.  Goh’s distinct style emphasized technique and musicality over plot and blended Eastern movement with classical ballet technique, showcasing the dancers’ strengths that company founder Mary Day had cultivated in her studio.

“Those of us in Washington who witnessed his artistic blossoming over the past 11 years … have an enormous legacy to be grateful for,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic Alan M. Kriegsman in his tribute to Goh in The Washington Post.  “And his works — 34 ballets created since 1973, 14 of them expressly for the Washington Ballet — will live on and transmit his genius to posterity.”

Raised in Singapore with eight older siblings, Goh followed in the path of an older brother and sister who were training in the art of dance.  After graduating from the University of Singapore with a degree in bio-chemistry, Goh travelled to Europe and joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, where he was eventually promoted to soloist.

While still a dancer with the company, Goh created his first ballets and began drawing the attention of dance aficionados, including that of Mary Day, who was starting a new ballet company in Washington, DC.  Day offered him a position in 1976 with her newly founded Washington Ballet.

“It is no exaggeration to call [Goh’s] choreographic ascent meteoric,” wrote Kriegsman.  “Within two years of his arrival, he had choreographed six ballets for the Washington company. He had also attracted the attention of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who met with Goh in Washington, watched him work and laid the groundwork for a major commission for American Ballet Theatre.”

The commissioned work became the 1981 ballet Configurations, which was danced by Baryshnikov and a contingent of ABT dancers at Lisner Auditorium as part of the Washington Ballet’s historic “Golden Gala.”  The creation and performance of the work were documented by London Weekend Television and is now available as Baryshnikov: The Dancer and the Dance.

Goh’s choreography for Configurations is considered a concrete example of his command of the classical dance vocabulary and his ingenuity in creating striking imagery.  The ballet is set to Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Piano Concerto, a score that is difficult to play and even more difficult to dance to.

”He is intensely musical, and his ballets are all marked by a first-rate command of structure and fluency,” Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote in 1980. ”He concentrates on speed, intricacies of movement, difficult toe work and streamlined partnering. His base is strongly neo-Classical with a sleek contemporary look, incorporating modern-dance idioms and unexpected gestures, wrist rotations, interpolated academic steps that burst out of the usual flow of movement, acrobatic tumbling within a partnering technique and subtle nuances.”

In 1982, he would choreograph In the Glow of the Night, a ballet set to music by Bohuslav Martinu that would be praised as Goh’s most perfectly realized work.  In 1986, Unknown Territory — his last completed ballet — was touted as an important work for both Goh and the Washington Ballet.

“Every two years since his arrival in Washington in 1976, he’s come up with a breakthrough of sorts: the propulsive abstraction Fives in 1978; the distilled romanticism of Lament in 1980; a fusion of these contrary impulses in the 1982 In the Glow of the Night; his first full-length narrative work, Romeo and Juliet, in 1984 (for the Boston Ballet); and now the richly exotic Unknown Territory,wrote Kriegsman in 1986, not realizing that this work would be Goh’s last.

In 1992, five years after Goh’s death, the Choo San Goh & H. Robert Magee Foundation was formed to provide annual scholarships and grants for new dance works in an effort to further develop choreographic talent. The foundation also oversees the licensing of Goh’s ballets in performances by dance companies throughout the world.

In 1997, the Singapore Dance Theatre commissioned a monograph on Goh entitled Goh Choo San, Master Craftsman in Dance. It contains a detailed overview of Goh’s life in written text and photos of his ballets.  The company also added to their repertoire twelve of Goh’s works, bringing his identity as a Singaporean choreographer back to his homeland.

AIDS Quilt - Lyle Loder 2
December 3, 1987
Hollywood UMC Member Lyle Loder Dies

Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.

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Loder was a key leader in development of an LGBT witness among United Methodists in southern California during the early 1980s, recalls his friend Morris Floyd.

Feeling called to the United Methodist ministry, Loder studied philosophy and religion and served as a student pastorate while at Kansas Wesleyan University in the early 1970s, according to Floyd.  However, Loder chose to not hide his identity, and by the time of his graduation from KWU, the denomination had incorporated into its Discipline the language describing same-sex relationships as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“Lyle’s dream of serving as a United Methodist clergyman was never realized,” writes Floyd in the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.

Instead, Loder would go on to help build a local congregation that would welcome lesbian and gay United Methodists in the Hollywood area.  By 1986, Loder would be an active member of HUMC and he would share with the congregation that he was living with AIDS.

In October 1987, the Health and Welfare Ministries Division of the Board of Global Ministries hosted a consultation conference on AIDS at a hotel near the San Francisco airport.  Loder was invited to help plan the conference and participate in a panel discussion about the needs of people living with AIDS.

“Lyle’s participation on a panel, sharing his story, and in the midst of it, despite everything, his love for God and his refusal to give up on the United Methodist Church,” recalls Floyd.  “He was frail and only a few weeks from death, though he did not know it at the time.  If ever God’s Spirit was present anywhere, it shone in Lyle in those hours.”

On November 29, 1987, the day before his birthday, Loder was admitted to the hospital, where he was visited by his brother.  When Loder died a few days later, many friends came to his hospital room, spread rose petals on his bed, and sang hymns

Memorial services were held at HUMC and again at Loder’s home church in Kansas.  Loder was the first of the HUMC family to die of complications of HIV/AIDS, but he wouldn’t be the last.

A memorial plaque inside the church narthex carries the names of Loder and 34 additional members of the congregation who died in the early years of the pandemic. On World AIDS Day in 1993, members of HUMC fashioned two giant red ribbons and attached them to the tower of the church.  In 1996, more permanent ribbons replaced them and remain today.

Loder’s life is also memorialized by three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of them made by church and community worker Donna Kay Campbell.

December 29, 1987
LGBTQ Political Leader Shelley Andelson Dies

Sheldon “Shelley” Andelson, a leader in the gay community and a fundraiser for such politicians as Sen. Edward Kennedy and Walter Mondale, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 56.

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The founder of the Bank of Los Angeles and a successful lawyer, Andelson raised large sums for liberal politicians at parties in his Bel-Air home and at his restaurant, Trumps.  He served as a Founding Board Member for the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Born in Boyle Heights, Andelson was the first openly gay University of California Regent.  His nomination by Gov. Jerry Brown to the UC Board of Regents was met with a nasty confirmation battle but he ultimately served as a Regent from 1980 to 1986.

The Los Angeles Times called him a “Democratic Party heavyweight, once regarded as the nation’s most influential gay political figure.”  Andelson was instrumental in the 1980 appointment of one of the first openly gay judges in California, Rand Schrader.

Additionally, Andelson was a member of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, director of the ACLU Foundation, and a member of a committee of the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

The Andelson Collection at the UC Santa Barbara Library supports the teaching curriculum and research interests of faculty and students in LGBTQ+ studies across the disciplines.

AIDS Quilt - Joah Lowe
January 6, 1988
San Francisco Dancer-Teacher Joah Lowe Dies

Dancer and dance teacher Joah Lowe dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 34.

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Lowe performed in the San Francisco area and taught dance classes, including one titled, “Lessons in the Art of Flying.”

In 2004, dancer Keith Hennessy was asked to write about Lowe, his first dance teacher.

“Joah taught a weekly class, an introduction to contemporary dance that involved technique and improvisation,” Hennessy writes.  “Joah, thanks a lot.  Thanks for welcoming me, for steering me into the future and away from the past….  You were my first authentically intuitive man.”

The Joah Lowe collection — which includes theater, performance and dance ephemera, performance and dance production notes, and related art and artifacts from Lowe’s work — is stored at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.  The collection includes material collected by Charlie Halloran, a dancer who worked with Lowe and who subsequently died in 1993, also from AIDS-related illness.

January 27, 1988
Ian McKellan Comes Out on U.K. Radio to Oppose Section 28

As news of Section 28 — a new law that prohibits the acceptance of homosexuality in schools and local governmental entities — speads through the LGBTQ+ community, actor Ian McKellan decides to come out on live BBC radio to demonstrate his personal stake in his opposition to the law.

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Broadcast live on this date in 1988, McKellan was interviewed along with Section 28 supporter Peregrine Worsthorne.  Early in the broadcast, the interviewer asks McKellan, “So you would just like to see Clause 28 disappear altogether?”

McKellen responds, “Oh, yes.  I certainly would.  Yes.  I think it’s offensive to anyone who is, like myself, homosexual, apart from the whole business of what can or cannot be taught to children.”

When Section 28 supporter Worsthorne says the clause would not have “any very serious effect on the Arts,” McKellan counters with an example of how homophobia is already impacting the country’s theater landscape.

“You are familiar with the play The Normal Heart, an American play about AIDS in the early days of AIDS in America, which had a huge impact on people’s knowledge of that disease, not just in America but when it was recently seen here in England, at the Royal Court Theatre and in the West End,” McKellan says.

“The Devonshire County Council has recently removed £10,000 from the grant to its local arts centre, because it proposes to do that play,” McKellan argues.  “And it’s in the light of that sort of, we call it, censorship, we call it restriction, we call it too strong expression of opinion, I would have thought, which makes us fear what the effect of this Clause, if it ever happened.”

February 15, 1988
Neighbors Fight to Eject AIDS Hospice from Hollywood

After a long-time Hollywood resident leases his single-family home to a non-profit AIDS hospice, neighbors begin to mobilize to force its closure.

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On this day, Hospice Los Angeles/Long Beach announced the opening of its location on the 1300 block of Ogden neighborhood of Los Angeles, bordering West Hollywood.

Called Hughes House after Shawn Hughes, the first City of West Hollywood employee to die of AIDS, the hospice was one of only two in Los Angeles available exclusively for AIDS patients, although additional AIDS hospices were in the works to open later in 1988 and 1989.  Shawn Hughes’ mother attended the event to show her support of the hospice, along with media representatives and AIDS activists.

Disgruntled neighbors also attended the event, according to the Los Angeles Times, “milling around the fringes of the press conference.”

Opposed to Hughes House opening in their neighborhood and angry with the facility’s plan to care for a total of six AIDS patients in the three-bedroom home, the neighbors provided the Times reporter with a litany of complaints, ranging from alleged zoning violations to the possibility of lowered property values.

“Our problem has nothing to do with AIDS,” one neighbor said. “It has to do with R-1 (single-family zoning) conformity … It’s the same as if somebody put in a body-and-fender shop in your neighborhood.”

Los Angeles City Councilperson Michael Woo, who attended the hospice opening event, would become the target of of much of the residents’ anger.

Woo, however, defended the hospice location, saying he had obtained an opinion from the city attorney’s office stating that hospices could be operated in residential zones as long as they are no larger than six beds.

“A hospice is not a hospital,” Woo told the LA Times. “It is a place where (AIDS patients) can die with respect and dignity.”

LA Times reporter Bob Baker pointed out, “The conflict is symptomatic of why Los Angeles County has so few AIDS hospices, where patients can die in an environment far more sympathetic and less expensive than a hospital.  In addition to a lack of governmental assistance — it was only late last year that the county Board of Supervisors voted to release $1.5 million to support alternative-care AIDS programs — the few existing hospices created with private funds or contributions have been placed in commercial areas or low-income neighborhoods.”

This marked the beginning of a long fight between Hughes House and its neighbors, the latter who would ask the city’s Zoning Board to close down the hospice.  In its first year, Hughes House would provide hospice care to numerous people, including famous television performer Wayland Flowers.

February 20, 1988
20,000 March in Manchester Against U.K.’s Section 28

As the conservative government prepares to enact Section 28 to disenfranchise members of the LGBTQ+ community, 20,000 activists take to the streets of Manchester to protest the law.

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Section 28 targets the teaching of school children, with the bill prohibiting the promotion or “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”  It also banned government funding that supported LGBT events, services and programs.

Paul Fairweather, who worked for Manchester’s city council, recalls how he helped organize for what would become one of the largest LGBTQ+ demonstrations in the country’s history.

“There was a sense that the whole community was under threat,” Fairweather told The Guardian.  “There were also lots of questions about Section 28’s possible impact on gay bars and clubs, as well as concerns about the attitude of the police force.”

Concerns about police hostility deter people from joining the demonstration.  About 20,000 people marched, and the event revitalized Manchester’s LGBTQ+ movement.

March 3, 1988
Teen Ryan White Testifies before President’s Commission on AIDS

Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who has become a national spokesperson for AIDS education, testifies before the President’s Commission on AIDS about the stigma he has endured.

AIDS Quilt - Arnie Zane
March 30, 1988
NYC Choreographer Arnie Zane Dies

Arnie Zane, the co-artistic director of Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Dance Company, a leading postmodernist dance troupe, died of AIDS-related illness at his home in Valley Cottage, New York. He was 39 years old.

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Zane was born in the Bronx and attended public schools in New York City, receiving an undergraduate degree from the State University at Binghamton.  Zane began working with Bill T. Jones in 1971, and they formed the American Dance Asylum with Lois Welk in 1973 in Binghamton, New York.

“They made an unlikely team: Jones is tall and muscular and his dancing expansive, while Zane, short and wiry, leaped about the stage in bursts of nervous energy,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

After touring together in the U.S. and abroad, the two choreographer-dancers formed the Jones-Zane company in 1982 and appeared in that year’s Next Wave festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Through much of the 1980s, the company drew critical acclaim for its stylish, punchy dance that incorporated narrative and text set to music by noted post-modernist composers.  Zane and Jones’ choreography often explored issues such as racism, religion, sexism, and the nuclear age.

Zane held two Creative Artists Public Service Fellowships: for photography in 1973 and for choreography in 1981. He also was awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and 1984.

In 1986, he and Jones were recipients of New York’s Dance Performance Award (the “Bessie”) for their 1985 season.

Following Zane’s death, Jones kept the name of the company the same.  Published in 1990, Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane is a collaboration by the two men, examining their work together.

“The reader of Body Against Body is left to contemplate the toll the disease is taking in the arts community and to reflect on what the premature death of so many young artists means to the performing arts, to their audience and to humanity,” wrote Charles Solomon in the LA Times.

Also in 1990, Jones (who was also diagnosed as HIV-positive) created the now canonical work, D-Man in the Waters, which explored the grief, loss and existential fear shared by many in the dance community at that time.

April 16, 1988
Classical Pianist Youri Egorov Dies

Russian-born pianist Youri Egorov dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Amsterdam at the age of 33.

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Egorov made his mark on the performance of classical music in his own highly individual way.  Between the ages of 6 and 17, he studied music at the Kazan Music School and then studied for six years at the Moscow Conservatory.  In 1976, at the age of 22, Egorov defected from Russia to Amsterdam. applying for asylum just before a concert in Italy.

The year following his defection, Egorov participated in the Cliburn music competition in Fort Forth, Texas and became an audience favorite.  When he was not chosen by judges as a finalist, a group of patrons and Cliburn board members formed an ad-hoc committee to raise money equal to the top prize of $10,000 to further Egorov’s career.

In 1978, Egorov had his New York recital debut in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center at the age of 24, and his career took off.  By the end of the year, Egorov would give a performance at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded live.  The same year, he performed for the Schumann Carnaval, a recital for German TV.

”Mr. Egorov plays in a free, romantic style, and his approach is quite different from that of so many competition winners,” wrote Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times after Egorov’s New York debut.

Egorov’s dramatic style can be heard (and seen) in this abbreviated recording of a concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in June 1979.

In the book Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves compiled by Elyse Mach, Egorov spoke candidly on the topics of rehearsal, pre-concert nervousness, artistic restrictions in Russia, and homosexuality.  In Amsterdam, Egorov met Jan Brouwer, who became his long-term partner.

Although he took an apartment in Manhattan in the late 1970s, and he and Brouwer established a residence in Monte Carlo for tax purposes, Egorov counted Amsterdam as his home throughout his 12 years in the West.

When Egorov died in 1988, he had recordings of several performances awaiting release.  His partner died about four months after Egorov, and both their remains are interred at Driehuis Velsen Crematorium, Noord-Holland, Netherlands.

https://www.youri-egorov.info/desktop/reading_bio1.html

AIDS Quilt - Cruz Luna
April 29, 1988
Flamenco Dancer Cruz Luna Dies

Nationally known flamenco dancer Cruz Luna dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

 

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A native of Spain, Luna learned flamenco dancing in cafes there and studied later in Mexico and Los Angeles. He launched his career at the age of 17 with appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Dave Garroway television shows.

Luna danced in an international tour with the Ballet Nacional of Spain and in a Broadway show titled Ole! Ole!  He moved to San Francisco in 1959 and performed with the Smothers Brothers and Phyllis Diller. From 1960 to 1974, he operated Cafe Madrid in North Beach and presented flamenco dancers from around the world.

He dies at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.

May 24, 1988
U.K. Adopts Section 28, Prohibiting Promotion of Homosexuality

United Kingdom authorities enact Local Government Act of 1988, which became notorious for its inclusion of Section 28.  The vaguely worded law prohibited local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality and funding lesbian and gay initiatives.

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The clause in question prohibited “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Prime Minister, said at the time: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.”

Section 28 arose within a wider social and political landscape that sought to disenfranchise members of the LGBTQ community.  In 1983, 50% of those surveyed agreed that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” were “always wrong.”  By 1987, the figure had risen to 64%, perhaps fuelled by fears associated with the spread of HIV — which was often characterized as “the gay disease.”

One of the original sources of complaint was from someone who objected to Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, a children’s storybook by the Danish author Susanne Bösche and published in England by Gay Men’s Press. The author’s intention was to give children knowledge about different types of family relationships and she seemed stunned by the subsequent uproar in the U.K.

In 1986, the book was discovered in a library of the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority. A National Council for Civil Liberties pamphlet revealed there was only one copy, located in a teachers’ resource centre where access was controlled. Yet an atmosphere of media-stoked paranoia soon arose.

Many LGBT+ people who came of age during the era of Section 28 felt vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse and, because of Section 28, teachers would not step in to protect them.

“School was hard,” said Divina De Campo, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in the 2019 season.  “I got a lot of flak from pretty much everybody in the school. Growing up for everybody was hard, but then you add on being gay and it was just a whole other level.”

Understanding AIDS
May 26, 1988
Surgeon General Launches Nationwide Education Campaign

C. Everett Koop, the U.S. Surgeon General, launches the nation’s first coordinated HIV/AIDS education campaign.  It is the largest public health mailing in history.

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Between May 26 and June 30, 1988, the Centers for Disease Control mail the pamphlet Understanding AIDS to every U.S. household.  Approximately 126 million copies were distributed, reaching at least 60% of the population.

The brochure was produced in Spanish as well as English, and its purpose was 3-fold: to clarify how AIDS is transmitted; to emphasize that behavior, not identification with risk groups, put people at risk; and to stimulate informed discussions about AIDS at all levels of society.

In conjunction with the mailing, the CDC initiated contacts with state health departments and manufacturers of AIDS testing kits.  In anticipation of increased requests for information that the brochure would generate, the CDC added up to 1,000 operators to the National AIDS Information Line.

The impact of the campaign on AIDS-related behavior was not fully assessed.  Extensive message pretesting and other marketing techniques designed to improve the effectiveness of the brochure, however, helped Understanding AIDS achieve an increase in awareness and concern about AIDS nationwide.

During the process of the campaign, the CDC learned a number of lessons, including the importance of setting a deadline, doing formative research, and achieving a consensus on scientific knowledge.

June 6, 1988
AIDS Hospice Ordered to Move from Hollywood Neighborhood

A Los Angeles zoning administrator rules that Hughes House, one of just a few AIDS hospices in the county, is in violation of zoning laws and cannot remain in the neighborhood where it has operated for five months.

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Likening the hospice to a hospital, Chief Zoning Administrator Franklin P. Eberhard ruled that Hughes House is not allowed to operate in the three-bedroom house on the 1300 block of Ogden, a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Previously, Los Angeles building and safety officials said the hospice could operate in its location, because the six-bed facility observes state and city laws which allow up to six unrelated people to share a single-family home.  The city has no zoning code that applies specifically to where hospices can be located.

Hughes House responded by filing an appeal to Eberhard’s decision.  Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles/Long Beach, which runs Hughes House, told the Los Angeles Times that he was confident that they would win their appeal on grounds that Hughes House is not a medical facility.

“We feel that, No. 1, it’s a legal use,” Wolff told the Times. “No. 2, the moral imperative is so overwhelming. There needs to be a place for these people to be cared for in the final stages of life.”

June 22, 1988
Opera Conductor Andrew Meltzer Dies

Andrew Meltzer, resident conductor with the San Francisco Opera, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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At age 39, Meltzer entered a blind test for AZT, but he was one of the participants given a placebo.  He was switched to AZT at age 40, but it was too late.

Meltzer made his West Coast conducting debut with the Spring Opera Theater’s 1974 production of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo.  He made his company debut during the 1982 summer season with The Barber of Seville, and followed up with Cosi fan Tutte in the summer of 1983, La Gioconda during the 1983 fall season and Die Fledermaus in 1984.

His conducting credits with other companies include productions for Michigan Opera Theater, Edmonton Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Spoleto Festival USA.  He was a rising star.

June 28, 1988
German Actor Kurt Raab Dies

Kurt Raab, best remembered for his work with German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, dies of AIDS-related illness in Hamburg at the age of 46.

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Born in 1941 in the Bohemian town of Bergreichenstein (now part of the Czek Republic), Raab started life as the son of a farm hand.  While attending high school at Straubing, he would befriend Peer Raben, the future composer for many Fassbinder films, and the two would move to Munich together.

Raab would play his first role in Raben’s staging of Antigone, where they both would meet Fassbinder.  In 1969, Raab would play the lead role in Fassbinder’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and then go on to perform in numerous other Fassbinder films and TV productions.

Raab is considered one of the most versatile members of Fassbinder’s stock company, and he would work on more than 30 of the director’s films, on and behind the screen.

Before he died, he worked to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Germany. In 1987, he discussed his illness in Herbert Achternbusch’s Wohin?, a film about AIDS hysteria. Shortly before his death in 1988, he made Mitten im Leben, a documentary about AIDS, for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen.

Raab’s tragic death in 1988 played out publicly and painfully in Germany, where understanding of the illness was poor at best.

The actor was practically quarantined in the Hamburg Tropical Institute, and following his death, his body was frefused burial in Steinbeißen, the Bavarian town where his family had settled in 1945.

His body would be shipped to Hamburg, where he would be buried in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery.

Raab’s last days were recorded for Yearning for Sodom, which he codirected with Hanno Baethe and his former Fassbinder colleague Hirschmüller, and for which Raab would be posthumously awarded the Adolf Grimme Award.

AIDS Quilt - Anthony Holland
July 9, 1988
Stage & Film Actor Anthony Holland Dies

Actor Anthony Holland, whose health was declining due to infection with HIV, commits suicide in his Manhattan apartment; he was 60 years old.

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A graduate of the University of Chicago, Holland had been a member of the original Second City comedy troupe, where he met Joan Rivers, with whom he remained friends until his death.

He made his Broadway debut in 1963 in Lillian Hellman’s comedy My Mother, My Father and Me. His half-dozen subsequent Broadway roles included Division Street and We Bombed in New Haven. He appeared in many regional-theater productions, as well as Off Broadway productions of Brendan Behan’s ‘Quare Fellow, Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

He gave one of his best performances in The Hunger Artist, Martha Clarke’s 1987 adaptation of several stories by Franz Kafka.

“His soft voice, unpretentiously conversational in tone yet mesmerizingly grave, could be Kafka’s,” Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times.

In 1979, he gives a standout performance in the film All That Jazz as Broadway songwriter Paul Dann, and appears in scores of other films between 1964-1986.

Holland took his own life just as he was entering the final stages of the disease “in what can only be called an act of sheer bravado,” writes friend David Ehrenstein.  He had saved enough medication to facilitate a lethal overdoes.

“Tony had elected to make his exit on a day when he was in a good mood,” Ehrenstein recalled.  “He was in New York at that time and friends recall seeing him around town at his usual haunts in high spirits.

Holland had left instructions for the paramedics and even rubber gloves in case they were concerned about handling an “AIDS corpse.”

July 23, 1988
FDA Approves Importation of Experimental Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will allow the importation of small quantities of unapproved drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS.

August 1, 1988
San Francisco Actor Tommy Pace Dies

Tommy Pace, a member of the pioneering Gay Men’s Theater Collective, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.  Pace was known locally as a brilliant comic actor with the Angels of Light.

August 1, 1988
U.S. Announces Pediatric AIDS Service Grants

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awards $4.4 million in grants to 11 states and Puerto Rico for the first pediatric AIDS service demonstration projects.

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The HRSA-funded projects are expected to demonstrate effective ways to:

  • reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV;
  • develop coordinated, community-based, and family-centered services for infants and children living with HIV; and
  • develop programs to reduce the spread of HIV to vulnerable populations of young people.
AIDS Quilt - Jesse Hollis
August 6, 1988
Bay Area Theater Designer Jesse Hollis Dies

Jesse Hollis, the resident set designer at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.  Hollis’ designs were seen at theater and opera companies throughout the country, including Berkeley Rep, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Magic Theatre.

August 9, 1988
Needle-Exchange Program Begins in Tacoma

On a sidewalk in Tacoma, Washington, drug counselor David Purchase sets up the nation’s first needle-exchange program to combat the spread of HIV .

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Although secures support from the Tacoma mayor and police chief for his one-man effort, Purchase must pay out-of-pocket for the needles.

Within five months, he would exchange 13,000 clean needles for contaminated ones.

Purchase would go on to form the North American Syringe Exchange Network, and become known as the “Godfather of Needle Exchange.”

AIDS Quilt - Angels of Light
August 15, 1988
Angels of Light Founder Rodney Price Dies

Rodney Price, co-founder of the wildly creative Angels of Light performance troupe in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Price may be best remembered for his final performance, singing and tap dancing in his wheelchair in the film short Song From an Angel.  Made two weeks prior to his death, Price performs a darkly humorous song about his own death, “I’ve Got Less Time Than You.”

No Place Like Home
August 16, 1988
Los Angeles Zoning Board Decides AIDS Hospice Can Stay

Reversing a decision by the City of Los Angeles’ zoning administrator, the zoning board voted to allow Hughes House to remain at its location in a Hollywood residential neighborhood.

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Following the zoning board’s decision, supporters of the hospice declared the ruling a victory for the rights of the terminally ill.  Many of them wore pink buttons bearing the words “There’s no place like home.”

Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles-Long Beach, the nonprofit group that runs Hughes House, said the hospice acts as a surrogate family for dying patients during the last three or four weeks of their lives.

The ruling of the zoning board ended a months-long attempt by residents to remove the hospice from their neighborhood.

Area residents filed complaints with the city, accusing Hughes House of operating a medical facility.  In response, city inspectors visited the hospice three times and concluded that the facility was not violating zoning laws.

Then neighbors began to keep detailed logs of activity at Hughes House, according to the Los Angeles Times, and they reported to the city every occasion they observed of medical supply trucks making deliveries and new patients arriving.  In June 1988, the chief zoning administrator sided with the neighbors, agreeing with their portrayal of the hospice as a medical facility, and ruled that Hughes House could not continue to operate in its location.

In the end, however, the zoning board found the residents’ complaints to be lacking in substance when compared to the needs of the people staying — and dying — at Hughes House.  Ultimately, members of the zoning board were won over by the fact that Hughes House was providing a service — care for those dying of AIDS — that sadly was much in demand and that few other organizations in Los Angeles could provide.

AIDS Quilt - Leonard Frey
August 24, 1988
‘Boys in the Band’ Actor Leonard Frey Dies

Leonard Frey, an actor admired for his vivid and often flamboyant performances, dies of AIDS-related illness at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 49.

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In 1968, Frey received critical acclaim for his performance as Harold, a bitter, bitchy, gay man who dreads his upcoming birthday, in off-Broadway’s The Boys in the Band.  He, along with the rest of the original cast, appeared in the 1970 film version, directed by William Friedkin, as well.

Frey was nominated for a 1975 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in The National Health. For his role in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, Frey earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Motel the tailor.

Frey also had a number of screen credits to his name, including films The Magic ChristianWhere the Buffalo Roam and Tattoo and the television series’ Mission ImpossibleQuincy, M.E. and Barney Miller.

 

August 27, 1988
‘Father of West Hollywood’ Ron Stone Dies

Ronald L. Stone, the major architect of the incorporation campaign that made a city out of the community of West Hollywood in 1984, dies at his home of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Stone was instrumental in turning the 1.9-square-mile wedge of unincorporated Los Angeles County into the first American city to be governed by a gay majority.

“Without him it wouldn’t have happened,” said John Heilman, then-Councilmember of the new city.

Compelled by a vision of open, local government, Stone saw cityhood as the means by which West Hollywood’s 36,000 residents — most of them renters, many of them gay or elderly — could shape key community issues such as zoning, rent control and anti-discrimination laws.

“He was really concerned about having local control over zoning and planning,” Heilman told the Los Angeles Times.

In his 2014 article about the founding of West Hollywood, former WeHoville editor Henry E. Scott,  wrote:  “It was the construction of a hotel in his neighborhood in 1983, and a county decision to limit the hours at the pool at West Hollywood Park, that prompted Ron Stone, then 37, to take a look at the impact of development and the county’s governance on the area.”

Early on, Stone won the support of an influential renters rights activist, Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival. A major goal of CES was strengthening renter rights so that people could access and keep affordable housing.

In 1983, Gross was assessing the aftermath of CES’s losing campaign to introduce a rent control ordinance in Los Angeles County.  The ballot measure failed to capture the majority of votes, most likely because many of the county’s residents were homeowners, landlords and developers.  In West Hollywood, however, the ballot measure passed by a five-to-one majority.

Through its work on the county rent control initiative, CES had assembled a large base of supporters in West Hollywood.  Gross and Stone organized canvassers to circulate petitions proposing that West Hollywood become its own city – and one out of every four registered voters signed on.  With that petition and economic data, the newly formed West Hollywood Incorporation Committee won the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which assessed the feasibility of West Hollywood as its own city.

Stone also secured the support of the Stonewall Democratic Club and the Harvey Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club, both of which created excitement about the prospect of a city run by LGBTQ officials.  But what ultimately united individuals and groups from a variety of backgrounds — seniors on limited incomes, renters, and gay and lesbian residents concerned about discrimination — was the city’s soaring rents and the lack of any effective way to regulate them.

The Board of Supervisors, which at that time consisted of conversative officials, agreed to put cityhood on the Novemer 1984 ballot.  Immediately, 44 people announced their candidacy for five seats on the West Hollywood City Council.  While 19 of the candidates were gay or lesbian, all of the candidates stated they supported gay rights and rent control of some sort.

Meanwhile, local landlords and developers began to mobilize in opposition of cityhood.  One early opponent was Francis J. Montgomery, a local landowner whose family still manages the Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood.  Montgomery funded a campaign to try to convince the area’s seniors that cityhood would give LGBT people undue influence.  That strategy failed.

Then Montgomery and other landlords and developers formed the West Hollywood Concerned Citizens coalition, and appealed to LA County officials to create a special rent control district for the West Hollywood area.  The coalition hoped that the conservative-leaning officials would create rent-control policies that would be weaker than those a new City Council might adopt.  That effort also failed.

In the November 1984 election, a majority of residents voted to make their unincorporated area the 84th city in Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the new city was “heralded worldwide as creating ‘A Gay Camelot’ — the first openly gay-run city in the nation.”

Almost immediately, the city’s newly elected officials and newly hired staff launched programs for a wide range of services for its residents.  Among the new programs were services providing hot meals, healthcare, low-cost housing, taxi coupons for senior citizens, early childhood education, and even pet care for people with AIDS.  The Metropolitan Community Church, a gay and lesbian faith organization with a worldwide membership of 42,000, moved its headquarters from Culver City to West Hollywood to “be part of this community.”

After the cityhood victory, Ron Stone ran twice for City Council and lost both times.  But he remained active in civic affairs, offering advice behind the scenes, attending council meetings and serving on committees.

In 1987, just as the city was beginning to thrive, Stone’s health began to decline.  After his death, he would be publicly lauded as “the father of West Hollywood.”

AIDS Quilt - David Anthony Keith
September 22, 1988
Concert Pianist David Anthony Keith Dies

David Anthony Keith, Bay Area concert pianist, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

AIDS Quilt - Wayland Flowers
October 11, 1988
Entertainer Wayland Flowers Dies

Wayland Flowers, best known for creating and voicing the sassy puppet Madame, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

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Wayland Flowers was one of the first openly gay entertainers to find acceptance in mainstream America.

“In an era when even Paul Lynde was still in the closet, Flowers hid nothing,” says Kevin Phinney in his article “This is How Wayland Flowers and Madame Made the ’80s so Gay” in MetroSource.

After refining his act, Flowers’ made a national splash on The Andy Williams Show. From there, Flowers became a regular presence on network TV — although it was not unusual for Madame to get more closeups.

He is best known for the TV series Madame’s Place (1982) and The Hollywood Squares, and also performed in scores of live shows.

Other puppets populated Flowers’ act, but none earned Madame’s notoriety. Among them were a Harlem harlot known as Jiffy, a cranky vaudeville vet named Macklehoney and Crazy Mary, a Bellevue mental hospital escapee.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, Flowers was diagnosed with HIV.  He continued to perform until he collapsed onstage during a show at Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas.  Eventually, he developed Kaposi’s sarcoma.  He made one last visit to his home town in Georgia and then checked into an AIDS treatment facility, the Hughes House hospice center in Los Angeles, where he remained until his death.

October 11, 1988
ACT UP Shuts Down FDA Headquarters in Rockville, MD

Over 1,000 members and supporters of the activist group ACT UP engage in a massive sit-in that shuts down the Rockville, MD offices of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA is targeted for refusing to release HIV/AIDS medications until tests prove them to be safe and effective.

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Arguing that the FDA’s approval process is too slow and that patients dying of AIDS have little to lose by trying experimental medications, ACT UP brings hundreds of its members to the Washington, D.C. area to demonstrate.  They manage to stop business as usual for the day, with ACT UP graphics and banners covering the building’s facade.

“Our takeover of the FDA was unquestionably the most significant demonstration of the AIDS activist movement’s first two years,” organizer Douglas Crimp writes in The Atlantic.

In advance of the event, ACT UP groups across the country conduct teach-ins to provide members with knowledge of complicated issues related to HIV/AIDS treatment.

ACT UP then shares this information, along with their demands to the FDA, with the press in the days leading up to the demonstration.

“The FDA action was ‘sold’ in advance to the media almost like a Hollywood movie,” Crimp writes, “with a carefully prepared and presented press kit, hundreds of phone calls to members of the press, and activists’ appearances scheduled on television and radio talk shows around the country.”

On the day of the FDA demonstration, the media shows up in force to get the story and, due to the advance preparation by ACT UP, reporters are able to report it with a degree of accuracy and sympathy.

ACT UP groups from around the country engage all day in skirmishes with the Rockville police, who apparently are ordered to keep the number of arrests low to minimize media drama.

Protesters push at police lines outside the 20-story building, shouting, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “No more deaths!” as curious workers stare down from windows.

When protesters attempt to enter the building, they are forcibly restrained but not arrested.  Even so, police ultimately arrest 176 protestors, most on loitering charges

Eight days later, the FDA announces new regulations to speed up the process.  In addition, government agencies addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly the FDA and NIH, began to listen to activist leaders and ask for their input.

October 18, 1988
U.S. Passes Abandoned Infants Assistance Act

The Abandoned Infants Assistance Act becomes law, addressing the issue of so-called “boarder babies.”  These infants, many of whom have been perinatally exposed to drugs or HIV, have been either been orphaned or left at hospitals indefinitely by their parents.

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The AIA funds projects to support moving the children into foster care or other more traditional living arrangements.

AIDS Quilt - Peter Childers
October 25, 1988
San Francisco Ballet Dancer Peter Childers Dies

Dancer Peter Childers, who performed with the San Francisco Opera Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

November 4, 1988
President Reagan Signs Comprehensive HOPE Act

President Ronald Reagan signs the Health Omnibus Programs Extension (HOPE) Act into law, authorizing the use of federal funds for AIDS prevention, education, and testing.

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As the first comprehensive federal AIDS bill, it establishes the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

November 7, 1988
NYC Pilots Controversial Needle-Exchange Program

The New York City Health Department begins a pilot needle-exchange program to address the growing number of HIV infections among people who inject drugs

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The program is opposed by many of the city’s black and latinx leaders, who see it as an abandonment of IV-drug-using people of color.

The leaders demand a more comprehensive approach to the issue, proposing more resources for drug-prevention education, addiction treatment, and law enforcement.

November 11, 1988
Punk Vocalist John Morris (aka Black Randy) Dies

John Morris, frontman of the Los Angeles punk band Black Randy and The Metrosquad, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 36.

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The band imploded in mid-1982, when Black Randy succumbed to drug and alcohol problems, which were evident in chaotic live shows which even bandmate David Brown could not keep on course, as hard as he tried.
In 2007, Black Randy would be portrayed by Chris Pontius in the Darby Crash biopic What We Do Is Secret.
November 28, 1988
Elizabeth Glaser Launches Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Elizabeth Glaser, an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-positive children, forms the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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The Foundation funds cutting-edge research that leads to improved treatments for children living with HIV/AIDS and helps to establish protocols to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Elizabeth Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She and her husband, Paul Glaser (who starred in the 1970s television series, Starsky & Hutch), later learned that Elizabeth had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that their son, Jake, had contracted the virus in utero.

The Glasers discovered that the only HIV treatment drugs on the market were for adults; nothing had been developed for children.

After Ariel lost her life to AIDS in 1988, Elizabeth approached her friends Susie Zeegen and Susan DeLaurentis for help in creating the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Elizabeth would die of AIDS-related illness in 1994, and and to honor her legacy, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation would be renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Under this name, the Foundation would become the leading global nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs.

Elizabeth’s legacy would live on with the Foundation and in her son, Jake, who is a healthy adult and  pediatric AIDS advocate.

 

World AIDS Day 3 (2)
December 1, 1988
Initial World AIDS Day is Observed

December 1st is designated by the World Health Organization as “World AIDS Day.”

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Supported by the United Nations, World AIDS Day is observed for the first time with the theme “Join the Worldwide Effort.”  Today, World AIDS Day continues to be observed.

In 2020, there was a reported 37.6 million people across the globe with HIV.  Of these, 35.9 million were adults and 1.7 million were children.

An estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide would acquire HIV in 2020.  This marks a significant decline (30%) in new HIV infections since 2010, but there is still much work to do.

AIDS Quilt - Timothy Patrick Murphy
December 6, 1988
Actor Timothy Patrick Murphy Dies

Timothy Patrick Murphy, best known for this role on the prime-time soap opera Dallas during the 1982-83 season, dies of AIDS-related illness in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 29.

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On Dallas, Murphy played the part of “Mickey Trotter.”  He started his acting career as an adolescent in several television commercials and from there he went on to act in a mini-series called Centennial.

He soon would land more substantial work, including a part in the 1984 inspirational feature film Sam’s Son, the film biography of the life of actor Michael Landon.

Volunteer caregiver Brian Smith recalls visiting with Murphy in 1988 at the Sherman Oaks Medical Center in California.

Smith and Murphy had met in the summer of 1984, and they would talk about “the old times.”

“Sometimes, we would just sit quietly, holding hands, nothing needed to be said,” Smith recalled.  “I was blessed with good timing; Tim rarely had other visitors when I was there.  Even as his health deteriorated, he kept his winning smile and personality.”

On December 6, 1988, Smith would arrive at the hospital to visit his friend and be informed by “a teary-eyed nursing staff” that Murphy had died that day.

On September 11, 2001, Murphy’s younger brother, Patrick Sean Murphy, would be killed in the World Trade Center attacks.

December 12, 1988
Gay GOP Activist Duke Armstrong Dies

Duke Armstrong, a lawyer, leather man and Republican Party activist in the Bay Area, dies of AIDS-related illness at Davies Medical Center at the age of 39.

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Armstrong was president of the Concerned Republicans for Individual Rights (which later became the Log Cabin Republicans) and worked to bridge differences between the GOP and San Francisco’s gay community.

As someone known for prioritizing gay rights above party politics, Armstrong was a well-liked activist even in a locale known as a Democratic Party stronghold.  In 1986, Armstrong was elected “Mr. CMC Carnaval” at the Folsom neighborhood street fair.  He was a member of the local leather scene, as was his partner Jerry Roberts.

When the City of San Francisco began to take actions toward closing bathhouses, Armstrong teamed with Thomas H. Steel, a prominent civil rights lawyer, to represent San Francisco bathhouse owners who organized against regulation in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  Steel would die on July 18, 1998 of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

Earlier in 1988, Armstrong was presented with a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  He had also been honored by the Golden Gate Business Association and had received several Cable Car Awards for his community service.

AIDS Quilt - Sylvester
December 16, 1988
Singer-Performer Sylvester Dies

Singer Sylvester dies of AIDS-related illness at age 41.  Born Sylvester James, Jr., the black performer is known internationally as “the Queen of Disco.”

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Famous for his song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” Sylvester is the lead singer and co-creator of one of the all-time top LGBTQ anthems.

Born in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, Sylvester had been a member of the ’60s group the Disquotays — which was “somewhere between a street gang and a sorority house,” as one former member puts it.

He moved to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22 and joined the Cockettes, a “cross-dressing hippy performance art troupe,” and sang blues and jazz standards in his gospel-trained voice in solo segments of the show, writes Alexis Petrides in The Guardian.  In the early 70s, he made a bid for mainstream success fronting the Hot Band.

“But the U.S. wasn’t ready for an androgynous black man doing covers of Neil Young songs and A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Petrides writes.  “Band members were threatened with violence when they toured in southern states.”

Sylvester’s career was beginning to take hold in 1978, when “Mighty Real” is released on his second solo album and then later as a single.  When the song catches fire, he would travel to London to perform to packed clubs and be mobbed by fans.  Sylvester would release another 12 albums, many of them featuring top hits and nightclub mainstays.  An album containing Sylvester’s final studio recordings, titled Immortal, woud be posthumously released.

Devastated when his partner, Rick Cranmer, died of AIDS-related illness in September 1987, Sylvester suspected then that he was HIV-positive but declined to be tested.

As a persistent cough begins to develop into more serious symptoms, Sylvester is unable to tour but continues performing for fans in the Bay Area.  Eventually diagnosed with AIDS, he is hospitalized in May 1988 with pneumocystis pneumonia.

Later in the year, Sylvester attends the Castro’s 1988 Gay Freedom Parade in a wheelchair, joining those marching with the “People With AIDS” banner.  Passing crowds along Market Street, Sylvester could hear his name shouted out again and again.  He continues to give interviews to the media, seeking to raise awareness about the pandemic’s impact on the black community.

A month later, Sylvester would die in his home at the age of 41.  He had planned his own funeral down to the details of how he would be dressed (in a red kimono), how his body would be displayed (in an open coffin), and where the service would be held (in his church, the Love Center, with a sermon by the Reverend Walter Hawkins).

Sylvester’s legacy is such that in 2018, the prestigious University of Sussex in England would host an interdisciplinary academic conference on disco and Sylvester’s contribution to the genre.

AIDS Quilt - Max Robinson
December 20, 1988
TV News Anchor Max Robinson Dies

Max Robinson, the first African-American network news anchor in the U.S., and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 49.

Chris Brownlie hospice
December 26, 1988
Chris Brownlie Hospice Opens in Los Angeles

The first AIDS hospice in California opens in Elysian Park in Los Angeles, down the street from Dodger Stadium.

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Furnished with 25 beds, the AIDS Hospice Foundation (which was renamed Chris Brownlie Hospice) opened its doors the day after Christmas to provide 24-hour medical and palliative care to people living through the final stages of AIDS.

From 1988 to 1996, thousands of people suffering through the final stages of AIDS were cared for with dignity and compassion at Chris Brownlie Hospice.  The facility was founded on the idea that, if people were going to pass away as a result of AIDS, they should at least have the opportunity for their lives to end as painlessly and with as much dignity as humanly possible.

Located in a former nursing quarters, the hospice was the brainchild of the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee, founded in 1987 by activists Chris Brownlie and Michael Weinstein as well as Sharon Raphael, PhD, and Mina Meyer, MA, two nationally-recognized women’s and gay & lesbian advocates.

A front-door sign reads, “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Straight, Women, Men, Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Young and Old.  All Are Welcome Here.”

On Saturday, January 26, 1996, the organization would return the property to the City of Los Angeles with a sunset memorial ceremony celebrating the years of hope and help the hospice gave to thousands of brave people battling AIDS.  By 1996, the world of AIDS would be changed; new antiretroviral treatment would mean an HIV-positive diagnosis signified a change in one’s life, not the end of it.

During the ceremony, the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus performed in memory of the hundreds who died there, including 140 chorus members.  As the sun set, seven balloons — one for each year the hospice was in operation — were released.

AIDS Quilt - Joseph Beam
December 27, 1988
Activist-Author Joseph Beam Dies

Gay rights activist and writer Joseph Beam dies of AIDS-related illness three days before his 34th birthday. He is best known for editing In the Life, the first collection of writings by gay black men on the impact of HIV/AIDS on their community.

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Today, In the Life is widely regarded as a literary and cultural milestone in gay literature.

A native of Philadelphia, Beam attended Franklin College in Indiana, where he studied journalism and was an active member of the black student union and the Black Power movement.

After earning a his master’s degree in communications, Beam returned to Philadelphia in 1979, and explored literature on gay figures and institutions while working at Giovanni’s Room, an LGBT bookstore.  Discouraged by the lack of community for black gay men and lesbians, Beam began writing articles and short stories for gay publications.

In 1984, he received an award for outstanding achievement by a minority journalist from The Lesbian and Gay Press Association.  In 1985, he became the first editor of Black/Out, a journal produced by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays.

Beam would continue to collect materials about being black and gay and find ways to increase their reach. In 1986, he produced the first collection written by black gay men, called In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology.

Beam dies from AIDS-related complications at the age of 33 while compiling the sequel, “Brother to Brother.”  His mother, Dorothy Beam, and poet Essex Hemphill would go on to complete the work and it is published in 1991.

January 2, 1989
California Legislature Enacts Laws to Criminalize HIV

Eight AIDS bills signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian during 1988 take effect in California, including three that criminalize HIV and one that weakens rules around doctor-patient confidentiality.

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The legislation, proposed by anti-gay Republican Sen. John Doolittle, include:

  • Penalties — SB 1007, which adds three years to prison sentences of those convicted of some sex crimes if they know they are HIV-positive when they commit the crime;
  • Prostitutes—SB 1007, which makes it a felony for a prostitute to continue working after knowing he or she has been exposed to the AIDS virus; and
  • Donors—SB 1002, which makes it a felony to donate blood, semen, breast milk or body organs to another person if the donor knows that he or she is infected with the AIDS virus.

Also going into effect is Democratic Sen. Gary K. Hart’s bill, SB 2847, which allows physicians to tell other medical personnel if a patient has AIDS so they can protect themselves.

January 3, 1989
APLA Adopts Austerity Program

Three months after the head of AIDS Project Los Angeles quits amid a cash shortage and staff revolt, the organization adopts an austerity program that appears to be working.

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Internal conflicts  continue as increasing numbers of people from locations countywide ask the organization for help.  At base of the conflict is its mission, which started as a compassionate care program funded by and for white gay men in the Hollywood area.  In recent years, APLA finds itself besieged with requests of help from county residents outside the area, including many people of color and heterosexuals.

“We can no longer be all things to all people,” says APLA’s interim Chief Executive Frank Paradise.

Torie Osborn, Executive Director of the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center), says that APLA’s early success led its leaders to believe they could take on anything.

“They set themselves apart,” Osborn tells the LA Times.  “Their attitude was ‘we’re the biggest and we’re the best.’  They grew isolated from the community from which they sprang.”

APLA was founded in 1982 and emerged as a pioneer in providing services to people with AIDS at a time when the government provided no support.  What began as four volunteers in a living room grew into an organization with a food bank, dental clinic, a 14-bed shelter (“Our House”), a transportation program, a hotline, an educational program and a system of case management.

With a budget of $8.2 million, APLA continues to operate as a volunteer-based organization with paid leadership.  The organization is still adjusting from recent moves to replace several of its key paid positions and search for a new executive director.

January 4, 1989
LA Center Resurrects HIV Testing Program

The LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center) finds an insurance carrier willing to cover HIV testing and other AIDS-related services at its Edelman Health Center.

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The clinic was forced to shut down in December 1988 when Boston-based Lexington Insurance Co. pulled its coverage.

January 10, 1989
LA County Prohibits Discrimination against People with HIV/AIDS

On a 3-2 vote, the LA County Board of Supervisors tentatively approves an ordinance prohibiting employers, landlords, schools and businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas from discrimination based on AIDS.

January 16, 1989
‘Ryan White Story’ Captivates TV Audiences

ABC’sThe Ryan White Story,” based on the true story of a 13-year-old hemophiliac from Indiana who contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion, airs nationwide to an audience of 15 million.

Learn More.

The TV drama depicts a young Ryan White (portrayed by Lukas Haas) fighting back after being barred from attending school due to his AIDS diagnosis.

With Judith Light starring as single mother Jeanne White, the show has a significant impact on how the public perceives issues around HIV/AIDS.

Ryan White is featured in a cameo as another hemophiliac with AIDS.

January 21, 1989
Protesters Hold Weeklong Vigil at LA County Medical Center

About 150 protesters hold a weeklong vigil in front of Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, which hospitalizes an average of 50-60 persons with AIDS at any given time and has a reported caseload of 6,240 PWAs.

Learn More.

Demontrators blast the facility’s inadequate care and treatment of PWAs, including misdiagnosis, miscalculated prescriptions, and insufficent capacity.

Demanding that the center create a 50-bed AIDS ward within six months, the activists stage a mock AIDS ward with cots and a soup kitchen, and then hold candlelight vigils at sunset.

In response, an aide to LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich tells the Los Angeles Times that the County does not have enough money for expanded AIDS services.

On the seventh day of the protest, LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents West Hollywood and the Westside’s Third District, would come to the event and demand that the County begin to provide “necessary care” for people with AIDS.

Calling the revelation that LA County has more than $8 million of unspent AIDS funding “intolerable,” Supervisor Edelman promises to meet with ACT UP/LA and county officials.

“We can’t afford to keep the status quo,” he says.

But when he’s jeered by some in the crowd, he says, “It’s not just up to me,” and abruptly leaves.

January 21, 1989
NYT Fashion Columnist John Duka Dies

John Duka, a journalist who wrote with humor and grace about fashion and style, dies of AIDS-related illness in his Manhattan home at the age of 39.

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According to his wife, Kezia, Duka died of complications stemming from major abdominal surgery in November 1988.  He was diagnosed with AIDS the previous year, she said.

Duka began his journalism career in the research department of Esquire magazine. He also worked for Simon and Schuster, Home Furnishings Daily and New York magazine before becoming a columnist at The New York Times.

As a NYT style reporter from 1979 to 1985, he brought a sharp eye and a leveling wit to the world of fashion.  His weekly column, “Notes on Fashion,” documented the parallel rise of downtown chic and uptown hauteur, as well as the grand presentations of Paris and Milan.  He treated fashion as ”an international sport,” from the punk parade on London’s King’s Road to the retro chic of Republican Washington.

A May 1984 column began: ”One of the requisite skills for sitting at a fashion show is being able to roll your eyes, talk to the person behind you, chew mints and say, ‘Yves Saint Laurent did it better years ago’ all at once.”

Ruth La Ferla, fashion reporter for The New York Times, recalled:  “The son of a Greek waiter, he had, in the course of a two-decade career as a reporter, ad man and public relations guru, fashioned a character, a wry, roguish admixture of Cary Grant and the Duke of Windsor.  He was the devil in pinstripes, peppering his columns with the lacerating barbs and dishy mots that made them a must-read for the glitter set.”

Duka left The Times in 1985 to become a founding partner at Keeble Cavaco & Duka, a public relations and advertising agency specializing in life style and fashion.  He continued to write for magazines like Vanity Fair, Elle and Interview.  He wrote a column, ”Duka’s Diary,” for HG magazine and later became a contributing editor of Vogue.

It has been speculated that the character of Felix Turner in Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart was inspired by Duka, who knew Kramer.

“Larry never said to me, ‘This play is about John Duka,’ but some people did,” said Richard Kornberg, the publicist for the original Public Theater production in 1985.  “And some of us just thought it.”

La Ferla, Duka’s former colleague at The Times, observed, “He retained a capacity for self-deprecation — much like Felix in the play.”

Just as in The Normal Heart, as Felix lies dying, he quips, “I should be wearing something white …  It should be something Perry Ellis ran up for me personally.”

1989
Activist Michael Callen Defends Accusations with Proof

AIDS activist Michael Callen publishes in the People With AIDS Coalition Newsline a letter from his physician, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, and his pathology report of his Kaposi’s sarcoma diagnosis.

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“There are easier ways to meet Liz Taylor then by pretending you have the most stigmatized disease of this century,” Callen would tell the Los Angeles Times in a month later.

In an attempt to counter accusations of “faking AIDS” because he appears healthy almost seven years after he was diagnosed with AIDS, Callen puts the rumors to rest by publishing the pathology report of  his Kaposi’s sarcoma diagnosis.

The LA Times article notes that Callen’s long-term survival isn’t unusual, citing a 1987 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine which finds that 20.7% of “non-IV-drug using gay men with AIDS” are still alive four years after diagnosis.

This is one of many indications surfacing that living long-term with AIDS is possible.

February 2, 1989
ACT UP Protests FDA Protocols for DHPG, Forcing Policy Reversal

ACT UP protests the FDA’s new protocols for the drug DHPG (Gancyclovir) that would deny many current DHPG users from continuing to access the drug.

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The action results in the FDA granting access to DHPG under “compassionate use” while the agency reconsiders its methods.

The next day, the FDA would formally authorize pre-approval distribution of aerosolized pentamidine for the prevention of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), conceding to the demands of AIDS activist Michael Callen and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend.

February 7, 1989
Senate Hearings Examine Governmental Response to HIV/AIDS

Sen. Ted Kennedy, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, holds a series of five oversight hearings to examine how the federal government is combating AIDS.

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Education, care, and drug development for HIV/AIDS are key areas of focus of the hearings.

The FDA, CDC, HERSA and Samuel Thier, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, all testify.

AIDS Quilt - James Tyler
February 10, 1989
Dancer-Choreographer James Tyler Dies

Dancer, singer and choreographer James Tyler — who soloed with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and the Arnie Zane Company — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.  Tyler also co-founded the men’s dance company Mangrove, and worked with Blake Street Hawkeyes and Ruth Zaporah.

February 13, 1989
Op-ed by ACT UP Exposes LA County Healthcare Failures

The Los Angeles Times publishes “Fumbling on AIDS Causes Waste, Suffering,” an op-ed by ACT UP Los Angeles members Peter Cashman, John Fall, and Enric Morello about the devistating failures of the LA County healthcare system.

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“Who’s in charge here? Nobody, it seems,” they write. “Since the epidemic began nine years ago, the county’s only major organized response has been to open an outpatient clinic, which has proved grossly inadequate.”

People needing an initial visit must schedule it eight weeks in advance, the activists contend.

They continue: “People with temperatures of 103 or higher sit for hours on hard wooden benches waiting for help.  Some receive chemotherapy in crowded hallways, vomiting in bags.  Others in the same hallways, stripped to the waist, have IVs hooked to their arms.”

The activists express anger about LA County’s failure to put to use $8.6 million in AIDS funding, saying, “services go unprovided, facilities unrehabilitated, staff unrecruited and more patients continue to suffer and die needlessly.”

In the op-ed, Cashman, Fall, and Morello show compassion for the hard-working county healthcare staff, crediting them with being “caring” and doing their best amid “poor conditions.”

February 20, 1989
Doctor Skirts NIH Delay in PCP Treatment Protocol

When a CDC statistician tells AIDS activist Michael Callen that 30,534 Americans have died of AIDS-associated Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), Callen’s physician responds with information indicating that many of these deaths could have been prevented with existing (but “unapproved”) treatment.

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Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, Callen’s doctor, would later write about treatment to prevent PCP with “a drug that had been known to prevent this kind of pneumonia since 1977.”

The doctor would blame NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci for the delay in this treatment being available on a widespread basis, saying that Dr. Fauci “wanted data from a clinical trial of Bactrim for PCP prophylaxis in AIDS before he would recommend its use.”

Dr. Sonnabend says he refuses to wait for the NIH to collect data and reach its conclusions, revealing that he is already prescribing Bactrim (also known as Septra, Septrin or co-trimoxazole) and Dapsone to patients he routinely deems to be at risk for PCP, with positive results in his patients.

Years later, looking back at this time, Dr. Sonnabend would write:  “People were dying of PCP at a terrifying rate; I and some other physicians could not wait for these recommendations.”

February 26, 1989
Madonna & Sanda Bernhard Join Dancefloor at APLA Fundraiser

Wearing sunglasses, a black jacket, a white tee shirt adorned with a huge cross, and denim shorts, iconic performer Madonna dances with the crowd and lesbian friend Sandra Bernhard at AIDS Project LA’s Dance-A-Thon at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

February 28, 1989
Pediatric Cases Grow to 1,440, with Blacks and Hispanics at 76%

The CDC identifies 1,440 AIDS cases among children under 13 years old, of whom 800 have died. Nearly 76% of the pediatric AIDS cases are black and Hispanic.

February 28, 1989
AIDS Anthem ‘Love Don’t Need a Reason’ Released

AIDS activist and singer Michael Callen releases his album, “Purple Heart.”

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The album features the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason,” an AIDS anthem Callen co-writes with Marsha Malamet and Peter Allen.

“I feel compelled to get the message out: AIDS is not an excuse to give up on love,” Callen tells Gay LA Times health reporter Victor Zonana.

* * * *

Lyrics for “Love Don’t Need a Reason”:
If your heart always did
What a normal heart should do
If you always play a part
Instead of being who you really are
Then you might just miss
The one who’s standing there
So instead of passing by
Show him that you care
Instead asking why
Why me? And why you?
Why not we two?
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love don’t always rhyme
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have is time
If we always believe
All the madness that we’re taught
Never questioning the rules
Then we’re living lies we bought so long ago
How are they to know?
It’s not who’s wrong or right
It’s just another way
And I don’t wanna fight
But know I’m gonna stay with you till the end
With you my friend
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love don’t always rhyme
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have is time
I’ll hold you close
Time can’t tear us apart
Forever, I will stand by you
We’ve got to start with the beat of one heart
Together, we will see this through
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love’s never a crime
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have
What we don’t have is time
1989
WHO Estimates Total AIDS Cases Worldwide at 400,000

Reported AIDS cases total 142,000 in 145 countries.  However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are as many as 400,000 cases worldwide.

AIDS Quilt - Robert Mapplethorpe 2
March 9, 1989
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe Dies

Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his erotic, sometimes controversial works, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.

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In the mid-1970s, as the NYC music scene gave rise to New Wave, Mapplethorpe created austere black-and-white album covers for Patti Smith and the group Television.

He credited his close friend Smith with helping embolden the homosexuality of his early photographic images that dealt with sexual audacity — from sadomasochistic scenes with chains and black leather to an oversized image of male genitals resting atop a pedestal — and that were produced on a large scale.

Soon he would join Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine as a staff photographer, and draw attention for his flattering celebrity portraits.

Despite his diagnosis in 1986 with AIDS, he accelerates his creative efforts, broadens the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepts increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art would mount Mapplethorpe’s  first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death.

The tragic news that Mapplethorpe is ill coincides with the zenith of his critical acclaim as a photographer.

“In my experience, even the most optimistic artists are unable to keep the pain and sadness of AIDS from occasionally surfacing in their art,” writes Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“Mapplethorpe was no exception,” Martineau continues. “While studying his photographs, I noticed a perceptible shift in the emotional tone of his self-portraits occurred in 1986: the year he was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1988, while the disease wreaked havoc on his body, Mapplethorpe used the camera as a means of taking artistic control over what was happening to him.”

In February 1989, Mapplethorpe would speak openly to Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne.

“I’m quite frustrated I’m not going to be around to enjoy [my success],”  Mapplethorpe tells Dunne.  “The money’s coming in, though. I’m making more money now than I’ve ever made before.”

In his feature on Mapplethorpe, Dunne writes about how the photographer’s health status had become the topic of speculation in January 1987, when New York aristocrat and art collector Sam Wagstaff died of AIDS-related illness.

“Mapplethorpe, the principal inheritor of Sam Wagstaff’s fortune, had once been Wagstaff’s lover and later, for years, his great and good friend,” Dunne writes.

Mapplethorpe tells Dunne that he has two nurses on twelve-hour shifts that cost him $1,000 a day and he has been on AZT for two years.  He expresses concern about friends who are facing the same illness with fewer financial resources, specifically his black friends.

“Most of the blacks don’t have insurance and therefore can’t afford AZT,” he says.  “They all died quickly, the blacks. If I go through my Black Book, half of them are dead.”

The year before his death, Mapplethorpe establishes the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to fund HIV/AIDS research.  In its early years, the Foundation created medical facilities and programs, including the Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Center for HIV Research at St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York.

Serving as the first president on its board of trustees, he established mandates of furthering the recognition of photography as an art form having the same respect as painting and sculpture and supporting AIDS and HIV medical research.

In late winter 1989, Mapplethorpe is in Boston for a medical treatment when his condition worsens, according to Susan Arthur of the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City, which represents the artist.

He dies at New England Deaconess Hospital at the age of 42.  His body was cremated and his ashes are interred at St. John’s Cemetery, Queens in New York City, at his mother’s grave-site, etched “Maxey.”

In 2011, the Mapplethorpe Foundation would donate its archive to the Getty Research Institute and give a collection of artworks to the J. Paul Getty Museum in partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

1989
West Hollywood Settles HIV Discrimination Lawsuit

The City of West Hollywood settles an HIV/AIDS discrimination case brought by Paul Jasperson, who filed suit against the city and Jessica’s Nail Salon two months earlier, alleging HIV discrimination.

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Jaserson’s civil action against the salon, a test case for the West Hollywood’s new HIV discrimination ordinance, is on appeal, with support from Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the American Civil Liberties Union.

AIDS Quilt - Merritt Butrick
March 17, 1989
TV-Film Actor Merritt Butrick Dies

‘Star Trek’ film actor Merritt Butrick dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.

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A native of Gainesville, Florida who grew up in the San Fransisco area, Butrick portrayed Dr. David Marcus, son of James T. Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, in two movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

“I’m part of a legend,” said Butrick about his work on the Star Trek films.  “I gave what I had to give at the right time and place for my own personal gratification. I look at my resume at this point and it reminds me of how well I’ve done in the few years I’ve done it.”

Butrick had just been cast in ST II after starting work as a regular on the short-lived but critical and cult favorite 1982 “new wave” high school series Square Pegs, playing Johnny “Slash” Ulasewicz opposite an equally young Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Gertz.

At the time of his death, he had recently received critical praise on stage for his role as a male prostitute in the play Kingfish.

March 20, 1989
Visual AIDS Founder William Olander Dies

William Olander, the senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness in Minneapolis at the age of 38.

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Olander arrived at the New Museum in 1985, and specialized in performance art and video, especially post-modernist language and theory.

Olander’s 1986 exhibition “Homovideo: Where We are Now” included several videos responding to the spreading of the AIDS virus.  In 1987, he invited the group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to present an installation in the museum’s window on Broadway near Prince Street.

ACT UP’s artist group, Gran Fury, responded to the opportunity with “Let the Record Show.”  The exhibit juxtaposed information and statistics on AIDS with indifferent, callous or manipulative responses to the epidemic from national figures, all bathed in the glow of a neon sign that proclaimed “SILENCE = DEATH.”

The neon piece became part of the New Museum’s permanent collection, and the SILENCE = DEATH graphic was widely disseminated through t-shirts, wheatpastes, and other printed materials.

In 1988, Olander and three friends founded Visual AIDS, the only contemporary arts organization dedicated to raising AIDS awareness by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.  Visual AIDS was one of the first national initiatives to record the impact of the AIDS pandemic on the artistic community.

Olander lived in New York but had returned to Minneapolis to be with his family during the last months of his life.  His longtime companion, Christopher Cox, would die 18 months later, on September 7, 1990.

Olander’s name on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt reads: “Let the record show that there are many in the community of art and artists who choose not to be silent in the 1980s.”

To honor Olander’s ongoing legacy, Visual AIDS presents the “Bill Olander Award” anually to artists living with HIV.

AIDS Quilt - Elwood Thornton
April 7, 1989
Bay Area Classical Singer Elwood Thornton Dies

Elwood Thornton, a baritone who performed with Oakland Symphony, San Jose Symphony, Midsummer Mozart Festival and other Bay Area organizations, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 45.

April 10, 1989
First HIV-information Center Opens in West Hollywood

The nation’s first HIV-information center opens at the West Hollywood Library, offering access to current, accurate and often expensive materials about AIDS treatment and prevention.

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West Hollywood’s HIV Center was the result of the persistence and diligence of local activist Ron Shipton, who at 43 years old was living with HIV.  He decided that the community deserved to have access to up-to-the-minute information about HIV that was regularly published in medical journals and he set about to make it happen.

Shipton spoke with a librarian at the local library and also wrote to City Council, asking why he and his friends should spend hundreds of dollars on medical journals “when the rich city of West Hollywood could buy it for the library.”

He asked for the library to start carrying a subscription to the AIDS Targeted Information Network, which publishes abstracts of important medical journal articles about the virus and the disease.  With initial funding of $20,000 from the City of West Hollywood and County of Los Angeles, the library secured a subscription for public use and then went much further.

The HIV Center, which was the first of its kind in the country, opened with a robust collection of materials that included periodicals, pamphlets, books and, perhaps most importantly, a computer terminal with free access to the Computerized AIDS Information Network (CAIN).  Library staff and volunteers were trained to help visitors with navigating reference system.

Volunteers from the HIV/AIDS service organizations Being Alive and West Hollywood Cares advised the library on the selection of reading materials and with information on testing, treatment and support facilities.

“I think there is something there for everybody, Dan Solliday of Being Alive told the LA Times.   “We have tried to get well-rounded resources for college students and clinicians.”

The City would continue to fund updates and expansions of the HIV Center’s resources, including the addition of a free STD Clinic coordinated by Being Alive for testing, vaccines, treatments, and preventative services.

First housed in the original West Hollywood Library at 715 N. San Vicente Blvd., the collection would move in October 2011 to a newly constructed library at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. and would be renamed the Ron Shipton HIV Information Center.

AIDS Quilt - James Kirkwood Jr
April 21, 1989
Playwright James Kirkwood Jr. Dies

Winner of the Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the Broadway hit A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood Jr. dies in his Manhattan apartment of AIDS-related illness at the age of 64.

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Born in 1924 to a Hollywood acting family, Kirkwood followed his parents into show business at the age of 14.  He appeared in dozens of plays and films, pausing only to serve a three-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard. He performed on stage in Panama Hattie and Wonderful Town, and played opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Welcome Darlings.  He also had roles in the films Mommie Dearest, Oh, God, Book II, and The Supernaturals.

Together with Nicholas Dante, Kirkwood wrote the text for A Chorus Line (1975), which became one of the longest-running musicals in the history of Broadway.  He also wrote the comedy, Legends, in which Mary Martin and Carol Channing toured in 1986 and 1987.

Just before his death, he had finished a nonfiction book about his experiences, entitled Diary of a Mad Playwright.

A memorial service was held for Kirkwood at the Shubert Theater, 225 West 44th Street, on June 1, 1989.

June 16, 1989
CDC Issues Treatment Guidelines for PCP Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues the first guidelines for preventing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, known as PCP, an infection which often leads to the severe illness and death for people living with AIDS.

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The guidelines recommend a regimen of two compounds to prevent the onset of PCP: trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and pentamidine.  The CDC bases its recommendations on a study of 60 adults living with AIDS, which suggest that those who received treatment have fewer episodes of PCP and lived longer, compared with untreated patients.

Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, a combination of the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, commonly causes side effects in patients that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Pentamidine, given as an aerosol in a nebulizing device, commonly causes adverse effects including coughing, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain or congestion.

The Public Health Service recommends physicians to start this treatment with:

  • any HIV-infected adult patient who has already had an episode of PCP, and
  • those whose CD4+ cell count is less than 200/mm3 (or less than 20% of total lymphocytes).

CD4+ cells would soon be referred to as “T-helper” or “T4 cells,” because one of their main goals is to send signals to other kinds of immune cells, which then destroy infectious particples.

Patients with CD4+ cell counts of less than 100/mm3 (or less than 10%), as well as patients with oral thrush or persistent fever, are at particularly high risk for PCP, the report states.

According to HIV.gov, a healthy T cell count should be between 500 and 1,600 T cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3).

June 23, 1989
CDC Updates Guidelines on Transmission Prevention for Healthcare Workers

The Centers for Disease Control releases updated guidelines to help prevent the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis to healthcare and public safety workers.

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The guidelines are a response to recently enacted legislation, the “AIDS Amendments of 1988” in the HOPE Act of 1988, passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 4, 1988.

The legislation calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the CDC, to “develop, issue, and disseminate guidelines to all health workers, public safety workers (including emergency response employees) … concerning methods to reduce the risk in the workplace of becoming infected with the etiologic agent for AIDS, and circumstances under which exposure to such etiologic agent may occur.”

The report states that, as of September 1988, a total of 3,182 (5.1%) of the 61,929 adults reported to be living with AIDS are employed in a healthcare setting.  Of the healthcare workers with AIDS, the means of HIV acquisition is “undetermined” for 5% of them (169 workers), suggesting that infection occurred in the workplace.

Of these 169 health-care workers with AIDS, 44 are interviewed directly or have other background information available about their cases.  The occupations of these 44 are:

  • nine nursing assistants
  • eight physicians, four of whom are surgeons
  • eight housekeeping or maintenance workers
  • six nurses
  • four clinical laboratory technicia)ns
  • two respiratory therapists
  • one dentist
  • one paramedic
  • one embalmer
  • four others who did not have contact with patients

Eighteen of these 44 health-care workers report parenteral (i.e., not delivered via the intestinal tract) and/or other non-needle-stick exposure to blood or other body fluids from patients in the 10 years preceding their diagnosis of AIDS.  None of the exposures involve a patient with AIDS or known HIV infection.

June 26, 1989
Chief Researcher Calls for Access to Experimental Treatment

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), endorses giving HIV-positive people who do not qualify for clinical trials access to experimental treatments.

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In a front-page article by Gina Kolata in The New York Times, Dr. Fauci calls for a new system that would allow patients far greater access to experimental drugs.

This marks a major turnaround in government policy, which restricts access to experimental drugs with the reasoning that patients would have no reason to join a clinical trial if they could get a drugs by other means.

Since his early involvement in developing treatment for HIV/AIDS, Dr. Fauci had adhered to the National Institutes of Health policy that research need not focus on the immediate welfare of patients.

“It was clear to me that Fauci was inclined to enforce the paternalistic medical tradition in which he had trained: doctors and scientists were unquestioned authorities, and drug development had to follow a rigid process that included animal testing and rigorous clinical trials. Otherwise, the benefits and the risks of these drugs could not be adequately assessed,” writes Michael Specter in his profile of Dr. Fauci for The New Yorker in April 2020.  Specter covered the AIDS epidemic for the Washington Post in the 1980s.

AZT (azidothymidine) was the only approved drug available to treat HIV/AIDS, but it had harsh side effects.  When new clinical studies began, involving cocktails of AZT and similar compounds, tens of thousands of people asked to participate.  But volunteers were rejected if they used other experimental drugs.  And many more didn’t have the means to get to facilities and practitioners conducting the clinical trials.

But then the activist group ACT UP started transforming the frustration into anger, and the anger into well-publicized demonstrations against the research community.

“They started becoming amazingly iconoclastic and confrontational, and that scared the hell out of the scientists, who were fundamentally quite conservative,” Dr, Fauci tells Specter in The New Yorker profile. “When they were demonstrating on the NIH campus, disrupting Wall Street, disrupting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, instead of listening to them, scientists withdrew.”

However, Dr, Fauci decided to look beyond the activists’ furious rhetoric and style, and began to listen to what they had to say.

“And what they were saying made absolutely perfect sense,” Dr. Fauci says.

Faced with mounting evidence that his cautious approach made no sense, he reversed himself and promoted activist demands for more access to experimental treatments.

In the process, “Fauci transformed from a conventional bench scientist into a public-health activist who happened to work for the federal government,” writes Specter.

AIDS Quilt - Steve Rubell
July 25, 1989
Studio 54 Creator Steve Rubell Dies

Steve Rubell, co-founder of the Studio 54 discotheque, dies at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York at the age of 45.

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Owning and operating the enormously popular Studio 54 on West 54th Street in Manhattan from 1977 until 1979, Rubell and his business partner Ian Schrager hosted celebrities, society figures and crowds of clubbers.

Rubell often worked the club’s front door, selectively admitting celebrities and spurning others queued outside.  In January 1980, Mr. Rubell and Schrager would be sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion, but they would reduce their sentences by turning in several other club owners and be released from prison in January 1981.

They would sell Studio 54 a short time later and rebound with a new club, the Palladium, which would become just as popular.

In the film Studio 54 The Documentary, Rubell’s brother, Dr. Donald Rubell, says, ““I was the one who told him he had AIDS.”

Dr. Rubell recalls that his brother had “vague symptoms” of HIV infection, and so he administered the test.

“You have to remember at that time AIDS wasn’t a disease,” he says. “It was a condemnation. So he wouldn’t let me tell our parents.”

Held two days after Rubell’s death at the Riverside Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street, the private funeral would be attended by numerous Studio 54 regulars, including Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein and Keith Haring.  His body is buried at Beth Moses Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.

AIDS Quilt - Tim Richmond
August 13, 1989
NASCAR Driver Tim Richmond Dies

Race car driver Tim Richmond dies of AID-related illness at the age of 34.

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One of auto racing’s brightest stars, Richmond is the inspiration behind much of the film Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise.

The 1980 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, Richmond was involved in an Indy car crash where his car was sliced in two at Michigan International Speedway, and was persuaded to switch to stock cars.  By 1986, Richmond would win seven races in three months.

Shortly after his most victorious season, Richmond would suffer a near-fatal bout of pneumonia and receive a diagnosis of HIV-positive.  Still, Richmond would regain his health enough in 1987 to return to NASCAR for an eight-race run that brought him wins at Pocono and Riverside, California.

Unaware of his illness, other drivers accused Richmond of being a drug user and persuaded NASCAR to test him.  When drug tests were inconclusive, NASCAR asked to see Richmond’s medical records. Richmond refused and filed a defamation suit against NASCAR that was settled out of court when it was ruled that his medical records were relevant to the case.

In 1988, NASCAR would suspend Richmond for what the organization said was violation of its drug policy. Although NASCAR later lifted the ban, Richmond would never drive again.

According to the film Tim Richmond: To the Limit, Richmond spent his final days in seclusion.

After Richmond’s death, numerous women would claim that he infected them with the AIDS virus.

August 18, 1989
AIDS Cases in U.S. Reaches 100,000

CDC reports that the number of reported AIDS cases in the United States has reached 100,000.

September 7, 1989
Fashion Designer Angel Estrada Dies

Angel Estrada, a Spanish-born designer whose label featured glamorous gowns, dies of AIDS-related illness in Manhattan at the age of 31.

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Estrada started his clothing label in 1983, after his designs for his sister became covetted items in the NYC nightlife scene,

Estrada’s aesthetic was to combine a simple, form-fitting silhouete with bold details.  His clothes were sold in stores such as Bergdorfs and Saks at prices ranging from $800 to $2,000.  His first collection appeared on the cover of the November 1986 issue of Vogue.

Born in Barcelona, Estrada moved to New York with his family when he was three years old.  He attended the Parsons School of Design and worked part time as a hair and make-up designer until he was able to set up his own business.

After Estrada’s death, his sister Virginia took over his business, assumed the design responsibilities. The Angel Estrada brand, which had focused on custom-made evening dresses, transitioned to a sportswear line and also entered a licensing arrangement with a Japanese company, Kindwear, to make clothing in Japan.

September 19, 1989
National Commission on AIDS Convenes

The National Commission on AIDS meets for the first time at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

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At the meeting, witnesses testify on the problems facing AIDS patients and what the government is doing in response.

The meeting is facilitated by June Osborn, M.D., who would chair the commission from its inception through 1993.  Dr. Osborn, who serves on WHO’s Global Commission on AIDS, has extensive experience advising the CDC and the FDA on vaccines for diseases such as influenza, hepatitis, and polio.  Osborn would go onto write numerous articles and give many speeches on AIDS and HIV public healthcare policy.

The National Commission on AIDS consists of 15 members: five appointed by the Senate, five by the House, two by President George W. Bush, and the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense, and the Veterans Administration.

Perhaps the most recognizable member of the National Commission on AIDS, is former NBA star Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson.  However, Johnson would resign from the commission in September 1992, writing to President Bush:  “I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on a commission whose important work is so utterly ignored by your administration.”

Johnson’s resignation is preceded by another six months earlier of Harlon D. Dalton, a Yale Law School professor who is the only other African American appointed to the commission.  In March 1992, Dalton would complain about the lack of action from black politicians, saying, “Any high-visibility politician can point to the one time a year where [AIDS] is mentioned. But there haven’t been any votes there. Gay black men don’t exist, black men don’t vote and babies don’t vote.”

At its first meeting, Chair Osborn gives recognition to Rep. J. Roy Rowland, who she refers to as “the Father of the Commission.”  Rep. Rowland is the principal sponsor of the legislation that created the commission on Nov. 4, 1988.

Other members include:
  • Dr. David E. Rogers, head of the New York City Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS and New York State’s AIDS Advisory Council
  • Diane Ahrens, Minnesota local government official
  • Rev. K. Scott Allen, a Baptist minister, coordinator of the AIDS Interfaith Network in Dallas
  • Don C. Des Jarlais, a NY physician who advocates for needle-exchange programs
  • Eunice Diaz, community affairs director of White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles
  • Mary D. Fisher, appointed by Bush to replace Magic Johnson in October 1992
  • Donald S. Goldman, New Jersey attorney, author on ethical issues involved in AIDS treatment
  • Larry Kessler, executive director of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
  • Charles Konigsberg, Jr., director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
  • Belinda Mason, journalist who dies of AIDS-related illnesses in September 1991

The commission was established by a statute enacted November 4, 1988, with the aim of “promoting the development of a national consensus on policy concerning AIDS.”. It produced several reports over the next 4 years.

The commission approaches its work through numerous hearings, covering the following topics:

  • healthcare, treatment, and international aspects of the HIV epidemic;
  • Federal, State, and Local responsibilities;
  • the Southern California epidemic;
  • social and human issues;
  • Executive and Legislative branch issues;
  • current research and clinical trials;
  • HIV epidemic in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
  • African American communities;
  • Pediatric and Adolescent HIV;
  • Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual communities among Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders;
  • Women and HIV disease and civil rights;
  • religious communities response; and
  • risks of transmission in healthcare settings.
October 11, 1989
Actor Paul Shenar Dies

Paul Shenar, best remembered for his performance as the drug lord Alejandro Sosa in  Scarface, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 53.

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Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Shenar moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.  He debuts on Broadway in Tiny Alice as Brother Julian, and continues to work on the NYC stage for several years.

In 1965, Shenar would move to Philadelphia to help found the American Conservatory Theater, where he is not only a regular performer throughout his career, but a teacher and advisor as well.

From there, roles on television and the big screen would follow.  In 1975, Shenar portrays Orson Welles in the television movie The Night That Panicked America, receiving received some of the best reviews of his career.  He continues working steadily on television through the end of the decade, and in the early 1980s starts receiving feature film roles.

In 1983, Shenar delivers a memorable performance as the diabolical Colombian drug lord Alejandro Sosa in Brian De Palma’s Scarface.  Other notable roles are Dr. Lawrence in Luc Besson’s The Big Blue (1988), Joshua Adams in Deadly Force (1983), Paulo Rocca in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal (1986), and Ben Gardner, the father of a troubled Kristy McNichol, in Alan J. Pakula’s Dream Lover (1986).

Shenar would die in West Hollywood.

October 14, 1989
Stage & Film Actor Michael Carmine Dies

Critically acclaimed actor Michael Carmine dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Manhattan.  He was 30 years old.

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Born in Brooklyn, Carmine graduated at the age of 16 from the High School for the Performing Arts in 1975, and then attended the California Institute for the Arts.

Carmine won critics’ praise for his performance in Off Broadway and Broadway productions of Reinaldo Povod’s play Cuba and His Teddy Bear.  He created the role of Papo in another Povod play, La Puta Vida.

Among his screen credits are Batteries Not Included, Scarface and Turk 182; on television, he appeared in episodes of Search for Tomorrow, Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, and Miami Vice.  His final TV appearance was in 1988’s Tour of Duty, and his final film role in Longtime Companion was released nearly a year after his death.

AIDS Quilt - Cookie Mueller
November 10, 1989
Cult Movie Icon Cookie Mueller Dies

Cookie Mueller, a key member of film director John Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble, dies from AIDS-related causes in New York City at age 40.

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Mueller would meet John Waters at the premiere of his 1969 film Mondo Trasho.  Cookie went on to join Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble and would act in five movies for Waters.

Moving to New York City in 1976, she became a cocaine dealer and writer.  She wrote the health column “Ask Dr. Mueller” for the East Village Eye, was an art critic for Details magazine, and wrote the novella Fan Mail, Frank Letters, and Crank Calls, the memoir Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, and several collections of short prose.

Mueller became a muse to many of the photographers and directors of the NYC art/music/film scene.  She would have her portrait taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, and appear in Amos Poe’s Subway Riders, Edo Bertoglio’s Downtown ’81 and Michel Auder’s A Coupla White Faggots Sitting Around Talking.  She also would be featured prominently in her friend Nan Goldin’s iconic The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

Goldin would later recall that she was with Mueller on Fire Island in New York when they first learned of AIDS in 1981, referred to as a “gay cancer” at the time. “Cookie just started reading this item out loud from The New York Times about this new illness… we all kind of laughed it off.”

By 1985, many of Golden’s close friends and acquaintances would be diagnosed with the virus, including Mueller.

Goldin would write in ASX:  “We were very obsessed with what caused it: There were all kinds of rumors, everything from amyl nitrate to bacon. I was in denial that people were going to die. I thought people could beat it. And then people started dying.”

In 1986, Goldin would photograph Mueller’s wedding to Vittorio Scarpati.  An artist who was an HIV-positive heroin addict, Scarpati would create a heartbreaking series of whimsical deathbed drawings of himself and Mueller.

Scarpati would die in 1988, and Goldin would photograph Mueller, by that time walking with a cane, beside her husband’s casket.  After Scarpati’s death, Mueller’s health would begin a steep decline.

“When I went to see Cookie in Provincetown, she had lost her voice,” recalls Goldin. “Her laughter and her verbal wit had been so much of her personality. The fact that she couldn’t talk, the fact that she couldn’t walk without a cane was so devastating that I was calling every doctor, screaming at the impotence I felt.”

Shortly before her dealth, Mueller would write in her final column for the East Village Eye:

“Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same, except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. You will be released from sexual obsessions. You will not have drug addictions. You will not need alcohol. You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free.”

November 18, 1989
French Actor Rémi Laurent Dies

La Cage aux Folles actor Rémi Laurent dies of AIDS-related illness in Paris at the age of 32.

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Born and raised in Suresnes, Laurent starred in a number of French films in the late 1970s and 1980s, but he is best known for his role in the film La Cage aux Folles as Laurent, the son of Renato Baldi.

Laurent also had roles in Les Plouffe (1981) and Let’s Get Those English Girls (1976).

November 26, 1989
AIDS-Care Activist Chris Brownlie Dies

AIDS-care activist Chris Brownlie, for whom the first Los Angeles County-supported AIDS hospice was named, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Silver Lake home at the age of 39.

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Born in Farmington, NY, Brownlie had been active in LGBTQ politics since the early 1970s, when he helped found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center.

Since the mid-1980s, the one-time greeting card company owner also worked for a variety of AIDS-care projects, including service as a volunteer for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and the Minority AIDS Project.  He also helped found the nonprofit AIDS Hospice Foundation, an outgrowth of the 1986 Stop AIDS Quarantine Committee, which defeated a state ballot initiative that would have required detention of those testing positive for the human immunodeficiency virus.

Faced with inaction by the then-conservative Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Hospice Foundation members picketed in front of Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home.  Brownlie, meanwhile, appeared before the LA County Commission on AIDS, emotionally demanding: “You find a way for me to die at home in the arms of my loved ones, or a facility in which my loved ones can care for me in dignity.”

When supervisors eventually voted $2 million for AIDS health care, the Hospice Foundation agreed to operate a facility in Elysian Park at the site of Barlow Hospital’s old nursing quarters.

The 25-bed facility was named the Chris Brownlie Hospice, according to foundation President Michael Weinstein, “because he is a representative of those in the community who have the spirit, courage and grace to fight for those with AIDS.”

The Chris Brownlie Hospice, which had a waiting list in late 1989, was the largest of its kind in the county and offered 24-hour medical service.  At that time, construction was under way on another 25-bed hospice to be operated by the foundation on the grounds of Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.

“If you want a miracle that is better than any drug, work to make life better,” Brownlie said at the start of construction of the Chris Brownlie Hospice.

“Of course, I’ve always hoped that I would not die, that I would live forever,” Brownlie told The LA Times when the facility opened.  “But on another level, I actually get a sense of well-being about this experience.  Sometimes it becomes very profound in a religious sense at the edges of my consciousness.  And this is what the hospice program is about.  It will help others accept the fact that death, too, is part of the life experience.”

Shortly after traveling to Sonoma, Arizona for a vacation with his longtime partner, Phill Wilson, Brownlie became very ill and eventually slipped into a coma.

He was cared for at his namesake hospice, where he would occasionally wake up from the coma and talk with Wilson.

“Finally, after about eight or nine days of that, he woke up and he said, ‘Take me home.’  I knew what he meant, and so I said, ‘We’re going home,’ and nobody agreed,” Wilson told PBS’s Frontline in a 2004 interview.  “The doctor said no; the nurses said no; all of our friends said no.  They didn’t think that I could take care of him.

“I brought him home, and we [got] a little hospital bed and all the supplies, and I kept saying, ‘We won’t need all of that; we won’t need all of that,’ because I knew that he wanted to come home to die.  He wanted to come home so that the last minutes would be in our space, and so we brought him home.”

Wilson said he carried Brownlie into the house, put him into bed and sat with him.  After taking a short nap at the suggestion of the home nurse, Wilson returned to Brownlie’s room and found him “breathing the kind of labored breathing [where] you can kind of hear death happening.”

Wilson said he climbed into bed with Brownlie and whispered that it was okay now, it was going to be OK, and that he was going to be OK.

He sang to Brownlie a favorite song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

“The words are ‘Let me call you sweetheart/ I’m in love with you/ Let me hear you whisper/ That you love me, too,'” Wilson recalled.  “And he took a breath, and then he didn’t take another breath.”

December 1, 1989
Visual AIDS Organizes First ‘Day Without Art’

In response to the worsening AIDS crisis and coinciding with the World Health Organization’s second annual World AIDS Day, Visual AIDS organized its first “Day Without Art.”

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More than 800 arts organizations, museums and galleries throughout the U.S. participated by shrouding artworks and replacing them with information about HIV and safer sex, locking their doors or dimming their lights, and producing exhibitions, programs, readings, memorials, rituals, and performances.

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.  The contemporary arts organization is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness around HIV issues today, by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization supports the preservation of the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement.

AIDS Quilt - Alvin Ailey
December 1, 1989
Choreographer & Activist Alvin Ailey Dies

Alvin Ailey, the African American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Ailey School in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness.

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Ailey’s early childhood would be spent in Texas during the Jim Crow era, a time and place that would inspire some of his most iconic choreography. He discovered dance after moving to Los Angeles but didn’t fully commit to the art form at first.

Then, in the mid-1950s, Ailey would join the Lester Horton Dancers, later becoming a choreographer and then director of the company.  In 1958, he decided to open his own dance company, establishing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.

Ailey and a group of young, black modern dancers perform for the first time on March 30, 1958 at New York’s 92nd Street YM-YWHA.  In its first years, the Company would travel to booked performances on what Alvin Ailey called “the station wagon tours” in a vehicle driven by a longtime friend of the Company, Mickey Board.

In 1960, he would choreograph his classic masterpiece Revelations, which brings the Company international acclaim.

Over the next 30 years, Ailey would create ballets for many notable companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet.

“As common practice at the time, Ailey maintained a closeted persona regarding his sexuality but would utilize his art as an outlet for it,” writes Smithsonian in the website for the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

“His choreographed ballets for AAADT exhibited imagery reminiscent with male and female homosexuality such as juxtaposing same-sex partnering with religious and hypermasculine archetypes.”

Although Ailey dated intermittently, he wouldn’t find long-term companionship while trying to conceal his sexuality from much of the world.  And when he dies amid the AIDS epidemic, his doctor reports the cause of his death as a rare blood disease.

Among the many posthumous accolades for Ailey, President Barack Obama would award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, the highest civilian honor, in recognition of his contributions and commitments to civil rights and dance in America.

“Ailey’s work was groundbreaking in its exploration of the African American experience and the enrichment of the modern dance tradition, including his beloved American masterpiece Revelations,” the award description would state.

The Ailey company continues to perform at the New York City Center and tours cities around the world.  Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations, is currently streaming on the dance company’s website.

1989
HRSA Funds States with $20M for HIV Care & Treatment

The U.S. grants $20 million for HIV care and treatment through the Home-Based and Community-Based Care State grant program, introducing HIV care and treatment to many states that have no programs.

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In its supporting report, the Health Resources and Services Administration notes that only six states have Medicaid program waivers for the treatment and care of people with HIV/AIDS: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio and South Carolina.  The waiver services cover case management, personal care and adult day care in five of the six states.

States with these programs report that the AIDS-specific waiver enables them to establish a uniform system of services, a network of treatment options, and greater access to home and community-based care for people with AIDS, the report states.

Perhaps most importantly, the programs expand financial eligibility for those needing care and treatent.

The newly announced HRSA grant program provides funding so that all states can adopt and strengthen programs that target AIDS-specific services to those who need them.

1989
U.S. Launches Precursor to Ryan White CARE Act

A CDC/HRSA initiative provides $11 million to fund seven community health centers to provide HIV counseling and testing services. This is a precursor to what will be part of the Ryan White CARE Act.

Patrick Kelly (2)
January 1, 1990
Fashion Trailblazer Patrick Kelly Dies

Patrick Kelly, the first American designer to be admitted to Paris’ Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, dies at the Hotel Dieu, a hospital near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, at the age of 35.

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Kelly was part of a generation of Black designers who introduced a new energy and perspective into the fashion industry in the 1980s.

“Patrick’s particular contribution was a quirky, surrealist take on design accented by the subversion of racist imagery as an act of Black empowerment and reclamation,” writes Darnell-Jamal Lisby in i-D.

Celebrated for his designs that incorporated references to pop culture and Black folklore, Kelly moved to Paris after becoming frustrated by the lack of support from the fashion industry in New York.  Black supermodel Pat Cleveland recalled how she and Kelly first met through a mutual friend:

“[Kelly] made this banana costume for me because he knew I liked to dance like Josephine Baker.  So we went out that night, and I did this hair show in Columbus Circle, and I sang like Josephine Baker in that outfit.”

When Kelly told Cleveland about his struggles with the fashion industry, Cleveland said she told him, “You better go to Paris, because there’s no room for Black boys in New York.  They’re not going to give you the break you’re going to get in Paris.”

Once in Paris, Kelly’s popularity quickly grew.  With a perspective rooted in his experience as a Black man from the South, Kelly incorporated details into his work, such as mismatched buttons, which his grandmother had employed while mending clothes.

As Kelly’s reputation in Paris rose, his popularity among the Black American media grew, too. Ebony magazine published a feature on Kelly’s journey to success in Paris, and Jet magazine regularly covered him, as they did other notable Black designers in America and internationally.

Kelly also incorpated his racial perspective in many elements of his runway shows.  At the start of his shows, he would walk onto the runway and spray-paint a large heart on the stage set.

In the gift bags given to the attendees, Kelly would include a “Love List” of items ranging from his favourite foods, like fried chicken, and music from hip-hop to gospel.  He would also give everyone a tiny brown doll with molded black hair.

The designer was always seen in outsize overalls — even if the occasion was formal. He wore a bike messenger’s cap, its brim flipped up to reveal “Paris” embroidered on the underside. Kelly acknowledged most every stereotype attributed to Southern blacks.

“It was Patrick’s way of subtly giving his typically predominantly white audiences a brief education on his design process while simultaneously outlining aspects of various Black experiences in the hope of expanding their purview,”  writes Lisby in his tribute to Kelly.

In 1985, the first “Patrick Kelly Paris” commercial collection was featured in a six-page spread in French Elle magazine.

Kelly would make history, becoming the first American admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, France’s prestigious organization of fashion designers.  In doing so, he was canonized among the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior.

He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where his epitaph states “Nothing Is Impossible.”

January 19, 1990
Report of HIV Transmission via Dentistry Alarms Public

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the transmission of HIV to a patient through a dental procedure performed by an HIV-positive dentist in Florida, releasing a wave of panic across America.

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The CDC report describes the first known case of clinical transmission of HIV:  Kimberly Ann Bergalis, a 19-year-old college student, underwent a molar extraction in December 1987.  About two years later, she would test positive with a strain of HIV related to that of her dentist.

The dentist, Jeffrey Acer, would be villified in the press, even in the years following his death in September 1990.  He would be openly called a lunatic and a murderer, and accused of deliberately infecting his patients — which was in no way supported by facts.

Reported to the CDC by the Florida Department of Health and Rehailitative Services (HRS), the case described Bergalis as having no identified risk factor for HIV infection and that, at some time following an extensive dental procedure with Dr. Acer, she became infected with an HIV strain related to the one that he had.

In an open letter to his patients, Dr. Acer wrote: “I am a gentle man, and I would never intentionally expose anyone to this disease. I have cared for people all my life, and to infect anyone with this disease would be contrary to everything I have stood for.”

The CDC suggested that during the dental procedures, “higher titers of virus may have been present in the dentist’s blood and he may have been more likely to transmit virus than earlier in the course of his HIV disease.”

Following the notification, two more of Acer’s former patients would test positive with a strain similar to his.  In addition, a third infected patient would be identified by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) and a fourth would contact the CDC directly to report that she was HIV-infected and a former patient of the dentist.

The Florida HRS would then reach out to 1,100 additional persons who potentially were patients of Dr. Acer to offer counseling and HIV-antibody testing.  Of them, 141 are tested, and all results were negative.  In addition, none of the dentist’s 14 employees tested positive for HIV.

Staff members of the dental office told HRS officials that barrier precautions had been introduced into the practice by early 1987 and that all staff, including the dentist, wore latex gloves and surgical masks for patient-care activities. Staff reported that they changed gloves and washed their hands between most patient contacts; occasionally, however, they washed gloves rather than changed them between patient contacts.  Additionally, staff reported that by 1987, all surgical instruments were autoclaved.

According to medical records reviewed by the CDC, Dr. Acer was diagnosed with symptomatic HIV infection in late 1986 and AIDS in September 1987.  While he was in practice, he had no record of peripheral neuropathy, dementia, thrombocytopenia or other bleeding disorder, hand dermatitis, or injury.

Dr. Acer closed his practice in 1989 after his T-cell (CD4 lymphocyte) count dropped under 200.  He would die on Sept. 30, 1990 at the Hospice of Palm Beach County at West Palm Beach with his parents at his side.

Kimberly Bergalis would spend her final years advocating for the mandatory testing of medical professionals.  She is described as “the one AIDS patient the AIDS community will not embrace, a frightening and hostile new public symbol of an epidemic the AIDS community thought it had tamed.”

Larry Gostin, professor of health law at Harvard University, would tell The Washington Post in September 1991, “What Kimberly Bergalis symbolizes is … that AIDS is to be feared and that it can be contracted easily in health-care settings. She has created fear.”

Still, Bergalis became a sympathetic victim to many, and would go on to testify to Congress in a 20-second statement that became the world’s headline:

“I’d like to say that AIDS is a terrible disease that you must take seriously. I did nothing wrong, yet I’m being made to suffer like this. My life has been taken away. Please enact legislation so that no other patient or health care provider will have to go through the hell that I have. Thank you.”

Soon, the Senate would pass a bill, sponsored by North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, that required healthcare workers to reveal their HIV status or face imprisonment.

Bergalis would die of AIDS-related illness on Dec. 8, 1991 at the age of 23.

January 24, 1990
Theater Director Leland Moss Dies

Leland Moss, a theater director known for The AIDS Show, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in San Francisco at the age of 41.

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With a group of writers, Moss helped create The AIDS Show, an acclaimed series of songs, monologues and short scenes that he directed in San Francisco in 1984.  The production, which was updated with the new title, Unfinished Business, was also presented in other cities.  A documentary about the play was made for public television and shown in November 1986.

During his nine years in the Bay Area, Moss worked principally with the Theater Rhinocerous, and was active in the city’s LGBTQ movement.  His own play, Quisbies, as well as other works that he directed, explored the effects of AIDS on the gay community.

Moss studied at Harvard University and the London Academy of Music and the Dramatic Arts, and then moved to New York City, where he was a resident director at LaMama and Playwrights Horizons.  He was also an advisor to the New York Shakespeare Festival and an assistant director to Andrei Serban in New York. His acting credits included playing five characters in the Broadway production of ”Yentl.”

January 26, 1990
U.S. Updates Guidelines for Reducing Healthcare Worker Exposure

On January 26, the U.S. Public Health Service issues a statement on managing occupational exposure to HIV, including considerations regarding post-exposure use of the antiretroviral drug, AZT.

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The CDC issues a report reviewing the PHS recommendations for the management of occupational exposures that may place workers at risk of acquiring HIV infection, with a focus on those administering AZT treatment.

Bill Sherwood
February 10, 1990
Filmmaker Bill Sherwood Dies

Bill Sherwood, a promising filmmaker whose career was just taking off, dies from AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 37.

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Sherwood is known for his 1986 film — and his only film — Parting Glances, for which he was Director, Editor and Screenwriter.  Made for $310,000, the film is a bittersweet romantic comedy that spans a 24-hour period in the upwardly mobile New York gay community.

With its realistic look at urban gay life in the Ronald Reagan era and at the height of the AIDS crisis, many film critics consider it an important film in the history of gay cinema. It was also one of the first American films to address the AIDS pandemic.

In 2007, as a part of the Outfest Legacy Project, a restored print of Parting Glances received its world premiere at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles.  The four major stars of the film, Richard Ganoung, John Bolger, Steve Buscemi and Kathy Kinney, were in attendance and participated in a panel discussion after the viewing.  Parting Glances was Buscemi’s feature film debut.

In 2014, the Advocate released its “top 175 essential films of all time for LGBT viewers,” placing Parting Glances at #10.

AIDS Quilt - Keith Haring
February 16, 1990
Artist Keith Haring Dies

Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31 at his LaGuardia Place apartment in Greenwich Village.

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Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981, according to the Keith Haring Foundation.

Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages.

Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images.

Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.  By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.

Since his death, Haring has been the subject of several international retrospectives. The work of Keith Haring can be seen today in the exhibitions and collections of major museums around the world.

Stephan Burns
February 22, 1990
Actor Stephan Burns of ‘The Thorn Birds’ Dies

Stephan W. Burns, an actor known for playing Pete Stancheck in Herbie Goes Bananas and Jack Cleary in the TV miniseries The Thorn Birds, dies in Santa Barbara of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

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In 1984, Burns reportedly received an emergency blood transfusion after being seriously injured in a car accident.  Various reports contend that the blood was contaminated and infected Burns with HIV.

Burns wanted to be an actor all his life.  At an early age, he began staying up late to watch old musicals on television from his small-town home of Chews Landing, New Jersey.  After graduating from high school, Burns moved to New York to study theater while working odd jobs during to pay for his rent and acting classes.

At 6’3″ tall, handsome and naturally athletic, Burns commanded attention at auditions and eventually was cast in the lead role in the national touring production of the Broadway musical Grease.  Soon after, he moved to Los Angeles, where he faced much stiffer competition for acting roles.  But in 1978, after six months in Hollywood, Burns was offered the title role in the TV special Li’l Abner in Dogpatch Today.

But his breakthrough role would come two years later, with the lead in Herbie Goes Bananas, the fourth in Walt Disney Productions’ Love Bug series.  Working alongside veteran actors Vito Scotti, Harvey Korman, Charles Martin Smith, and Cloris Leachman, Burns caught the attention of ABC executives and was cast in the TV drama 240-Robert as a second-season replacement for Mark Harmon.

Pop culture magaine 16, known for introducing hunky entertainers to its young readers, published a profile on Burns as one of “three new and special guys to look out for on your TV screen.”  According to the article, Burns was living in Silver Lake with a black and white cat named Svatch and enjoyed riding horses in the Hollywood hills.

Unfortunately, an actors’ strike delayed the start of the season and 240-Robert was cancelled after only three more episodes due to poor ratings.  But ABC had Burns in mind for another project – The Thorn Birds, a mini-series based on the 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough featuring a forbidden love story set in the Australian outback.  In the drama’s first three parts, Burns played Jack Cleary, an older brother of the lead character Meggie Cleary.  The drama would go on to receive several Emmys and Golden Globe Awards.

In 1984, Burns reportedly received a blood transfusion which was contaminated with the AIDS virus while reeiving emergency medical treatment following a car accident.  [It should be noted that, other than on Wikipedia and a 240-Robert fan page, information about the car accident and the source of Burns’ subsequent infection could not be verified.]

Burns would have only a handful of acting roles in 1986 and 1987, before succumbing to AIDS-related illnesses and dying in early 1990.  A rock musical he was writing called Terminal Hotel would never be completed.

AIDS Quilt - Halston
March 26, 1990
Iconic Fashion Designer Halston Dies

Halston, one of the most successful fashion entrepeneurs in history, dies of AIDS-related illness at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco at the age of 57.

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Born Roy Frowick Halston in Des Moines, Iowa, Halston led a classic heartland childhood playing in soap box derby races, fishing, visiting farms, and the like.  He took an interest in sewing from his mother, and from an early age he showed a special interest in making hats.

His family moved in 1952 to Chicago, where Halston enrolled in a night course at the Chicago Art Institute and took a day job as a window dresser.  Halston continued to design hats and finally obtained his break when a small story on his fashionable creations appeared in the Chicago Daily News.

It was at this time that he would take his middle name Halston as his professional moniker. His hat sales took off, and in 1959, Halston left Chicago for New York City to work for the famed French milliner Lilly Daché.

Following that Halston accepted a position at the fashionable store Bergdorf Goodman, where he charmed his clients and made a grand name for himself.  In 1962 he designed the famous pill box hat worn by Jackie Kennedy at the President’s Inaugural, making the Halston name a household word.

Later that year he was bestowed the Coty’s Fashion Critics Award. In 1966, Halston designed his first ready-to-wear collection for Bergdorf Goodman and continued creating magic with his hat creations.   Women’s Wear Daily heralded him as “New York’s Top Milliner.”

He quickly became the toast of fashion society, including Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham, Lauren Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor among his close circle of friends and clients.

Halston’s career sky-rocketed during the 1970’s and his designs set the standard for American designers. The Halston name became synonymous with classically cut, simple, spare and elegant designs, a phenomenally successful fragrance line Halston by Halston for women X12 and Z14 for men, and the fabric known as “Ultra suede.”  Throughout most of the seventies he epitomized the glamour, as well as the decadence of the era, becoming a central figure in the nightlife scene of New York’s Studio 54 disco.

By 1988, the designer had effectively retired and retreated from the limelight — and it wasn’t long after until he was diagnosed with HIV, according to AP News. After learning of his diagnosis, Halston moved to San Francisco to be cared for by his family, where he reportedly spent his last days touring the California coastline in his Rolls Royce car — which Halston asked his family to auction off after his death in order to donate the proceeds to AIDS research.

Despite his tragic death, there’s no doubt that Halston’s legacy still lives on today, with his dazzling life story becoming the focus of many films and biopics, including the Netflix miniseries, Halston.

AIDS Quilt - Ryan White
April 8, 1990
Teen Activist Ryan White Dies

Ryan White dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 18.

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White was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 13, following a blood transfusion in December 1984.  Living with his family in Kokomo, Indiana, doctors told his parents that he had six months to live but he proved to be more resiliant.

White became a national celebrity when he and his family fought AIDS-related discrimination following his school district’s refusal to let him return to school.

Along with his mother Jeanne White Ginder, Ryan rallied for his right to attend school and became the face of public education about his disease.

After winning a lengthy court case allowing him to return to his classes, Ryan was taunted and shunned by other students. Vandals broke the windows of the White’s home, and cashiers refused to touch his mother’s hands when making change at the supermarket.

Ryan is considered one of the most effective proponents of increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS, Ryan served as an eloquent spokesman about AIDS to his classmates, journalists and, through TV appearances, the American public.

“He valiantly fought against a battalion of bigots who saw AIDS as some kind of divine retribution against gay men and intravenous drug users — two of the largest groups stricken with AIDS during this time,” writes Dr. Howard Markel in PBS’s profile on Ryan Wyite.

He dies one month before his high school graduation and only months before Congress passes the legislation bearing his name — the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.  His name would also be given to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the largest federal program designed specifically for people with HIV, serving over half of all those diagnosed.

 

AIDS Quilt - John Winkler
May 2, 1990
Ivy League Professor John J. Winkler Dies

John “Jack” Winkler, who taught classics at Yale and Stanford, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.

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Winkler’s 1989 book Auctor and Actor — which treats the Latin novel The Golden Ass as a detective story — was named best work of classical scholarship by the American Philological Association.  In addition to being a classical scholar, Winkler was also a queer the­o­rist and political activist.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1943,  Winkler attended a Jesuit high school, where he first learned Greek.  From 1960 to 1963, he stud­ied at St. Louis Uni­ver­sity, also a Jesuit insti­tu­tion.  Upon grad­u­at­ing, he joined the Bene­dic­tine reli­gious order, liv­ing first at St. Lawrence’s Abbey in Ampleforth, England, and then con­tin­u­ing at the St. Louis pri­ory.

In 1970, Winkler left the Bene­dictines and decided to pur­sue a career in clas­sics and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1974.  For the next five years, Winkler taught classics at Yale, where he became an advo­cate for fem­i­nist, gay, and minor­ity causes.  He helped to found Yale’s women’s stud­ies pro­gram, openly sup­ported the university’s Gay Alliance, and co-pro­duced an LGBT-themed radio show called Come Out Tonight.

In 1977, Winkler was the sole fac­ulty mem­ber to help orga­nize Yale’s first Gay Rights Week.  That same year, he was the only fac­ulty mem­ber to join a class-action law­suit brought by women stu­dents against Yale for its tol­er­ance of sex­ual harass­ment of stu­dents by fac­ulty.  Jack left Yale for Stanford in 1979, and con­tin­ued to be a lead­ing voice for gay stu­dents and fac­ulty.

Upon being diag­nosed with AIDS in August 1987, he announced a two-year sab­bat­i­cal.  He spent the last years of his life co-edit­ing essay col­lec­tions, trans­lat­ing frag­ments from Greek nov­els, and pub­lish­ing his most influ­en­tial work, Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece.  He donated half of the book’s income to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

He was the author of three books and 19 articles, many of them reinterpreting classical works.

AIDS Quilt - Franklyn Seales
May 14, 1990
Actor Franklyn Seales Dies

Franklyn Seales, best known for playing the finicky business manager Dexter Stuffins on the sit-com Silver Spoons, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.

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Born on the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent, Seales studied at John Houseman’s Acting Company in New York in the early 1970s.  The 1978 PBS drama, ″Trial of the Moke,″ proved to be Seales’ first big break.

Between 1982 and 1986, Seales played business manager Dexter Stuffins on the NBC-TV sitcom Silver Spoons, in which Houseman played a stoic grandfather.  His other television appearances included Hill Street Blues and Amen.

Among his motion picture credits are The Onion Field and Southern Comfort.  A versatile performer, Seales took on stage roles in productions that ranged from Shakespeare to the theater of the absurd.

A member of L.A. Classic Theatre Works, Seales performed in unconventional productions, such as Conversation at Night With a Despised Character, in which Los Angeles Times critic Lawrence Christon found him “one of America’s most compelling stage actors.”

Seales dies at his family’s home in New York City.

May 21, 1990
ACT UP Protests NIH to Demand More HIV Treatment Options

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)  protests at the National Institutes of Health, demanding more HIV treatments and the expansion of clinical trials to include more women and people of color.

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ACT UP protesters occupy the NIH campus, calling on scientists to develop more drugs for people with AIDS and the federal government to disseminate drugs equitably.

Promoted as “Storm the NIH,” the demonstration challenges the NIH to address the issue of growing numbers of women and people of color being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Days later, activist G. Harold Mehlman would write in The Washington Post, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, the saying goes. I’m here to tell you that ACT UP and lots of others will be squeaking to the high heavens until drugs to save the lives of our citizenry affected with the HIV disease are made available.”

Their efforts convince policy makers to change regulations, which results in a new regimen of drugs used to treat AIDS made available in 1996.

AIDS Quilt - Dan Turner
June 4, 1990
San Francisco Playwright-Actor Dan Turner Dies

Dan Turner, author of several plays at Theatre Rhinoceros and other Bay Area theaters, dies in San Francisco of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.

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Turner was one of the first two patients diagnosed with AIDS at San Francisco General Hospital in 1982.  At the time, doctors told him that he had a rare cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Turner was born in 1947 in Bloomington, Illinois, where his father managed the Hotel Rogers. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Cheboygan, Wisconsin, and he began acting in high school drama productions.  In college at Fairfield University in Connecticut, he spent a year abroad at Exeter College in England and traveled throughout Europe. After earning his Bachelor’s degree, he volunteered to work in Malawi with the Peace Corps and then in Alabama with the AmeriCorps VISTA program.  He was in Alabama when he wrote and produced his early play Cottonmouth.

In the early 1970s, he studied playwriting with Kenneth Cameron at the University of Iowa, writing and producing the play Light Years. He moved to Texas to accept an internship with the Dallas Theater, but quickly found that the program’s leaders didn’t approve of Turner’s openly gay identity and progressive political views.

San Francisco became Turner’s next destination.  He joined the productions of both regional and gay theater companies and collectives, and taught a playwriting course at the Eureka Theatre, birthplace of Angels in America.  He occasionally traveled to Los Angeles for acting opportunities.  A prolific artist, Turner also wrote essays and critical articles for local gay papers, as well as poetry, novels, and short stories.  Some of his erotica appeared in gay magazines such as In Touch and Blueboy.

In 1976, Turner contracted hepatitis, and in the same year, he traveled with Tennessee Williams to New Orleans, New York and Cape Cod.  Turner became in awe of Williams, who was in failing health  and yet woke at 4:00 a.m. every day to write.

“I had been perpetuating (my hepatitis) through this negative mind trip,” Turner later told the Los Angeles Times.  “From then on, when my mind said, ‘You can’t do it,’ I’d say, ‘But that’s just your mind.’”

He returned to San Francisco with renewed hope.  He wrote and produced three musical plays, two of which (Cinderella II and Comeback) were in collaboration with playwright-novelist Daniel Curzon. He also directed several plays.

In February 1982, Turner was diagnosed wish Kaposi Sarcoma and was one the first patients of Dr. Paul Volberding at San Francisco General Hospital.  He befriended AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell and together they laid the groundwork for the organization People with AIDS San Francisco.  Both were open about their AIDS diagnosis and began to be sought-after as speakers for community events.  In May 1983, Turner and Campbell represented People with AIDS at the second annual AIDS Forum.

Still, Turner continued to be involved in San Francisco theater, and his work began to incorporate his AIDS activism.  In 1984, he wrote parts of The AIDS Show at the Theatre Rhinoceros.  In 1987, Turner was featured in the televison documentary The Fighting Edge, which addressed how people with AIDS could continue to lead productive lives.

With an eight-year-long illness, Turner was the longest-living known person with AIDS by the time of his death.  He outlived his friend Campbell by almost six years.

“He was a shining symbol,” longtime friend Maura Nolan told the Los Angeles Times. “When Dan would walk into the hospital room of some person afflicted with AIDS, it was as if hope walked though the door.”

AIDS Quilt - Demian Aquavella
June 8, 1990
NYC Dancer Demian ‘D-Man’ Acquavella Dies

Demian Acquavella, a dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Brooklyn.  He was 32 years old.

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A popular figure in post-modernist dance in New York, Acquavella was the inspiration for the 1989 work D-Man in the Waters, a celebration of Acquavella’s determination to fight his illness.

Born in Brooklyn, Acquavella moved to California when he was twenty to major in dance at Santa Monica Community College.  He trained with Marjorie Mussman, Cindi Green, Ernie Pagnano and Phil Black, and also studied at the Nat Horne Musical Theater and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.  He danced with Lillo Way, Elisa Monte, Miss Mussmann, the Rush Dance company, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before joining the Jones-Zane troupe.

He became the central figure in Bill T. Jones’ pivotal work when the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra commissioned Jones to choreograph a dance set to the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-Flat Major.  By then Acquavella was so sick, he had stopped dancing but he continued to stay close to the dance company.

“At first, Bill was going to call it just Waters,” Acquavella recalled.  “But then Bill looked over at me, and changed the title.  I will never forget Bill saying I would be in it, even though I could hardly walk.”

D-Man in the Waters had its premiere at the Joyce Theatre on March 14, 1989.

“As he could no longer walk by the time of the debut, I carried Demian onstage, offering my legs as he executed the arm movements of what would have been his solo,” Jones wrote.

After he was too ill to perform, he was known to attend performances and loudly cheer the dancers from his seat.

The work finds new life in the 2020 documentary Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, directed by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz.

When codirector LeBlanc was 16, she tells us on-screen in the documentary, she saw D-Man performed.  The experience inspired her to become a dancer — and to join Jones’ company.

Now on the dance faculty at Loyola Marymount University in California, LeBlanc chronicles in the film a production of D-Man that she staged with her undergraduate students.

In the documentary, Jones meditates on what the work means now.  In 1989, “It was a place to grieve,” he says.

But he believes D-Man is more than “a response to the plague”; it’s an enduring statement about survival and community.

June 20, 1990
Protestors Disrupt Int’l AIDS Conference in San Francisco

The 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco erupts in demonstrations, boycotts and dramatic disruptions in protest of U.S. immigration policies that bar people with HIV from entering the country.

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“For me, the single most moving episode of the week took place at the conference, when a huge number of the delegates stood up and turned their back on [US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary] Louis Sullivan as he was speaking,” journalist Tim Kingston recalls in an interview with 48 Hills.

For the first time in history, a major policy address got hijacked at an International AIDS Conference.

“Then, all at once, they marched out of the Moscone Center and joined the Pride parade,” Kingston says. “That was such a powerful statement.”

Many of the demonstrations during the conference are organized by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and bring attention to issues the conference fails to address, like the growing infection rate and the lack of treatment programs for women, people of color, and intravenous drug users.

Activists also protest laws against needle exchanges and the federal law forbidding HIV-positive people from entering the country.

For five days, ACT UP stopped business as usual, reported CBS.  Members clogged downtown San Francisco, marching to the Immigration and Naturalization building at 630 Sansome Street to protest the travel and immigration ban for HIV-positive people.  Activists crashed convention events and disrupted speakers.  About 100 protesters were arrested outside the Marscone Center on the first day of the conference.

Even the co-chairman of the conference, John Ziegler, wore a red armband in solidarity with activists and held a moment of silence in support of those who boycotted the conference because of the travel ban.

July 6, 1990
Bay Area Comedian Jim Samuels Dies

Jim Samuels, winner of the 1982 San Francisco Comedy Competition, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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Born in Oakland, Samuels was a popular comedian and sometime comedy teacher.  In the mid-1970, Samuels and then-comedy-partner Marty Cohen were regulars on Merv Griffin’s television show and several other variety programs.  In 1977, Samuels performed solo in a comedy skit on the TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and would embark on a solo career officially in the early 1980s.

Dubbed San Francisco’s Dean of Comedy by his friends and competitors, Samuels was also part owner of the Holy City Zoo club, a small but influential comedy club located at 408 Clement Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in San Francisco.

Samuels died at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.

July 7, 1990
Brazilian Rock Star Cazuza Dies

Brazilian rock legend and heartthrob Cazuza dies from AIDS-related illness at his parents’ Ipanema home at the age of 32.

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“Cazuza was forced to navigate his way through the trying social and medical realities of living with AIDS in Brazil during the 1980s,” according to Brazil: Five Centuries of Change by Thomas E. Skidmore.

Prior to the arrival of AIDS in Brazil in 1983, a sexual liberation had taken hold in the country’s major cities.  Because the first reported AIDS cases were that of gay men, it would be commonly referred to by Brazilians as a “gay cancer” or “gay plague,” and would cause widespread panic and fear.

“Cazuza would come to embody much of the conversation around (homo)sexuality and AIDS that would consume Brazil in the late 1980s,” Skidmore writes.  “Cazuza had relationships with both men and women. He made easy references to kissing girls and having girlfriends, but he neither ascribed to being gay per sé nor denied his interest in men… He would be able to defy the notion that AIDS was purely a gay man’s disease; though he slept with men, he was not necessarily identified, by himself or others, as gay.”

Mixing Bossa Nova music with 1960s British and American rock, he composed and recorded ″Cazuza,″ his first solo album in 1985, a record known for its biting, sarcastic tone and lyrics.

His song “Bete Balanço” 

Changing the ways in which HIV/AIDS were discussed and understood in Brazil, Cazuza demonstrated that people with AIDS could continue to be productive.  According to author and literary critic Marcelo Secron Bessa, Cazuza had become the “face” of AIDS in Brazil.

Cazuza dies in his sleep in his parents’ home in the beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema.

″Fortunately, he died without pain, sleeping,″ his father, Joao Araujo, director of one of the largest record companies in Brazil, would say on television.

Cazuza’s funeral at Sao Joao Batista Church in Rio’s Botofogo neighborhood would draw hundres of fans.

His mother Lucinha Araújo, would go on to create the ‘Sociedade Viva Cazuza’ [Viva Cazuza Society], to help people with AIDS.  A movie about Cazuza’s life would be released in 2004.

July 26, 1990
Congress Passes Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Ethyl Eichelberger
August 12, 1990
Performer Ethyl Eichelberger Dies

Flamboyant actor Ethyl Eichelberger, who turned theatrical conventions upside down in their career as a performance artist, playwright and director, committs suicide.  Eichelberger was 45 years old.

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Eichelberger was diagnosed with AIDS and chose to end their life on their own terms.  Their body was discovered in their Staten Island home by friends Lola Pashalinski and Linda Chapman.

Eichelberger was equally at ease playing characters male or female, including Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, King Lear, Medusa and Klytemnestra.

They wrote more than 30 plays, many of them marked by such Eichelberger trademarks as fire-eating, cartwheels and impromptu accordion concerts.

 

Eichelberger was born to Amish parents on July 17, 1945, and was named James Roy.  After studying theater at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, they attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and worked with Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company.

It was here where they perfected their flair for comedy and their craftmanship as a wig maker. In 1975, they legally changed their first name to Ethyl.

As their reputation grew, they began making forays into mainstream theater, doubling as the courtesan and the abbess in the Flying Karamazov Brothers production of ”The Comedy of Errors” at Lincoln Center.

Eichelberger played themself in Oliver Stone’s movie, ”The Doors.”

August 18, 1990
U.S. Enacts Ryan White CARE Act with $220M in Funding

The U.S. Congress passes legislation providing $220.5 million in federal funds for HIV community-based care and treatment services.

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Titled the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the legislation is named for the Indiana teen who became infected through treatment for his hemophilia and died in April 1990.

This creates the nation’s largest HIV-specific federal grant program, and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration is charged with managing the resources,

AIDS Quilt - Tom Fogarty
September 6, 1990
Rock Musician Tom Fogerty Dies

Tom Fogerty, member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and older brother of frontman John Fogerty, dies of AIDS-related illness in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 48.

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Born November 9, 1941 in Berkeley, California, Fogerty holds a significant place in rock history. As the rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, he played on plenty of rock classics and had a solo career.

In the four years the band was together, they never had a #1 single in the U.S.  However, the band holds the record for the most number of No.2 chart hits without ever having had a No.1.  They also had a U.K. #1 hit with Bad Moon Rising.  

At some point in the 1980s, after moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, Fogerty underwent surgery for his back and an unscreened blood transfusion caused him to be infected with AIDS virus.  The cause of his death was initially reported as tuberculosis.

In the eulogy that John Fogerty made at his brother’s funeral, he said: “We wanted to grow up and be musicians.  I guess we achieved half of that, becoming rock ‘n roll stars. We didn’t necessarily grow up.”

When Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Tom Fogerty’s widow brought his ashes in an urn.

Blood screening
September 16, 1990
Lawsuits Filed against Blood Agencies over Tainted Transfusions

The blood services industry braces itself against more than 300 lawsuits regarding people infected with the AIDS virus through blood transfusions.

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A small number of the medical negligence lawsuits have been settled for large amounts of money, and another 300 lawsuits are headed to trial, mostly in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While eight years has passed since the first medical reports made connections between transfusions and AIDS, legal cases are only beginning to surface because of the lag time between becoming infected with HIV and onset of physical symptoms.  An estimated 26 million people received transfusions between 1977 and 1985, years when the AIDS epidemic spread largely unchecked.

Legal experts expect thousands more cases to be filed in the courts over the next few years as more people discover that they were given tainted blood during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

In one case, a 5-year-old Arizona boy was awarded $28.7 million — believed to be the largest such award — and several other jury verdicts have been in the range of $12 million.

“These awards are far higher than in other types of cases, because the jury tries harder because of the disease, because they have all personally felt that fear,” attorney Duncan Barr told the LA Times.  Barr had defended San Francisco’s Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in several cases.

Plaintiffs have argued that the blood banks ignored scientific warnings about the threat of HIV-contaminated blood, failed to screen out high-risk donors through questionnaires that identified high-risk behavior, and refused to perform tests for other diseases that were often present in HIV-infected donors.

In Los Angeles County, health officials said 194 adults and 36 children have contracted AIDS through transfusions.

The American Red Cross, which collects half the nation’s blood supply, would not comment to the LA Times on how many lawsuits have been filed against it over allegedly tainted blood transfusions.

The Blood Council of Community Blood Centers released a statement saying that most centers were insured only for $2 million to $5 million a year for the years in question, and if the centers run out of insurance funds, they may be forced to increase the cost of blood sales to hospitals or go bankrupt.

Ray Stephens.png
October 4, 1990
Actor-Singer Ray Stephens Dies

Ray Stephens, best known for his starring role in the 1980s TV series The Great Space Coaster, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

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Stephens became the lead singer of The Village People in 1985, recorded with the group for their album, Sex Over the Phone, and acted in the movie Village People: New York City.

He was an actor, known for in roles in The Runaways (1975) and Cat’s Eye (1985).  He is also heard singing the tune Cat’s Eye during the closing credits of the 1985 Stephen King movie.

Stephens reportedly became infected with the HIV virus ‘ death through the intravenous use of drugs.

October 26, 1990
FDA Adds AZT to Pediatric AIDS Treatment Options

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves use of zidovudine (AZT) for pediatric AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Vito Russo 2
November 7, 1990
Film Historian Vito Russo Dies

Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.

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A film historian whose work was the first to examine the portrayal of LGBT people in film, television, and other media, Russo wrote The Celluloid Closet, the consummate reference book on homosexuality in the U.S. film industry.  Russo also was a key voice in the creation of both ACT UP-New York and the influential gay and lesbian media watchdog, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD.

Russo’s 1981 book chronicles the history of depictions of gay people in film, and it was made into an award-winning documentary (1995).  The book found its origins in movie nights Russo organized in the 1970s, when he combined the things he loved — community and cinema.

At the time, with the Stonewall riots a fresh memory, such gatherings were political acts.  Russo would screen a beloved movie and invite friends to watch — and soon the attendance grew to hundreds of gay people who would applaud favorite lines of dialogue and revel in queer subtext.  For many, these precursors of LGBTQIA+ film festivals were a first involvement in queer community.

Russo’s book The Celluloid Closet was published just as AIDS began its devastating march into the lives of many in the community.  Seeing entire circles of friends die, Russo returned to his activist roots and devoted himself to education, support and making as much noise as possible.

“Vito participated in every significant milestone in the gay liberation movement, from Stonewall to ACT UP,” said Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the documentary Vito (2011).  “He was right in the middle of everything, every step of the way.”

Among the many protests he helped stage that made headlines was one in which Russo and a group of activists descended on New York City officials for a mass marriage, complete with cakes topped by figures of same-sex couples — decades before gay marriage became a national issue and, in some states, legal.

In an homage to Russo, GLAAD recently developed the “Vito Russo Test,” a set of criteria to analyze how LGBTQ characters are included within a film.  To pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender;
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity, i.e., they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another; and
  • The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline. The character should “matter.”
AIDS Quilt - Ray Navarro
November 9, 1990
Video Artist-Activist Ray Navarro Dies

DIVA TV founder and Chicano activist Ray Navarro dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 26.

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An active member of ACT UP, Navarro famously dressed as Jesus during a protest held on December 10, 1989 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  The demonstration called out the Roman Catholic Church’s position on abortion rights, gay rights, and safe sex education.

Already visibly sick, Navarro led protestors in chants (“We’re here to say, we want to go to heaven, too!”) and became the “camp superstar” of the documentary Like a Prayer, which covered the demonstration.  Navarro’s activism was also featured in the documentary How to Survive a Plague.

In 1989, Navarro was one of several ACT UP-New York members who founded DIVA TV, a gay and lesbian video activist collective that preserved some of ACT UP’s public displays of civil disobedience.  DIVA TV was an acronym for “Damned Interfering Video Activist Television.”  Founding members also included Bob Beck, Gregg Bordowitz, Jean Carlomusto, Rob Kurilla, Costa Pappas, George Plagianos, Catherine Saalfield, and Ellen Spiro.

DIVA created three notable video productions:

  • Target City Hall, about a March 28, 1989 ACT UP demonstration against New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s inadequate response to the AIDS crisis;
  • Pride on the 20th anniversary of the city’s gay and lesbian pride movement; and
  • Like A Prayer, five 7-minute perspectives on the ACT UP/WHAM (Women’s Health Action Mobilization) December 10, 1989 demonstration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In February 1990, Navarro presented an AIDS program at the CineFestival in San Antonio, Texas.  Shortly afterward, Navarro lost his vision due to cytomegalovirus retinitis, an AIDS-related complication.  Shortly before his death in November 1990, he partnered with artist Zoe Leonard to create Equipped, a series of black-and-white photographs of mobility devices paired with provocative phrases.

Posthumously, Navarro’s art was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.  Navarro’s mother, Patricia, became a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors HIV/AIDS Committee and speaks publicly about her son’s experiences.

In memory of Ray Navarro and Gerardo Velázquez, Harry Gamboa Jr. wrote the chapter “Light at the End of Tunnel Vision” for the 2018 book Latinx Writing Los Angeles: Nonfiction Dispatches from a Decolonial Rebellion.

December 1, 1990
‘Night Without Light’ Launches in NYC

The organization Visual AIDS presents its first Night Without Light, organizing cities nationwide to turn off their architectural lights for 15 minutes as visual reminder of the impact of AIDS.

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“Night Without Light” was launched to coincide with Visual AIDS “Day Without Art” on World AIDS Day.  For fifteen minutes, from 7:45 to 8:00 p.m. on December 1st, the lights on Manhattan’s historic buildings, bridges, monuments and Broadway’s theatre marquees are turned off, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, United Nations Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Life Building, MetLife Tower,  Grand Central Terminal, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and George Washington Bridge among others — transforming the Manhattan skyline into a visual reminder of the impact of AIDS.

In future years, San Francisco would join New York City and also darken its skyline by turning off the architectural illumination on key landmarks as a symbolic reflection for the lives lost due to HIV.

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.  The contemporary arts organization is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness around HIV issues today, by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization supports the preservation of the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement.

January 1, 1991
HOPWA: Federal Housing Assistance Program Launched

Congress enacts the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Act of 1991, the first and only federal housing program solely dedicated to providing rental housing assistance for persons and their families living with HIV/AIDS.

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Approved as part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, HOPWA funds short-term and permanent housing, together with supportive services, for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

A report by the Congressional Research Service titled “Housing for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS,” describes HOPWA as a way to address the financial vulnerability and likelihood of homelessness associated with AIDS.

“Research has indicated that individuals living with HIV who live in stable housing have better health outcomes than those who are homeless or unstably housed, and that they spend fewer days in hospitals and emergency rooms,” the report states.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged with the administration of the funding, working with state and local community housing programs.

February 7, 1991
Bay Area Dancer Antonio Mendes Dies

Dancer and choreographer Antonio Mendes — who performed as principal dancer or guest artist with the Pacific Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Marin Civic Ballet and the National Ballet of Portugal — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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Mendez was also Director of the Redwood Empire Ballet.

AIDS Quilt - Burton Taylor 2
February 13, 1991
Ballet Dancer Burton Taylor Dies

Former leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, known for his speed, lightness and strong acting ability, Burton Taylor dies of AIDS-related illness in White Plains, New York at the age of 47.

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Taylor danced such roles as Captain Belaye in John Cranko’s Pineapple Poll and Arthur Saint-Leon in Robert Joffrey’s Pas des Deesses.  Taylor made his professional debut with the Eglevsky Ballet in 1959.  He joined the American Ballet Theater in 1962 and the Joffrey in 1969, dancing with the company through 1978.

Taylor also wwas a contributing editor of Dance magazine from 1979 to 1983, and wrote several dance articles for The New York Times.

AIDS Quilt - Lou Graydon Sullivan
March 2, 1991
Trans Author-Activist Lou Graydon Sullivan Dies

Lou Graydon Sullivan dies at the age of 39, the first transgender man to die of AIDS-related illness.

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Sullivan was an activist and author known for his work on behalf of trans men.  A pioneer of the grassroots female-to-male (FTM) movement, he is largely responsible for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.

He founded FTM International, and his activism and community work was a significant contributor to the rapid growth of the FTM community during the late 1980s.

Born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sullivan was raised in a very religious Catholic family.  At age 10, he started keeping a journal, describing his early childhood thoughts of being a boy, confusing adolescence, sexual fantasies of being a gay man, and his involvement in the Milwaukee music scene.

He continued to express confusion about his identity throughout his adolescence, writing at age 15, “I want to look like what I am, but don’t know what someone like me looks like.  I mean, when people look at me I want them to think — there’s one of those people … that has their own interpretation of happiness.  That’s what I am.”

By 1975, Sullivan identified himself as a “female-to-male transsexual,” and two years later, he moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco in the hopes he could find “more understanding” and access hormones for his transition.  He got a job with the Wilson Sporting Good Company, where he was employed as a woman but presented as a man much of the time.  In his personal life, Sullivan lived as an out gay man, but he was repeatedly denied gender affirmation surgery because of his sexual orientation.  At that time, transgender people were expected to adopt stereotypical heterosexual opposite-sex gender roles.  This rejection led Sullivan to start a campaign to remove homosexuality from the list of contraindications for gender affirmation surgery.

In 1979, at the age of 28, Sullivan was finally able to find doctors and therapists who would accept his sexuality.  He began taking testosterone and underwent a double mastectomy surgery the following year.  He started a new job as an engineering technician so that he could fully embrace his new identity as a man with new co-workers.

Shortly after undergoing genital reconstruction surgery in 1986, Sullivan was diagnosed as HIV positive and told he only had 10 months to live.  He wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.”

In June 2019, Sullivan was one of the inaugural 50 American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City.  In August 2019, Sullivan was one of the honorees inducted in the Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

March 13, 1991
‘Paris is Burning’ Premieres in New York City

The film Paris is Burning, documenting the Harlem Ballroom scene of the late 1980s, debuts in New York City.  The AIDS crisis would come to touch many of the lives seen in the movie.

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Directed by Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning helped shine a light on New York’s ballroom subculture, a vibrant scene where Black and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women competed in competitions involving fashion runways and vogue dancing battles.  The contestants often represented various “Houses,” self-organized groups which served as surrogate families for members of a community ostracised from mainstream society.

The documentary —  which took Livingston seven years to fund, make and release — was was an immediate hit with critics and fans of independent movies, and since then, it has become a staple of queer cinema.  The appeal of the film transcends time in its thematic core of resilience rooted and thriving in a community cast off by society.

“The defiant joy we witness in the ball walkers at so many moments of the film — despite the AIDS pandemic, racism, homophobia, transphobia, pov­erty, homelessness, violence, harassment, addiction, and what­ever other hardships they may have been dealing with at any given time — was infectious when the film premiered, and remains so today,” wrote filmmaker Michelle Parkerson on the 30th anniversary of the film’s release.

Yet, almost immediately, the film was met with sharp criticism from some of its subjects, who claimed that the filmmaker and Miramax, the film distributor, made considerable profits while they largely remained in impoverished conditions.

Miramax reported more than $4 million in gross earnings from its U.S. theatrical release modest for a Hollywood film but representing considerably wealth to Ballroom participants.  A legal battle between some of the surviving featured performers and Miramax would ultimately be resolved with a payment of about $55,000, divided among 13 performers based on screen time.

The film also drew criticism from feminist scholar bell hooks, who put forth the idea that Livingston – a middle-class, white, genderqueer lesbian – was an enabler of cultural appropriation.

Much of the controversy has centered on a perceived appropriation of a Black gay subculture by a privileged white filmmaker,” said Parkerson in her article for The Criterion Collection upon its re-release of the film.  “It has also involved the perennial question of who has the right to tell someone else’s story, which, I posit, is the lingering dilemma at the doorstep of any documentary project.”

Upon the 2020 re-release of Paris is Burning, Livingston said in an interview that her perspective as the filmmaker was valid, even though she was not a member of the Ballroom subculture.

“My agenda was to tell a great story while not imposing my view, but that is a struggle,” Livingston  told Hyperallergic.  “Whenever you tell a story, you have that control. In terms of my race, I felt very welcome.  I was honored they trusted me, but as a white Jewish person, I knew that I wasn’t from their world.  I tried to be the absolute best listener that I could, and it helped to work with a great editor in Jonathan Oppenheim.  We tried to balance what people were saying without imposing our own agendas onto the film.”

Most of the film’s subjects died in the 15 or so years following its theatrical release, due to factors like transphobic violence, poverty, and AIDS.  Venus Xtravaganza, who was a sex worker, was murdered in a New York hotel room in 1998.  In the TV series Pose, Venus would be the inspiration for character Aphrodite Xtravaganza, created by writer and activist Janet Mock to give Venus “a second life.”

Angie Xtravaganza, the Mother of the House of Xtravaganza, died of AIDS-related illness in 1993, as did Dorian Corey.  Pepper Labeija died in 2003 of a heart attack.  Willi Ninja, who perfected the art of voguing and trained others in the dance style, died of AIDS-related illness in 2006.

“Existing only in memory, enshrined in celluloid, they are and were stars, but they didn’t get to see the fruits of their culture become mainstream and profitable,” writes Canadian film critic Willow Catelyn Maclay.  “Rewatching the movie is a bittersweet experience, because there is deep beauty in the ballroom scene, but the sun always rises and parties always end.”

AIDS Quilt - Howard Ashman
March 14, 1991
Disney Lyricist Howard Ashman Dies

Howard Ashman, the award-winning lyricist “who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul,” dies at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of 40.

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Born in Baltimore in 1950, Ashman would rise to prominence in the musical theater world in 1977, when he became the artistic director of New York City’s WPA Theatre, an off-off-Broadway theater with 99 seats.  This is where Ashman’s collaboration with composer Alan Menken began.

Their first musical was Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater in 1979 (which Vonnegut himself approved of).  Then in 1982, Ashman went on to conceive, write and direct Little Shop of Horrors, again with music by Alan Menken. The musical, based upon Roger Corman’s 1960s-era horror flick, was immediately successful.

In 1986, Howard wrote and directed the Broadway musical, Smile, which featured music by Marvin Hamlisch.  Little appreciated at the time, Smile is now considered a lost gem of musical theater and is performed by high schools and amateur groups around the U.S.

Smile closed after just 48 performances, and Ashman decided to accept an offer from Disney Pictures and moved to Los Angeles.

“Here’s what you need to know about Disney in 1986: it was a total mess,” writes Peter Knegt in his column Queeries.  “The 1970s and 1980s are what many refer to the company’s ‘dark period,’ peaking with 1985’s massive financial disaster The Black Cauldron.

Ashman showed up just in time to rescue Disney’s animation department.  Of the prospective projects presented to Ashman, one grabbed hold of him right away — an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  He took charge of the project and brought in Alan Menken to help him.

“The animation studio was basically shutting down,” Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, recalled in 2016. “When we did our film, we didn’t even have an animation division over at the lot; they’d been kicked off and in these little cubicles in this run-down place…. It was just unbelievable to think that Walt’s vision was dying.”

It was during production of The Little Mermaid that Howard discovered he was infected with HIV.  Despite his illness, he continued to work, giving the story his particular point of view.

In early meetings with Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker, Ashman made a suggestion that would change cinematic history: What if Sebastian the crab, Ariel’s guardian, was Jamaican?

“Now we can’t imagine hearing ‘Under the Sea’ any other way,” writes Maureen Lee Lenker for Entertainment.

Ashman also steered the animators toward his favorite design option for the sea witch Ursula, one based on drag star Divine.

“And really, to think that an openly gay man inserted a queer icon into the essence of a lead character in a Disney film in the late 1980s is incredibly radical,” writes Peter Knegt.  “It would be even today.”

Ashman continued to keep his diagnosis secret, enduring eight-hour days at Disney World doing press.  To receive his daily treatments via IV infusion, he had a catheter in his chest.  He was expected to go on rides, and was too afraid to tell people that it would be too painful.

Over the next few years, Ashman was pivotal in the renaissance of Disney animated musicals and in the development of The Little Mermaid (Producer and Lyrics), Beauty and the Beast (Executive Producer and Lyrics) and Aladdin (Lyrics), all with music by Alan Menken.

Beauty and the Beast premiered as an unfinished film at the 1991 New York Film Festival, but Ashman wasn’t there to see it and hear the rapturous applause during the closing credits.  He had died eight months before its release.

Ashman’s contributions to the revival of classic Disney animated musicals have been acknowledged by many but were perhaps best expressed by his Disney colleagues, who dedicated the film Beauty and the Beast to his memory: “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul. He will be forever missed.”

Ashman’s numerous awards include two Oscars, two Golden Globes, four Grammys, a Drama Desk and a London Evening Standard.  Ashman won his second Oscar posthumously in 1991, for his work on the title song for Beauty and the Beast, and this became the first Oscar given to someone who had died of AIDS.

In 2001, Disney inducted Ashman into its Legends program, an honor reserved for animators, Imagineers, songwriters, actors, and business leaders who made a significant impact on the Disney legacy.

In 2020, Disney+ released Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist.  Directed and written by Don Hahn, the film tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows, and to his untimely death.  His story is told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends, and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast.

April 10, 1991
‘Predator’ Actor Kevin Peter Hall Dies

Kevin Peter Hall, a 7’3″-tall actor known for his TV and film roles as monsters, dies of AIDS-related illness a month short of his 36th birthday.

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Hall’s enormous stature landed him numerous roles in films and TV as monsters and aliens, most famously as the title role in the 1987 science fiction action film Predator and its 1990 sequel, Predator 2.  He is also remembered for playing Harry the Sasquatch in the 1987 film Harry and the Hendersons and in the television series of the same name.

Hall became known in the industry for mastering the technique and art of performing in often-cumbersome masks and costumes.

“When you look at Kevin Peter Hal in that wardrobe, makeup and with that size, and you see him against Arnold [Schwarzenegger] you believe ooh-ooh, Arnie’s in trouble,” Predator co-star Carl Weathers said in The Man Behind the Predator featurette.  “He made it work.  Kevin Peter Hall really made the thing work.”

When Rick Baker won the 1988 Academy Award for Makeup for his work on Harry and the Hendersons, he thanked Hall for his “brilliant performance.”

In 1990, Hall was reprising his role as Harry for TV when he announced that he had contracted HIV from a contaminated blood transfusion following a car accident.  He portrayed Harry for the first sixteen episodes of Harry and the Hendersons before his illness forced him to give up the role.

A monster on the screen, in real life Hall was known as big-hearted and “a sweetheart of a guy.”

AIDS Quilt - Nicholas Dante
May 21, 1991
A Chorus Line’s Nicholas Dante Dies

Nicholas Dante, who won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award as a co-author of A Chorus Line, died of AIDS in New York City at the age of 49.

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Dante started his career as a dancer, appearing in the choruses of shows, including Applause, on television shows and in nightclubs.  His experiences became one of the prominent stories in A Chorus Line,” which ranks among the top ten longest-running shows in Broadway history.

His own story — about growing up poor in New York City and feeling scorned and lonely because of his homosexuality — was told by Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award as best supporting actor for his portrayal of the character, Paul.

Dante described his lonely childhood and his illness in a 1991 Jimmy Breslin column.

“I grew up in the Forties, a Puerto Rican kid on 125th and Broadway, and obviously gay,” he told Breslin.  “Nobody would hang out with me … I was terrified to go out where anybody could see me.”

Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett and with music by Marvin Hamlisch, A Chorus Lie was produced by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1975 and then moved to the Shubert Theater, where it had 6,137 performances before closing in April 1990.

By then, three of the show’s five creators had died: Bennett in 1987, lyricist Edward Kleban in 1987, and co-writer James Kirkwood in 1989.

Red Ribbon
June 2, 1991
Red Ribbon Makes Debut at Tony Awards

The red ribbon becomes a symbol of compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers.

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The Visual AIDS Artists Caucus  launches the Red Ribbon Project to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers. The red ribbon would become the international symbol of AIDS awareness.

New York artist Patrick O’Connel and other artists band together and started making art in response to AIDS, calling their collective Visual AIDS.  The artists, which hold public events and organized gallery shows to raise AIDS awareness, perhaps make their biggest impact with a simple little symbol: the AIDS awareness ribbon.

The idea started with Marc Happel, a costume designer invited to a meeting of the Visual AIDS artist caucus.

After several trips to upstate NY, where he had seen yellow ribbons tied around trees to honor servicement, Marc thought that Visual AIDS could do something similar, to acknowledge the war at home. Marc proposed that the group fold a ribbon and pin it on their lapels; the group decided that the ribbon ought to be red — the color of blood.

A local ribbon supplier donated spools of red grosgrain ribbon, and Visual AIDS began cutting, folding, and pinning. The Visual AIDS Artist Caucus members held what they called “ribbon bees” — like a quilting bee, where a bunch of people gathered to work.

The looped, inverted-V shape came after trying out numerous styles. Visual AIDS would hand-cut, fold, and pin thousands of ribbons, all just to hand out for free, attached to pamphlets.

On Sunday, June 2, Visual AIDS (working with Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS) would launch the Red Ribbon project at the 45th Annual Tony Awards.

The Tonys host, Jeremy Irons, wore the red ribbon, and so did many winners, presenters and guests (Daisey Eagan, Kevin Spacey, Penn and Teller, Tyne Daly, Mercedes Ruehl, Jerry Zaks, Joel Grey, Keith Carradine, and more).

The guests and presenters were asked not to speak directly about what the red ribbon meant. This resulted in media curiosity and the red ribbon became an overnight phenomenon.

June 22, 1991
Drag Performer Doris Fish / Philip Mills Dies

Performer-writer Philip Mills, who performed in drag in San Francisco under the name Doris Fish, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Co-founder with Miss X and Tippi of the long-lived Sluts-a-Go-Go drag trio, Doris would perform songs and skits based on such cult favorites as The Valley of the Dolls.

Mills would co-write and (as Doris Fish) star in the cult film classic Vegas in Space (1991).

July 21, 1991
U.S. Pushes States to Restrict HIV+ Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends restrictions on the practice of HIV-positive healthcare workers, prompting Congress to enact a law requiring states to adopt the CDC restrictions.

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The CDC’s report ecommends that healthcare workers who are HIV-positive “should not perform exposure-prone procedures unless they have sought counsel from an expert review panel and been advised under what circumstances, if any, they may continue to perform these procedures.”

The CDC goes on to say that HIV-positive healthcare workers should notify prospective patients of the worker’s HIV status before they undertaking exposure-prone invasive procedures.

The report cites the case of Dr. David Acer, a dentist with AIDS who likely transmitted HIV to five of his 850 patients.

Although this was the only cluster of health care worker-to-patient transmissions of HIV in the U.S., the report concerning Dr. Acer immediately set off public debate on the effectiveness of existing safeguards of the public’s health, whether it was appropriate for HIV-positive health care workers to practice, and the public’s right to know the HIV status of their physicians.

1991
Minority Groups Launch HIV Treatment Education Program

The National Minority AIDS Council, in cooperation with the National Association of People With AIDS and the National AIDS Interfaith Network, holds the National Skills Building Conference, which will later become the United States Conference on AIDS.

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As the largest AIDS-related gathering in the country, the United States Conference on AIDS would draw thousands of attendees annually to share information, create new networks, and learn about the latest tools being used to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.

Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC, planned and implemented the first three conferences, considered to be the first national HIV treatment education programs in the U.S.  Annual conference participants include healthcare and service providers, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS, and policymakers.

August 14, 1991
U.S. Creates Network of Clinical Trials, Expanding Treatment Options

Congress passes legislation to create a network of community-based clinical trials for HIV treatment.

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The Terry Beirn Community-Based Clinical Trials Program Act establishes a network of community clinical trials to complement the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ university-based research in order to provide increased access to experimental therapies.

The legislation is named for Terry Beirn, a program officer for amfAR who worked on the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources on AIDS legislation.

Known as a fierce AIDS activist, Beirn com­pil­ed quar­terly direc­to­ries of AIDS treat­ment for doc­tors and patients, fundraised for AmFAR and other research orga­ni­za­tions, and pushed leg­is­la­tion to fund clin­i­cal tri­als of exper­i­men­tal treat­ments and drugs.

Following his diag­nosis with AIDS in 1984, Beirn began his advocacy work on AIDS policy with Sen­. Ted Kennedy, and in 1986, Beirn joined the staff of the U.S. Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Labor and Human Resources. Dur­ing his time there, Beirn gar­nered sup­port for the first com­pre­hen­sive piece of AIDS leg­is­la­tion, the HIV Organ Pol­icy Equity Act of 1988, which mod­i­fied rules regard­ing organ dona­tion between HIV-pos­i­tive indi­vid­u­als.  In 1990, Beirn would be instru­men­tal in the pas­sage of the Ryan White Care Act, for which he advo­cates directly with Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush.

Beirn dies of AIDS-related illness in 1991 at the age of 39.

August 16, 1991
U.S. Travel Ban Causes Int’l AIDS Conference to Move to Amsterdam

The 8th International AIDS Conference is originally scheduled to be held in Boston in 1992, but conference planners decide to move it to Amsterdam due to U.S. immigration restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS.

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Harvard University, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the World Health Organization, announces that because of “continuing uncertainty” of the country’s policy toward HIV-positive individuals, it will not hold the 1992 conference in Boston.  Weeks later, Harvard would announce that the next conference would be held in Amsterdam.

The Boston site of the meeting is canceled, because of Bush Administration requirements that short-term visitors to the U.S. declare whether they are infected with the AIDS virus.  The policy bans travel to the U.S. by foreigners infected with the virus, unless they get a waiver.

Two months earlier, the 1991 International AIDS Conference in Florence closes with officials and participants marching to the U.S. Consultate to protest the American travel ban.

Almost 20 years later, the ban on HIV-positive immigrants and travelers to the U.S. would be lifted by an executive order by President Barack Obama.

August 25, 1991
San Francisco Drag Performer Tippi / Erik Mead Dies

Erik Mead, who performed in San Francisco venues under the drag name Tippi, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.

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With drag queens Miss X and Doris Fish, Tippi created the performance group Sluts-a-Go-Go in San Francisco.  They would create and perform drag shows for 10 years in Bay Area venues like Club 181.

Tippi would also perform in a featured role in the camp cult film Vegas in Space (1991), written by Philip Mills (who performed in drag as Doris Fish).  Favorites of the Castro district drag scene, Doris and Tippi produced a weekly cable news show in 1986 about the gay community.

Mead and Mills were roommates, and Mills would precede Mead in death by two months.

AIDS Quilt - Belinda Mason
September 9, 1991
‘Well, bye-bye y’all’: Activist Belinda Mason Dies

Belinda Mason, the only AIDS-infected member of the National Commission on AIDS and a critic of President George H.W. Bush, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33.

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Infected with the AIDS virus in 1987 from a blood transfusion during the birth of her second child, Mason is known for being the commission member most unafraid to speak out against the Bush administration for treating AIDS as a moral issue rather than as a public-health issue.

She is also known as a strong voice among people with AIDS who are angry that AZT is the only AIDS drug approved by the U.S.

Mason refused to distinguish between what sanctimonious politicians called the “innocent victims” of HIV and the rest of those living with the disease.  Yet she was aware of her priviledge, telling the press that Bush appointed her because, ″I was perfect. I was Southern, I was white, I was articulate and I got AIDS in a nice way.″

Before becoming ill, Mason worked as a reporter for the Appalachian News Express in Pikeville and the Hartford Times News, both Kentucky weeklies.  She also wrote short stories.

Mason, originally of Whitesburg, Ky., founded Kentuckiana People With AIDS, the first Kentucky-based group dedicated to fighting for a cure. She also was a member of the AIDS Action Council, a national AIDS lobbying group.

She spent untold hours with Kentuckians, listening, laughing, educating, telling stories and being a lifeline for rural HIVers, according to Kate Black in her profile on Mason in POZ magazine.

She was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when Bush appointed her in 1989 to the commission created by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.

Right before Belinda Mason died at the age of 32, she told her family, “Well, bye-bye y’all.”

In 2016, the legislature of the State of Kentucky would honor Mason with a resolution to “reflect on the many accomplishments Belinda Mason made as a notable woman in Kentucky’s history.”

“For her uncommon courage in the face of death, for all that she accomplished as an AIDS
advocate during a time in this country when it was unpopular to do so, and for being a
daughter of this great Commonwealth,” the resolution states, “this honorable body posthumously honors her for her many contributions to human rights on Women’s History Month.”

September 29, 1991
California AB101 Veto Sparks Protests in LA and SF

Infuriated by Gov. Pete Wilson’s veto of a major gay rights bill, California activists launch a wave of demonstrations that brand the governor “a liar” who betrayed a cause he had pledged to support.

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Demonstrators gathered at the Westwood Federal Building in Los Angeles in the morning and the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown LA in the afternoon. Protesters splattered red liquid on the state building and broke a heavy glass door before disbanding after a standoff with police.  Two demonstrators were arrested.

That evening, about 2,000 whistle-blowing, chanting demonstrators gathered in West Hollywood, where they torched a California state flag and burned Wilson in effigy.  The protesters then marched from West Hollywood to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard, where Wilson was attending an event.

When the activists arrived at the museum, they shouted, “Civil rights or civil war!”

Later, about 150 demonstrators gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, where Wilson was a guest.  A man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of assault after protesters rushed the hotel’s front entrance and knocked down a helmeted police officer.

In San Francisco, angry protesters marched from San Francisco’s Castro District to the State building in Civic Center, where Gov. Wilson had an office.  The situation took a violent turn when the front doors were smashed and offices were set on fire.  The Bay Area Reporter described protestors kicking in glass doors and causing over $150,000 in damages to the building.  This would become known as the “AB 101 Veto Riot.”

The demonstrations go on for about three weeks, and transformed thousands of people into activists. Some people were out every night.

“Probably the biggest demonstration started at San Vicente and went west on Sunset to UCLA, where we disrupted an outdoor speech being given by Wilson,” recalled Steve Martin, who was President of the Stonewall Democratic Club at the time.  “The police said there were 5,000 in the streets; it looked closer to 10,000 to me.  As we marched back to West Hollywood, Sunset looked like a river of demonstrators.”

AB 101 would have prevented job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Gov. Wilson, a moderate Republican, initially promised to sign such legislation into law, but reversed his decision after his office received complaints from anti-gay activists.

“We were blatantly lied to, and we are angry,” John J. Duran, co-chair of the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality, told the Los Angeles Times.  Duran said Wilson promised to support anti-discrimination legislation in meetings with gay activists during his gubernatorial campaign.

About one year later, California AB 101 was passed by state legislature and signed by signed by Pete Wilson.

November 7, 1991
Magic Johnson Announces HIV-Positive Status

Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson announces that he is HIV-positive.

AIDS Quilt - Freddie Mercury
November 24, 1991
Performer Freddie Mercury Dies

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer-songwriter for the rock band Queen, dies at the age of 45 of AIDS-related illness at his home in west London one day after he publicly announces he is HIV positive.

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Regarded by fans and critics alike as a consummate showman, Mercury was openly bisexual and enjoyed a colourful rock-star lifestyle.

Born Frederick Bulsara on the East African island of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, Mercury studied piano in boarding school in India, then befriended numerous musicians at London’s Ealing College of Art.

Mercury would become famous for being one of the rock world’s most versatile and engaging performers and for his mock operatic masterpiece, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’  Released in 1975, the six-minute song was nearly never released due to its length and unusual style.

But Mercury insisted to his bandmates and music executives that it be included in their album “A Night at the Opera” and the song would go on to be a worldwide hit and timeless rock anthem.

When members of the music community began to become sick and die from AIDS, Mercury would express fear about becoming infected with HIV, recalls friend Peter Freestone, who believes the singer  first suspected he was ill as early as 1987.

For the final two years of his life, Mercury would keep his illness secret from everyone, except those he was closest to, according to his bandmates, and he would live in almost total seclusion.

Only Freddie’s close family and friends were invited to his funeral.

Ten years later, Mercury and Queen would be recognized for their contributions to American music history when they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

AIDS Quilt - Stan Hadden
December 2, 1991
Sacramento Activist Stan Hadden Dies

Stan Hadden, a senior administrative aide to California Senate President Pro Tempore David A. Roberti and one of the most influential voices on AIDS policies in Sacramento, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

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As fierce fighter for HIV/AIDS policy for 10 years, Haddon is credited with shepharding the creation of the California AIDS Advisory Committee in 1983 and writing legislation supporting a coordinated approach to local HIV/AIDS programs and services in 1985.

Hadden was one of only a few in the 1980s Sacramento political scene who were open about their LGBT identity, journalist Karen Ocamb would later write in The Pride.  Scores of administrative and political aides to California legislators remained in the closet, fearful that open knowledge of their sexual identity would end their professional careers.  Elected officials and potential candidates who identify as LGBT also remained silenced by the very real fear of ruination.

In the final two weeks of his life, Hadden receives round-the-clock nursing care as part of a hospice program.  Sacramento AIDS Foundation spokeswoman Patty Blomberg notes that the AIDS care Hadden received might not have existed if it were not for his influence and persistence.

Blomberg tells the Sacramento Bee that Hadden had slipped into a coma early that morning and then died at about noon at his farmhouse along the Sacramento River, surrounded by friends and family who had flown in from as far away as Michigan.

Hadden’s funeral would bring in friends and colleagues from around the state, including Ocamb and John Duran, then President of the Board of LIFE AIDS Lobby who would become Mayor of the City of West Hollywood.

“In a gesture unheard of for the suits of Sacramento, a huge rainbow flag was unfurled and solemnly marched down the street to the Capitol,” Ocamb recalled.

“Stan’s memory will go on, because he made a contribution to this state that many of us can only dream of making,” Senate President Pro Tem Roberti says during Hadden’s memorial service at St. Francis Church in midtown Sacramento.

December 8, 1991
Kimberly Bergalis, Focus of Heated Debate on Testing, Dies

Kimberly Bergalis, who stirred a national debate over AIDS testing when she became the first known case of contracting the virus from a health care worker, died of AIDS-related illness at her home in Fort Pierce, Florida at the age of 23.

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Bergalis became the poignant symbol of a scientific mystery and a continuing debate over the risk of infection in health care settings and what to do about it.

Bergalis’ infection with the AIDS virus was traced to her dentist, Dr. David J. Acer of Stuart, Florida.  Acer, who continued practicing dentistry several years after learning he was infected with HIV, told health investigators that he did not believe he had infected anyone.

However, testing of hundreds of his patients found four more who were infected with the same strain of HIV as his and who reportedly had no other risks for the disease.  Experts still question how those infections occurred, with the most common theory beging that Acer bled from a cut in his hands or used instruments that had punctured his skin or were not sterilized after use on another infected patient.

What finally convinced health officials that Acer was responsible for Bergalis’ infection with HIV was a laboratory analysis of the virus, whose mutations produce varied strains, showing that the samples from Acer and Bergalis were virtually identical.  Bergalis sued Acer’s estate for $1 million and also received an undisclosed sum from his insurance company. But her crusade continued.

“Someone who has AIDS and continues to practice is nothing better than a murderer,” said George Bergalis, Kimberly’s father.  The Bergalis family also urged testing of patients to protect doctors.

A few months before her death, Kimberly Bergalis was wheeled into a Capitol hearing room so she could state her support for a bill to test both medical professionals and patients.

“I did not do anything wrong, yet I am being made to suffer like this,” she whispered. “My life has been taken away. Please enact legislation so that no other patient or health care provider will have to go through the hell that I have.”

Some said that Bergalis stirred unwarranted panic and that her case diverted attention from the far more common spread of the disease by unprotected sex and the sharing of tainted needles by IV drug users.

Spurred by the public uproar, the Federal Centers for Disease Control proposed barring infected health workers from procedures in which HIV might be transmitted.  But the legislation stalled, and the centers backed off under opposition from state and local health officials, medical societies and advocates for AIDS patients.

Opponents of the proposed regulation argued that the Florida case remained an anomaly, that thousands of patients of other doctors with HIV were tested and found uninfected, and that new rules were not needed.  They said the proposals would unfairly destroy the careers of infected health workers and waste millions of dollars that would be better spent on other AIDS preventives.

January 7, 1992
Muppeteer Richard Hunt Dies

Richard Hunt, a puppeteer known for his work on The Muppet Show, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan at the age of 40.

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Hunt, a native of the Bronx, was a member of Jim Henson Productions for more than 20 years, as the performer behind Scooter, Janice, Forgetful Jones, Junior Gorg and many other characters from the popular television programs The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.

He directed several episodes of these shows, and was a puppeteer in the Henson films The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan and Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3-D, a Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park attraction.

Hunt was known by his co-workers on Sesame Street and other projects for his accomplished singing voice and his warm backstage personality.

He served as a mentor to newer puppeteers, taking new hires to lunch.  He was often observed reading a newspaper as he was performing a character and doing that character’s lines.

“When he is not working on camera, he is apt to have Scooter or Beaker or Janice — anyone — on his arm for the purpose of entertaining visitors to the studio.  If there are no visitors around, he will attempt to entertain his co-workers,” wrote Christopher Finch in his book Of Muppets and Men.

Among his last productions were The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, Sesame Street’s Sing, Hoot & Howl, and Muppet Sing Alongs: Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs (the last of which was released in 1993, one year after his death).  Several episodes of Sesame Street’s 23rd season featuring new Hunt performances aired posthumously as well.

In the period immediately following his death, few of Hunt’s characters (with the notable exceptions of Beaker, Statler, and Sweetums) were recast with new performers. Scooter was retired and absent as a character in all Muppet productions until 1999 with Muppets from Space.  On Sesame Street, characters originated by Hunt usually appear only in background cameos.

The Richard Hunt Spirit Award is presented annually at the Sesame Street wrap party to the cast member who best honors the generosity in spirit and dedicated work of Richard Hunt in their actions on set.

AIDS Quilt - Tina Chow
January 24, 1992
Fashion Icon Tina Chow Dies

Jewelry designer and activist Tina Chow dies of AIDS-related illness in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 41.

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Born Bettina Louise Lutz, the supermodel, jewellery designer and fashion collector, was married to restaurateur Michael Chow in 1972 and became known professionally as Tina Chow.  In the 1970s, she was featured prominently in advertising campaigns for the Japanese cosmetic line Shiseido.

“Chow broke the mold of being a model with an androgynous look and a distinctly chic fashion sensibility that gave her notoriety,” writes artist Maxwell N. Burnstein in his tribute to her on the Council of Fashion Designers of America website.

Karl Lagerfeld credits Chow as the inventor of minimal chic, and Kate Moss considers her to be her style icon.  Recognized as having a profound influence on the styles of her era, Chow was initiated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1985.

The same year, Helmut Newton took a portrait photograph of Chow and her husband in which their power dynamics are made evident.

“In the photograph, the two are separated, physically, by the counter of a bar,” writes Cynthia Cruz in The Critical Flame.  “He standing in dark glasses, holding a glass in his hand, staring at her while she is on the other side, in a long white dress, her eyes made dark with make-up, tied to the bar with rope.”

In the mid-1980s, Chow began to find the non-stop party lifestyle tiresome, and was encouraged by artist Andy Warhol to turn her attention to jewellery design. She incorporated stones and crystals associated with healing properties into bamboo and used traditional Japanese basket weaving techniques to follow the shapes of uncut stones.

“Chow’s pieces of jewelry are unusual, neither delicate or what one might usually consider ‘beautiful,'” writes Cynthia Cruz in her tribute to Chow.  “Instead, the pieces are solid, anchored.”

The piece for which Chow is best known is her Kyoto Bracelet, constructed of black bamboo with seven rose quartz pebbles inside.

Around this time, Chow also deepened her commitment to AIDS charity work.  In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she explained, “I lost several friends to AIDS, and I felt my life slipping away while I continued to party.”

She also separated from her husband and embarked on a series of affairs, first with a film star who introduced her to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, and later with the French aristocrat Kim D’Estainvillle.

In 1989, Chow and her husband divorced.  Five months later, she learned that she was HIV positive.  Chow refused to take any of the medicine her Western doctors recommended.  Instead, she opted for a holistic approach, attempting to heal herself with crystals, macrobiotics, teas, and similar somatic modes of healing.

After Chow had made her illness public, she continued to work with AIDS organizations, including Project Angel Food.  She ultimately lost her life from complications from AIDS at her home in Pacific Palisades on January 24, 1992.

March 23, 1992
Lavender Hill Mob’s Martin Robinson Dies

Martin Robinson, a long-time organizer for gay-rights causes who was known for his provocative protests, died of AIDS-related illness at his Brooklyn home at the age of 49.

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Robinson was present at the 1969 police raid of the Stonewall, a Greenwich Village bar patronized by members of the LGBTQ community.

Such raids were common, but for the first time, the customers resisted and fought back.  Shortly afterward, 2,000 attended a rally in Sheridan Square, where Robinson was a keynote speaker.

An early member of the Gay Activists Alliance, many activists considered Robinson a visionary during the early years of AIDS activism.

One of his mantras was, if it’s not medicine, it’s murder,” activist Bill Bahlman would tell the Act Up Oral History Project in 2010. “He taught me things like it doesn’t matter whether you’re Rock Hudson or a person living on the street, homeless.  If you don’t have effective treatments for HIV, you’re going to die.”

In the early 1980s, Robinson headed GLAAD’s Swift and Terrible Retribution Committee, planning demonstrations and developing political “zaps,” chaotic and theatrical interventions intended to attract the attention of the press.

When the Centers for Disease Control planned its 1987 conference in Atlanta with a focus on mandatory testing for HIV, Robinson led activists from his group, the Lavender Hill Mob, into the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis, where a pre-conference cocktail party was being held for attendees.

Activists passed out fliers to the startled participants with the message, “What does CDC stand for? Center for Detention Camps!”

During the three days of the conference, Robinson and the Lavender Hill Mob appeared in various meeting locations with leaflets and noisy chants: “Test drugs, not people!” and “Drugs into bodies now!”

Robinson was also a founder of ACT UP, which was started in New York in the wake of the Lavender Hill Mob’s success. Modeled on the tactics of the Lavender Hill Mob, ACT UP’s approach was bold and headline-grabbing — and effective.

Perhaps one of Robinson’s most important “zaps” was the one at the National Institutes of Health in May 1990, around the time that North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was trying to block a $600 million AIDS relief bill.

ACT UP members from all over the country descended on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, setting off smoke bombs and yelling that NIH policies were killing them.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIH’s drive to end AIDS, invited several ACT UP leaders inside and listened to them. What he learned brought about the Accelerated Approval process that helped get “drugs into bodies now,” as the ACT UP slogan demanded.

The Marty Robinson Collection of papers and records are currently stored at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York.

 

March 24, 1992
Activist Clinton Hockenberry Does

Clinton C. Hockenberry, an activist for gay and lesbian rights and on behalf of AIDS patients, died of AIDS-related illness at his home in San Francisco at the age of 41.

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A resident of Washington D.C. from 1975 to 1985, Hockenberry was president and executive director of Gay and Lesbian Pride Day, executive co-director of the 1983 National AIDS Vigil, and a founder of the Whitman-Walker Clinic and Langston Hughes/Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club.

While attending Georgetown University Law Center, Hockenberry was president of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Coalition, which successfully sued for recognition from the university.

Hockenberry was executive director and chief lobbyist of the Greater Washington Americans for Democratic Action from 1982 to 1984. From 1985 until his retirement, he was executive director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, a public-interest legal service in San Francisco. He was editor and writer of AIDSLaw, a manual of legal services for persons with HIV infection.  He won awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State Bar of California for his AIDS work.

April 6, 1992
Science Fiction Writer Isaac Asimov Dies

Considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers in America, Isaac Asimov died in Manhattan of AIDS-related illness at the age of 72.

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The cause of death was initially reported as heart and kidney failure.  In 2002, the Asimov family would correct the record to reflect that Asimov died from AIDS-related illness.

A prolific writer, Asinov was best known for writing science fiction attentive to scientific accuracy and logic.  He also wrote mysteries, fantasy, and nonfiction.

His most famous work is the Foundation series, the first three books of which won the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966.  His other major works include the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. In addition, he also wrote over 380 short stories, including the social science fiction novelette “Nightfall,” which in 1964 was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Asimov’s wife, Janet, would make public the details around Asimov’s HIV-positive status in the last 10 years of his life with the posthumous release of his autobiography It’s Been a Good Life.

Asimov suffered a heart attack in 1977, and six years later, he underwent triple bypass surgery at NYU Medical Center, during which he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion.  His HIV status was kept secret out of concern that the anti-AIDS prejudice prevelant in the 1980s might extend to his family members.

AIDS Quilt - Edward Riney
1992
West Hollywood Activist Edward Riney Dies

Edward Riney, member of the East End Community Action group in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness.

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Riney was well-known in the West Hollywood community as a civically engaged resident who worked tirelessly to improve public safety in the early days of West Hollywood’s cityhood.

He served on the neighborhood watch group on the city’s east side and established himself as a commentator for the Los Angeles Times for local public safety initiatives, such as the passage of a “no camping” law for city parks and removing from Plummer Park a meal program for people experiencing homelessness.

At the April meeting of the City Council, then-Mayor Paul Koretz announced that he would adjourn the meeting in memory of Riney.  A moment of silence was also held in Riney’s honor.

At the meeting, longtime resident Jeanne Dobrin spoke of Riney’s dedication to crime prevention and said she appreciated his sense of humor.  In addition, resident Gloria Vassy talked about how Riney organized an annual food basket drive during the holidays.

On April 25, the community held a memorial service for Riney in Plummer Park.  The following December, the holiday food basket drive was organized in memory of Riney; 150 food baskets were assembled and given out to those in need.

AIDS Quilt - Robert Reed
May 12, 1992
Brady Bunch’s Robert Reed Dies

Robert Reed, who played quintessential family man Mike Brady in the popular sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974, dies of AIDS-related illness in Pasadena, California at the age of 59.

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In 1969, Reed was cast as quintessential family man Mike Brady on the enduring sitcom The Brady Bunch.  With a superficial and somewhat charming view of suburban family life, the TV show became a cultural icon of the 1970s, against all Reed’s expectations.

Reed kept it a secret that he was gay until he died in 1992.  Co-star Florence Henderson said she knew about Reed’s sexual identity, as did others on the set, but it was never discussed.

“He was an unhappy person,” Henderson said.  “Had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.”

Behind the scenes of the TV show, Reed battled with its creator, Sherwood Schwartz, over its content. In a 1983 interview with The Associated Press, Reed said that he and Schwartz “fought over the scripts,” and that he thought Schwartz filled the show with “just gag lines. That would have been what The Brady Bunch would have been if I hadn’t protested.”

Despite his frustration with the sitcom, Reed developed close connections with his fellow cast members: He established a lifelong friendship with Henderson, and served as a surrogate father figure to his TV children, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen.

Reed first gained a TV following in The Defenders, a 1960s dramatic series on which he played a progressive-minded young lawyer whose father was portrayed by E.G. Marshall. He also had roles in the television series The Lawman and Mannix.  Earlier in 1992, he filmed an episode of Jake and the Fatman.

Born John Robert Rietz Jr. in Highland Park, Illinois, Reed spent his childhood in Muskogee, Oklahoma and then studied drama at Northwestern University, playing the leading man in eight campus productions.  He married fellow student Marilyn Rosenberger in 1954, and they had a daughter named Karen; the marriage ended in divorce in 1959.

After more acting study in England, where he studied Shakespearean drama, Reed returned to the U.S. in the late 1950s and joined a young group of Shakespearian players, with whom he performed in Off-Broadway productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.  He made his Broadway debut in 1964, succeeding Robert Redford as the star of the Neil Simon hit play Barefoot in the Park.

After The Brady Bunch and Mannix, Reed continued to find success with TV projects, most notably the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), Roots (1977) and Scruples (1980).  He received Emmy Award nominations for his work on Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man.  He was also nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Dr. Pat Caddison, a transgender person, in a 1975 two-part episode of Medical Center, a groundbreaking role for the time.

He also appeared in Brady Buch reunion specials and the popular Brady Bunch Variety Hour, even though he truly loathed the show’s often inane scripts.  He did it, because he knew that the other performers would suffer financially if he declined to participate.

At the end of his career, Reed taught Shakespearean-style acting at the University of California, Los Angeles, work which brought Reed great joy. It was short lived however, because of his battle with cancer that was complicated by HIV.

In the last year of his life, Reed called Florence Henderson and asked her to “tell the kids.” She agreed, and said making those phone calls was “the hardest thing I ever had to do.”

His death told America something important: If AIDS could take America’s favorite Dad from The Brady Bunch, the disease was everywhere — and could take anyone.

May 22, 1992
Rapid HIV Blood Test Gives Results in 10 Minutes

FDA licenses a rapid HIV diagnostic test kit which gives results from a blood test in 10 minutes.

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The FDA licenses Murex SUDS HIV-1, a 10-minute diagnostic test kit which can be used by health professionals to detect the presence of HIV Type 1.

As the only rapid enzyme immunoassay (EIA) approved for diagnostic use in the U.S., the test is manually performed by mixing a small amount of the patient’s blood with an antibody agent to which only HIV-1 antibodies will attach.

This test is considered by researchers to be part of the third wave of HIV tests, following the ELISA and Western Blot tests of the mid-1980s.  A 1993 clinical trial analyzing almost 2,000 test samples would show the SUDS HIV-1 test to give false-positive results at a relatively high rate.

 

AIDS Quilt - Peter Allen
June 18, 1992
Broadway Showman & Songwriter Peter Allen Dies

Concert entertainer and songwriter Peter Allen dies of AIDS-related illness in San Diego at the age of  48.

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Allen drew audiences in the thousands to his shows at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Central Park.  Energetic, charismatic and often flamboyant, he once rode onstage on a camel, another time on an elephant.

Starting his career in show business as a child, Allen sang in school shows and neighborhood pubs in his native Tenterfield, Australia, with the encouragement of his mother.  After his father committed suicide, he dropped out of school at the age of 14 to help to support his family.  To increase his pay as a teenage entertainer, he learned to dance and play piano, and wrote original songs.

He got his break in 1964 when Garland saw him perform in Hong Kong and hired him to be her opening act.  He met and then married Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli in 1967.  Over the next few years, Minnelli’s movie career took off like a rocket while Allen remained a relatively unknown performer, except on the New York cabaret circuit. After Garland died in 1970, Allen’s marriage to Minnelli deteriorated and they divorced in 1974.

It seems to have been Peter Allen’s fate to be overshadowed by other stars.  His songs were hits for mostly other performers, like Melissa Manchester with “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” Olivia Newton-John with “I Honestly Love You,” and Frank Sinatra with “You and Me (We Wanted It All).”
However, New Yorkers loved Allen’s live performances, and he sold out Radio City Music Hall so often in the early 1980s that he was named the concert hall’s official personality.  His shows were distinguished by visual extravagance and Allen’s unflagging energy and wide range of talents.  In a typical concert, he danced a bit, bantered, then leaped atop a grand piano and finally sat down to play and sing songs he had written, all at an engaging pace.

Over the years, he recorded 11 albums and performed live in venues ranging from cabarets and bath houses to Broadway theaters and concert halls.  He once gave a special performance for Queen Elizabeth II, and he won an Oscar for writing the theme music to the 1981 film Arthur.

This song, which included a line about being “caught between the moon and New York City,” became a No. 1 hit.  He also wrote for other films, including All That Jazz.

His signature songs (which he wrote) were “I Go to Rio” and “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady Onstage,” the latter which was dedicated to Judy Garland.

Allen never made a public announcement that he had HIV, fearing audiences wouldn’t want to see a performer who was sick.  He may also have feared alienating conservative, heterosexual fans: Allen didn’t pretend to be straight after divorcing Minnelli, but he never publicly came out as gay either.

Even many of his friends didn’t know he was sick until January 1992, when he began chemotherapy and radiation treatment for AIDS-related throat cancer.

Allen’s last performance was on January 26, 1992 in Sydney, Australia, where he performed to packed houses.  He died less than five month later.

In 1995, music journalist and film writer Stephen MacLean directed The Boy from Oz, an Australian TV documentary on Peter Allen.  MacLean’s similarly titled book was published the following year and became the inspiration for a stage musical written by Nick Enright.

With Enright’s book adapted by Martin Sherman, and a revision of the musical content, The Boy from Oz premiered at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway with Hugh Jackman giving a Tony-winning performance as Allen.  The show opened in October 2003 and played for a year.  A Japanese version followed in June 2005.  The Boy from Oz was revamped yet again for an enormously successful Australian arena production with Hugh Jackman in 2006.

LA Needle Exchange
June 30, 1992
ACT UP LA Launches Clean Needles Now

Consisting of a small group of activists within ACT UP Los Angeles, the Clean Needles Now (CNN) program launches its first exchange in the predominantly Latinx immigrant neighborhood of MacArthur Park.

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The controversial program — intended to help stop the spread of HIV infection and give people the tools they needed to make informed decisions about their own health — started after a year of careful research and planning.  Founding members educated fellow activists, organized resources, and stockpiled clean needles and other supplies; member Renée Edgington secured a decommissioned postal truck, out of which they would run the program.

ACT UP LA adopted the needle exchange committee as an official project in January 1992, and the group created CNN as a service provider with a distinctly activist spirit.  Unlike the community-based AIDS services that defined the first wave of AIDS organizing in the early 1980s, needle exchange was itself an act of civil disobedience.

Drug paraphernalia laws made the possession and distribution of syringes a crime, and rarely distinguished between distributing rigs and selling drugs.  Emboldened by the use of health emergency declarations in San Francisco and other cities and bolstered by support from West Hollywood civil rights attorney John Duran, the CNN activists believed they had the law on their side.

“When beat cops came sniffing around, the group closely adhered to a script describing themselves as HIV outreach workers,” said Dont Rhine in his article, “Below the Skin: AIDS Activism and the Art of Clean Needles Now.”.

Eventually, CNN split off from ACT UP, so it could obtain funding as an independent service provider.  And then, in early 1995, under Renée Edgington’s leadership, CNN boldly opened a storefront on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.  Los Angeles City Councilmember Jackie Goldberg helped CNN obtain the space, fending off detractors with the explanation that a storefront would get the needle exchange program off the streets.

Christened “Harm Reduction Central” (HRC), the storefront extended its program, offering a range of health services and cultural activities for Hollywood’s homeless and runaway youth in addition to providing syringe exchange.  HRC offered an appealing space where street youth and users could hang out casually.

“One of the main purposes I saw in the storefront, in contrast with what the street exchange had been doing, was that Harm Reduction Central wanted to pull in all those Hollywood kids.  Teen homelessness was so prevalent at the time,” said Kim Abeles, a close friend of Edgington.

In spite of its split from the mother ship, CNN retained much of ACT UP’s activist DNA with its storefront programs.

“CNN adhered to a similar AIDS cultural analysis around the politics of representation regarding drug users,” recalled Dont Rhine.  “CNN’s primary demands to city and county governments were that they provide the legal protections for needle exchange to exist, and that they offer funding and interconnection of services so that CNN could do the job itself.  Beyond this, the fundamental political demand of CNN was the end of drug prohibition (i.e. legalization).”

In the early 2000s, gentrification pressures in Hollywood forced CNN out of its lease on the Cahuenga Boulevard space.  Over the years, the needle-exchange program was housed out of various non-profit organizations and eventually morphed into the Los Angeles Community Health Project’s Syringe Service Program.

Today, CHPLA’s Syringe Service Program reaches nearly 10,000 people and distributes more than 1.1 million sterile syringes a year.  In 2020, the program provided participants and community members across LA County with 10,778 Naloxone kits and, of those kits, 3,701 were used to successfully respond to an overdose.

August 5, 1992
Activist & Fundraiser Randall Klose Dies

Randall Klose, longtime gay-rights activist and fund-raiser, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Washington, DC.  He was 37.

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Klose said he had been inspired to become an activist by Larry Kramer’s essay “1,112 and Counting” in The New York Native in 1983.  In that essay, Kramer demanded to know why wealthy homosexuals were not responding to the AIDS crisis.

“I read the article, and said to myself, ‘Here I am,'” Klose said.

At the time, Klose was a Beverly Hills developer with strong connections to the LGBTQ community.  He started raising money for the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Los Angeles (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center) and the Triangle Institute.

On June 1, 1987, Klose was among those arrested at a White House demonstration protesting the lack of an AIDS response from President Reagan.

He then helped organize and finance lobbying efforts for the 1988 AIDS research and education law, a cornerstone of the comprehensive federal AIDS effort.  He later became co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s board of directors, and helped the fund’s budget grow from $1 million to $5 million in a few years.

In 1991, Klose helped lead a U.S. contingent to the meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission in Moscow, one of the first publicized gatherings of LGBTQ people in Russia.

Klose contributed much of his own wealth to organizations conducting HIV/AIDS research and providing social services.  In addition to his earnings as a developer, his wealth included an inheritance from his father, who owned Dairy Queen franchise in Texas, with 800 outlets.

Alison Gertz
August 8, 1992
AIDS Awareness Advocate Alison Gertz Dies

Alison Gertz, who said she contracted the AIDS virus during her first sexual encounter at age 16 – and who publicized her misfortune to show that anyone can be at risk – dies at her parents’ home on Long Island at the age of 26.

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Gertz drew international attention by telling her story as a warning to heterosexuals and women.  A television movie based on her diaries and starring Molly Ringwald, Something To Live For, raised awareness about HIV/AIDS with millions of TV viewers.  An HIV/AIDS information hotline that ran after the film generated a record 189,251 calls within 24 hours, mostly from women

When Gertz first publicly told her story, in an interview with The New York Times in 1989, the AIDS epidemic was widely perceived as confined to homosexual men, intravenous drug abusers and blood-transfusion recipients.

She fit none of those categories. Her story was all the more dramatic because of the privilege she was born into, with artistic talent, affluence, private schools and social prominence.

Following her diagnosis, Gertz became a crusader, speaking at schools, colleges and public events.  Esquire named her Woman of the Year, and she appeared on the cover of People magazine.

The People article describes Gertz as “pretty, poised and privileged,” but with a forever-changed future due to her AIDS diagnosis.  Gertz shares with the reporter her goal of warning young people about the risk of unprotected sex and stopping what happened to her from happing to others.

“They might not listen to their parents or pay attention to the news,” she told People, “but they might understand it coming from me because I’m one of them.”

When she was well enough, Gertz lectured at high schools and colleges.

An only child, Gertz was born in Manhattan and grew up on Park Avenue. Her father, the grandson of a founder of Gertz department stores, is a real-estate investor. Her mother cofounded a national chain of fashion stores, Tennis Lady.

Educated at Horace Mann School, Ms. Gertz studied art at Parsons School of Design. At 22, she was beginning a career as an illustrator.

“I was just, as they say, starting out in life,” she said, with hopes of marriage and children.

Gertz’s mother Carol also became an advocate for HIV treatment and research.  In 1989, two close friends helped Carol Gertz start the nonprofit organization Concerned Parents for AIDS Research (CPFA), with the hope of developing a cure.

Initially supported by a circle of longtime friends, the network of fund-raisers soon expanded to include others whose lives had been upended by the virus — and those who realized that their children were also at risk.

Following the death of her daughter, Carol Gertz would go onto launch Love Heals in 1992 as a way to empower youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS through prevention education and leadership development training.  The project is meant to address stigma and help young adults have conversations about sexuality.

Mary Fisher
August 19, 1992
HIV+ Activist Mary Fisher Speaks at RNC

Not long after her own HIV diagnosis, Mary Fisher addresses the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston’s Astrodome.

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Seen by many as a sharp rebuke of her party’s negligence in the face of the growing AIDS epidemic, Fisher’s speech — titled “A Whisper of AIDS” — moved many in the convention hall and those watching her televised speech from home to tears.

A mother of two young children and a former staffer in President Gerald Ford’s administration, Fisher called for members of her party and policymakers to be compassionate and “lift our shroud of silence.”

“Adolescents don’t give each other cancer or heart disease because they believe they are in love, but HIV is different; and we have helped it along,” she told party members.  “We have killed each other with our ignorance, our prejudice, and our silence.”

Her message was embraced by many, regardless of their political affiliation.

Four years later, she would address the RNC again.  She would also found the Mary Fisher Clinical AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Fund at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, as well as become a representative for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Many years later, broadcaster Rachel Maddow would call Fisher’s speech “incredibly eloquent and poignant,” and “one of the top speeches in the 20th century.”

And Fisher would write in her blog about ending each day with watching The Rachel Maddow Show , enjoying Maddow’s “casual intimacy in her conversational style,” and appreciating her “genuine insight based on knowledge.”

Recently, Fisher claimed she shares a “political legacy” with Maddow.

“Asked once what it meant to be a ‘liberal,’ [Maddow] said it was simple: ‘It means I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican Party platform,'” Fisher wrote in February 2022. ”Me, too.”

AIDS Quilt - Juan Botas
August 24, 1992
Spanish Illustrator Juan Suárez Botas Dies

Juan Suárez Botas, illustrator, graphic designer and film maker, dies of AIDS-related illness at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of 34.

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Botas’ illustrations appeared on the covers of TimeFortuneU.S. News & World Report and other magazines. His drawings appeared in The New York TimesVogue and other publications.

Botas moved to the U.S. from Spain in 1977.  At the time of his death, he was directing a documentary about his AIDS treatment group at the time of his death, which was released as One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave: Secrets from the Dolly Madison Room.

A friend of film director Jonathan Demme, Botas was a major influence on Demme’s decision to make the film Philadelphia.

December 1, 1992
CDC Extends HIV Education Programming to Business Community

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiates a long-term, primary prevention program for HIV education directed at business owners and the labor community.

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The Business Responds to AIDS program is designed to help large and small businesses meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and the community.

In an interactive teleconference originating at its Atlanta headquarters, the CDC introduces business leaders to the BRTA program and releases resources to assist them with initiating their own HIV-education programs in the workplace.

Participants in the teleconference include the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the New England Corporate Consortium on AIDS, and the business and labor communities from several sites throughout the U.S.

The CDC encourages businesses to develop written HIV policies and provide employee education about preventing HIV transmission.

In three years, the CDC would follow up BRTA with the Labor Responds to AIDS program in 1995.

AIDS Quilt - Ricky Ray
December 13, 1992
Florida Teenager Ricky Ray Dies

Ricky Ray, the eldest of three hemophiliac brothers barred from school in Florida because they carried the AIDS virus, dies at the age of 15 at his home in Orlando.

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Ricky and and his two younger brothers, Robert and Randy, sparked a national conversation on AIDS in 1987, after their court battle to attend school led to boycotts by local residents and the torching of their home in Arcadia, Florida.

Last month, President-elect Clinton had telephoned the boy to offer his support.  Bedridden with AIDS, Rick let it be known that he wanted to talk to then-President-elect Bill Clinton about the deadly disease.

When Ricky was handed the telephone in his room at All Children’s Hospital, Clinton was on the other end.

“Ricky told him, ‘I hope you do everything you said you would to make a difference,'” said Ricky’s mother, Louise. “He said that Clinton told him that he was going to do everything in his power to make things better.”

graph 1992 deaths (2)
1992
#1 Cause of Death for Young Adult Men is AIDS

With the death rate from HIV infection steadily and dramatically increasing over the past 10 years, AIDS becomes the leading cause of death in the U.S. for men aged 25-44.

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A report from the Centers for Disease Control announces that HIV infection emerged in the 1980s as a leading cause of death in the U.S., and now HIV infection is the number one cause of death among men aged 25-44 years.

The CDC bases this assessment on data obtained from death certificates filed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Statisticians suspect the magnitude is greater than indicated in the report.

The report also notes that HIV infection is more severely advancing to death for blacks and hispanics than other racial/ethnic groups.

“These differences probably reflect social, economic, behavioral, or other factors rather than race/ethnicity directly,” the report states.  “The social and cultural context of HIV infection must be addressed through prevention efforts designed to meet the needs of specific communities.”

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AIDS Quilt - John Dorr
January 1, 1993
EZTV Founder John Dorr Dies

John Dorr, video artist and founder of EZTV, one of the nation’s first centers devoted to the production and exhibition of video, dies in Los Angeles of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

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From his two-story, cluttered loft in West Hollywood, Dorr fashioned a self-contained studio with room for filming, editing and exhibiting.  He was known to boast that prospective filmmakers just needed enough money for videotape and groceries for their casts.

Dorr became a pioneer in the production of full-length dramatic videos, providing a new opportunity for independent filmmakers to produce inexpensive feature-length movies on video.

Since opening his gallery in 1980, he had a hand in the production of more than 100 video films, among them the Lannen Literary Series, hourlong programs on major poets and writers, and Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place, a film recounting the Hollywood career of the writer Dorothy Parker.

Dorr was a graduate of Yale University and president of the the school’s film society.  While at Yale, he provided exhibits of the films of Howard Hawks, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock.  After becoming a teaching assistant at UCLA, he hit upon the idea for EZTV when he found many young documentary makers using video to make inexpensive films but there was no place to show their their work.

EZTV Founder John Dorr’s openly gay status in the late ’70s and early ’80s was rare, because such a disclosure could quickly end a Hollywood career.  Many of EZTV’s earliest participants from AIDS-related illnesses, including Benedict Falvo, Earl Miller, James “Dillinger” Baker, Mark Addy, Wallace Potts, and Victor Davis.

According to the EZTV Online Museum, EZTV served the West Hollywood community during the height of the AIDS pandemic as a place where the friends of those who had died of AIDS could hold memorial services and gatherings in their honor.  For several years, it was common for a Saturday afternoon at EZTV to be dedicated to the remembrance of someone who could not afford a service any other way.

After Dorr’s death, EZTV somehow persevered amid seemingly impossible odds.  As Michael Kearns (Hollywood’s first openly gay actor) stated, EZTV became an “AIDS survivor.”   Now housed at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, EZTV continues to be a pioneer in the media arts.

AIDS Quilt - Rudolf Nureyev
January 6, 1993
Ballet Dancer Rudolf Nureyev Dies

World-renowned ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 54.

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Nureyev is born in 1938 aboard the Trans-Siberian express, near Lake Baikal.  He spends his childhood and youth in Ufa, capital of the Soviet Republic of Bashkir. His parents are Tartar Muslims.

In 1961, Rudolf Nureyev dances with the Kirov Ballet, which is on tour in Paris.  His first appearance on stage is at the Palais Garnier, in Act III from La Bayadère.  Days later, he demands political asylum at Le Bourget airport and refuses to board an airplane to the USSR. He joins the Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas the next day.

He becomes internationally famous as a flamboyant performer and a charismatic celebrity who revived the prominence of male ballet roles and significantly widened the audience for ballet.

In 1973 he codirects (with Robert Helpmann) and stars in a filmed version of Don Quixote, and he has acting roles in the films Valentino (1977) and Exposed (1983).

From 1983 to 1989, Nureyev would be artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the oldest ballet company in the world.  He would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984, his second year at the POB.

He continues to choreograph for the American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet even as his health declines from AIDS-related complications.

Nureyev enters the hospital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret on November 20, 1992 and remained there until his death.  His funeral was held in the marble foyer of the Paris Garnier Opera House.

January 20, 1993
Club Pianist Frank Banks Dies

Frank Banks, beloved entertainer at the Mint piano bar on Market Street in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.

January 23, 1993
President Clinton Establishes Office of National AIDS Policy

As one of his first acts in the White House,  President Bill Clinton establishes the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

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The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is designed to oversee U.S. efforts to implement the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

ONAP’s scope would grow over the next twenty years to include coordinating national and global efforts with the National Security Council and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.  The group would work closely with international bodies to ensure that the U.S. response to the global pandemic is fully integrated with other prevention, care, and treatment efforts around the world.

ONAP would be featured in the press again in January 2017, when under the new Trump administration, the office’s website would become inaccessible.  It is then reported that the office closed with the departure of the previous director, Obama-appointee Amy Lansky, with no clear plans if or when President Trump would reopen it.

When President Trump fails to appoint a new ONAP director by June 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS file letters of resignation, citing that above all things the Trump administration “simply does not care” about the HIV/AIDS situation in the U.S.

Then in late December 2017, Trump would fire the remaining members of the council with a form letter sent via FedEx.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden would restore ONAP with the appointment of Harold Phillips, a Black man living with HIV, as Director.  News of Phillips’s appointment would arrive June 5, the 40th anniversary of the first reports of AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Arthur Ashe
February 6, 1993
Tennis Star Arthur Ashe Dies

Tennis star Arthur Ashe dies of complications from AIDS at the age of 49.  Ashe’s body is laid in state at the governor’s mansion in Richmond, Virginia, where thousands of people line up to pay their respects to the ground-breaking athlete and social activist.

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Ashe is celebrated for being the first (and only) African American male tennis player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon singles titles.

Attending UCLA on a full scholarship in 1965, Ashe wins the individual NCAA tennis championship and helps UCLA win the team championship.  He then serves in the U.S. Army for two years.

Ashe begins his career in earnest in 1968, winning the U.S. Open while still an amateur player.  He becomes the first black man to win a Grand Slam event.

He becomes a trailblazer in the world of tennis, winning multiple Grand Slam titles in his career. He also becomes known for his commitment to charitable causes and humanitarian work. He establishes tennis programs for inner-city children and campaigns against apartheid in South Africa.  He retires from tennis in 1980 after suffering a heart attack.

In 1988, Ashe begins experiencing paralysis in his right arm. After undergoing exploratory brain surgery and a battery of tests, doctors determine he has toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is commonly found in people infected with HIV. Another set of tests reveals he is HIV positive.

Doctors believe Arthur Ashe contracted HIV from blood transfusions during his second heart surgery. Despite that, Ashe and his wife try to keep his HIV diagnosis private. After a friend that worked at USA Today calls Ashe about his condition, he decides to go public.

Two months before his death, he founds the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery to urban minority populations.  He also dedicates time in his last few months to writing “Days of Grace,” his memoir that he finishes only days before his death.

Arthur Ashe dies of AIDS-related pneumonia in New York at the age of 49.  His body was laid in state at the Governor’s Mansion in his hometown of Richmond, VA.  More than 5,000 people line up to walk past the casket.

His funeral is attended by nearly 6,000 people including NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and Rainbow Coalition chairman Jesse Jackson. Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who had performed Arthur’s marriage ceremony, delivers the eulogy.

On what would have been Arthur’s 53rd birthday, July 10, 1996, a statue of him was dedicated on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Before this, Monument Avenue had commemorated Confederate war heroes; in fact, as a child Arthur would not even have been able to visit Monument Avenue because of the color of his skin.

Arthur is depicted carrying books in one hand and a tennis racket in the other, symbolizing his love of knowledge and tennis.

In 1997, the USTA announced that the new center stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center would be named Arthur Ashe Stadium, commemorating the life of the first U.S. Open men’s champion in the place where all future U.S. Open champions will be determined.

March 6, 1993
West Hollywood Pharmacy Owner Loyd Tittle Dies

Loyd Tittle, owner of Capitol Drugs in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.

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Tittle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.  For four years, his sister Ruth Tittle traveled from Lexington, Kentucky to Los Angeles to help care for Loyd.  In 1992, Ruth moved to West Hollywood to care for her brother full-time and to help him with running his West Hollywood businesses.

Loyd suffered from cytomegalovirus (CMV) colitis, and as a result he couldn’t absorb nutrition.  As with many people with AIDS, this condition led to loss of body mass, commonly known as “wasting.”  Loyd was in the hospital 11 times in the last year of his life.

A plaque remembering Loyd Tittle is on the sidewalk in front of Capitol Drugs, part of the AIDS Memorial Walk.  His sister went on to become one of the founding members of the Foundation for The AIDS Monument.  She also served on the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and worked on the Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing project.

1993
AIDSWatch: Advocates Organize to Lobby for Congressional Action

The National Association of People With AIDS convenes the first “AIDSWatch,” a national advocacy effort to lobby Congress for increased funding.

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AIDSWatch would become an annual event, serving as a vehicle by which people living with and affected by HIV could speak their truth in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and demand that Congress protect their rights and honor their struggle.

Even after the National Association of People With AIDS ceases operations in 2013, AIDSWatch advocacy day would continue to be held annually under the auspices of AIDS United.

The small group of HIV advocates who met in 1993 would transform into the country’s largest annual constituent-based national HIV advocacy event.  AIDSWatch 2020 becomes the largest to date, with more than 2,500 advocates joining over multiple platforms.

April 10, 1993
‘Soul Train Music Awards’ Producer Anthony Sabatino Dies

Anthony Sabatino, an Emmy-award-winning art director who regularly produced the Soul Train Music Awards, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Los Angeles home at the age of 48.

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Sabatino became art director of the televised dance show Soul Train in 1971 and produced its awards show for seven years.  He also designed other awards shows, including the Golden Globes and the People’s Choice Awards.

Born in Galveston and educated at the University of Houston and Brandeis University, Sabatino also worked on films (Richard Pryor’s Here and Now and Walk on the Wild Side), game shows (Truth or Consequences), television specials (for Bing Crosby, Liberace and George Burns), and talk shows (for Pat Sajak and Joan Rivers).

Nominated eight times for an Emmy, Sabatino won in 1988-89 for Fun House, a children’s game show that aired from 1988 to 1991.

female condom
May 7, 1993
FDA Approves Female Condom

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the female condom, giving women a new way to protect themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy..

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The condom, which is ma nufactured by Chartex International, becomes available over the counter at most major drug stores in Southern California, under the name Reality Female Condom.

Although the female condom gives women more options for birth control, it is slow to catch on with the general public.

Donna Diaz, a representative of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, tells California State University’s campus newspaper that the female condom is not popular because it is “more awkward to use” than the male condom.

“It’s not as effective as the male condom and it’s very inconvenient to use,” she says.

However, Holly Sherman, spokeswoman for The Female Health Company — which markets and distributes the condom — disagrees, saying the female condom provides protection from disease on genital areas because there is “less skin touching skin” and the chance of transmitting a disease is less likely.

The female condom has a sheath material and a flexible inner ring, and is inserted similar to a diaphragm.  A woman squeezes the ring and inserts it as far as possible into the vagina. The ring then covers the cervix. Its sheath material holds the condom in place. The outer ring lines the vaginal wall and helps cover the lips of the vagina.  The sexual partner must stay within the confines of the female condom or it’s ineffective.

June 6, 1993
‘Angels in America’ Wins Four Tony Awards & Pulitzer

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, the first installment of Tony Kushner’s two-play epic that uses AIDS as a metaphor for a national spiritual decline in the 1980s, wins four Tony Awards, including best play, best director of a play, and best leading actor and featured actor in a play.

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Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s play about AIDS, wins the Tony Award for Best Play and the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Also winning Tonys for Angeles in America are Ron Leibman and Stephen Spinella (acting), and George C. Wolfe (directing).

June 10, 1993
U.S. Expands Scope for Women/Minorities as Research Subjects

Congress enacts the NIH Revitalization Act and directs the National Institutes of Health to expand involvement of women and minorities in all research.

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The Act gives the Office of AIDS Research primary oversight of all NIH AIDS research and requires the NIH and other research agencies to increase the role of women and minorities as research subjects.

The statute calls for outreach to women and members of minority groups for recruitment as subjects in clinical research projects.  For clinical trials in which women or members of minority groups are included as subjects, trials must be designed and executed in a manner that allows for researchers to determine whether the variables being studied in the trial affect women or members of minority groups differently than other subjects in the trial.

June 10, 1993
U.S. Immigration Ban Codified into Federal Law

Slipped into the NIH Revitalization Act is an amendment that codifies the U.S. HIV immigration ban into law, which President Bill Clinton signs.

June 13, 1993
LA Activist & Commissioner Rand Schrader Dies

Rand Schrader, a California municipal judge who was a noted gay activist, dies of AIDS-related illness at Century City Hospital. He was 48.

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Judge Schrader helped establish the AIDS clinic at the Los Angeles County Medical Center (which would be renamed in his honor).  He became one of California’s first openly gay judges when he was appointed to the Municipal Court in 1980 by Gov. Ed Brown.  He also served on the Board of Regents for the University of California, and the board of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the first LGBT political action committee.

As a gay, liberal student at UCLA School of Law, Schrader volunteered countless hours giving legal guidance to members of the Los Angeles LGBT Center (then called the LA Gay Community Services Center).  Many of his cases involved police discrimination against gay men.

After graduating from UCLA, Schrader began working for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, becoming the first openly gay staffer.

“He was a star performer,” said LA City Attorney Burt Pines.  “In a relatively short period of time, he had the respect of everyone he worked with, including real conservative prosecutors who thought they could never work with a gay [man].”

In 1987, the county established an AIDS commission, and Schrader was among its first body of commissioners.  At the time, LA County had surpassed San Francisco in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, and yet county officials had refused to acquiesce to activist demands of a ward for the exclusively care and treatreatment of AIDS patients.

As a commissioner, Schrader found himself siding with AIDS activists from ACT UP Los Angeles, who routinely staged demonstrations at the LA County Medical Center.  The activists argued that persons living with HIV/AIDS needed their own ward to protect them from discrimination and neglect.

Schrader disagreed with the commission’s current chairman, Rabbi Allen Freehling.  Chair Freehling said he was concerned that patients put in a separate ward would feel “isolated.”  The commission decided to form a task force to determine a course of action, and soon it became apparent to all the commissioners that people living with AIDS would benefit significantly from having access to their own clinic.

In 1988, the County opened a separate ward for AIDS patients at the county hospital.  The next year, Schrader was elected chair of the AIDS Commission.

When Schrader was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, he went public with the news and continued his judicial work.  A month before Schrader’s death, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to name the county’s AIDS ward after Schrader in tribute to “his courage, his vision and his tenacity.”

Today, the University of Southern California maintains responsibility for the Rand Schrader HIV Clinic.  Dr. Joseph Cadden, an infectious disease specialist, serves as Medical Director of more than 40 faculty members who provide primary and specialty care to more than 3,000 patients.

AIDS Quilt - Daniel P Warner
June 14, 1993
LA Shanti Founder Daniel P. Warner Dies

Daniel P. Warner, co-founder and former executive director of the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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As LA Shanti’s first Executive Director, Warner laid the groundwork for a successful volunteer-run, community-based organization that provided clients with the opportunity and resources to die with dignity.  Under Warner’s leadership, LA Shanti would become a leader in quality service programs using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.

Warner also served as Program Director of the AIDS education group West Hollywood CARES, and organized the National Candlelight March in 1983 and in 1990.

As Warner stepped down from LA Shanti’s leadership team in 1991 and prepared to move to San Francisco, he received Shanti’s first Commitment to Service Award. The same year, he received LA County’s Community Service Award and a certificate of recognition from the state Senate.

Warner served as consultant to two television movies dealing with the subject of AIDS –“Our Sons” on ABC and the Emmy Award-winning “An Early Frost” on NBC.

Warner would die on his 38th birthday with his companion at his side.

1993
U.S. Launches Two Research Studies Focused on Women

The Women’s Interagency HIV Study and HIV Epidemiology Study begin; both are major U.S. federally funded research studies on women and HIV/AIDS.

 

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The Women’s Interagency HIV Study establishes a multi-center, prospective, observational cohort study of women living in the U.S. who are either HIV-infected or at risk for HIV acquisition.

The program would play an important role in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ effort to understand the current epidemiology of HIV infection, disease progression, treatment use and outcomes, and related co-morbidities among U.S. residents with HIV.

Understanding differences in HIV disease and treatment outcomes between women compared to men, and in different racial and ethnic groups, is a critical public health goal.  The clinical research consortium is an integral part of the NIAID portfolio of research on HIV in women.

AIDS Quilt - Keeston Lowry
August 29, 1993
Portland Legislative Aide Keeston Lowery Dies

Keeston Lowery, an aide to Portland Commissioner Michael Lindberg,  dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.

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Lowery was a tireless and supremely effective advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights from inside the Portland government.  He also worked as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital and served on the Board for the Right to Privacy PAC (predecessor to Basic Rights Oregon).

In 1967-68, Lowery worked on Sen. Robert Kennedy’s campaign for President, and shortly afterward, graduated from Mississippi State University’s five-year occupational therapy program. He continued his higher education and earned another degree from the University of Arkansas. He then worked in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, Arkansas, and in the mid-1970s, he took a job with then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton.

Lowery moved to Portand, Oregon in 1977 to take a job as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital, and quickly became a leader in the local queer community.  He became an aide to Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg, and immediately used his role in inter-governmental relations and film policy to cultivate advocates for equal rights in all levels of local and state government.

Lowery crafted Portland’s first civil rights ordinance, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and several other categories.

“His beaming smile, southern drawl and good will were infectious,” writes the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest in its tribute to Lowery.  “He was an astute political observer who could intuitively plot winning strategies.  His manifold contributions continue to this day, not only in the policies he crafted on behalf of marginalized people, but in memories of all the powerful and empowered people whose lives he touched.”

Lowery’s work on the city’s film production policies and the good will he established with film crews led to his receiving a “thank you” credit on the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, written and directed by Gus Van Sant.

When Lowery in late August of 1993, Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Vera attended his funeral, held on Sept. 2 in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park, along with numerous members and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community.  Lowery’s ashes were scattered on Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.

The City of Portand’s archives store Lowery’s papers and artifacts.

AIDS Quilt - Joan Baker
September 3, 1993
San Francisco Activist Joan Baker Dies

Joan Baker, San Francisco’s first out HIV+ lesbian, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 27.  At the time of her passing, she is in her home surrounded by loved ones and her many pets.

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In December of 1986, two days before Christmas, Joan Baker received news that she was HIV+.  According to a tribute to Baker in Lady Science, she had gotten tested for HIV as an act of solidarity with a friend, not because she thought she was at risk, and her diagnosis was a shock.

The youngest of a large family, Baker was born in 1966 in Riverside, California. Her parents were originally from the U.K. and moved Baker and her siblings several times from southern California to Washington state and then to England in the late 1970s.  In 1986, she left her family in England after coming out and returned to California.

She received her HIV+ diagnosis after settling in San Francisco, a city that was fast becoming a model for AIDS care to the world.  Unfortunately, the city offered very few services and resources for HIV+ women at that time.

“In 1986, many HIV care providers and activists knew women could contract HIV/AIDS, but this knowledge did not translate to widespread services or research, or compassionate coverage from the media,” according to the article on Lady Science.

HIV+ women — particularly HIV+ lesbians like Baker — were virtually invisible, but Baker fought to change this during the last seven years of her life.  Through a friend, she connected with several programs, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, where she attended the first ever Women with AIDS support group.  Baker never intended to become known for being an HIV+ activist, but to gain access to services, she had to assert a level of visibility.

Baker appeared on local talk shows, promotional materials for pharmaceutical companies and care organizations, and spoke at public events. She attended protests organized by AIDS Action Pledge and ACT UP-San Francisco and carried the “Fighting for Our Lives” banner at the 1988 Candlelight Memorial March.  And that same year, during the unfolding of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, she took part in the reading of the names of people who had died of AIDS emblazoned on the quilt.

Because she was a HIV+ lesbian, Baker was subjected to invasive questions.  Some asked if she was an IV-drug user, while others wanted to know whether she had sex with men.  Baker’s response to these questions was to challenge people to reimagine what an HIV+ person looks like.

“It doesn’t matter how I got it,” she said.  “It’s the fact that I have been diagnosed and I am coming out as a woman with AIDS, because a lot of lesbians still think that they can’t get AIDS, and I’m here to say it can happen.”

By the last year of her life, Baker had built a strong support group and was known and admired by many in the community. After her death in early September 1993, Baker was memorialized with a political funeral and rally at Dolores Park, organized by Lesbian Avengers activist Judith Cohen.

Hundreds of people gathered for the event, including members of ACT UP-Golden Gate and ACT UP-San Francisco, and WORLD, as well as members of the Public Health Department and Lyon-Martin Health HIV Services.  The crowd carried signs with images of Baker on them and marched to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro neighborhood, escorted by Dykes on Bikes.

Jenn Maeader, Joan’s partner for the last three years of her life, spoke at Milk Plaza about the importance of Baker’ activism and her visibility in the AIDS epidemic, saying, “Imagine if a woman here today who might be at risk now gets tested, and if we can tell her she has a life, she has a future, she has a community that supports her.”

November 20, 1993
Film Director Emile Ardolino Dies

Emile Ardolino, who won an Oscar for the dance documentary He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’  and directed the hit movies Dirty Dancing and Sister Act, dies at his Bel Air home of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

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Ardolino gained prominence in the mid-1970s as a producer and director of dance programming on television.  In the late ’80s, he made a splash in Hollywood with Dirty Dancing, followed by the hits Three Men and a Little Lady and Sister Act.

Born in New York City, Ardolino performed in several theater productions at New York’s Queens College, and portrayed the character “Boy” in a touring version of The Fantasticks.

After studying dance, he founded Compton-Ardolino Films with Gardner Compton in 1967 and concentrated on documentaries, editing, directing and producing.  In 1969, he won a special Obie award for the filmed segments in the daring Broadway musical Oh! Calcutta!

Ardolino’s awards mounted through his efforts for the Dance in America series for PBS. He won his first Emmy for directing Choreography by Balanchine IV in the 1978-79 season and a Directors Guild of America award for The Spellbound Child in the 1980-81 season.

Jacques d’Amboise, a principal dancer with New York’s City Ballet, invited him to direct He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’, detailing the dancer’s work with children.  The film won Ardolino not only the Oscar but two more Emmys and a Peabody award.

Ardolino also had a long-term relationship with producer Joseph Papp and translated to television such New York Shakespeare Festival works as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Dance and the Railroad.

His first feature film, 1987’s Dirty Dancing, was a huge box-office success, grossing more than $50 million in its initial U.S. release.

“I do love dance,” Ardolino said in a 1987 interview with The New York Times. “I do love music. It was a script in which the dance was used to move the plot along, to reveal character, and the story didn’t stop; in addition to which, I saw a subtext of body language throughout.  So I related to all that immediately.”

West Hollywood Memorial Walk
December 1, 1993
Memorial Plaques Begin Lining Sidewalks of West Hollywood

Bronze plaques commemorating the fallen from AIDS begin to be embedded in the sidewalks along Santa Monica Boulevard between Fairfax and Doheny, as part of “West Hollywood Palms: A Tribute to Life.”

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Created in 1993 to honor people who were lost to the AIDS epidemic, West Hollywood Palms (later re-named the West Hollywood Memorial Walk) became a visual reminder of how the AIDS epidemic impacted the West Hollywood community.

From an idea from West Hollywood resident Timothy Brusso, the service organization Aid For AIDS worked with the City of West Hollywood to coordinate the installation and maintenance of the first in a series of memorial plaques.  In its original conception, a palm tree accompanied each plaque, thus the project name West Hollywood Palms.

Every plaque donation provided funding for Aid For AIDS, which was Los Angeles County’s largest provider of financial assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.  AFA, which helped thousands of clients each year pay for rent, utilities, food, and pharmaceutical needs, eventually merged with the Serra Project to become the Alliance for Housing and Healing (which currently oversees the West Hollywood Memorial Walk).

In 2000, the memorial plaques and palm trees would be removed for the duration of the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project.  Then, in 2003, the plaques would be re-installed on the boulevard between Crescent Heights and Robertson — this time with trees other than palms — and the project would be re-named the West Hollywood Memorial Walk.

On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2003, the Memorial Walk would be re-dedicated in a City Hall ceremony, followed by a procession along Santa Monica Boulevard, during which the names on the plaques were read and flowers placed in honor of each person memorialized.

Currently, the Memorial Walk includes more than 200 plaques.  The Alliance for Housing and Healing administers the Memorial Walk program and maintains a website that contains an application process and an inventory of existing markers.

Perhaps the most famous person memorialized in the Memorial Walk is actor Rock Hudson, whose plaque was arranged by his friend, Elizabeth Taylor.  The names of Ron Stone, a West Hollywood community leader who orchestrated the Cityhood campaign; Daniel P. Warner, founder of the LA Shanti Foundation; and Loyd L. Tittle, popular local pharmacist, are also included on plaques.

For more information, please visit the Alliance for Housing and Healing website.

December 1, 1993
Badlands singer Ray Gillen dies

Rocker Ray Gillen dies from AIDS-related illness in New York at the age of 34.

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Gillen was best known as the lead singer for Badlands, which was notable for its 1989 self-titled record and 1991’s Voodoo’s Highway.  Gillen also performed with Black Sabbath in the mid-1980s and recorded most of the vocals on Phenomena’s Dream Runner album.

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Gillen was still a teenager when he began playing the New Jersey club circuit with various bands, including Quest (1978–80), F-66 (1980–81), Savage, and, most notably, Vendetta and Harlette.

“They were quite good, really, performing a small set of original material sandwiched in between credible renditions of numbers by bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and the like,” said Gillen’s friend Marc Fevre.  “But it wasn’t really until 1985, when he joined former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli’s outfit, ‘Rondinelli,’ that Ray’s career began to take real shape.”

In 1986, Black Sabbath started touring for the Seventh Star album when after only a few shows, singer Glenn Hughes got into a fist-fight and lost his voice due to the related sinus and throat injuries.  Gillen stepped in and finished the tour, and then contributed to Black Sabbath’s next album The Eternal Idol.  However, Gillen and drummer Eric Singer quit before the album was released.

In 1988, Gillen formed Badlands with Jake E. Lee and Eric Singer and toured until 1992.  He first showed HIV symptoms around 1990, when his bandmates began to notice his weight loss.

Lee said he was unaware of Gillen’s diagnosis until a meeting with then-Badlands manager Paul O’Neill, who threatened to tell Atlantic Records about his illness if they fired him.  Gillen reportedly said to Lee, “Well, it’s not true, so … fire him.”

“So we did fire him. And he did tell Atlantic Records that,” Lee recounted.  “And we got kind of screwed on the second record because of it.”

In 1993, publisher of Metalhammer magazine Wilfried F. Rimensberger invited Gillen to Munich perform in a rock festival that would launch a series of concerts across Europe in 1994.  But Gillen would bow out when it became clear that he was too ill to perform.  He was hospitalized and died soon after.

In February of 1994, vocalist Glenn Hughes organized a memorial concert in tribute to Gillen with performances by a number of rock luminaries, including singer Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, former Mariah Carey guitarist Paul Pescoe, and Hughes’ own band, Trapeze.

December 18, 1993
CDC Ties Definition of AIDS to T-cell Counts

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expands its definition of AIDS, declaring those with T-cell (CD4) counts below 200 to have AIDS.

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In a report, the CDC revises its case definition of AIDS to emphasize the clinical importance of the CD4+ T-lymphocyte count in the categorization of HIV-related clinical conditions.

In the same MMWR, CDC adds three new conditions — pulmonary tuberculosis, recurrent pneumonia, and invasive cervical cancer — to the list of clinical indicators of AIDS.  These new conditions mean that more women and injection drug users are expected be diagnosed with AIDS.

December 22, 1993
‘Philadelphia’ Opens in Movie Theaters Nationwide

The film Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer with AIDS, opens in theaters. Based on a true story, it is the first major Hollywood film on AIDS.

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Filmed on location, Philadelphia included in its cast about 50 people living with AIDS, most of them clients of the Action Wellness healthcare center.

Earning $200 million at the box office and several Oscar nods,Jonathan Demme’s courtroom drama was a catalyst for conversations, acceptance and other film projects that might never been produced.

AIDS Quilt - Michael Callen
December 27, 1993
Pioneer of AIDS Activism Michael Callen Dies

AIDS movement pioneer Michael Callen dies of AIDS-related illness at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 38.

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Callen was diagnosed early in the epidemic — 1982 — and he responded by becoming involved in every way he could in promoting the self-empowerment of People With AIDS.  In fact, Callen is credited with coining the term “People With AIDS,” and insisted on this term instead of the passive and negative-sounding phrase “AIDS victim” commonly used at the time.

Callen was born in Rising Sun, Indiana and raised in Hamilton, Ohio.  He graduated in 1977 from Boston University, which he attended on a music scholarship, and then moved to New York, where he sang in cabarets and with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

He grew into political advocacy after receiving a diagnosis of AIDS in 1982.  He became an early proponent of safer-sex practices, writing How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach with Richard Berkowitz, Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend, and Richard Dworkin in 1983.

Among the very first publications to recommend the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs in men having sex with men, the pamphlet was distributed at gay social establishments throughout New York City — 5,000 copies in its first run.

That same year, Callen was a plaintiff in the nation’s first AIDS discrimination lawsuit, when Dr. Sonnabend, his physician, successfully fought eviction from a Greenwich Village co-op for treating people with AIDS.  Also in 1983, Callen was a founding board member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in Greenwich Village.

On August 1, 1983, Callen was one of three PWAs who testified before a Congressional subcommittee examining the U.S. government’s response to the AIDS crisis.  In his statement before Congress, Callen described how he began to feel ill in 1981 and then was diagnosed in the summer of 1982 after being hospitalized with cryptospordiosis.

“It is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years,” he said.

A talented writer, Callen became the first editor of the PWA Coalition Newsline and edited the two-volume set Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the Persons With AIDS Coalition in 1988.  From 1988-1989, he was editor of AIDS Forum, and his book, Surviving AIDS, published by Harper/Collins in 1990, received honorable mention from the American Medical Writers Association.

Callen wrote extensively on the subject of the politics of sexuality, his essays regularly appearing in magazines, journals, books, and newspapers, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek.  He was among the first to give AIDS a human face, by making courageous appearances on TV shows such as Nightline, Good Morning America and 20/20.  He also appeared on the talk shows Phil Donahue and Geraldo.

Callen moved from New York to West Hollywood to keep up with his busy TV and film schedule.  He can be seen in several films and documentaries, including Philadelphia, Zero Patience, and the HBO documentary Why Am I Gay?

Throughout the years of his illness, Callen had a devoted and caring partner in Richard Dworkin, whom he met in June 1982, when Dworkin answered his classified ad seeking gay musicians.

“I called and Michael answered and said, ‘I happen to be getting together with a bass player tonight, do you want to come over?’  So I said OK and went to his house on Jones Street, and there was the bass player, and Michael had made sorbet,” Dworkin told Tim Murphy of The Body.  “And we fell in love that night, and I stayed over.  He had a piano and books, and to me that was a draw.  He moved in with me in the fall of ’82.”

“Michael accomplished so much in the 11 years between his diagnosis and his demise,” Dworkin wrote in his tribute to Callen on Callen-Lorde, the website for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City (named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde).

Dworkin listed Callen’s many achievments, including the founding of the People with AIDS Coalition, the Community Research Initiative, and the People with AIDS Health Group.  He also mentioned that Callen performed with The Flirtations, “the world’s first gay male politically correct a cappella group,” plus Dworkin helped Callen record and release two solo albums.

Callen also wrote, along with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Malamet, the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason”  Callen would go on to sing this at numerous events, including AIDS walkathons in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights.

Shortly before his death, Callen completed vocal tracks for 48 new songs, 29 of which were released as a double album, Legacy (winner of four Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards).

AIDS Quilt - Randy Shilts
February 17, 1994
Author-Journalist Randy Shilts Dies

Randy Shilts, a U.S. journalist who covered the AIDS epidemic and who authored And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 42.

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Randy Shilts joined the newsroom of The San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 to report on gay politics, making him the first full-time openly gay journalist in the U.S. mainstream press. As one of the earliest people in the media to recognize the importance of AIDS as a national issue, Shilts dedicated his writing career to bringing the epidemic to the attention of the American public.

He authored three books, including The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985).

Although Shilts had been tested for HIV earlier, Shilts postponed learning the results out of fear the knowledge would compromise his objectivity. He was informed he had tested positive for the virus the day he wrote the final page of And The Band Played On.

When Shilts pitched the book to publishers, he was rejected until St. Martin’s made a modest offer with an advance of $16,000, recalls friend Michael Denneny, who edited the book.  And The Band Played On would go on to sell more than 100,000 hardcover copies, and some 600,000 paperbacks.

“He worked four years on that book,” Denneny says. “He went into debt. At one point, literally to pay his rent, he had to empty this huge water jug full of pennies, nickels and dimes.”

He died while planning a fourth book examining homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church.

At his memorial service at Glide Memorial Church, his friend and assistant Linda Alband placed his press card on his casket.

 

Dack Rambo
March 21, 1994
‘Dallas’ Actor Dack Rambo Dies

Dack Rambo, an actor best remembered for playing Jack Ewing in 51 episodes of the TV show Dallas, dies of AIDS-related illness at Delano Regional Medical Center in California at the age of 52.

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Rambo had a long list of TV credits spanning four decades and also roles in ten feature films.

Even if you couldn’t name the actor who was born Norman Jay Rambo, his face was beyond familiar to TV viewers of the 1980s, owing to appearances on everything from Charlie’s Angels to Murder, She Wrote.  He held a special place in the hearts of soap fans, thanks to his roles on All My Children and Dallas.

He started his TV career with his twin brother in The Loretta Young Show.  Both he and his brother played the character Peter Massey, one of seven children being raised by the widowed Christine Massey, played by Loretta Young.

He and his brother later sang as the Rambo Twins, styling themselves after the Everly Brothers, but the act ended in 1967 when his brother was killed at the age of 24 in a car accident.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Rambo made guest appearances on Marcus Welby, M.D.; House Calls; Wonder Woman; Fantasy Island; and The Love Boat.  He also acted the lead role in Sword of Justice in 1978-79, and played Wesley Harper on the 1984 TV series Paper Dolls.

He earned the appellation “handsome hunk” during his days as Jack Ewing on “Dallas” and capitalized on it by launching his own line of underwear.

While working on Another World in August 1991, Rambo learned that he was infected with HIV.

He was in his dressing room that morning, preparing for his scenes, when the phone call came.  After receiving his diagnosis, he put down the phone, went to the set and proceeded to tape his 40 or 50 pages of lines for the day’s work.  Then he walked out of the New York studio that Friday afternoon before Labor Day and never went back.

Rambo then flew home to the San Joaquin town of Earlimart, not far from where he grew up.  He broke the news to his sister, Beverly, 48, and his mother, Beatrice, 82, according to People magazine.  Both took the news hard.

“At first I was totally devastated,” Beverly told People.  “We lost one brother, and I didn’t think I could live with losing another.”

Retreating to his Earlimart ranch, Rambo spent the next three weeks in bed, he says, “wallowing in self-pity.”

“First of all, I was scared,” he told The Washington Post. “I felt a lot of anger and a lot of rage. And actually wanting to die. But all those things were short-lived.”

He took time to determine what he wanted to do next.  He decided to go public with his HIV-positive diagnosis and released a statement announcing that he had the AIDS virus and would devote himself to working for the cause of AIDS education and research.

Rambo was among the first well-known actors to disclose his HIV status.  In an interview with the Los Angles Times shortly after his announcement, he disclosed that he was bisexual and talked about feeling on the set of Dallas that he was suspected of being gay and vulnerable to AIDS.

“I knew there were whispers going on behind my back,” he said.  “Either ‘he’s gay’ or ‘he’s this or ….’  People were just assuming.  And people didn’t really know anything about my private life.”

A few months later, in late 1991, Rambo told The Wasington Post, “I feel fabulous, I’ve never felt better.”

He said he adopted a healthier lifestyle and even stopped dying his hair, which had been graying since he was 30 years old.

“I don’t drink anymore … I really baby myself and I’m very selfish with myself,” he said.  “I don’t want anyone to interfere with me taking care of myself.”

He said he regularly sought advice on nutrition, read everything he could on AIDS and followed the conventional wisdom of treating the virus before it could become a full-blown disease.  He said he had yet to suffer any symptoms of AIDS and was in ongoing discussions with doctors about what medications he should take.

Around that time, Rambo began volunteering with APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles), one of the largest AIDS service providers in the country.

“He’s very committed to this,” said Anthony Sprauve, director of communications for APLA.

Shortly afterward, Rambo developed an AIDS-related cancer and underwent chemotherapy.  He also turned to holistic treatment, according to People magazine.  In the summer of 1993, he thought he’d halted the virus through prayer.

“There is no disease that cannot be healed,” he said then. “I will believe that until the day I drop.”

Rambo died at Delano Regional Medical Center in Earlimart.

Dan Hartman
March 22, 1994
Producer-Songwriter Dan Hartman Dies

Musician and songwriter Dan Hartman dies of AIDS-related illness at his Westport, Connecticut home at the age of 43.

[photo by Jerry King Musser]

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Hartman wrote and recorded “Free Ride” (1973) with The Edgar Winter Group and collaborated with scores of the country’s top recording artists from 1976 to 1994.

His song, “I Can Dream About You,” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100  in 1984 and No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart in 1985.  The James Brown song “Living in America,” which Hartman co-wrote and produced, was even more successful, reaching No. 4 in March 1986.

Hartman worked with veteran singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, who lived near him in Westport.  Hartman would invite Sedaka to his home studio to record.

“I was proud to have recorded two LP’s with him,” Sedaka said.  “He was so respected, that he was able to get such luminaries as Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Mary Wilson, Ashford & Simpson, and Gary U.S. Bonds to join me on several duets.”

Hartman’s longtime friend Glenn Ellison told the website Memories of Dan Hartman: “Dan was the genuine article, full of passion and joy for just living.  He definitely has a spiritual side, that wasn’t so religious, as it was about the soul, and how to make the most out of the time we have on earth.”

Ellison said he and Hartman met in January 1984 on a plane travelling from New York to Los Angeles.  Two months later, Ellison got a job offer in New York, and Hartman invited him to live in his house until he found a place of his own.

“I was in and out of Westport for the next 10 years,” Ellison said.

One of Ellison’s favorite memories was Hartman’s European tour when “I Can Dream About You” was climbing the charts.  He noticed that every time Hartman sang the song, crowds would respond by singing and dancing with him.

“When you hear the song today, there is the same response. It is an all-time pop masterpiece,” he said.

Hartman was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980s, and kept his HIV status a secret and supposedly did not seek treatment, even after friend and intermittent collaborator Holly Johnson (formerly of the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood) announced his own HIV status in 1991.

In 1993, Hartman’s health declined and he was in and out of the hospital.  Ellison had returned to California a few years before and was able to see Hartman only periodically.

“As fate would have it, in December, I was out of a job so I flew back and spent the entire month at his newly remodelled home. We had the greatest time of our ten-year friendship,” Ellison recalled.  “He rallied and seemed to be making a full recovery. We turned the house into a Christmas fantasy, saw all the holiday shows in Manhattan and laughed 24/7.  When I flew back to LA on New Year’s Day, I thought he would live forever.”

Hartman would die about four months later.

In his last will and testament, Hartman created the Dan Hartman Arts and Music Foundation (located in the Los Angeles area).

[photo by Jerry King Musser]

May 10, 1994
Lawyer & AIDS Activist Stephen C. Smith Dies

Stephen C. Smith, 37, a lawyer and AIDS activist who lobbied on behalf of federal legislation affecting people with HIV/AIDS, died of AIDS-related illness at the Hospice of Washington at the age of 37.

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Smith worked for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the nation’s largest gay political organization, from 1987 until he retired on disability in 1993.  He had been a lobbyist, legislative director and legislative counsel for the organization.

His work there included advocacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which contains prohibitions on discriminating against people with AIDS, and the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which provides federal money for cities hit hard by AIDS cases. He also worked on the Hate Crime Statistics Act and lobbying efforts to increase federal funding for AIDS.

Smith was president of the Gay & Lesbian Activist Alliance of Washington from 1983 to 1985, and he later served as director of its human rights project. He was chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Committee on AIDS issues, and he helped organize the National Organizations Responding to AIDS Coalition.

In a lawsuit against Georgetown University, Smith represented the Gay Rights Coalition and won the suit to compel Georgetown to recognize LGBT organizations on campus.

He was born in Geneseo, NY, and graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School.  In 1980, he came to Washington as a lawyer for the United Auto Workers and later worked for the National Labor Relations Board before joining the staff of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

May 20, 1994
CDC Issues Guidelines for Organ and Tissue Transplants

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidelines for preventing HIV transmission during organ and tissue transplants.

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The guidelines follow a report to the CDC about a case of HIV transmission from a screened, antibody-negative donor to several transplant recipients.

Titled, Guidelines for Preventing Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Through Transplantation of Human Tissue and Organs. the report seeks to reduce “the already low risk of HIV transmission by transplantation of organs and tissues.”

Assotto Saint
June 29, 1994
NYC Poet-Performer Assotto Saint Dies

Assotto Saint, a Haitian-born poet and performance artist, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 36.

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Among the first Black activists to disclose his HIV positive status, Saint was one of the first poets to include the subject of AIDS in his work.  He was also a performance artist, musician, editor, human rights and AIDS activist, theatrical founder, and dancer.

After immigrating from Haiti to New York in 1970 when he was 13 years old, Saint graduated from Jamaica High School and was briefly enrolled as a pre-med student at Queens College.  Soon, however, he turned his attention to theater and dance, and adopted the name Assotto Saint —“Assotto” for a ceremonial drum used in Haitian vodoo rituals and “Saint” for Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. Through the 1970s, Saint’s passions grew to include poetry, music, and fiction.

In 1980, Saint fell in love with Jaan Urban Holmgren, a Swedish-born composer, and they began to collaborate on a number of theatrical and musical projects.  Their relationship would last 14 years, during which time Holmgren would write songs for Saint’s many theater pieces on gay Black life, including including Risin’ to the Love We Need and New Love Song.  Saint was the founder and artistic director of Metamorphosis Theater, where many of their collaborative pieces were performed.

Saint founded the publishing house Galiens Press, which published his book of poems Stations and the anthologies Here to Dare and The Road Before Us.  With Holmgren, Saint also performed as lead singer in the “techno pop duo” band Xotika, and released the dance song “Forever Gay” on the album Feeding the Flame: Songs by Men to End AIDS.

Saint was dancer with the Martha Graham company, and appeared in Marlon Riggs’ Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret).

“Assotto was always prepared to die,” writes author Victoria Brownworth for Lambda Literary.  “If that makes him sound like a fatalist or a Zen master, he was neither. He was just clear about what was going to happen. And he knew the work had to be done and quickly, urgently, before time ran out.”

Here is the beginning of Saint’s final poem for his life-partner, Jan Holmgren, who was dying of AIDS:

A Lover’s Diary

monday, march 29, 1993

-01-

vigil on two chairs
iwhisper “hey, good morning”
he doesn’t respond
iwatch his labored breathings
the head nurse suctions him up

-02-

“he’s turned for the worse”
dr mcmeeking mumbles
weeks, days, just can’t tell
“hours” insists my mother
furious iescort her out

-03-

the oscars come on
the crying game stars don’t win
hoping he can hear
iremind him he’s my light
death rattles my scream for help

-04-

the nurse rushes in
mother returns with prayers
icradle him close
pleading “stay, one more day, stay”
eleven twenty, he’s gone

-05-

bathe him with my tears
parched lips thirst for a wet
kiss
istick my tongue deep
bitter taste of bloody phlegm
moans spat out ishut his eyes

August 5, 1994
Researchers Recommend AZT to Prevent Mother-to-Infant Transmission

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that pregnant women be given the antiretroviral drug AZT to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV.

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Following a workshop to develop recommendations for the use of AZT with HIV-infected women who are pregnant, the Public Health Service determines that AZT administered to a selected group of HIV-infected women and their infants is successful in reducing the risk of HIV transmission by approximately 66%.

In its report, the Public Health Service states that because the clinical status of many HIV-infected women may differ from that of the women in the trial, the recommendations should be tailored to each woman’s clinical situation.

“The potential benefits, unknown long-term effects, and gaps in knowledge about her specific clinical situation must be discussed with the woman,” the report states.  “This information is intended to provide a basis for discussion between the woman and her healthcare provider so that the woman can weigh the risks and benefits of such therapy and make informed decisions about her treatment.”

AIDS Quilt - Pedro Zamora
November 11, 1994
Activist & Reality TV Star Pedro Zamora Dies

Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive man appearing in MTV’s popular show The Real World, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 22.

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As one of the first openly gay men with AIDS in media, Zamora brings international attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues and prejudices through his appearance on MTV’s reality television series, The Real World: San Francisco.

Zamora’s commitment ceremony to his partner Sean Sasser, which is filmed for the show, is also the first same-sex ceremony in television history.  Zamora dies just hours after the finale of The Real World: San Francisco aired on MTV.

AIDS Quilt - Elizabeth Glaser
December 3, 1994
Pediatric AIDS Activist Elizabeth Glaser Dies

Elizabeth Glaser, founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.

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Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She and her husband, Paul, would learn four years later that she was HIV+ and she had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that their son, Jake, had contracted the virus in utero.

The Glasers pulled their daughter out of school, fearful of media exposure and ostracism imposed by parents of other students.  Newspapers in 1985 were filled with stories about the plight of Ryan White in Kokomo, Indiana, and the three Ray brothers in Arcadia, Florida — all hemophiliacs who, having been infected with the AIDS virus by blood transfusions, had been ostracized and barred from their schools.

Ariel Glaser had developed AIDS at a time when the medical community knew very little about the disease, and there were no available treatment options for children.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved AZT in early 1987 as an effective drug to extend the lives of AIDS patients, but the approval only extended to adults. With their daughter’s condition rapidly deteriorating, the Glasers fought to have her treated with AZT intravenously. However, the treatment came too late, and Ariel died in the summer of 1988, shortly after her seventh birthday.

Elizabeth Glaser went to Washington to do research on AIDS at the National Institutes of Health and found that people in power were willing to listen to her story.  She was able to mobilize legislators like Senators Orrin Hatch and Howard Metzenbaum to co-sponsor a fund-raising benefit in Washington for her new organization, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

With the help of her friends Susie Zeegen and Susan De Laurentis, Glaser created the foundation to raise money for basic pediatric research.  The foundation also supported additional clinical tests for the medication AZT, which was prescribed for adults years before it was given to children.

In 1994, to honor Glaser’s legacy, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation was renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.  EGPAF has become the leading global nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs.  Another important legacy of Glaser’s is her son, Jake, who is now a healthy adult who advocates for pediatric reserach.

December 23, 1994
FDA Approves Saliva HIV Test

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves an oral HIV test, the first non-blood-based antibody test for HIV.

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FDA says the test, which uses fluid from the mouth instead of blood, will be available only from doctors and will be administered only by people trained to do so.

“As long as a positive test is followed up with a blood test and as long as there is appropriate counseling available, it is a reasonable thing to do,” Dr. Jeff Lawrence tells The New York Times.  Dr. Lawrence is a consultant to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Studies show that for every 100 people infected with HIV, the oral-fluid-based test will miss one or two, and for every 100 people who are not infected, test results will be incorrectly positive for approximately two people.

1994
AIDS Becomes Leading Killer of Americans Aged 25-44

AIDS becomes the leading cause of death among all Americans aged 25 to 44, new Federal data shows.

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By the end of 1994, more than 440,000 cases of AIDS, including more than 6,000 among children, are reported since the epidemic was first recognized in 1981.

More than 250,000 people are already dead from AIDS or AIDS-related causes.

About 75% of all cases have been reported in the 25-to-44 age group.

AIDS Quilt - Gary Kalkin
January 8, 1995
Disney Exec Gary Kalkin Dies

Gary Kalkin, a top executive at Walt Disney Studios who guided the marketing campaigns for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Los Angeles. He was 44.

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As senior vice president of domestic marketing for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, Kalkin supervised promotion, advertising and publicity campaigns for Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures as well as Disney.  Kalkin also played a creative role in promoting Disney’s Broadway stage version of Beauty and the Beast.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, former chairman of Walt Disney studios, said that Mr. Kalkin also guided the campaigns for the hits Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Good Morning, Vietnam and Pretty Woman. Despite his illness, Kalkin helped supervise the marketing of the Tim Allen comedy The Santa Clause, which emerged as one of the most successful films of 1994.

David Cole
January 24, 1995
C+C Music Factory’s David Cole Dies

Record producer and songwriter David Cole dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

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Half of the dance-music duo C+C Music Factory, Cole and his musical partner Robert Clivillés produced numerous high-energy dance tracks, such as “Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” “Here We Go Let’s Rock & Roll” and “Things That Make You Go Hmmm.”

The New York-based act solidified their white-hot status when they won the 1991 Billboard Award for Best New Pop Artist, beating out Boyz II Men, Color Me Badd, EMF and others. After performing an elaborately choreographed medley of their hits, Cole and Clivillés along with vocalists Zelma Davis and Freedom Williams assembled at the podium to accept their award.  It was one of the last appearances C&C Music Factory would ever make together.

Cole and Clivillés met in the mid 80s, when both were DJing at New York City clubs. Before they had their big break with “Make You Sweat,” they worked behind-the-scenes, co-writing and producing songs for artists like Chaka Khan and Grace Jones, co-producing remixes, and acting as managers for various groups.  Together, they wrote and produced four songs on Mariah Carey’s 1991 album Emotions, including the smash hit title track.

Cole’s success continued to climb as he continued to produce mega-hits with Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, and many top musical acts of the late ’80s and early ’90s.  Cole won a Grammy for the soundtrack for the hit movie The Bodyguard (1992) starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.

Cole died on January 24, 1995 from spinal meningitis brought on by HIV at the age of 32.

Mariah Carey wrote the song “One Sweet Day” in memory of Cole.

In a 2018 interview with pitchfork, Carey spoke about Cole:

He was one of the only people I used to have in the studio when I would sing, because I respected him as a singer.  He would push me in different areas where he could actually sing it to me and I would be like, ‘Oh, this is cool. I like that’ … Half the time, I would lose my voice afterwards, because he would just push me.”

The tribute to Cole on thegranvarones reads:

“I remember watching MTV when the news of David’s death broke.  The realization that fame and talent could not and would not protect the young and talented knocked the wind out of me.  Even now as an adult, I am still saddened by the loss of such a brilliant artist.  David Cole, in his all too brief time on this planet, blessed us with a catalog of music that has and will continue to inspire generations.  Rest well, David.  May you forever dance in peace!”

Harvey and Scott
February 4, 1995
San Francisco Political Organizer Scott Smith Dies

Scott Smith, a gay rights activist best known for his romantic relationship with Harvey Milk, dies of AIDS-related illness at San Francisco General Hospital at the age of 46.

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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Smith was instrumental to the political career of Harvey Milk,  the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.  Smith organized and managed Milk’s campaigns for public office from 1974 to 1977, and he continued to influence Milk after the latter was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

In 1972, Milk and Smith were down to their last $1,000 in collective savings when they decided to open Castro Camera, a photography supplies and service shop that would soon serve as Milk’s campaign headquarters.  At the time, Milk and Smith were in a romantic relationship.

According to Randy Shilts in his book The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), Milk and Smith needed to find a cheap place to live and a way to make money.  They chose the Castro District because they heard that apartments there were cheap and they knew of two gay bars there doing booming business.  Castro Camera opened at 575 Castro Street on March 3, 1973.

Later that year, Smith orchestrated the Coors Beer boycott that elevated Milk in the Bay Area’s political scene.  One of the first public displays of power by the gay community, the boycott galvanized support behind Teamsters against the Coors Company, which refused to employ union drivers.   With Smith’s strategy, Milk convinced gay bars to boycott Coors beer and it worked — Coors caved in.  In return, Milk convinced the Teamsters to hire openly gay truck drivers, solidifying Milk’s reputation as an astute political operator.

Milk and Smith followed the success of their boycott with campaigns to elect Milk to public office. First, Milk ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1973 and again in 1975, losing both times.  Then in 1976, Milk was appointed by Mayor George Moscone to the city’s Board of Permit Appeals, but he resigned the position just a few months later to run for the California State Assembly. He lost the Assembly race as well.

Finally, Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors in the November 1977 election, and he was sworn into office on January 9, 1978, becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

When Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978, Smith’s life was thrown into turmoil.

In the days that followed, Milk’s body was laid in state in the City Hall Rotunda.  On November 29, a memorial service was held at City Hall, followed by another service at Temple Emmanue-El.  Milk’s body was cremated and his ashes were wrapped in a Doonsebury comic-strip to acknowledge his love for newspaper comics, and “RIP” was spelled out in rhinestones.  Smith and a few others of Milk’s closest friends scattered the ashes in San Francisco Bay, according to Bob Kelley, curator of the photo presentation Harvey Milk, Second Sight.

The violent death of the man who had guided Smith’s personal and professional life since he was 22 years old had a devastating impact, according to Randy Shilts in his biography of Milk.

“Since most media attention focused on the political heirs of Harvey Milk — who had long considered Scott to be little more than the camera store’s clerk — Smith became increasingly embittered in the month’s after the assassination, complaining that he had never gotten due credit for propping up the business that gave Milk his political base,” Shilts wrote.

Smith was executor of Milk’s last will and testament, a job that came with the tedious process of resolving Milk’s debts and other open affairs, and he also became head of the Harvey Milk Archives, spending long hours organizing Milk’s papers, speeches, photographs and other ephemera.  Now located in the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library, the Harvey Milk Archives/Scott Smith Collection contains hundreds of photographs of Smith taken by Milk, the latter who sometimes spent entire rolls of film on candid images of his favorite model.

Smith converted Castro Camera into an art gallery.  When more than a year had passed since Milk’s death and Smith was still in the throes of a deep depression, the city’s public health director reached out to Scott with counseling resources.  It was almost two years before Smith could begin reconstructing his life.

In the early 1980s, Smith left the world of politics and started afresh as a travel agent, according to SFGATE.  He continued to work on the Harvey Milk Archives, earning the nickname of “The Widow Milk” from his friends.

On January 21, 1995, just weeks before his death, Smith attended the world premiere of the Houston Grand Opera’s Harvey Milk, by librettist Michael Korie and composer Stewart Wallace.  Smith was well-known as an opera buff, a passion he had shared with Milk.  The afternoon before the opening, Smith took part in a panel discussion and traded reminiscences with five others who personally knew Milk.

When news of Smith’s death reached the Houston Grand Opera, they dedicated the final performances of Harvey Milks’ run to Smith.  The opera, in which Smith appeared as a principal character, would be reprised at the San Francisco Opera in late 1996.

Following Smith’s death, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, acting on a resolution by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, adjourned its meeting in Smith’s memory.  A potluck party was held to celebrate Smith’s life, fittingly, at the photography studio of longtime friend Danny Nicoletta.  Nicoletta had worked in Smith and Milk’s camera shop in the 1970s.

In the 2008 feature film Milk, the role of Scott Smith was played by James Franco.

AIDS Quilt - Paul Monette
February 10, 1995
Writer-Activist Paul Monette Dies

Paul Monette, author of the award-winning Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, dies at his home in West Hollywood of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.

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Borrowed Time chronicles Monette’s experience caring for his partner Roger Horwitz during his fight with AIDS and eventual death from AIDS.  The memoir details the final nineteen months of Horwitz’s life, beginning with the day that he was first diagnosed with AIDS, which Monette describtes as “the day we began to live on the moon.”

Born in 1945 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Monette was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967.  Soon after graduating from Yale, he began a prolific writing career, and for eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.

After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. At around this time, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.

In 1977, the couple moved to Los Angeles, and Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer.  Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982 that were enormously successful, including Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll and The Gold Diggers, and established himself as a writer of popular fiction.

“He was a capable writer, but he had not discovered his voice.  When AIDS arrived, he found it,” writes Legacy Project Chicago in its tribute to Monette.  “On the front lines of the epidemic he picked up his pen and began to capture the horror as it happened.

In the year following Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote Borrowed Time, and its 1988 release c