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.
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.
The New England Journal of Medicine, “Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia and Musocal Candidiasis in Previously Healthy Homosexual Men — Evidence of a New Acquired Cellular Immunodeficiency” by Michael S. Gottlieb, M.D., Robert Schroff, Ph.D., Howard M. Schanker, M.D., Joel D. Weisman, D.O., Peng Thim Fan, M.D., Robert A. Wolf, M.D., and Andrew Saxon, M.D.; December 10, 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.
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.”
POZ magaine, “A Look Back at the Year a Rare Cancer Was First Seen in Gay Men” by Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., July 13, 2020
The New York Times, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals” by Lawrence K. Altman, July 3, 1981
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.
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.
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.”
National Institutes of Health, “Dr Thomas Waldmann Oral History 1990,” interview of Dr. Waldmann on March 14, 1990 by interviewers Dennis Rodrigues, Program Analyst, and Dr. Victoria Harden, Director of the NIH Historical Office.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
* * * * * Sources:
San Francisco Examiner, “Pioneering AIDS Doctor Reflects on First Cases in SF as City Strives to Eradicate Virus,” February 8, 2015
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.
In an 18-paragraph story on Page 20 of TheNew 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.
The New York Times, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals” by Lawrence K. Altman, July 3, 1981
POZ magazine, “A Look Back at the Year a Rare Cancer Was First Seen in Gay Men” by Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., July 13, 2020
POZ magazine, “Interferon and AIDS: Too Much of a Good Thing” by Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., May 7, 2011
CDC Creates Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma & Opportunistic Infections
A Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections is established at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the direction of Dr. James Curran.
Shortly after MMWR description of five cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) among homosexual men in Los Angeles, additional cases of other life-threatening opportunistic infections and a malignancy, Kaposi sarcoma (KS), were reported to the CDC.
The Task Force first worked to establish a case definition for surveillance and investigation of the outbreak. Previously, KS was known as an infrequently-diagnosed cancer that was rarely life-threatening, typically occurring among elderly men. The outbreak seemed to represent a new epidemiologic form of KS.
Between June 1, 1981, and May 28, 1982, CDC would receive 355 case reports of KS and/or serious opportunistic infections, especially Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, occurring in previously healthy persons between 15 and 60 years of age. Of the 355, 281 (79%) were homosexual (or bisexual) men, 41 (12%) were heterosexual men, 20 (6%) were men of unknown sexual orientation, and 13 (4%) were heterosexual women.
Five states — California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas — accounted for 86% of the reported cases.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Update on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections in Previously Health Persons — United States,” June 11, 1982
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.
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.
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.
* * * * * Sources:
Washington Post, “AIDS: The Glaser Family’s Battle” by Janet Huck, August 28, 1989
Forbes, “Before Charlie Sheen, They Went Public With HIV” by Barron Lerner, November 17, 2015
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 large New York City apartment at 2 Fifth Avenue.
Invited speaker Dr. Friedman-Kien, a dermatologist alarmed about the spread of Kaposi’s sarcoma among the gay male population of New York, explained that they were witnessing the arrival of a new disease with a mysterious predilection for gay men.
“We listened intently, respectfully, and full of dread as the soft-spoken Dr. Friedman-Kien described the devastation he was seeing in his practice and hearing from other physicians treating gay men,” wrote activist Andy Humm in 2021 for Plus magazine. “You could have heard a pin drop.”
When Dr. Friedman-Kien asked attendees to contribute money to support his research, Kramer passed a hat around the room and attendees ponied up a total of $6,635. This would be the only money raised — public or private — to fight the AIDS epidemic in 1981.
“While there were many gay groups in those days, none of us stepped up to coordinate a community-wide response — whether through a sense that health authorities would address it (ha!) as they did with Legionnaire’s Disease in 1976 or fear that a community that had just officially ditched the mental illness label in 1973 would now be linked with a deadly physical malady,” Humm wrote in his Plus opinion piece . “It took Larry Kramer … to bring us together.”
Kramer’s call to action 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.
Kramer himself would emerge as an early leader of the effort to raise awareness about the new disease and solicit donations for the new Gay Men’s Health Crisis. And right away, he would be challenged by members of the gay community who accused him of causing unnecessary panic and villifying gay sex.
Photo courtesy of Larry Kramer Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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.
Small Medical Conference is First to Address Epidemic
Fifty leading clinicians gather in Bethesda, Maryland for the first conference to address the new epidemic.
Cosponsored by the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the medical conference focused on Kaposi’s sarcoma and other opportunistic infections. Researchers began to develop recommendations for further studies in epidemiology, virology, and treatment.
The Kaposi’s Sarcoma clinic at the University of California’s San Francisco Medical Center opens its doors, becoming the first clinic in the world to exclusively treat what would become to be known as AIDS.
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.
The National Institutes of Health reports the death due to severe immune deficiency of a man admitted to its facility in Bethesda, Maryland in June. He was 35.
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.
* * * * * Sources:
National Institutes of Health, “Dr. Thomas Waldmann Oral History 1990,” interview with Dr. Waldmann on March 14, 1990 by interviewers Dennis Rodrigues, NIH Program Analyst, and Victoria Harden, M.D., Director of the NIH Historical Office.
Retrovirology journal, “A Historical Reflection on the Discovery of Human Retroviruses” by Anders Vahlne, May 1, 2009
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 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 believed that the first HIV/AIDS patient in North America was Robert “Bobby” Rayford, a Black teenager from the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri. Fifteen-year-old 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.
An early “cluster” case was that of Arne Vidar Røed, a Norwegian truck driver and former sailor, and his wife and child. 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 also the first documented cluster of AIDS cases before the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s.
University of California Libraries, “The San Francisco AIDS Oral History Series | The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: The Response of Community Physicians, 1981-1984,” interview with James R. Groundwater, M.D. by interviewer Sally Smith Hughes in 1996
Discover magazine, “The Sea has Neither Sense nor Pity: The Earliest Known Cases of AIDS in the pre-AIDS Era” by Rebecca Kreston, October 22, 2012
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.
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 initially dismissed by his colleagues.
“This would ultimately prove to be the moment when AIDS emerged in the Black community, driven among men, women, and children by sexual contacts, injecting drug use, and mother-to-child transmission,” writes Michael Broder in his article for Positively Aware.
By 1987, pediatric AIDS cases would be on the rise, especially in New York and especially among minority groups. Many babies would be orphaned, creating insurmountable challenges for social workers seeking foster care placements for them.
Although medical experts estimated the number of infected infants in the city to be as many as 3,000, the City of New York has only 241 recorded cases of pediatric AIDS by the end of 1987. Of these cases, the racial breakdown was 59% Black, 32% Hispanic and 8% White.
The New York Times, “For Child With AIDS, Hospital Is Home” by Bruce Lambert, December 24, 1987
December 5, 1981
Pamphlet on KS Distributed to Conference Attendees
In an attempt to alert the medical community to the yet-unnamed 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.
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.
* * * * * Source:
University of California Libraries, “The San Francisco AIDS Oral History Series | The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: The Response of Community Physicians, 1981-1984,” interview with James R. Groundwater, M.D., conducted by Sally Smith Hughes, Ph.D. in 1996
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.
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.
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.
Also, Holliday 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.
HuffPost, “Thirty Years of ‘Dreamgirls’ and AIDS in America” by Sheryl Lee Ralph, June 14, 2011
CBS News Richmond, “Sheryl Lee Ralph Raises AIDS Awareness with DIVAs,” December 4, 2019
StarTribune, “Original ‘Dreamgirl’ Sings a Song of AIDS Awareness” by C.J., February 6, 2008
Playbill, “Jennifer Holliday Releases Single to Benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS” by Andrew Gans, January 26, 2017
The Broadway Blog, “Jennifer Holliday on ‘Dreamgirls,’ Being an LGBTQ Icon, and Turning 60” by Ryan Leeds
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.
By this time, some researchers began to call the condition GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). This terminology would have a negative influence on both the medical profession and the public, causing people to perceive the epidemic as limited to gay men.
This early misconception of the disease would have serious long-term consequences as it becomes evident that anyone could be infected with HIV, including women, heterosexual men, hemophiliacs, people who inject drugs, and children.
Kenneth Schnorr, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
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 then-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.
Watermark, “Tribute to ‘Give ’em Hell’ Lesbian Feminist Pioneer Ivy Bottini” by Karen Ocamb, March 3, 2021
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.
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.
Later in the same year, GMHC would open its first office on West 22nd Street in Manhattan.
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 would continuously provide 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.
Antony Valdor, a dancer, choreographer and teacher known throughout North America, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.
Valdor, a principal dancer with Théâtre du Châtelet who was fluent in French, toured Europe extensively. After dancing with Les Grands Ballet U.S., Marquis de Cuevas and London Ballet Theatre. he became technical coach for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
In the late 1960s, he was ballet master for San Francisco Ballet, and produced one of the company’s most popular events, Ballet69, an innovative series of dance performances in the summer of 1969.
He choreographed several pieces for SF Ballet, for the National Academy of Arts Ballet and co-choreographed ballet pieces with Gemze de Lappe. He toured the U.S. as guest teacher and choreographer with many ballet companies and dance academies.
Born Robert Dishman in Los Angeles, Valdor studied with Olga Preobrajens, Alexandra Danilova, Robert Joffrey, and Jose Limon, among others. He was a Navy veteran, serving for four years. His first performances after being released from military service was in the summer of 1955 with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera dancing in their summer musical series.
Billy Kovinsky is First Canadian Known to Die of AIDS
William “Billy” Kovinsky dies of AIDS-related illness, becoming the first known case of HIV/AIDS in Canada. About a month later, Canada Diseases Weekly Report would print an article about the case, alerting medical officials that HIV had come to Canada.
As far back as August 1979, Kovinsky sought medical treatment for illnesses that overwhelmed his immune system. According to his doctor, John Doherty, M.D., Kovinsky came to his office in March 1981, and the doctor found he had enlarged lymph nodes and abnormal levels of immune globulins.
During a follow-up visit a month later, Kovinsky’s immune globulins were normal again. Then in May 1981, he went to a different doctor and received a blood test, which found that his white blood count was “extremely low.”
His sister Anna Levin told Canada’s Xtra magazine that she vacationed with Kovinsky in Florida around that time, and saw that his health was in decline.
“He was very thin and gaunt and suffered from sweats,” Anna recalled.
When Kovinsky returned to Canada in June 1981, he submitted to a series of tests at the University Hospital in London, which showed “leukopenia, atypical lymphocytosis and an elevated sedimentation rate,” according to Dr. Doherty’s case report. He was admitted to the hospital for eight days and then discharged without a diagnosis or treatment plan.
Kovinsky continued to search for an answer to his health problems, but doctors had little to offer him. He became very depressed and attempted suicide in August 1981 by taking an overdose of pills, according to Dr. Doherty’s report.
After a two-day hospital stay, he was sent to Toronto for four weeks of psychiatric treatment. In December 1981, Kovinsky was diagnosed with a monilial infection, or thrush, which covered the entire lining of his esophagus, from mouth to stomach.
On January 5, 1982, Kovinsky checked himself into the hospital for the last time. A battery of tests were performed on him, according to the case report, including an “open chest upper lobe biopsy.”
His sister Anna said she visited Kovinsky at his hospital bed three times a week. He had other visitors, too; his friends Phyllis and Jack would come by and try to cheer him up. He had his own room, and Anna recalled that he was treated very well by the staff at the hospital.
Kovinsky died just six weeks later at the age of 43.
Dr. Doherty told the Canadian Medical Association Journal that he reported Kovinsky’s case to Canada’s Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, and the very next day investigators came to his office for more information. On March 27, 1982, Canada Diseases Weekly Report carried a short article on the case, and soon, it would be clear that Dr. Doherty had reported the first known case of AIDS in Canada.
“I still remember this case vividly, because I knew the guy really well,” Dr. Doherty recalled for the Journal in 2002.
“Billy was just a really nice guy who led two lives,” said his sister Anna to the Windsor Star. “One was his public life where he was a supposedly heterosexual guy and had all heterosexual friends. The other one was a life that nobody knew about. I’m sure it was very difficult, exceptionally difficult.”
March 3, 1982
U.S. Public Health Service Hosts AIDS Conference at CDC
U.S. Public Health Service hosts a conference on AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
At the conference, researchers debate whether the opportunistic infections were being caused by one or more transmissible or immune-suppressing agents.
GMHC Holds First Major AIDS Fundraiser, Others Follow
A fundraising event hosted by the newly formed organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis draws over 2,000 attendees to the Paradise Garage in New York City and raises more than $30,000.
“Showers: A Benefit to Aid Gay Men with Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Other Gay Related Immunodeficiencies” 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.
During his address to attendees, Popham announced 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.
Not only did the event provide GMHC with seed money for its service programs, it also attracted “a flood of new volunteers,” according to David France in his book How to Survive a Plague.
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 large-scale 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, 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.
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.
First Congressional Hearings on AIDS Begin in Hollywood
Congressman Henry Waxman, whose district includes the gay community of West Hollywood, convenes the first congressional hearings on AIDS at the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center.
“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.”
Rep. Waxman made an effort to involve the gay community of his district by holding the hearing at the LA Gay Community Services Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center). But the media largely overlooked the event, and the coverage that 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.
* * * * * * Sources:
Washington Blade, “AIDS at 40: White House Laughs as Gays Try to Save Themselves” by Karen Ocamb, June 23, 2021
The Atlantic, “The Heroic Story of How Congress First Confronted AIDS” by Joshua Green, June 8, 2011
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
LA Activist Ivy Bottini Creates Informational Network
Lesbian feminist Ivy Bottini, upset by the AIDS-related death of her friend Ken Schnorr, starts asking questions of the medical community and founds the AIDS Informational Network in Los Angeles.
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.
Watermark, “Tribute to ‘Give ’em Hell’ Lesbian Feminist Pioneer Ivy Bottini” by Karen Ocamb, March 3, 2021
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.
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.
“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. They were informally known as “the Four-H Club” — homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin users. Later, “hookers” were added to the list.
“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, Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the University of Cape Town. “The avatars drew on existing stereotypes and reinforced them, reflecting existing prejudices or social attitudes relating to sexuality, sexual orientation, race, class and gender.”
* * * * * * Sources:
The New York Times, “New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials” by Lawrence K. Altman, May 11, 1982
The Conversation, “AIDS: What Drove Three Decades of Acronyms and Avatars?” by Carla Tsampiras, June 4, 2015
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.
* * * * * * Source:
Los Angeles Times, “Anti-Gay Bias? : Coverage of AIDS Story: A Slow Start” by David Shaw, December 20, 1987
June 12, 1982
CBS News Reports on AIDS among Gay Men in Cities
In one of the earliest broadcast news stories about AIDS, reporter Barry Peterson interviews gay men diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma.
The news segment opens with AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell talking about his shock at the age of 29, when he was told he had a deadly form of cancer. Then, the segment shows Campbell being examined by his doctor, Marcus Conant, M.D.
Next, New York-based AIDS activist Larry Kramer talks about how the disease is killing more people than toxic shock syndrome and Legionnaire’s disease — two bacterial infections receiving a lot of media attention at the time. When the reporter asks Campbell why no one is addressing the AIDS epidemic, Kramer replies, “Well, I think it’s because it’s a gay cancer.”
James Curran, M.D., speaks on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telling CBS News that now is the time to conduct AIDS research to determine how the disease was being transmitted. The reporter notes that “there is almost no money being spent so far” for AIDS research.
The reporter closes the segment with this statement: “For Bobbi Campbell, it is a race against time. How long before he and others who have this disease finally have answers, finally have the hope of a cure?”
Campbell would die of AIDS-related illness on August 15, 1984, about 26 months after the report aired on CBS News.
It would be almost 12 years later (1996) before highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) would become widely available to people living with HIV/AIDS, finally offering the hope of survival. Deaths from AIDS-related illness fell almost immediately in the industrialized world, and the way we think about HIV and AIDS changed forever.
The Centers for Disease Control publishes an MMWR article that is the first to suggest sexual transmission as the source of Karposi’s sarcoma and other opportunitic infections in gay men.
The MMWR article describes a potential sexually transmitted agent as being the link to outbreaks of KS, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), 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 male residents of southern California. Following a report of possible personal connections 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 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.
* * * * * Sources:
Mortality and Morbity Weekly Report, “A Cluster of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Homosexual Male Residents of Los Angeles and range Counties, California,” June 18, 1982
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.
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.
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.”
Back2Stonewall, “Gay History – April 15, 1979: San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded,” April 16, 2022
The Culture Trip, “Meet the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, San Francisco’s Order of Queer Nuns” by Deanna Morgado, July 3, 2019
GLBTQ Archive, “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” by Robert Kellerman, 2002
July 4, 1982
Terrence Higgins – Hansard Reporter in UK – Dies
Terrence Higgins dies at St. Thomas Hospital in London, becoming one of the first people to die of an AIDS-related illness in the United Kingdom. He was 37 years old.
Born in 1945 in the Wales town of Haverfordwest, Higgins left for London as a teenager. He worked as a reporter for Hansard, the House of Commons’ official record, and in the evenings as a nightclub barman and DJ. In the late 1970s, he would often travel to work in New York and Amsterdam.
In 1980, he was forced to put his traveling on hold due to persistent and, at the time, unidentifiable illnesses. In the summer of 1982, he collapsed while at work at the Heaven nightclub in London and was hospitalized. Soon after, he died of the AIDS-related illnesses Pneumocystis pneumonia and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.
After Higgins’ death, his partner, Rupert Whitaker, and his friends Martyn Butler, Tony Calvert, Len Robinson and Chris Peel founded the Terrence Higgins Trust to raise funds for research and awareness of the illness that was then only known as “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” (GRID).
Terrence Higgins Trust was the first service organization in the United Kingdom to respond to the HIV epidemic.
* * * * * * Sources:
BBC News, “Terrence Higgins’ Legacy, 30 Years After Death” by Neil Prior, July 5, 2012
32 Haitian Immigrants Diagnosed with Opportunistic Infections & KS
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a “cluster” of opportunistic infections and Kaposi’s sarcoma among Haitians who recently entered the U.S.
In the summer of 1982, life-threatening opportunistic infections and Kaposi’s sarcoma were reported among 32 Haitian migrants to the United States. The CDC stated in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that most were heterosexual men with no known risk factors who had migrated from Haiti within the past two years.
The MMWR also mentioned that the CDC received reports of KS cases in Port-Au-Prince, and the combined reports indicated “an epidemiologically distinct pattern of illness” that occurred via heterosexual transmission.
Years later, in its report “AIDS: The Early Years and CDC’s Response,” the CDC conceded that by publicly reporting these cases as “Haitian entrants,” the CDC inadvertently contributed to the stigma associated with “AIDS labeling.” This stigma would be endured by thousands of Haitian migrants fleeing poverty and political persecution in the 1980s and 1990s.
From April 1, 1980 through June 20, 1982, 19 Haitian patients were admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with evidence of opportunistic infections (including Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, cryptococcal meningitis or fungemia, toxoplasmosis, and esophageal candidiasis) and one patient also had Kaposi’s sarcoma. Seventeen were men and two were women. At the time the CDC released its MMWR, 10 of the 19 Haitian immigrants in Florida had already died. Their average age was 28 years old.
From July 1, 1981, through May 31, 1982, 10 Haitian residents of Brooklyn, New York — all men, aged between 22 and 37 years old — were diagnosed with opportunistic infections (including Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, cryptococcal meningitis or fungemia, toxoplasmosis, and esophageal candidiasis). Five of the 10 immigrants in Brooklyn had already died.
The remaining three cases were reported from health officials in California, Georgia, and New Jersey.
The CDCwarned medical officials and doctors who care for Haitian patients to “be aware that opportunistic infections may occur in this population.”
July 16, 1982
CDC Identifies Hemophilia-AIDS Connection
CDC reports three cases of hemophiliacs diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a common AIDS-related illness.
The CDC’s MMWR article is the first report of the AIDS-related condition of immunosuppression in patients with hemophilia who have no other known risk factors for AIDS.
By the time the MMWR article is published, two of the three subjects have died.
Louis “Lou” Maletta launches the Gay Cable Network on Manhattan cable channel 35, starting with the program Men in Films and then expanding its programming to include news about the AIDS crisis.
The Gay Cable Network broke new ground by providing television programming from a gay perspective, and often featured news about AIDS that was broadcast nowhere else in the country. While the network existed on Manhattan cable in New York City, Maletta also made his programs available to other cities like San Francisco, Cincinnati and Atlanta, which broadcast his taped programs.
Maletta’s first program, Men & Film, featured strategically edited gay pornographic material that “just barely passed even early cable access censorship standards,” according to Back2Stonewall, Maletta would announce at the start of each show that his goal with the program was to “put the male body back on the map.”
Within months, Maletta expanded his programming to include news, sports and entertainment, and the network became a forum for a range of issues facing the gay community.
In a 2009 interview with Gay City News, Maletta said he realized he needed to provide gay-centric programming about the AIDS crisis after he witnessed a 30-year-old friend become “someone who looked 90 six months after being diagnosed.”
Maletta arranged for officials from New York City’s health department and Gay Men’s Health Crisis to provide updates on HIV/AIDS healthcare and research developments.
Maletta’s Gay Week in Review was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, and Naming Names was produced weekly by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, according to Gay City News. Maletta himself covered arts and entertainment in a show called Be My Guest, which featured celebrities including Harvey Fierstein, Derek Jarman, Vito Russo, Patrick Stewart, Tony Kushner, Quentin Crisp, and Divine.
The network’s news program, Pride and Progress, eventually became Gay USA, a show co-hosted by Ann Northrop and Andy Humm that outlived the network and today is distributed nationally by Free Speech TV.
Gay USA covered the Democratic and Republican national conventions from 1984 to 2000 with reporters interviewing political leaders from Dick Cheney and George W. Bush to Jesse Jackson and Ann Richards. The news program also covered AIDS demonstrations outside the conventions, as well as numerous rallies in Washington and New York City.
“It was critical to the LGBT rights movement,” Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College, told The New York Times. “Mainstream television wasn’t rushing to cover the movement, and public access cable provided entrée for social and political groups that were traditionally excluded. Lou Maletta’s programming allowed voices of the gay community to speak for themselves.”
Maletta videotaped his programs at first out of his apartment on West 15th Street, which he shared with Luke Valenti, his domestic partner of 37 years, according to Gay City News. Later, Maletta operated out of Manhattan buildings that doubled as sex clubs late at night.
“There was nothing quite like bringing a candidate for public office in for an interview with an erotic mural looking down at them from off-stage and lubricant residue still on the chairs,” Humm of Gay USA wrote. “But no one walked out and many sought the chance to be on the shows, including Ed Koch and David Dinkins when they ran against each other for mayor in 1989.”
In 2001, Maletta would shut down the network. He died in upstate New York about 10 years later of liver cancer at the age 74.
“He had a tremendous vision and unlike most people, he acted on it and made it happen. Because he was such a rebel and way before his time, he didn’t reap the benefits, which could make him cranky and difficult. But he is a really important figure in our community,” said Northrup of Gay USA.
“Lou had this grand vision of a 24-hour gay cable network,” Humm of Gay USAtold The New York Times. “That didn’t happen for him.”
Still, Maletta’s legacy continues with the endurance of Gay USA and the introduction in 2005 of Logo, a gay-oriented 24-hour cable channel, wrote NYT reporter Dennis Hevesi.
“It’s more than 6,000 hours of film about civil rights and human rights,” said Allen Zwickler, who brokered the deal with NYU. Zwickler’s brother Phil was a documentarian and GCN correspondent before he died of AIDS-related illness in 1991 at the age of 36. “It is so incredible that it had to be preserved.”
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.
In a report to the medical community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coins the term “AIDS” — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The MMWR article 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.”
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.
After 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 LA community.
The emergency meeting with the representative from San Francisco was held at the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now called the Los Angeles LGBT Center). The four activists decided to set up the telephone hotline in the only space available to them: a closet at the Center.
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 got 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.
Question about AIDS Draws Laughter at White House 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.’”
“I don’t have it,” Speakes replies. “Do you?”
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.
President Reagan would not mention AIDS until 1985, and then it would be 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 in the U.S. would already be dead.
* * * * * * Sources:
The Washington Post, “How Attitudes toward AIDS have Changed, in the White House and Beyond” by Juliet Eilperin, December 4, 2013
Washington Blade, “AIDS at 40: White House Laughs as Gays Try to Save Themselves” by Karen Ocamb, June 23, 2021
Vanity Fair, “The Reagan Administration’s Unearthed Response to the AIDS Crisis is Chilling” by Richard Lawson, December 1, 2015
October 21, 1982
Jimmy Howell – Bay Area Dance Teacher – Dies
Dancer and teacher James “Jimmy” Howell dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 47.
Howell was a psychologist in Yakima, Washington, who moved to New York and then Los Angeles to dance and teach with the Joffrey Ballet. He then moved to San Francisco and started his own dance studio.
Howell performed his last ballet, Journey of the Soul, earlier in the year. A videotape of the ballet was shown at a celebration of his life.
The report noted that “airborne spread and interpersonal spread through casual contact do not seem likely.”
Those providing care to people with AIDS were advised the following:
Extraordinary care must be taken to avoid accidental wounds from sharp instruments contaminated with potentially infectious material and to avoid contact of open skin lesions with material from AIDS patients.
Gloves should be worn when handling blood specimens, blood-soiled items, body fluids, excretions, and secretions, as well as surfaces, materials, and objects exposed to them.
Gowns should be worn when clothing may be soiled with body fluids, blood, secretions, or excretions.
Hands should be washed after removing gowns and gloves and before leaving the rooms of known or suspected AIDS patients. Hands should also be washed thoroughly and immediately if they become contaminated with blood.
Blood and other specimens should be labeled prominently with a special warning, such as “Blood Precautions” or “AIDS Precautions.” If the outside of the specimen container is visibly contaminated with blood, it should be cleaned with a disinfectant (such as a 1:10 dilution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) with water). All blood specimens should be placed in a second container, such as an impervious bag, for transport. The container or bag should be examined carefully for leaks or cracks.
Blood spills should be cleaned up promptly with a disinfectant solution, such as sodium hypochlorite (see above).
Articles soiled with blood should be placed in an impervious bag prominently labeled “AIDS Precautions” or “Blood Precautions” before being sent for reprocessing or disposal. Alternatively, such contaminated items may be placed in plastic bags of a particular color designated solely for disposal of infectious wastes by the hospital. Disposable items should be incinerated or disposed of in accord with the hospital’s policies for disposal of infectious wastes. Reusable items should be reprocessed in accord with hospital policies for hepatitis B virus-contaminated items. Lensed instruments should be sterilized after use on AIDS patients.
Needles should not be bent after use, but should be promptly placed in a puncture-resistant container used solely for such disposal. Needles should not be reinserted into their original sheaths before being discarded into the container, since this is a common cause of needle injury.
Disposable syringes and needles are preferred. Only needle-locking syringes or one-piece needle-syringe units should be used to aspirate fluids from patients, so that collected fluid can be safely discharged through the needle, if desired. If reusable syringes are employed, they should be decontaminated before reprocessing.
A private room is indicated for patients who are too ill to use good hygiene, such as those with profuse diarrhea, fecal incontinence, or altered behavior secondary to central nervous system infections. Precautions appropriate for particular infections that concurrently occur in AIDS patients should be added to the above, if needed.
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 criticized – 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.
* * * * * Sources:
Richard Berkowitz Files, “We Know Who We Are: Two Gay Men Declare War on Promiscuity” by Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz with Richard Dworkin
AIDS Takes Center Stage at Medical Conference in Toronto
AIDS is the big topic at the Canadian Public Health Association’s inaugural National Conference on Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Toronto.
In the 10 months leading up to the conference, the number of known AIDS cases in Canada had grown from one to 14. So the issue of AIDS was on the minds of many health officials and medical practitioners attending conference hosted by the CPHA’s new Sexually Transmitted Diseases division.
At the conference, Dr. Marc Steben told participants that, due to a dearth of information from the medical community, gay men had resorted to passing information about the new disease amongst themselves. Dr. Steben would go on to dedicate much of his career to HIV/AIDS treatment and become co-president of HPV Global Action, based in Montréal.
At the time of the conference, 14 AIDS cases had been reported in Canada and 10 people had already died. Eleven of the cases were reported in Montreal, and one each in Vancouver, Toronto, and Windsor. Medical officials were reviewing four more cases that they expected to be AIDS.
Many of the conference attendees were also aware of the publication in the gay weekly Body Politic of two articles: “Living with Kaposi’s” by Michael Lynch and “The Real Gay Epidemic: Panic and Paranoia” by Bill Lewis.
In the first article, Lynch wrote an extensive profile of gay men living with Kaposi’s Sarcoma in New York City. Lynch expressed his concern with the NYC community’s eager embrace of the medical community and its discourses of pathology.
“Gays are once again allowing the medical profession to define, restrict, pathologize us,” Lynch wrote in the November 1982 edition of Body Politic. “What used to be a psychiatric pathology is now an infectious one … This panic could never have set in so quickly and so deeply if within the hearts of gay men there weren’t already a persistent anti-sexual sense of guilt ready to be tapped.”
In his article, Lynch called for a response to AIDS from people who were exclusively gay. Lynch was an American-born English professor who settled in Toronto. He would die of AIDS-related illness on July 9, 1991.
His article in Body Politic was accompanied by a shorter piece by Bill Lewis which argued against panic and urged readers to look at the disease through a lens of science.
“Until recently, the cause of the collapse of the immune system was baffling, and everything gay men did that straight men didn’t was dragged forth as a possible cause,” Lewis wrote. “Abundant sex, poppers, fisting, drugs, ingestion of too much sperm, staying up too late — all have been put forward as an explanation.”
Lynch said that these things failed to make sense as explanations, because none could explain cases of AIDS among nearly celibate gay men, hemophiliacs or children.
According to This is Public Health: A Canadian History, CPHA’s director of the AIDS Education and Awareness Program, David Walters, described Canada’s initial public health response to HIV as “fragmented confusion.”
Canada was facing an economic recession and inadequate healthcare funding from different branches of government. This, along with a lack of coordination efforts at the local level and a general resistance to anything involving the needs of the gay community, contributed to a reluctance by public health officials to take action in the early years of the epidemic.
According to Walters, “There seemed to be no safe ground in talking about homosexuality, condoms and needles at national or provincial levels. This reluctance resulted in foot-dragging and unclear messages about needed commitment to educational programs.”
November 18, 1982
Musician & Producer Patrick Cowley Dies
Patrick Cowley, a dance music pioneer who recorded with musician Sylvester in 1977-1979, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Castro District home in San Francisco at the age of 32.
Cowley, who specialized in electronic dance music, joined Sylvester’s studio band and played synthesizer on Sylvester’s 1978 album Step II, which included the hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat).”
In addition, he wrote “Stars” and “I Need Somebody to Love Tonight” from Sylvester’s 1979 album Stars. Cowley also joined Sylvester’s live band and joined him on several world tours.
Born in 1950 in Buffalo, New York, Cowley became a drummer with amateur bands while attending Niagara University and later the University of Buffalo. In 1971, he moved to San Francisco to attend the City College of San Francisco, where he studied music.
After working with Sylvester, Cowley produced his own hits, including “Menergy” in 1981 and “Megatron Man,” from the album of the same name. He also wrote and produced the dance single “Right on Target” for San Francisco artist Paul Parker and “Do Ya Wanna Funk,” a collaboration with Sylvester.
Cowley also did a 15’45” long remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” which is now a collector’s item. Mind Warp, his final album, was composed as he felt the increasing effects of HIV infection.
It was subsequently discovered that the blood transfused to the baby came from a man who was infected with HIV.
“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.”
In another MMWR report, the Centers for Disease Control reports four additional cases of immune-suppressed infants, none of whom received blood transfusions.
The CDC report provides background on the infant cases:
the mother of one infant 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.
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.
Ward 86 becomes the gold standard for treating patients living with HIV/AIDS.
The clinic attracted staff 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.
Founded by AIDS pioneers Drs. Paul Volberding, Donald Abrams and Constance Wofsy, the clinic would see thousands of patients annually, ranging in age from 18 to 82, in the coming years.
In June 1983, the inpatient HIV unit, 5B, would also open at San Francisco General Hospital.
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.
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.
The CDC publishes its first article that includes women among those diagnosed with AIDS.
“Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York” includes the first cases of AIDS in women participating in a research study.
The MMWR article described the cases of two women who were sexual partners of men diagnosed with AIDS.
In one case, a 37-year-old Black woman began losing weight in June 1982 and had developed oral candidiasis and swollen lymph nodes a month later. Tests revealed she had Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), as well as lymphopenia and a depletion of T-helper cells. She said she was not an intravenous drug user, but her sexual partner since 1976 had a history of IV drug abuse. The woman’s partner died of AIDS in November 1982.
In the second case included in the report, a 23-year-old Hispanic woman developed swollen lymph nodes in early 1982. Tests showed she had elevated immunoglobulin levels, lymphopenia, decreased T-helper cell numbers, and a depressed T-helper/T-suppressor cell ratio. She had no previous illnesses or therapy associated with immunosuppression. Since the summer of 1981, her only sexual partner was a bisexual male who had developed AIDS-related symptoms in 1981.
* * * * * * Source:
Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York,” January 7, 1983
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.
APLA moves into a converted motel built in 1955, located at 937 Cole Street in Hollywood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Divisiony 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.
An AIDS briefing hosted by the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA) draws hundreds of attendees 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.”
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.
* * * * * * Source:
March 4, 1983
CDC Gives AIDS a Stigmatizing Label: ‘4H Disease’
Representing four groups that CDC researchers identify as “most at risk” for HIV/AIDS, the four Hs are homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users, and Haitians.
In the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) issued on this date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed to four distinct groups of people in the U.S. who were “at increased risk for developing AIDS.” According to the CDC, those groups were:
homosexual men with multiple sexual partners,
abusers of intravenous drugs (i.e., heroin), and
Haitians (“especially those who have entered the country within the past few years”)
Many in the gay community co-opted the information, referring to it as “the 4H Club,” a sly redefining of its original meaning as a long-standing agricultural youth group.
The MMWR was published at a time when no effective treatment or cure for AIDS was available. People diagnosed with AIDS often had a few years — and sometimes just a few months — left before the disease would kill them.
Two months after this MMWR, the French virologist Luc Montagnier and his team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris would announce their discovery of the virus that causes AIDS. But at the time of this MMWR report, top U.S. researchers were still baffled by the disease and following leads that suggested that the deterioration of the immune system in AIDS patients was caused by a biological substance, likely passed from one person to another through blood.
“Available data suggest that the severe disorder of immune regulation underlying AIDS is caused by a transmissible agent,” the CDC states in its report.
The CDC goes on to recommend that members of high-risk groups refrain from donating blood or plasma.
“As long as the cause remains unknown, the ability to understand the natural history of AIDS and to undertake preventive measures is somewhat compromised,” the CDC report states. “However, the above recommendations are prudent measures that should reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting AIDS.”
Young Legislative Aide Steers AIDS Policy in California
Stan Hadden, a 26-year-old aide to the leader of the state senate, leads the effort in Sacramento to establish the California AIDS Advisory Committee and set up a mechanism for funding AIDS education throughout the state.
Hadden would go on to author much of the state’s HIV-related legislation as a staff member of the Office of then-State Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti.
Most notably, Haddon would shephard 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.
“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 chapter “AIDS: Public Policy and Mental Health Issues” in the 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.
* * * * * * Sources:
Los Angeles Times, “Stan Hadden: Roberti Aide Influenced AIDS Policy,” December 26, 1991
The Pride, “California Legislative Caucus Honors LGBT Pioneers” by Karen Ocamb
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.
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.
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.
First pubished in the March 14-27, 1983 edition of New York Native, Kramer’s long, comprehensive essay expresses frustration, anger and despair. A 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.”
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.
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.”
“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.”
Infant Diagnosed with AIDS Following Blood Transfusion
Lancet medical journal reports on the case of an infant who developed multiple opportunistic infections when 6 months old after he received multiple blood transfusions when he was just days old. The infant dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 17 months.
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.
* * * * * * Sources:
Lancet, “Acquired Immunodeficiency in an Infant: Possible Transmission by Means of Blood Products” by A J Ammann, M J Cowan, D W Wara, P Weintrub, S Dritz, H Goldman, H A Perkins; April 30, 1983
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.
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 1989 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.”
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.
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.
5,000 Attend Candlelight March at Federal Building in Los Angeles
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.
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.”
* * * * * * Sources:
APLA Health, “35 Years: A Collective Voice of Advocacy”
The Body, “AIDS Project Los Angeles | Public Policy and Communication”
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.
Located on La Brea Avenue, L.A. Shanti became a leader in quality volunteer-driven programs that provided information and emotional support using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.
Warner served 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 was 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.* * * * * * Source:
Los Angeles Times, “Daniel P. Warner; AIDS Activist, Shanti Foundation Co-Founder,” June 15, 1993
May 18, 1983
Congress Passes Bill with AIDS Research Funding
The U.S. Congress passes the first bill with funding targeted for AIDS research and treatment — $12 million for agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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.
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.
French researchers Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann identify the virus that “might be” responsible for AIDS, calling it “LAV” (lymphadenopathy associated virus).
The following year, U.S. researcher Robert Gallo announced he had found the “probable” cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HTLV-III. The two viruses — HTLV-III and LAV — turned out to be one and the same, and in May 1986 it became 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.
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.
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.
* * * * * * * Sources:
The New York Times, “1,500 Attend Central Park Memorial Service for AIDS Victim” by Lindsey Gruson, June 14, 1983
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.
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.
The event’s organizer and emcee, Matt Redman of AIDS Project Los Angeles, told the crowd, “Let’s put the screws to the Reagan administration.”
Redman blasted Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Edward Brandt for asserting that AIDS funding was adequate. “That’s bullshit!” he declared.
As reported cases in Los Angeles County jump from 19 in April 1982 to 81 in May 1983, activists mobilize to demand more AIDS research.
* * * * * * * Source:
Tell Me David, “Candles in the Wind” by David Hunt, February 6, 2016
Chicago Hospital Opens Sable/Sherer Clinic for HIV/AIDS
The Sable/Sherer Clinic at Cook County Hospital is created to treat people with HIV/AIDS.
Doctors Renslow Sherer and Ron Sable opened their clinic at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital shortly after they encountered their first HIV/AIDS cases.
“I saw my first AIDS patient in 1982 at Cook County Hospital during my second month as a general physician,” Dr. Sherer told Windy City Times. “He was a young, gay, African American man who could no longer do his daily six-mile run. At first we weren’t exactly sure that it was AIDS, but then he had the Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and the rest of his symptoms seemed to fit.”
At about the same time, his colleague, Dr. Sable, told him about treating two people with AIDS symptoms and that they should start preparing to treat a lot more patients infected by HIV.
When they initially launched the clinic, they didn’t refer to it openly as an AIDS clinic. They were concerned that the stigma surrounding AIDS would cause pushback from hospital administrators, others in the medical center and the surrounding community.
Instead, they quietly directed patients with HIV/AIDS symptoms to be treated at the clinic. In their first year together, Drs. Sherer and Sable worked with 141 patients.
The doctors not only co-founded Chicago’s first AIDS clinic, but they were also among the founders of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which raised private funding for the clinic.
In 1993, Dr. Sable announced in a letter he sent to hundreds of friends and colleagues that he was HIV-positive, according to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. He cut back on most of his organizational activities, and spent more time with his friends and his partner of 12 years, Jose Narvaez.
A large public event was held at the South Shore Cultural Center to celebrate Dr. Sable’s lifetime of achievements. He was weak, but managed to attend. He died later that year, and soon after he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
“I miss him every day,” Dr. Sherer told the Windy City Times. “He was a fabulous person, and if I wanted to go out on a limb, I’d say he was one of the best advocates for LGBT rights that this city has ever seen. He spent half his time treating AIDS patients and the other half standing up for their rights.”
‘How to Have Sex in an Epidemic’ Hits the Streets of NYC
Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen publish How to Have Sex in an Empidemic: One Approach.
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.
* * * * * * Sources:
POZ magazine, “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: 30th Anniversary” by Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., May 17, 2013
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Growing numbers of infants infected with AIDS in utero are abandoned in New York City hospitals, according to a New York Times article.
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.
National Institutes of Health, “Survival of Children with HIV in the United States has Improved Dramatically Since 1990s, New Analysis Shows,” December 18, 2009
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.”
‘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.
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 Kramer, Randy 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.”
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.
“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 renam, ed the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
The Pride LA, “Debbie Reynolds, Early Hollywood AIDS Activist” by Karen Ocamb, December 29, 2016
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.”
In his op-ed in the New York Post, Pat Buchanan echoes the Moral Majority position that the AIDS epidemic was God seeking revenge against gay people.
Buchanan concluded 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.”
* * * * * * Source:
ThinkProgress, “Flashback — Buchanan: AIDS is Nature’s ‘Awful Retribution’ Against Homosexuality” by Igor Volsky, May 24, 2011
June 23, 1983
NIH Researchers Share AIDS Data & Theories
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health convene at the Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to receive an update on AIDS, led by Anthony Fauci, M.D.
Then the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci led a presentation that summarized what was currently known about AIDS.
The presentation’s corresponding paper was co-authored by Dr. Fauci with Abe Macher, M.D.; Dan Longo, M.D.; H. Clifford Lane, M.D.; Alain Rook, M.D.; Henry Masur, M.D.; and Edward P. Gelmann, M.D. Among the conclusions the researchers made were:
– The cause AIDS was unknown but likely due to “a transmissible agent, most likely a virus.”
– AIDS was spread “by sexual contact, particularly homosexual activity.”
– Blood-borne transmission was “the other major recognized form of spread of the disease.”
– It was “highly likely” that the disease could not readily spread through casual, nonsexual, non-blood-borne routes.
The paper considers the possibility that the disease may kill all who are infected with it, and calls it “one of the most extraordinary transmissible diseases in history.”
* * * * * * Source:
Annals of Internal Medicine | American College of Physicians, “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Epidemiologic, Clinical, Immunologic, and Therapeutic Considerations” by Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Abe M. Macher, M.D., Dan L. Longo, M.D., H. Clifford Lane, M.D., Alain H. Rook, M.D., Henry Masur, M.D., Edward P. Gelmann, M.D., January 1, 1984
Mark Feldman of ‘Phooey on AIDS Fund’ Dies
Mark Feldman, a board member of the synagogue Congregation Sha’ar Zahav who founded the “Phooey on AIDS” emergency fund, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31.
An emerging leader in the Bay Area Jewish and gay communities, Feldman was director of admissions at New College and co-director of publicity for Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, a largely gay and lesbian San Francisco synagogue.
After he was diagnosed with AIDS and learned of others in the community who were also ill, Feldman asked the congregation’s Bikkur Cholim (outreach to the ill) Committee to start a “Phooey on AIDS” fund to support the financial needs of members and the community. This fund made annual gifts to the organizations providing direct care including Shanti, Project Open Hand, the San Francisco General Hospital Ward 86, and the Food Bank of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, according to Paul Cohen in My Jewish Learning.
After gay men were prohibited from donating blood, the women of Sha’ar Zahav organized a blood drive. Feldman gave every woman who donated blood a rose in appreciation, according to Rabbi Leslie Bergson.
Feldman was the first Sha’ar Zahav congregant to die of AIDS.
During the first years of the AIDS epidemic, Rabbi Allen Bennett served as Sha’ar Zahav’s spiritual leader.
“You were on call 24/7,” Rabbi Bennett told The Jewish News of Northern California “There was no easing up. Every day there were more casualties and, as things progressed, more fatalities. Until things started to taper off, I and an awful lot of my friends were losing, on average, a friend or acquaintance once a week for probably five years.”
“I remember the devastation of hearing the names on the Kaddish list of young people,” says Rabbi Eric Weiss, a Sha’ar Zahav member and executive director of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center (the Institute on Aging). “During the service, everyone stands, links arms and sings ‘Hinei Mah Tov.’ I remember the utter sadness when there were people we couldn’t put our arms around anymore.”
Employer Puts AIDS Activist 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.
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.
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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.
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.”
* * * * * * Source:
July 5, 1983
Reverend 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.
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.
* * * * * * Source:
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.
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.
* * * * * * Source:
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.
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.
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August 1, 1983
UCLA Researchers Push for Discovery of AIDS Cause
At a UCLA medical conference, Los Angeles researchers urge the scientific community to focus their work on identifying the cause of “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”
In a presentation to the conference led by Michael S. Gottlieb, M.D., the UCLA researchers highlighted critical issues surrounding new disease, including diagnosis methodology, screening of blood products, and treatment of opportunistic infections and cancers related to the illness. They emphasized that the prognosis for recovery in affected persons was dire, as there still was no effective treatment once the illness took hold.
Co-authoring the presentation with Dr. Gottlieb were Jerome E. Groopman, M.D.; Wilfred M. Weinstein, M.D.; John L. Fahey, M.D.; and Roger Detels, M.D.* * * * * * Source:
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.
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.
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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.
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.”
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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.
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.
AIDS Activist Bobbi Campbell and his partner Robert “Bobby” Hilliard appear on the cover of Newsweek magazine for the story “Gay America: Sex, Politics and the Impact of AIDS.”
Campbell and Hilliard’s appearance on Newsweek’s cover is the first time two gay men are pictured embracing one another on the cover of a U.S. mainstream national magazine.
But by this time, Campbell was accustomed to being covered by the media. He was the first person living with AIDS to come out publicly after he became the 16th person to be diagnosed with an AIDS-related illness in San Francisco, according to Back2Stonewall.
After he launched a column in January 1982 for the San Francisco Sentinel disclosing his Kaposi sarcoma diagnosis and describing his experiences as a person living with AIDS, he was often invited to speak at conferences and other events. When someone quipped that he was the “AIDS poster boy,” he embraced the characterization by putting it on a t-shirt in bold letters.
A registered nurse, Campbell joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an activist performance group that uses drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance, and took on the “sister” persona of Sister Florence Nightmare. He also co-authored the first San Francisco safer-sex manual, Play Fair!, which offered practical advice written in plain, sex-positive and often humous language.
Ever the prolific fighter for the cause, Campbell co-founded with another HIV-positive activist, Dan Turner, the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement (or PWA Movement) in 1983. The movement promoted the right for those living with HIV/AIDS to “take charge of their own life, illness, and care, and to minimize dependence on others,” according to Back2Stonewall.
“The group had what then seemed like revolutionary ideas,” wrote Bill Lipsky, author of Gay and Lesbian San Francisco (2006). “It rejected the then-commonly used term ‘KS victim’ …
Almost a year after appearing on the cover of Newsweek, Campbell gave one of his last speeches 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.”
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.”
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.
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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.
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.
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‘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.
The publication lasts for two years, until mainstream scientific journals begin expediting publication for articles on AIDS.
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September 2, 1983
AIDS Exposure Precautions Issued to Healthcare Workers
CDC publishes the first set of AIDS exposure precautions for healthcare workers.
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.
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Health Crisis Network Opens in Miami
Health Crisis Network (HCN) is formed to provide a response to the Miami area’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
A group of volunteers created HCN to provide an organized response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce. HCN created the first programs in South Florida for HIV/AIDS crisis intervention, social support and education.
In 1998, HCN would merge with another HIV/AIDS service provider, Community Research Initiative, which was founded in 1989. The new organization would be called Care Resource, and is considered South Florida’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization.
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.
The National Institute of Health hosts “A Workshop on the Epidemiology of AIDS” at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Rockville, Maryland.
At the workshop, researchers collaborated to develop recommendations for research on the epidemiology and natural history of AIDS, and exchange information and educate clinical investigators about epidemio logical study design.
Paul Jacobs, the New York Philharmonic’s pianist and harpsichordist, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Manhattan home. He was 53.
Jacobs was the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s official pianist and harpsichordist, holding the post during the tenure of three music directors, according to The New York Times.
He was best known for taking on “the more forbidding works of the 20th Century,” according to Lon Tuck of the Washington Post. He was also widely recognized for his expertise with early keyboards, often performing on harpsichord with Baroque ensembles.
Born in New York City, Jacobs studied at the Julliard School and then moved to France in 1951 to work with composer and conductor Pierre Boulez at Domaine Musical in Paris.
He returned to New York in 1960 to teach at the Manhattan Music School and the Mannes College of Music. Two years later, the New York Philharmonic named Jacobs its official pianist and, in 1974, harpsichordist.
He gave solo recitals and played frequently for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Jacobs recorded for several labels, including fifteen records for Nonesuch and a few for European labels.
For the last fifteen years of his life, he was Associate Professor of Music at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
In 1982, he was diagnosed with AIDS and informed he had only a few years to live. Faced with the decision of how best to use the months that remained to him, Jacobs decided to make one last record, which included the last compositions of Beethoven and Busoni and one of the last by Mozart.
Despite the deterioration of his eyesight, he managed to record the pieces, finishing the work in June 1983, about three months before he died. He completed the recording “on sheer determination,” Jacob’s doctor told Lon Tuck of the Washington Post.
About five months after Jacob died, on February 24, 1984, a memorial concert at New York’s Symphony Space drew the attendance of some of America’s most accomplished composers and musicians and many of his fans. The memorial program was tailored to reflect Jacobs’ musical tastes, according to Tuck. Composer Elliott Carter, the leader of America’s traditional musical avant-garde, delivered the eulogy.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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October 4, 1983
Russell Hartley, Performing Arts Archivist, Dies
Russell Hartley, curator of the Archives of the Performing Arts, dies of AIDS-related illness in a San Francisco Hospital at the age of 61.
In 1947, Hartley created the San Francisco Dance Archives, which is now known as the Museum of Performance + Design and includes 3.5 million items documenting the performing arts in the Bay Area.
By 1979, Hartley’s collection included 2,000 books, 8,000 periodicals, 4,000 slides, 5,000 negatives, 10,000 pieces of sheet music, 2,000 posters, 250 phonograph records, 25,000 historical photographs, 10,000 stills from the San Francisco Ballet, 10,000 movie stills, 12,000 theatrical prints, 500 artifacts, and 250 costumes, according to art critic Renée Renouf in Dance Chronicle.
“His unique confluence of personal artistry, a fund of personal anecdote and experience, and his single-minded devotion for the perpetuation of a collection commenced 40 years ago passes into its own special historical niche with Russell’s death,” Renouf wrote in 1983.
Born in 1924, Hartley attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Russell designed window displays for his father’s hardware store, according to the Museum of Performance and Design‘s Performing Arts Library. His artful window displays caught the eye of Ruby Asquith, a dance instructor who invited Hartley to visit the San Francisco Ballet studios and sketch dancers as they rehearsed.
Subsequently, he signed up for ballet classes and a year later, was given a part in Willam Christensen’s acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet.
Early in his dance career, Hartley enjoyed success with the San Francisco Ballet in eccentric character roles between 1942 and 1949. In 1944, Christensen enlisted Hartley’s help in revising costume designs for Now the Brides, and this led to more significant work, including designing 143 costumes for the first production of the Nutcracker Suite in 1944, Pyramus and Thisbe, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Les Maitresses de Lord Byron, Jinx, Beauty and the Shepherd, and the Standard Hour television show.
Hartley’s art portfolio, Henry VIII and his Wives (1948), served as an inspiration for Rosella Hightower’s ballet by this name, which premiered in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House.
In the 1940s, Hartley became interested in collecting historical materials on local performers and dance and theatrical companies. He began combing antique stores for old dance and theatrical programs, photos, and ephemera, and these materials would become the start of his San Francisco Dance Archives.
In February 1946, Hartley, then almost 22 years old, and his friend Leo Stillwell, a 20-year-old artist, opened the Antinuous Art Gallery at 701 McAllister Street in San Francisco. Hartley began creating series of dance paintings and show windows in New York, leading to exhibitions of his paintings at the Feragil Galleries in New York, the Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco, and the Miami Beach Art Center, an exhibition on ballet at the De Young Museum, and features of his paintings in various one-man shows at galleries in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Stillwell worked furiously, creating 500 works of art before succumbing to an early death at the age of 22 following a case of measles.
Hartley carried on, executing costume designs for Balanchine’s Serenade, William Dollar’s Mendelssohn’s Concerto, Lew Christensen’s Balletino, and the San Francisco Opera Company’s productions of Aida and Rosenkavalier. He began studying the conservation of fine paintings with Gregory Padilla and carried out restoration projects for the Maxwell Galleries, the Oakland Museum, and Gumps. In 1960, he became a member of the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
Dance Magazine hired Hartley to write a monthly column, which ran through the 1960s. He also contributed feature articles to After Dark Magazine, Opera and Concert, and The Trumpeteer.
He organized exhibitions on the history of the performing arts at the War Memorial Opera House and the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library with materials from his personal collection. In 1975, Hartley sought a permanent location for the Performing Arts Archive and was able to obtain a space in the basement of the Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.
His own archival collections, which had expanded to include materials on the history of the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco theaters, and the San Francisco Symphony, was supplemented by a dance library and other materials donated by local collectors. However, in 1981, budgetary cutbacks led to the closure of the archives and Hartley was forced to move the entire collection to his Mill Valley home.
At this time, Hartley’s health began to decline. In 1983, the archives were moved from Hartley’s home to the San Francisco Opera Chorus Room in the War Memorial Opera House and a Board of Directors was formed to ensure that Hartley’s legacy would carry on. Former San Francisco Ballet dancer Nancy Carter became the archives’ first executive director.
In 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the story of Alan Perry, a retired truck driver who found in a dumpster 200 letters written to Russell Hartley by his friend Leo Stillwell, the promising artist who died at the age of 22. Perry and his wife, who subsequently learned about Hartley and Stillwell and appreciated the cultural value of the find, donated the letters to San Francisco State University, where the prolific young artist’s 500 works of art are housed.
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.”
“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.
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October 13, 1983
3-year-old Sammy Kushnick Dies in Los Angeles
Samuel Jared Kushnick becomes the fourth premature baby in an eight-month period to die of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles. He was 3 years old.
The infant, called “Sammy” by his family members, contracted the virus through a blood transfusion he received as a premature baby.
His parents, Helen and Jerry Kushnick, who ran an entertainment agency in West Hollywood, would become AIDS activists and found the Samuel Jared Kushnick Pediatric Immunology Research Center at Chaim-Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the parents of one of the first babies living with AIDS, the Kushnicks had to navigate a difficult and treacherous path, first in the struggle to find treatment for Sammy and ultimately in the effort to give him a proper burial.
When officials at the mortuary learned Sammy had died of AIDS, they refused to dress the infant for burial, Helen Kushnick told the LA Times. Later, the Kushnicks were hit with $94,000 in medical bills, which their insurance company refused to cover (the Kushnicks would fight and win in court).
From the start, the Kishnicks decided to go public with their story.
“It was clear to us then that AIDS was not a homosexual disease, but a virus,” Helen Kushnick told the LA Times. “That mislabeling caused years of apathy on the part of the government and the public in the struggle against this deadly killer. We were killing in the name of morality.”
Kushnick, who said she received calls from mothers around the country who had babies with AIDS, was convinced that other infants received transfusions, perhaps from AIDS-infected donors, without knowing it.
Sammy was not diagnosed correctly until two months before his death. The Kushnicks said they had never been told that their son had received 20 blood donations from 13 individuals during his first seven weeks of his life.
Helen Kushnick would go on to testify before Congress, advocating for the reform of policies and procedures governing the nation’s blood supply.
November 14, 1983
Stephen Lamb, Profiled in New York Times, Dies
Stephen Lamb, a man living with AIDS who was profiled in a widely-read New York Times article, dies of AID-related illness at New York University Medical Center. He was 40.
Lamb, his body overwhelmed with cryptococcal meningitis, tuberculosis of the bone marrow, and an intestinal infection, had until recently lived on the upper east side of Manhattan and worked as a travel consultant.
One of the few visitors at Lamb’s hospital bed was William Carroll, a volunteer from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis who two months before had been assigned to be Lamb’s “buddy.” According to the NYT article, Lamb and Carroll found that they shared a love of literature, and in Lamb’s final weeks, Carroll often read to him from books of poetry by John Keats and Andrew Marvell.
“Bill and I have grown to like each other,” Lamb told the reporter four days before he died. “I just needed some companionship.”
Lamb’s death was the 514th AIDS-related fatality recorded by the City of New York. At the time, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis had provided services to 420 people with AIDS, and was facing a surge in their caseload, according to Dowd’s article.
The organization had been receiving about 50 new cases every month, but in November, they noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people with AIDS (PWA) who needed help. Some were gay men, but there were also intravenous drug users who were heterosexual and others who didn’t fit the perception of people with what was often called “gay cancer.”
The GMHC was running 20 therapy groups, organizing its volunteer-run “buddy” program, and operating a 24-hour hotline (212-807-6655) receiving an average of 1,200 calls every week, according to the article.
The organization’s volunteers, which then numbered about 200, did whatever was needed, from taking orange juice in the morning to homebound PWAs to serving as intermediaries with the city’s social-service agencies.
“They clean apartments, do laundry, make dinner, pick up prescriptions, mail rent checks, walk dogs, take their patients to doctor’s appointments and simply keep them company,” Dowd reported.
Many of the volunteers, she wrote, had horror stories about the treatment of PWAs.
“They tell of government clerks who neglect AIDS cases because they are afraid to be in the same room to fill out forms. They tell of nurses and orderlies in hospitals who are so loath to enter the rooms of AIDS patients that they let the food trays pile up outside the door, leave trash baskets overflowing, or neglect patients lying in their own urine or excrement,” wrote Dowd.
One volunteer, Diego Lopez, told the reporter that he went to visit a dying patient in the hospital, and discovered him with blood seeping from his nose and mouth. When he asked a doctor to help the patient, the doctor handed him some gauze and told him to take care of it himself.
“I was shocked, but I did it,” Lopez said. “Afterward, I looked at my hands and there was blood all over them. I realized I had to start being more careful. But when you see a person dying, you don’t think about finding some gloves to wear.”
Dowd closed her article with a conversation she had with Larry Kramer, co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis who was on his way to becoming an icon of the AIDS activist movement.
Kramer told Dowd of how the AIDS crisis, which had barely begun, had deeply affected him. Already, 37 of his friends in New York were dead from the disease.
“I heard about Vinny on Saturday,” Kramer said. “Ron is a Black actor I know. Paul, a pianist. Gayle went to Yale with me. Ron Doud, the designer of Studio 54. Mark, I was involved with a long time ago. Peter, an architect.”
“Can’t something be done?” he asked, clenching a small green notebook he used to record the names of his dead friends. “The rest of the city, my straight friends, go on with life as usual — and I’m in the middle of an epidemic.”
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.
Dr. Arthur J. Ammann traveled from San Francisco to New York City for an immunology conference hosted by the New York Academy of Science to report his research on pediatric AIDS patients, which discovered that HIV/AIDS can also be transmitted in utero – from mother-to-infant, and through blood transfusions.
Some conference attendees responded to Dr. Ammann’s presentation with indifference and rejection. Dr. Ammann said, “People just don’t want AIDS to affect infants, they just don’t believe it.”
Included in the nay-sayers was his former 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 his early theory about pediatric AIDS was reinforced by a meeting he had with Arye Rubinstein, M.D., a New York City immunologist working with pediatric patients, who told him that he was receiving the same immediate resistance to his own case reports.
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. In fact, both would be later recognized for their important discoveries.
Dr. Ammann would serve as director of research for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, a board member and President of amfAR, and on the Presidential National AIDS Task Force on Drug and Vaccine Development. In 1997, he would found Global Strategies for HIV Prevention to address the inequity of HIV prevention services provided around the world.
In a 1988 article for TheSan FranciscoChronicle, 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.
By 1985, Dr. Rubinstein would estimate that he had treated about 100 children with the AIDS 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 for the families of pediatric AIDS patients, and successfully petitioned the City of New York for the funding to build it.
He would take personal risks to come to the defense 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 (WHO) holds its first meeting to assess the global AIDS situation and plan the international surveillance of the disease.
WHO’s meeting in Geneva marked the first time health officials representing countries from around the world met to share knowledge on risk factors, possible causes, and the clinical and immunological picture of potential spread of the new disease. Up until that point, only regional meetings of surveillance groups and researchers had convened in the U,S, and Europe to assess the problem and to exchange information, according to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization.
From the inaugural meeting on AIDS, preliminary recommendations were issued for prevention, diagnostic and screening tests, and clinical management of cases. Health officials also proposed areas of research and agreed to open a WHO center in Paris to coordinate global surveillance of the disease.
Following the meeting, WHO began reporting on AIDS cases and shared information through its publications about disease patterns, the risks of acquiring the disease, and methods of prevention and control.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 HIV/AIDS
NBC’s St. Elsewhere airs the episode “AIDS and Comfort,” with a story about a former councilman diagnosed with AIDS.
However, by depicting the patient with AIDS as a white, heterosexual, well-off character who is 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.
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.
Ponyman regularly appeared in shows at Theatre Rhinoceros. His final project was a solo show titled “Sawdust,” featuring several of his own songs.
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.
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.
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.
March 26, 1984
TV Producer Philip Mandelker Dies
Philip Mandelker, who produced the television show The Dukes of Hazzard and 17 made-for-TV movies between 1974-1984, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles. He was 45.
When Mandelker was diagnosed with AIDS in 1983, the first person he called was his friend Rob Eichberg, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist active in the LGBTQ+ community.
“His family was very dedicated to him and they insisted on people knowing Philip died of AIDS,” Eichberg told the Los Angeles Times.
“The day Philip died, I cried,” said Mandelker’s sister, Jane Makowka. “But I had cried my tears for months before. I knew a long time before anybody ever said it was AIDS that it was.”
Makowka said that her brother had a passion for living life to its fullest, which allowed him to bring a special quality to his television shows.
“Most important was his love of people and love of nature. He tried to bring that, something of quality to television, something people would remember,” she said. “He was very fortunate to have been as successful as he was in that short of a lifetime. You wonder what he might have done if it hadn’t been cut short.”
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).
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).
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.
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, 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.
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 pursued his long-held interest in acting and performed in local stage productions of Delivery and Sunsets.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Bay Area dancer Charles “Charlie” Butts, who performed with Carlos Carvajal’s Dance Spectrum from 1876 to 1980, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31.
Butts also danced with Xoregos Dance Company in San Francisco, Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo in New York, and Valerie Huston Dance Company in Santa Barbara
Born in Mississippi, Butts grew up in Los Angeles and studied dance at the University of California Irvine. He performed both locally (in San Francisco and Santa Barbara) as well as in company tours to South America and Japan.
Without shame or evasion, Lockett announced that her organization would focus “on prostitutes and their sexual partners including transgender individuals” — making it one of the first organizations in the country to provide HIV education, prevention and street outreach.
Housed in a tiny office in Oakland, Cal-PEP survived its first year with a $30,000 state health department grant. With these funds, Lockett developed HIV education materials feedback on the new AIDS crisis appropriate for sex workers with input from community members. As she conducted outreach, she collected data while protecting the privacy of her clients and used the data to receive additional funding from the city and state.
Under Lockett’s leadership, Cal-PEP would go onto provide health education, disease prevention, risk reduction, treatment, and support services to people at high risk for or currently living with HIV/AIDS — using cultural relevance, humility and grace as her guiding principles. The organization would grow to reach clients in East and West Oakland, and other communities throughout Alamedia and San Francisco counties.
Over the years, Cal-PEP would grow to a team of 20, and the organization’s annyal budget would increase to $2.2 million. The organization’s mission would expland as follows: “To provide tailored health education, disease prevention, risk reduction and support services to people at highest risk for HIV/AIDS in a language that they understand.”
“What if Lockett had not decided in 1984 to respond as she did?” AIDS United asked POZ readers. “Of the Cal-PEP recipients now, 20% are sex workers, 83% are African American, 8% are Latinx and 1% are Asian -Pacific Islander. For 35 years, they have known that Cal-PEP speaks their languages and can help them. Some people inspire us by living for their cause.”
June 4, 1984
Early AIDS Activist Tony 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.
Ferrara twice testified before Congress to urge the federal government to increase funding for AIDS research and social services for people with AIDS.
“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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Turtle Creek Chorale was founded in early 1980 by Don Essmiller, Phil Gerber, and Rodger Wilson over drinks at The Crews Inn, a gay bar in Dallas, according to Michael Sullivan in The Dallas Way. They named the group after the small stream that passed through the queer-friendly Dallas neighborhood of Oak Lawn.
“In some cities, the newly-formed choruses boldly chose to use the word ‘gay’ in their name, but in the buckle of the Bible Belt, the founders of just such a chorus in Dallas decided against it for what seemed obvious reasons,” Sullivan wrote in 2017.
Chief among those reasons was the fact that many of the singers were public school teachers, and the local superintendent was a a notoriously homophobic man who threatened to fire openly gay teachers.
The group first rehearsed in February 1980 with 39 singers. On June 24, 1980, 70 members of the Chorale gave its first formal concert at the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. By the end of its first season, the group had grown to 83 members.
In its 1987 holiday performance, the Turtle Creek Chorale placed a poinsettia on the piano to honor the memory of those who had died of HIV/AIDS. When the number of fatalities reached 20, the tradition evolved into having a poinsettia placed at the front of the stage for each individual.
At the time it was filmed in 1993, the Chorale had already lost more than 90 members to AIDS. Among them was Anthony, who died on June 26, 1992 at the age of 38.
By 2013, the AIDS death toll at the Chorale would reach 197. Still to this day, during its holiday performances, the group places on the stage a field of poinsettia plants, one for each Chorale member who has passed.
Calvin Hampton — Organist for Calvary Episcopal Church — Dies
Calvin Hampton, the organist and choirmaster at Calvary Episcopal Church in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood from 1963 to 1983, dies of AIDS-related illness near his parents’ Florida home. He was 45.
In 1974, he composed music for Walter Leyden Brown’s production of Herman Melville’s Pierre, or the Ambiguities, which was produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City.
Erik Routley, an authority on church music, called Hampton “the greatest living composer of hymn tunes.”
“An iconoclastic performer with distinctive ideas, he often incorporated organ transcriptions of 19th-century orchestral music into his programs,” wrote Tim Page of the New York Times. “Mr. Hampton was a prolific and eclectic composer, utilizing such diverse elements as rock, gospel hymns, synthesizers and quarter tones in his works.”
Hampton stopped working at the church in 1983 to concentrate on composition and organ consulting for several important classical organs in the U.S. He contracted AIDS but remained active until the final few weeks of his life, composing the massive Alexander Variations for two pipe organs while largely bedridden.
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.
In an article written by Evan Thomas and titled “The New Untouchables,” Time magazine reports on how public anxiety about AIDS is resulting in school boycotts and the ostracization of anyone suspected of being infected with HIV.
The magazine reported that parents of students in Queens were keeping their children at home, because it was disclosed that an unidentified second-grader enrolled at one of the city’s 622 elementary schools had the AIDS virus.
“That evening, hundreds of anxious parents gathered in the school’s airless auditorium,” Evans wrote. “They chanted, ‘Two, four, six, eight, no AIDS in any grades!’ and waved placards proclaiming OUR CHILDREN WANT GOOD GRADES, NOT AIDS!”
At the meeting, local politicians only added to the misinformation being spread about the disease.
State Assemblyman Frederick Schmidt said, “There is no medical authority who can say with authority that AIDS cannot be transmitted in school. What about somebody sneezing in the classroom? What about the water fountain? What about kids who get in a fight with a bloody nose? They don’t know!”
The article also reported on the following incidents:
In Miami, a highly successful caterer and floral designer named David Harrison was ruined when word spread that he had AIDS.
In Anaheim, California, a church bishop distributed a pastoral letter to counsel the “cautious person” who fears catching AIDS by drinking wine from a common cup. (Eating bread was deemed adequate Communion.)
In San Antonio, a county judge arraigned a prisoner who tested positive for AIDS while the man was in his jail cell, in an attempt to prevent the courtroom and staff from contamination by the AIDS virus.
When an AIDS task force in New Orleans began to be contacted by local citizens afraid of HIV-spreading mosquitoes, Dr. Louise McFarland, the agency’s chair, expressed her exasperation to the Time reporter.
“If that were true, the whole city of New Orleans would have AIDS,” Dr. McFarland said.
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.
“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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
November 4, 1984
Early AIDS Activist Roger Lyon Dies
Roger Gail Lyon, famous for being among the first three Persons With AIDS to testify before Congress about the epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 36.
Lyon travelled from the Bay Area to the nation’s capital to speak before a Congressional hearing on the government’s largely non-existent response to the AIDS crisis. Accompanying him on the panel were activists Michael Callen of New York and Anthony Ferrara of Washington.
“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. “We do not need in-fighting; this is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue.”
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.
The spread of AIDS worldwide is accelerating, researcher Anthony Fauci, M.D., tells clinical staff gathered at an internal conference at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Fauci, who previously reported that the disease struck primarily gay men, tells his colleagues: “There is increasing evidence, particularly from Zaire, that the virus can be spread by heterosexual contact.”
Dr. Fauci’s presentation is accompanied by a paper co-authored with Henry Masur, M.D.; Edward Gelmann, M.D.; Phillip Markham, Ph.D.; Beatrice Hahn, M.D.; and H. Clifford Land, M.D.
In the paper, the scientists summarize the results of their research into the treatment of opportunistic infections.
“Attempts at immune reconstitution with lymphocytes and lymphokines have resulted in some transient improvement in immune function but without clinical effect, indicating the need for specific antiretroviral therapy in combination with immune reconstitution,” the paper states.
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.
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.”
December 6, 1984
Lawrence ‘La-La’ Beach — Owner of SF’s Balcony — Dies
Lawrence ‘La-La’ Beach, one of the founders and principal owners of the San Francisco bar The Balcony, dies of AIDS-related illness at the San Francisco Hospice at the age of 42.
In 1977, Beach opened The Balcony on the north side of Market Street with co-owners Lee Harington and Terry Scott. Commonly referred to as “The Baloney” after the “c” in the signage was dislodged, the venue earned a reputation as one of the most outrageous gay bars on the west coast, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
Born in Oneida, New York, Beach was born in 1942. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a law degree from Duke University. He joined the Navy and was stationed at Treasure Island, where he served as a legal adjutant.
After being discharged from the Navy, Beach held a series of corporate jobs, and then changed the course of his career when he took a job as floor manager of The Ambush Bar on Folsom Street. It was at The Ambush where Beach met his future co-owners, Harington and Scott.
The Balcony would close in March 1982. Beach would become an early casualty of the AIDS epidemic.
December 7, 1984
AIDS Conference Held in Irvine, California
Researchers and health officials convene on Dec. 7-8 in Irvine, CA for the International Conference on AIDS Associated Syndromes.
The conference brought together AIDS researchers conducting studies on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which was then a new discovery.
The 1983 discovery of the AIDS virus by Luc Montagnier, M.D. at the Pasteur Institute in Paris (which was confirmed in 1984 by Robert Gallo, M.D. of the U.S. National Cancer Institute) had researchers all over the world searching for an effective treatment and cure to counter the quick spread of the new disease. Still more scientists were engaged with developing a vaccine for HIV — something that still eludes them to this day.
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.
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
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 1, 1985
CPAC Member Proposes ‘Extermination of Homosexuals’
Talking to reporters covering the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC, anti-gay propagandist Paul Cameron says: “Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.”
Founder of anti-gay hate groups such as the Committee to Oppose Special Rights for Homosexuals, the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality, and the Family Research Institute, Cameron attended the conference of conservative extremists hoping to frighten its members with his ideas about gay men and AIDS.
Cameron presented himself to politicians and media representatives as a man of science, but his biased research and unethical claims had caused the American Psychological Association to expel him as a member in 1984, according to The Pink Community: The Facts by Christina Engela. Still, he managed to insert his homophobic rhetoric into the minds of influential policymakers and judges.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cameron was conducting “psychological studies” that drew false conclusions about homosexuality, such as that it was a “curable condition” and that it was linked to pedophilia. And this was before the AIDS crisis hit.
Once gay men began dying of AIDS-related illnesses, Cameron doubled down on his anti-gay messaging and fabricated research, claiming that the only way to stop the spread of HIV was to quarantine gay men and criminalize gay sex acts, according to the Associated Press. He also pushed for the closure of all gay bars and baths, and a ban on international travel for all gay men.
For many years, Cameron would find a place for himself amongst the far-Right, pushing outrageously false claims about why gays and lesbians were “unfit parents” and “more likely to molest children” — falsehoods that some people still believe today.
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.
A positive result on ELISA (an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) must be confirmed by a second test for a person to receive a definitive diagnosis of HIV infection.
Today, many single-test 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. Some testing sites offer free tests for those without medical insurance coverage.
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.
Thomason-Bergner was also a vocal coach and headed the musical theater program at Lone Mountain College. He had been musical director for the Theatre of Music in Santa Fe, as well as for the Santa Fe Community Theater.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Thomason-Bergner graduated from the University of Texas and then moved to San Francisco to attend Lone Mountain College.
His younger brother, Charles “Charlie” Bergner, had died in late 1983 of AIDS-related illness at the age of 34. Both James and Charles were valued members of their local churches, James attending the Santa Fe Unitarian Church and Charles attending Washington Square United Methodist Church in New York City.
“I knew that Charles was interested in healing and prayer and meditation,” wrote fellow congregant Nancy A. Carter in 1985. “I asked if he would like me to do healing work with him. He said, ‘Yes.’ I explained therapeutic touch, a type of laying on of hands that I would use with him.”
Carter recalled that when she worked on Bergner, he experienced “vivid, colorful imagery … in the form of a windmill.”
“He said that the windmill was standing on parched land, but the wind was blowing and the windmill was drawing up water from beneath the earth and was nourishing the dry land,” Carter wrote. “The image of the windmill became very important to us. Most every time I worked with Charles, the windmill appeared to him.”
As she provided care for her friend, she said she realized that if his death was inevitable, at least she could assist with his spiritual healing.
“Charles suffered with AIDS, but he did not suffer the way that some do. He had love and he had courage which sustained him. God was with him. Charles reached out to friends and friends reached out to him,” she said.
On Sunday, December 25, 1983, the congregation telephoned Bergner to sing Christmas carols to him as he lay in a hospital bed, battling pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. He died the next day, with his partner David and his sister at his side.
Carter recalled how in 1983, Washington Square Church began providing pastoral services to all persons living with AIDS. The church also made available space for support groups affiliated with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis to use for meetings.
“We were one of the first churches to go into HIV/AIDS ministry,” Carter said.
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 8, 1985
Chicago Theater Actor J Pat Miller Dies
James Patterson Miller, a Chicago actor known professionally as J. Pat Miller, dies of AIDS-related illness in Chicago at the age of 39.
Miller made his theatrical debut in Whores of Babylon, the debut production of the Godzilla Rainbow Troupe, cofounded by Gary Tucker and Tommy Biscotto.
“Most vividly, I remember the actor whose performance [a theater critic] praised without naming the artist who delivered it. He was J. Pat Miller, making his Chicago stage debut,” wrote Albert Williams in the Chicago Reader.
Miller went on to become one of Chicago’s most popular and respected actors with performances at the Goodman, Organic, Victory Gardens, and Wisdom Bridge, as well as a celebrated European tour of Waiting for Godot.
In May 1985, Season of Concern would launch the Biscotto-Miller Fund, named in memory of Miller and another luminary of the Chicago theater world, Tommy Biscotto. The fund was created in tandem with the benefit performance event, Arts Against AIDS at Second City to raise money for medical care, food, housing, and other basic needs to Chicago theater artists with HIV/AIDS.
Over the next few years, this volunteer effort expanded into Season of Concern — a full-time, professional operation that raises money for local direct-care organizations serving community members fighting AIDS and other catastrophic illnesses. The Biscotto-Miller Fund continues as an emergency fund, offering direct cash grants to individuals in need.
CDC removes Haitians from the list of those at increased risk for AIDS, because scientists can no longer justify including them on statistical grounds,
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
May 10, 1985
San Francisco Commission Releases Report on AIDS Discrimination
Research by the AIDS Discrimination Reporting Project finds that gay men living with AIDS are being terminated from their jobs because of their illness.
The study also finds that some employers are requiring gay men to present medical documentation proving that they do not have the AIDS virus, and that gay men are experiencing verbal harassment that is generated by AIDS paranoia and ignorance.
A coalition effort of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Shanti Project, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Aids Activities Office, the AIDS Discrimination Reporting Project released a report of its study of AIDS-related discrimination complaints. Participants in the survey were largely gay men, some of whom were living with HIV/AIDS and some of whom were not but still experienced AIDS-related discrimination.
“Discrimination ranged from employers requiring a physician’s statement denying that an employee had AIDS to actual termination and eviction,” the report stated.
The report was authored by Chris van Stone and Jackie Winnow of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
June 22, 1985
David Goodstein, Publisher of The Advocate, Dies
David Goodstein, former publisher of The Advocate who missed the chance to turn his national publication into a much-needed resource during the early years of the AIDS crisis, dies at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego of colon cancer. He was 53.
Goodstein published The Advocate from 1975 to 1978 and again from 1982 until 1985. He was the owner of Liberation Publications, the parent company of The Advocate that also distributed other magazines.
Because Goodstein was slow to understand the seriousness of the threat posed by AIDS, he missed an opportunity to use his popular national magazine as a clearinghouse of information for a population starved for information about HIV and AIDS, according to the LGBT Archives.
In a letter to his readers in 1983, Goodstein wrote: “So far, no one knows with certainty what causes the fatal ‘new’ diseases. Heterosexuals, one person in a monogamous relationship and not the other, even infants have succumbed. Yet many cases are centered in the gay men’s community, especially in New York City. Most of us who know a lot of gay men also know one or more who have died. Living with this situation feels a bit like it must have felt to be alive when the plague was decimating the population of Europe.”
Born in 1932 into a wealthy Denver family, Goodstein was afflicted with scoliosis and was subjected to a lonely childhood. He received his undergraduate education at Cornell University and then earned a law degree from Columbia University. He practiced law as a criminal defense attorney for several years in New York City.
In 1970, he moved to California, and in 1975 he bought The Advocate, which was then a small publication that served the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community. He moved the magazine to San Mateo, near San Francisco, and under his ownership, transformed The Advocate into the most widely-read LGBT news magazine in the country.
Goodstein’s tenure as publisher began with the firing of the entire editorial staff, according to Lionel Biron in the literary magazine Gay Sunshine (1976). Among those who Goodstein fired was columnist Arthur Evans, one of the founders of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in New York. The GAA would become a frequent critic of The Advocate over the years, accusing Goodstein of making the magazine “a show place of white, middle-class gay America.
Goodstein forbid the mention of certain LGBT activists and organizations that he believed had undermined him in some way. When in 1978, Los Angeles-based activist Morris Kight challenged Goodstein’s control of the Committee for Sexual Law Reform, Goodstein assigned Randy Shilts to do an exposé on him, according to the LGBT Archives. Realizing that there was nothing to warrant a negative story on Kight, Shilts decided to resign from The Advocate, and famously went on to become the first openly gay reporter for the San Francisco Chronical.
Goodstein also leveraged his power in positive, constructive ways. In 1977, he was among the founders of Concerned Voters of California, an organization formed to oppose the Briggs Initiative. Named after California State Senator John V. Briggs, the Briggs Initiative sought to bar gay men and lesbians from teaching in public schools. In a major victory for the gay rights movement, the Briggs Initiative was defeated in November 1978, thanks largely to the campaign coordination by the Concerned Voters of California.
Also, shortly after Anita Bryant’s successful 1977 campaign to repeal the gay rights law in Florida’s Dade County, Goodstein met Werner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminars Training (better known as “est”).
“The meeting convinced Goodstein that the real problem facing the gay movement was not political but emotional,” wrote John Gallagher in The Advocate in 2001. “Goodstein complained that there was ‘an awful lot of a syndrome I have defined as toilet mentality — that is, a willingness to accept second-rate status as human beings, expecting to lose rather than win, and a constant involvement in petty right-wrong games.'”
In March 1978, Goodstein launched “The Advocate Experience” with about 100 people at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco. With psychologist and author Rob Eichberg, Goodstein articulated a vision that by the year 2000, homosexuality would be accepted by everyone in society, and this would happen by raising the self-esteem of gays and lesbians. . Over the next 23 years, about 50,000 people participated in Experience workshops; the program was discontinued in February 2001.
The Advocate remains a leading national source of LGBTQ+ news. Goodstein’s legacy also includes the 1988 founding of Cornell University’s Human Sexuality Collection, which was funded by a generous gift from Goodstein. The collection includes Goodstein’s personal papers and memorabilia.
‘From the Pines with Love’ Raises $200k for AIDS Medical Foundation
Singer Peter Allen, comedienne Anne Meara, Broadway’s Dorothy Loudon, singer Ellen Foley and musical group Gotham provide the entertainment at “From the Pines with Love,” the first major Fire Island event to raise money for AIDS healthcare.
Hosted by Gloria and Larry Demann at their Bayfront home, the sold-out event raised more than $200,000 for the AIDS Medical Foundation, the first private organization dedicated to supporting research on AIDS. AMF, which would become the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), was founded by New York doctors Mathilde Krim and Joseph Sonnabend.
Dr. Krim would appear at “From the Pines with Love,” telling attendees that the funds raised that night would go toward creating a facility in New York solely devoted to the treatment of AIDS, according to the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society.
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.
Inpatient Unit for HIV/AIDS Opens in Chicago
Unit 371 opens in Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Hospital and becomes the first inpatient care unit dedicated to HIV/AIDS in the Midwest.
Dr. David Blatt and Dr. David Moore — known in the Chicago medical community as “the two Davids” — founded Unit 371. The HIV/AIDS unit became renowned for its compassionate approach to care.
Dr. Moore modeled Unit 371 after San Francisco General Hospital’s Unit 5A. During a visit to Unit 5A, he noticed that AIDS patients were “clustered” in one unit of the hospital, which allowed the patients to receive treatment and care from professionals trained in their specialized needs.
Dr. Moore thought this was a novel and efficient approach to HIV/AIDS healthcare, and much better than the standard approach of having to educate healthcare professionals in individual units across the hospital about how to care for AIDS patients.
In October 1982, Dr. Moore was still new to practice when he saw his first patient, a personal friend who had come to him with the symptoms of AIDS. What followed were, in his words, “13 years of slow-motion carnage,” according to Health ENews of Advocate Aurora Health.
A gay man himself, Dr. Moore and his medical and life partner, Dr. Blatt, decided to spearhead what would be the first dedicated AIDS unit in the Midwest.
“It was a different time. There was so much fear then,” Dr. Blatt says. “The news media was calling it the ‘gay cancer’ and there was very little knowledge or education on what it was or how it was transmitted. There was a lot of panic and discrimination.”
Dr. Moore says they felt compelled to do something.
“This was us. This was our community and neighborhood. We were in this risk group. It was affecting our friends, our patients and we needed to take action,” he said.
For Unit 371, Drs. Moore and Blatt also incorporated the policy of San Francisco’s Unit 5A of allowing partners, family, and friends unlimited visitation time with patients, according to America 250.
“Within the Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Unit 371 became the preferred unit for HIV-positive patients who did not need to be admitted to the intensive care unit,” wrote Jade Ryerson in America 250.
The unit started with 23 beds, with nine rooms dedicated to hospice care. But when the AIDS crisis worsened and the number of patients swelled, many of the single rooms were converted to accommodate two patients. Staff reserved private rooms for patients who were dying or could pass on an infection.
“But what really set Unit 371 apart were the personal relationships between staff and patients,” according to Ryerson. “It was common for Unit 371 staff to sit on patients’ beds, offer hugs, joke around, or become friends and socialize outside of the unit. This closeness was especially meaningful for patients who were rejected by family and friends after being diagnosed.”
Drs. Blatt and Moore, who met while doing their residencies at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, continued to oversee Unit 371 for about fifteen years.
Straight from nursing school, M.K. Czerwiec became a Unit 371 nurse in 1994.
“The death rate on Unit 371 was higher than any other hospital unit because, for so long, AIDS was a fast-moving, terminal disease,” Czerwiec told Windy City Times in 2011. “In a month, we could lose 30 patients.”
In 2017, Czerwiec would publish a graphic novel, Taking Turns, about her experiences working at Unit 371.
September 9, 1985
Chicago House Formed to Provide Shelter to PWAs
Chicago House is founded as a nonprofit organization to provide housing for Chicagoans living with AIDS.
Long before there was a solid understanding of HIV/AIDS, an effective form of treatment, or widespread social service support for individuals living with AIDS, Chicago House formed to fulfill a fundamental need: a place to live and die with dignity, according to Chicago House’s website.
Earlier in 1985, nearly 100 community activists gathered at the Baton Show Lounge to address the need for housing for people with AIDS. The AIDS crisis had begun to hit Chicago hard, and individuals diagnosed with AIDS lost much more than their health. They commonly found themselves without a home, a job, or the support of loved ones as symptoms progressed, often rapidly.
“The one thing we all had was that we had one thing in mind. We had friends who were dying, and to see their families and their lovers turn away from them — it was like they had the plague, and of course they didn’t. It was shattering,” said Arlene Halko, a Chicago House founder who was among the group gathered at the Baton Lounge.
While the services and mission at Chicago House have expanded considerably since 1985, the organization continues to focus on housing the most vulnerable.
September 17, 1985
President Reagan Finally Mentions ‘AIDS’ in Public Remarks
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.
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.
September 25, 1985
WHO: AIDS is ‘Major Public Health Problem’ around the World
Health officials from the AIDS Centers set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) affirm that the disease was now a major public health problem in several countries of the developed and developing world.
At a two-day convening in Geneva, Switzerland of representatives from WHO’s global centers on AIDS, health officials reviewed the epidemiologic status of AIDS world wide: more than 15,000 cases were reported in 40 countries, with 13,000 of the cases coming from the U.S.
WHO officials estimated that the number of cases in the U.S. would double to 26,000 in 1986, according to the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on November 8, 1985.
WHO organized the meeting to review information presented at the International Conference on AIDS, held in Atlanta in April 1985, and assess the global implications.
According to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization, a key outcome of the WHO meeting was the decision to develop a comprehensive AIDS program in which WHO’s AIDS-focused collaboration centers would take an active part. WHO officials attending the meeting also decided to set up additional collaborating centers that focused on AIDS, in an effort to lay the surveillance groundwork needed for the proposed program.
WHO Director-General Halfdan Mahler expressed concern regarding AIDS, but in separate comments to the media, he said he considered other diseases to be top priority outside the U.S.
“AIDS is not spreading like a bush fire in Africa,” Mahler said in widely reported accounts. “It is malaria and other tropical diseases that are killing millions of children every day.”
October 2, 1985
Film Legend Rock Hudson Dies
When movie star Rock Hudson dies in Beverly Hills of AIDS-related illness at age 59, the media attention causes public perceptions about the epidemic to shift.
As the first major U.S. public figure to publicly acknowledge AIDS diagnosis, Hudson brought attention to an epidemic sweeping the U.S. Hudson’s public disclosure also helped to dismantle the stigma associated with the disease.
Hudson would inspire Elizabeth Taylor, who became friends with Hudson on the set of the film Giant, to become an AIDS activist like none other, rallying the Hollywood community to raise millions for research. Upon his death, Hudson left $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), which was chaired by Taylor in the organization’s early years.
Tall, dark and handsome, Hudson was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men during the 1950s and 1960s. Making more than 60 films during his career, Hudson presented the image of a “lady-killer” before the camera, but he had a sexual preference for men. According to People magazine, his friends and often his colleagues on film and TV knew that Hudson was gay.
“We all knew Rock was gay, but it never made any difference to us,” actress Mamie Van Doren told People in 1985.
She said that she often accompanied Hudson on studio-arranged dates. “Universal invested a lot of money in Rock.”
Fearing exposure in Hollywood, Hudson would often visit San Francisco to frequent gay discos unrecognized, according to People. While in Los Angeles, he maintained a low public profile, preferring instead to entertain friends at his Beverly Hills home.
In the 1970s, Hudson moved from film to television to star in McMillan and Wife. From 1984 to 1985, he had a recurring role on Dynasty. Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS on June 5, 1984.
In July 1985, Hudson agreed to appear as the first guest on the new talk show of Doris Day, his friend and frequent co-star in 1960s romantic comedies. Day said afterward that she was shocked by how steeply Hudson’s health had declined since she had last seen him a few years before, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite needing rest, Hudson insisted on taping the show, Doris Day’s Best Friends.
Later that month, Hudson traveled to France to seek AIDS treatment that wasn’t available in the U.S. and was hospitalized there. In response to rabid media speculation, Hudson issued a press release on July 25 stating he had AIDS.
Doris Day’s Best Friends would premiere in October 1985, just days after Hudson’s death was announced in the media. The episode opened with an introduction by Day, her voice emotional as she relayed something that Hudson told her: “The best time I’ve ever had was making comedies with you.” Day told her audience that she felt the same way.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
The band would wait almost a year to release their fourth album. In 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.”
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.
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 Faye. Jessica 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.”
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.”
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
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 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.
December 13, 1985
Infant Dwight Burk Dies
Dwight Burk , aged 20 months, dies of AIDS-related illness in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of a hemophiliac known to be born with AIDS.
Dwight’s case prompted the National Hemophilia Foundation in April 1985 to advise hemophiliacs to postpone having children until scientists can develop 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 wife, Lauren, who became pregnant with Dwight. Doctors believe Dwight most likely contracted the disease in utero.
Patrick 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. Patrick Burk would die on March 18, 1987.
After the death of her son and husband, Lauren Burk would continue to stay informed about the latest developments in HIV/AIDS research and treatment. She would manage her own condition, which was diagnosed as “AIDS-related complex,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“When Dwight died, there was somebody here. We were here for each other,” Lauren Burk told the LA Times. “When Patrick died, you go to bed and you cry and there’s just nobody to hold you or say it’s OK.”
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.
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 that a majority of Americans favor quarantining people who have AIDS.
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%.”
Global Scope of Epidemic Becomes Evident
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.
By the end of 1985, there were more than 20,000 reported cases of AIDS, with at least one HIV case in every region of the world. The CDC would report that 1985 saw an 89% increase in AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. from 1984, and predicted that the number will double in 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.
Believed to be one of the longest-living victims of AIDS, Morris reportedly had been seriously ill since April 1978, but he wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until 1982
Morris was a confidant of Dianne Feinstein, often advising the then-Mayor of San Francisco on issues affecting the city’s gay community. Elected officials such as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, President Jimmy Carter, and Vice President Walter F. Mondale sought out Morris’ political endorsements.
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 at the time that the average survival time of someone with full-blown AIDS was 12-18 months.
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.
January 18, 1986
Dionne Warwick ‘and Friends’ Sing for amFAR
“That’s What Friends Are For” — recorded by Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight — becomes #1 on the Billboard charts, eventually raising about $3 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
How Warwick was able to get three superstars to join her in the recording studio was the result of having a collection of creative geniuses for friends, the audacity to just ask, and serendipity.
When Warwick first heard “That’s What Friends Are For,” she envisioned singing it as a duet with Stevie Wonder, according to Song Facts. The song’s composers, Burt Bacharach and his then-wife, Carole Bayer Sager, agreed to produce the recording, happy to see their song have another chance to reach an audience. They originally wrote the song for the 1982 movie Night Shift, where it was recorded by Rod Stewart and played over the closing credits.
Warwick put down her tracks, and then invited Wonder to do his part. On the day Wonder was scheduled to record, Elizabeth Taylor and Neil Simon came to the studio to hear him sing. Knowing of Taylor’s commitment to AIDS research, Bayer Sager suggested to Warwick that they arrange for the song royalties to benefit HIV/AIDS research. Everyone agreed it was a great idea, Warwick told People magazine in 2019.
They decided there was room for another singer, so Gladys Knight was invited. But then Warwick ran into Elton John in the grocery store.
“I said, ‘I’m recording tomorrow and I need you.’ That’s how simple it was,” Warwick told People.
The group became a quartet, aka “Dionne Warwick and Friends.”
The next day, Warwick, Knight and John arrived at the recording studio, and were joined by Bacharach and Bayer Sager — and Elizabeth Taylor, who was determined to see the project through.
Knight and John each recorded their parts, and Bacharach and Bayer Sager then went to work to assemble the four vocal tracks into a final recording, according to Song Facts. Later, the singers would perform together for a music video of “That’s What Friends Are For.”
In January 1986, “That’s What Friends Are For” rose to number one on the Billboard charts and remained there for four weeks. The song would win a Grammy Award for “Best Pop Performance by A Duo Or Group With Vocal” and another for “Song Of The Year.” It was Warwick’s fifth Grammy Award, and Elton John’s first, according to Song Facts.
Chicago House welcomes the first residents to its new two-flat housing facility in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.
Two months later, the facility would reach capacity with all eight places filled. Residents were provided with access to volunteers trained in providing emotional support.
Chicago House continued to plan for additional facilities and support services to meet the growing need. Later in 1986, the agency acquired administrative office space and began to transition from volunteer support to paid program staff.
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.
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.'”
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
National Review Founder William F. Buckley Proposes AIDS Tattoo
William F. Buckley, seen by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes in a New York Times op-ed that people diagnosed with HIV should be tattooed with a warning on their arm and buttocks.
“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed 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.”
At the time of his death in early 2008, Buckley would no longer be considered a journalist of any repute, although conservative circles would continue to champion his ideas. When he died, he was working on a book about President Ronald Reagan.
April 1, 1986
Film 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 in Los Angeles at the age of 41.
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.”
“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.”
Stephen Stucker, the scene-stealing comic performer in the Airplane! movies, dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.
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 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.
The meeting, which included scientists from 15 countries, also presented goals for WHO’s Program on AIDS, including the creation of a global surveillance system to monitor HIV infection as well as deaths from AIDS-related illness.
Representing the U.S. were Kenneth J. Bart, M.D., the health director for the U.S. Agency for International Development; William C. Bartley, the international health attaché for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations; and Walter R. Dowdle, Ph.D., director of infectious disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the meeting report.
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 in San Francisco at the age of 48.
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.”
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.”
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.
The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses announces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus ” (HIV).
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
Herman George — Costume Designer for ‘Babylon’ — 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.
George also designed costumes for the San Francisco Opera and Charles Pierce. For Pierce’s New York production of “The Crazy Ladies,” George created the costumes for Pierce’s various numbers in which he impersonated prominent female celebrities, according to the New York Public Library.
But it was for Beach Blanket Babylon, a stage show in North Beach known for its camp aesthetic and over-the-top costumes, that George found the opportunity to create outrageous, one-of-a-kind ensembles for the stage, often based on sketches from Babylon producer Steve Silver.
Beach Blanket Babylonclosed in 2019 after an epic 45-year run, and many of the costumes remain today in a 6,000-foot San Francisco warehouse. But some of the pieces are being sent to various museums for historical preservation, including The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park, according to Jo Schuman Silver, who took over the show when her husband died in 1995 of AIDS-related illness.
During its historic run, the show toured to Las Vegas and London, and opened the Academy Awards. ; Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, David Bowie, Liza Minnelli and Robin Williams were among its fans.
May 30, 1986
Fashion Designer Perry Ellis Dies
Top fashion designer Perry Ellis dies of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. He was 46.
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, according to Love to Know.
Ellis presented his first collection under his own name on Seventh Avenue in 1979 and almost immediately achieved star status.
His design aesthetics 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?
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.
Ellis’ daughter, Tyler, decided to carry on her father’s fashion legacy. After graduating from Boston University, she moved to New York and interned with Michael Kors. In 2011, she decided to launch her own handbag line, which caters to stars of the entertainment world and fans of luxury accessories.
The World Health Organization convenes a second meeting of its AIDS task force in Geneva to strategize a global response to the spread of the disease.
With representatives from 27 countries attending, the meeting focused on a review of the Global WHO Strategy for the Prevention and Control of AIDS: Projected Needs for 1986-1987, a proposed plan to address the AIDS crisis on a global scale, according to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization.
Attendees agreed that AIDS and HIV infection represented a mounting international health problem and neither a vaccine nor a therapy effective against HIV was likely to become available for at least several years. Therefore, a global strategy for AIDS and HIV control was needed, according to the meeting report.
WHO’s plan of action, which was based on recommendations from its network of collaborating centers on AIDS, put forth a series of global responsibilities for AIDS prevention and control, as well as activities that individual countries needed to adopt in order for the plan to be effective.
Dr. Halfdan Mahler, WHO’s director who had previously dismissed the immense global implications of AIDS, attended the meeting in its entirety, according to the meeting report.
Following this meeting, WHO took concrete steps to strengthen its activities, including a reallocation of financial and personnel resources to support the new strategic plan. The first meeting of WHO’s AIDS task force was held on April 21-22, 1986 in Geneva.
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.
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.
July 11, 1986
Leading Ballet Dancer Charles Ward Dies
Charles Ward, one of America’s leading ballet and theatrical dancers, dies at his home in Downey, California of AIDS-related illness. He was 33.
Ward became a soloist with American Ballet Theater in 1974 and worked his way to principal dancer in 1976, becoming the partner of many of the leading ballerinas of the time, according to the Los Angeles Times. With ABT, he performed in Swan Lake and ballets by Antony Tudor and Fredrick Ashton.
In 1978, Ward left ABT to star in Bob Fosse’s Broadway musical Dancin’, which earned him a nomination for the Drama Desk Award. He then moved to Los Angeles and danced in the films Staying Alive (1983) and The Turning Point (1977) and in the TV movie Pippin: His Life and Times (1981), again with Fosse. He also performed in shows with Lily Tomlin, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, Raquel Welch, Rodney Dangerfield and Lynda Carter.
Ward grew up in Downey, California and started dancing at the age of 18. Shortly after high school, he joined Houston Ballet and then, in 1972, moved to New York to dance with the Corps de Ballet at American Ballet Theater.
National Minority AIDS Council is founded at the conference.
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.
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.
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.”
Way Bandy, one of the fashion world’s best-known makeup artists and a best-selling author, dies of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center at the age of 45.
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.
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.
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-Musician Chaz Watson Dies
Charles “Chaz” Watson, a musician who also acted in Bay Area stage productions, dies at the age of 37.
Watson played the french horn and also was a drum major for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band.
“The roster of Bay Area artists who have died from AIDS over the past 25 years carries a poignant double message. It reminds us of all the light these men and women brought — and how much more they had to give when the shadow fell,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle arts and culture critic Steven Winn in 2006. “Death came, in most cases, when these artists were just reaching their prime.”
Cuban Government Imposes Quarantine on HIV-Infected People
Cuba becomes the only country in the world to impose a policy of universal HIV testing and mandated quarantine of all virus carriers.
The Cuban government opened the first of its fourteen sanitariums in Santiago de Las Vegas, located outside the major Cuban city of Havana. It also launched a widespread HIV testing campaign and sent anyone found to be HIV-positive to the sanitarium for life.
By the end of 1988, Cuban authorities would report that 240 people living with HIV — 171 men and 69 women — have been quarantined to date in the facility, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 1988, the LA Times would report on a U.S. delegation invited by the Cuban government to visit the Santiago de Las Vegas quarantine center.
“We were shown groups of nondescript apartments that looked like typical Cuban suburban housing,” said Ronald Bayer, associate professor at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, in an interview with the LA Times. “It was neither barracks-like nor dungeon-like, although I have to assume we were shown the best.”
Bayer was one of a team of seven colleagues from Columbia University and the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center who were the first Americans to receive a first-hand glimpse of Cuba’s HIV quarantine system. Their host was Cuba’s deputy minister of public health, Hector Terry.
Bayer said he continued to be disturbed by Cuba’s policy of forcing HIV-positive people into quarantine.
“Even if it all looked as good as what we saw, it does not resolve the moral justification of incarceration based on supposed future behavior,” said Bayer, a medical ethicist whose specialty was HIV/AIDS healthcare and policy.
At the height of Cuba’s quarantine program, around 10,000 people with HIV would be isolated in facilities.
In 1991, Eduardo Martinez tested positive for HIV and was sent to the Santiago de Las Vegas sanitarium. Martinez had been a well-known designer in Cuba, creating costumes for the entertainment industry.
“I didn’t want to go, but they would come for you and take you by force,” he told NPR.
He said that government officials interrogated the sanitarium patients and urged them reveal their sexual partners, so they too could be tested for HIV and quarantined.
Martinez was housed in one of the few air conditioned residences and he could rely on a steady supply of food, but the isolation from his family, friends and career made him fall into a deep depression. After going on a hunger strike, he was moved to a psychiatric ward for a month.
“It was very sad for me, because I didn’t understand why I was infected and why I had to go be interned in that place,” he says. “And on top of this, that was killing my career. I was at the top of stardom at that moment.”
Eventually, he reconciled himself to his situation, dire as it was, and accepted that the sanitarium would be his entire world for the rest of his life. He created a drag persona, “Samantha,” to help him reclaim his passion for fashion design.
“I needed a model in order to continue producing designs, and I just used myself as a model,” Martinez said.
He also encouraged his fellow patients to pursue creative self-expression and built a community of artists. Sadly, Martinez was one of the only people from his sanitarium generation to survive to a time when HIV could be effectively managed through treatment.
He told NPR about how he watched many of his friends die as they volunteered as test subjects for potential cures researched by the Cuban government.
With funds to Cuba from the Soviet Union ending with the 1991 fall of the USSR, the ongoing expense to house HIV patients was deemed too costly, and in 1995, Cuba began to allow HIV-positive patients to leave the sanitariums.
Martinez told NPR that he was one of the first patients to be offered his freedom, but the idea of leaving his home of five years scared him. Cuba was experiencing widespread homophobia and poverty, and his life in Santiago de Las Vega was filled with comfort, safety, friendship and creative purpose.
“I refused to leave, because I said I was too committed to the community inside the sanitarium,” he said.
But by 1996, he decided to return to Havana, where he built a second career as a drag artist. Martinez produces fashion shows and drag performances at one of Havana’s most famous nightclubs, the Tropicana. He said that sometimes, members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba come to see him perform as “Samantha.”
September 10, 1986
NYC Interior Designer Robin Jacobsen Dies
Robin Jacobsen, a designer known for dramatic modern interiors, died of AIDS-related illness at the New York University Medical Center. He was 45 years old.
Jacobsen designed corporate showrooms and private homes that combined modern technology with classical elements and a minimalist point of view, according to the New York Times.
When Jacobsen became sick earlier in the year, his partner, R. Scott Bromley, an architect, took over meetings with clients while spending his evenings with Jacobsen at NYU Medical Center.
“After Robin died, one client phoned another client and asked if he could pick up AIDS from me,” Bromley told the NY Times in 1991. He never heard from the client again.
Jacobsen was also a volunteer firefighter with the Pines Fire Department on Fire Island, and served on the Board of Directors for the Pines Care Center, founded in 1983 to provide medical care to the Fire Island community.
Transportation historian and author Anthony Perles dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.
In 1981, Perles’ book The People’s Railway was published, providing a detailed history of the San Francisco Municipal Railway from its earliest days through to the era of light rail. Perles described every aspect of the railway system, including the struggle against United Railroads and the development of light rail vehicles (LRVs) in the 1970s.
Perles’ final work, Tours of Discovery, was published in 1984 and provided a pictorial journey through the decades of development and change on the Municipal Railway of San Francisco.
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.
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.
One in every five gay men and one in every 10
lesbians report being physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, according to an eight-city study of antigay violence conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In the first Congressional hearing to address anti-gay violence, Kevin Berrill of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now called the National LGBTQ Task Force) told members of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice that in addition to battling the AIDS epidemic, the gay community was also contending with rampant and deadly antigay violence.
“There is disturbing evidence that the AIDS and antigay violence epidemics may now be following the same menacing curve,” Berrill said. “For inasmuch as AIDS has spread, so has the fear and hatred that spawns violence.”
Berrill went on to criticize the federal government for viewing widespread violence against gay men and lesbians as “just a gay problem and therefore not of concern to all society.” He bitingly referred to this passive policy as the same one the government has adopted to address HIV and AIDS.
In its study on antigay violence, the Task Force surveyed more than 2,000 community members in eight cities. Berrill also presented data from local governments which confirmed the Task Force’s findings. At the time, the federal government did not collect data on violence against LGBTQ community members.
“The toll of antigay violence cannot be measured solely in terms of these statistics,” Berrill told the Congress members. “These numbers do not measure the anguish, fear and loss experienced by Dee, who is still recovering from burns caused by acid thrown at her face when she was leaving the Los Angeles Gay Community Center. Or by Robert from New Jersey, where assailants beat him, extinguished cigarettes in his face, and then tied him to the back of a truck, dragging him in tow. Or by the family and friends of Charlie Howard of Maine, who was thrown off a bridge to his death by three teenagers.”
Berrill called on Congress to initiate federal studies on antigay violence and pass tougher laws to combat violent crimes targetting gays and lesbians. He also urged the repeal of all sodomy laws (which were still on the books of most states), and called for the passage of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Also testifying that day was Diana Christensen, executive director of the Community
United Against Violence in San Francisco, who told the subcommittee the following:
“Is the increase in antigay violence an indicator of an AIDS-related backlash? At this point, I believe that AIDS and homosexuality have become synonymous in the American public’s mind. For the homophobic mind, AIDS is simply another justification for violence.”
David Wertheimer, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (which would become the NYC Anti-Violence Project) also provided the highlights of his 20-page testimonial submitted to the subcommittee. Founded in 1980 to provide support services to lesbian and gay survivors of homophobic violence, the organization became a city-wide, nonprofit service
provider in 1983.
Wertheimer reported that between 1984 and 1985, reported cases of violence “began to mushroom,” and the organization’s caseload increased 41%. In the current year — 1986 — violence was reported even more frequently, with between 40 and 60 new cases each month.
He explained that in the past, cases typically were in the form of antigay and antilesbian verbal harassment in a public place, or in the form of menacing behavior or even assault. A new form of violence had emerged recently, Wertheimer said, one that now represented 28% of the Anti-Violence Project’s caseload.
“AIDS-related violence — that is violence that may begin with verbal and menacing acts that are specifically related to AIDS,” he said. “For example, someone might start an attack by saying, ‘I hate faggots. You faggots give us AIDS.’ Or a lesbian might find notes on her door saying ‘Lesbians, dykes, you give us AIDS. Get out of the building.'”
Wertheimer told the Congress members that antigay violence can result in death. The organization reported seven antigay homicides in 1985, and 15 such homicides in the first nine months of 1986.
Also providing testimony was Dr. Gregory M. Herek, assistant professor of psychology at
the City University of New York and a member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns.
“A growing body of scientific data, including my own empirical research, shows that individuals’ irrational fears surrounding AIDS — such as fear of transmission through casual contact — are highly
correlated with their level of homophobia,” Dr. Herek said. “I interpret this finding to mean that reducing AIDS hysteria requires confronting its roots in homophobia, and that eliminating homophobia will require education about AIDS. Unfortunately, the U.S. Justice Department has sanctioned discrimination based on fears of AIDS-contagion, and has thereby fueled fears about AIDS
and probably contributed to public homophobia.”
Rep. Barney Frank (who in 1987 would become the first member of Congress to be openly gay) also spoke for the Congressional record in support of raising awareness about anti-gay violence.
October 15, 1986
Fred Alizie, Tenor with San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Chorus, Dies
Fred Alizie, a singer with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Community Chorus and the choral ensemble Vocal Minority, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 36.
After Alizio became too sick to perform, he continued to attend performances by the Community Chorus and Vocal Minority, and shortly before he died, he donated funds for Vocal Minority to buy new uniform jackets.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Film 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.
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 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.
November 23, 1986
Fear of AIDS Linked to Increase in Anti-LGBT Violence
LGBT leaders sound the alarm against the increase in violence targeted toward members of the community.
In a New York Times article reporting on the three-year increase in anti-gay violence, LGBT organization leaders cite studies and provide anecdotes that reflect the disturbing trend, linking it to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The article largely re-caps the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice hearing on anti-gay violence held more than a month before.
Also included in the article, written by William R. Greer, is the account of a Brooklyn man who was attacked outside his home on a Saturday morning. The man, who is identified as an employee in the Office of Mayor Ed Koch, said three assailants struck him repeatedly while yelling homophobic slurs at him and accusing him of spreading AIDS.
”What I find frightening is these groups don’t seem to have any fear of verbally or physically assaulting people in the middle of the day, in a shopping center, in front of businesses, with hundreds of people around,” he told the NYT reporter. ”Somehow they’ve gotten the message that their action will be condoned or at least ignored.”
Redbone Press Publishes ‘In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology’
In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology, curated by Joseph Beam to explore the experiences of gay Black men, hits bookshelves.
Although sales for the book were initially small, word of mouth would cause In the Life to be widely read and celebrated as the first collection of writings about being gay in the age of AIDS. Written by 29 Black, gay authors and edited by Beam, In the Life included stories, verses, works of art, and theater pieces, all voicing the point of view of “an often silent minority.”
“The bottom line is this,” Beam wrote, “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.”
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.
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 in San Francisco at the age of 51.
Conrad began his career as a dancer, performing in the role of “Mother Marshmallow” in the Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker for several years. He began to choreograph Bay Area productions, and ultimately began directing.
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.
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.
Starcross Monastery in Sonoma County becomes guardian to Michelle, a five-month-old baby born with the AIDS virus who was abandoned at a hospital. Many other infants and children would follow Michelle to Starcross and be cared for by Catholic monks.
Brother Tolbert “Toby” McCarroll, Sister Marti Aggeler and Sister Julie DeRossi used the proceeds of the 1976 sale of a building near San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury to buy a ramshackle farmhouse on 115 acres of meadows and forest, where they opened the Starcross Monastic Community.
Their idea was to grow and sell Christmas trees, provide a wholesome country home for children in the foster care system, and pursue a monastic lifestyle in a secluded part of northern California, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Then the AIDS crisis hit, and the monks began to reach out to nearby hospitals who were housing orphaned infants and children infected with the virus. They found that many did not need to be hospitalized, but there was no one else for them to go.
Starcross began to assume guardianship of infants and young children with HIV, and provided them with a home and medical care. The monks developed a home care program that resembled a family farm more than a hospice.
“We had no medical training, but we did know how to take care of kids, having raised
many foster children over the years,” states Starcross’ paper on the history on the monastery’s work during the AIDS crisis. “At the time, medicine had nothing to offer. The local AIDS doctor encouraged us saying that these little children whose mothers were too sick to care for them, needed to be in regular homes, not hospitals. We joyfully welcomed six HIV positive babies into our family.”
Before long, word spread and Starcross received a generous donation from Frank Sinatra. Then Parents magazine named Brother Toby, a celibate monk from an unheard-of town in California, its Parent of the Month. In his 1994 book Last Watch of the Night, author Paul Monette — famous for publicly tearing up a photo of the Pope — cited Brother Toby as one of the few men of the cloth he admired.
The media exposure also brought negative attention to the monastery. Some of Starcross’ country neighbors recoiled at the news that the AIDS virus was among them. Shortly before Christmas 1997, one of the Starcross children, an HIV-infected baby named Aaron, had difficulty breathing. The monks phoned for help, but the volunteer Annapolis firefighters would not respond to the call.
Some of the first residents, like Aaron, Michelle and Josh, died at the farmhouse within years of their arrival. But as HIV treatment options grew, children began to survive. Nicole, who arrived at Starcross as an HIV-positive infant with a variety of special medical needs, would grow up to enjoy learning at the local schools, according to a 2001 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Starcross remains today, and so do the homes for AIDS orphans that Starcross created in Uganda and Romania. Both now operate independently of Starcross and Brother Toby told the LA Times that he expects that will continue indefinitely, as they must because the global AIDS crisis shows no signs of going away.
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.
The idea of the quilt came to Jones in November 1985 while he planned the annual candlelight march honoring the 1978 assassinations of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
Jones learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost already to AIDS-related illnesses. For the candlelight march, he asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of loved ones who had died of AIDS, and at the end of the march, Jones and others stood on ladders and taped the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names reminded Jones of a patchwork quilt, and an idea was born.
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.
The two main functions of WHO’s program were: (1) to provide global leadership and ensure international collaboration
and cooperation; and (2) to provide support to national programs to prevent and control AIDS, according to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization.
WHO established a global commission on AIDS and a management committee to support and guide the program. As part of the new program, a special public information service was launched to satisfy the increasing media interest in HIV/AIDS and to ensure that accurate and timely information was being disseminated to the public.
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 technical and financial support from WHO, AIDS programs rapidly began to be established in nations throughout the world. WHO puts forth the idea that a global response was 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 program was responsible for strategic leadership, developing consensus, coordinating scientific research, exchanging information, assuring technical cooperation and mobilizing and coordinating resources. During 1986 and 1987, a total of 127 countries sought WHO’s collaboration on a national response to AIDS, according to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization.
Founded in 1948, WHO is the United Nations agency that connects nations to promote health, keep the world safe and serve vulnerable populations. On January 1, 1996, the UN would launch UNAIDS to consolidate its global AIDS response.
February 4, 1987
Pianist & Vegas 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.
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 demonstrated the powerful stigma of AIDS and led to a national discussion about the rights of people living with AIDS to privacy, both before and after death.
Jay Phillips, a promising artist whose abstract sculptures won him a select but distinctive following in Los Angeles and New York, died of AIDS-related illness in New York City. He was 32.
Seduced by southern California’s saturated colors and New York City’s vibrant architecture, Phillips incorporated the world around him in his work. Melding painting and sculpture, his works typically featured brightly colored enamel on metal that was cut, folded and otherwise manipulated. His use of color-drenched patterns referenced his early exposure to commercial fabric patterning.
Suzanne Muchnic, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, credited Phillips with a “swift, sure sense of arrangement that allows him to join bold checkerboards, bright stripes, lattices and circle patterns with painterly gestures evocative of landscape.”
A recipient of the Los Angeles County Museum’s 1981 Young Talent Award, Phillips exhibited his work at LACMA in November 1985 – February 1986.
“There is in his work a greater insistence on structure and manipulation of the composition,” wrote Stephanie Barron, LACMA’s curator of 20th Century art. “Yet, ever the romantic, Phillips continues to search for ways to interpret his surroundings.”
Phillips often worked with aluminum, cutting wavy edges along the side of his pieces and folding them back. This technique “had the effect of playing off a sense of depth against perceptual pulls of shape and color,” according to Burt A. Folkart of the LA Times.
He also briefly worked with paper, creating a series of silk-screened prints named for the Los Angeles locations of Hancock Park, Melrose, Hollywood and Bel-Air Gate.
“Although the material involved was atypical of Phillips’ work, the colors and wide stripes and thick brush strokes were not,” Folkart wrote.
Phillips earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of New Mexico and his master’s degree from Claremont Graduate School in 1979. In Los Angeles, his work was also shown at the Newspace and Roy Boyd galleries.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
As the only medication available to treat HIV, AZT became a highly sought-after treatment, albeit one fraught with side effects. Studies showed that AZT therapy could lead to the damage of muscle tissues, including the heart, and also the suppression of the production of red blood cells, neutrophils, and other cells in the bone marrow.
In addition, the side effects of fatigue, malaise, and anemia were common. Many patients taking AZT experienced gastrointestinal intolerance, nausea and vomiting. Rarer side effects included lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis.
The drug’s approval remains controversial to this day, but now that we are in a world where treatment options are so far advanced, it can be difficult 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 is an excellent chance that with the right combination of medications, given at the right time, HIV levels can be reduced and kept so low that the person never gets sick and the virus becomes undetectable.
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.
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.
March 24, 1987
ACT UP Holds Its First ‘Zap’ 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.
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 early 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 conducting research to find a cure or better treatments for HIV/AIDS.
Some 250 protestors, many of whom laid down in the street and/or held signs, called for corporate and government action to end the AIDS crisis. The protest targeted pharmaceutical companies that were profiting from the epidemic and specifically called out Burroughs Wellcome, the company manufacturing the high-priced treatment of AZT.
Demonstrators chanted “We are angry! We want action!” and “Release those drugs!” Seventeen people were arrested that day.
A flyer announcing the protest listed several immediate demands, including:
the release by the FDA of new experimental drugs to treat HIV/AIDS,
the availability of drugs at affordable prices,
a program to educate the public to combat the spread of AIDS, and
policies to end AIDS-related discrimination in the workplace, housing, insurance, and medical treatment.
Soon after the demonstration, the FDA announced it would shorten its nine-year drug approval process by two years. Meanwhile, other chapters of ACT UP began to spring up in other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.
Dissatisfied with the response from the FDA and pharmaceutical companies, the New York chapter of ACT UP would stage numerous demonstrations — including three more on Wall Street — in the next several years, drawing national attention to the AIDS crisis.
Ann Northrop, a former journalist who became an organizer with ACT UP New York, told The New Yorker that they intentionally created public spectacles to draw in the media and capture public attention.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 28, 1987
Los Angeles County Creates Commission on AIDS
With the total number of confirmed AIDS cases in Los Angeles County reaching 2,965, the Board of Supervisors vote unanimously to create a 17-member LA County Commission on AIDS to advise on ways the county can combat the epidemic.
The new AIDS Commission would replace the three-year-old AIDS task force formed by Supervisor Ed Edelman and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The Supervisors said they would appoint to the commission activists in the fight against AIDS as well as county officials.
“Such a commission could be of great assistance to the Board of Supervisors in the weeks ahead when major budget decisions and major policy shifts will be before the board,” wrote the LA Times editorial board. “And the commission could reassure the community that the AIDS problems in this region are being addressed.”
Supervisor Ed Edelman told the Los Angeles Times that the new commission would help to coordinate efforts by various county departments in the local effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. At the time, local efforts were concentrated in educational, mental health and hospice programs.
According to the LA Times, the total number of confirmed AIDS cases in Los Angeles County in May 1987 was 2,965, making the county the third most impacted region in the U.S. Only San Francisco and New York had more AIDS cases.
In its editorial, the LA Times criticized LA County for failing to organize “the basic services required to handle the rapidly rising caseload of AIDS patients.”
The LA Times pointed out that while in-patient care was available at some of the larger county facilities, there were virtually no home-care, day-care, nursing-facility or hospice programs offered by the county. As time ticked by of the lives of people living with AIDS, the county supervisors were withholding funds from critical programs until there was more state and federal money to supplement the county budget.
“With the advice of the task force, the AIDS Project Los Angeles and other professionals, the supervisors can quickly organize an effective commission to see that not another minute is wasted,” the LA Times wrote.
Rabbi Allen Freehling would be the first Chair of the AIDS Commission, and the appointed commissioners would include Rand Schrader, an openly gay Los Angeles Municipal Court judge who would serve as Chair of the Commission from 1989 to 1991.
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.
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.
May 5, 1987
Jack Romann, Friend & Inspiration to Classical Musicians, Dies
Jack Romann, director of the concert and artist department of the Baldwin Piano Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cabrini Medical Center in New York City. He was 59
Romann’s stature among the top pianists in the U.S. warranted him coverage in The New York Times when he died, and years later would inspire composer John Corigliano to write symphonic pieces.
”Almost every talented pianist in America now has had an important slice of his life removed,” Charles Wadsworth, a pianist and the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, told the NY Times. “When I played at the White House for President Kennedy, Jack came along to give me support and he turned pages for me. Then, on his own, he wrote a press release and sent it to the paper of my Georgia hometown. All of a sudden, I was somebody important there.’
Although Romann was a Juilliard-trained pianist, he never gave public performances and instead supported pianists who were performing for wide audiences.
”I cannot begin to tell you how important he was to me and almost any pianist I know,” pianist Santiago Rodriguez told the NY Times. ”He gave me tons of advice … I never met a man so ready to give.”
Another person who Romann left with a lasting impact was composer John Corigliano, who on March 15, 1990 would premiere his masterwork Symphony No. 1, the first major musical memorial to those who had died of AIDS.
Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, wrote that Symphony No. 1 “was and it remains the most formidable classical work written in response to the epidemic.”
For the symphony’s second movement, which Ross called “the dark heart of the symphony,” Corigliano drew on his memory of Romann and his AIDS dementia.
According to music critic Steve Smith, Corigliano “recasts” the original intention of the tarantella (a cure for spider-bite delirium) as “an analogue for AIDS dementia,” having a contrabassoon take a gloomy melody and then repeating it with the contrabass clarinet, tuba and ultimately trombone.
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.
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.
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 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 9, 1987
Robert Jacobson, Editor of Opera News, Dies
Robert M. Jacobson, editor of Opera News magazine, dies of AIDS-related illness at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. He was 46.
Jacobson, who began as a critic for Musical America in 1963, was a prominent advocate of opera and the arts. His partner, Rocci Genova, told The New York Times that Jacobson also wrote for numerous publications, edited the program booklets for Lincoln Center in New York City, and annotated programs for CBS Records.
In 1974 he became editor of Opera News, and also edited its sister publication, Ballet News, from 1979 until it was discontinued in 1986.
“A disproportionate number of AIDS victims, it turned out, were poor and anonymous, but there were also a lot who acted, painted, sang, danced and in one way or another contributed to the public creative life of the nation,” wrote Mitchell.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Two days later, 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 appointed the following people to the Commission:
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
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
‘Persons Living With AIDS’ are Named Grand Marshal of Houston Pride
Houston Pride honors persons living with AIDS as the Grand Marshal for the Pride Parade.
With the theme “Come Out and Celebrate Pride,” the parade organizers encouraged everyone to take to the streets during the event. Organizers also told community members to donate money to HIV/AIDS organizations rather to the making of parade floats, according to Hannah DeRousselle in Houston History magazine.
By then, the Pride Parade, which was founded in 1979, was drawing smaller crowds, reflecting the devastation of the community by the spread of HIV and the effects of a growing hostility toward gay people in general due to the AIDS Crisis.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 school board had refused to allow the three boys to attend the district’s schools in their hometown of Arcadia, Florida.
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 would allow camera crews to document his declining health, saying he wanted Americans to see what AIDS did to people. Ricky Ray would die 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 would survive. Randy Ray would marry in 2001 and settle in Orlando, Florida, successfully managing his HIV through medication.
August 8, 1987
Dancer-Choreographer Jorge Samaniego Dies
Jorge Samaniego, a Cuban-born dancer who performed with the New York City Opera Ballet and on Broadway, dies of AIDS-related illness at County-University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 40 years old.
Samaniego started and ended his dance career in Los Angeles. He studied at the American School of Dance in Hollywood before moving to New York to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet. In 1977 in NY, he established his own dance company, the Samaniego Dance Gallery.
Samaniego was ballet master and choreographed for the Milwaukee Ballet before joining the Des Moines Ballet in 1978 as its Artistic Director. The company also brought in Kenneth MacDonald as Associate Artistic Director. The two men, professional and personal partners, were together for 14 years until Samaniego’s death.
In 1981 he choreographed a Public Broadcasting Service production of Romeo and Juliet, in which he played the role of Mercutio. Samaniego also performed with the Western Ballet and Netherlands Dance Theater.
Samaniego returned to Los Angeles in 1982. He reestablished his Dance Gallery, which performed regularly at the Assistance League Playhouse and other LA venues.
Dance Magazine reported that “His annual staging of A Christmas Carol, Peter and the Wolf, and The Nutcracker were holiday favorites in Southern California.”
On Samaniego’s AIDS quilt, MacDonald wrote: “To Jorge Samaniego, my tears, my love, Kenneth.” MacDonald would die from HIV/AIDS complications eight years later, in 1995.
Samaniego and MacDonald are both memorialized in the project Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.
The report provided the following estimates for “individuals considered AIDS virus carriers”:
United States 1-2 million
Brazil up to 238,000
Italy more than 100,000
West Germany up to 100,000
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 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.
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’s approval marks an important milestone in the development of HIV/AIDS treatment options.
Manufactured by MicroGeneSys of West Haven, Conn., the vaccine would 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 still 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.
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.
August 28, 1987
Home of Three HIV+ Boys is Burned Down
The home of the Ray family is burned down a week after the Rays win a $1.1 million settlement and the legal right to enroll in the local elementary school their three HIV-positive boys.
The Ray brothers — Ricky, Robert, and Randy — were hemophiliacs who contracted HIV from blood transfusions when they were less than 8 years old. Louise and Clifford Ray were told by local school officials that they could not send their boys to school.
When the Rays challenged this decision, unfounded fears about HIV spread throughout their community in Arcadia, Florida, and the family received death threats and was ostracized by members of their church.
After the arson of their home, the Ray family settled in nearby Sarasota, where the brothers attended the local elementary school in spite of opposition from groups like Citizens Against AIDS.
Ricky Ray became an activist in the fight against AIDS. In 1992, he allowed camera crews to document his declining health and stated he wanted America to see what AIDS did to people. President Bill Clinton spoke to him and thanked him for his work raising awareness on AIDS. Ricky Ray died in 1992 at age 15. Prior to his death, he made headlines by planning to marry his 17-year-old girlfriend, but a judge blocked the wedding because of his age.
Robert died of AIDS-related causes in 2000 at the age of 22. Randy Ray married in 2001 and lives in Orlando, Florida. He manages his HIV through medication.
September 30, 1987
HIV/AIDS PSAs Pop Up in America
TheCDC launches its PSA campaign, America Responds to AIDS, to kick off October as the newly designated AIDS Awareness Month.
Reaching millions, the campaign is the first to be produced on the subject of AIDS prevention, and becomes a central prong in the “everyone is at risk” strategy of AIDS prevention. 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.
Most Americans Cite AIDS as World’s Most Urgent Health Issue
A Gallup poll finds that 68% of those polled considered AIDS to be “the most urgent health problem facing the world.”
By the time Gallup would field its next survey in 1990, the U.S. Congress would be poised to pass the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, and the share of the public naming AIDS as a top problem would fall to 49%.
In the 1990’s, a decade that saw major advances in HIV treatment including the development of effective combination anti-retroviral therapy, the public would continue to focus on other issues healthcare facing the counties around the world. By 2009, the proportion polled who named AIDS as the top health problem would fall to single digits.
However, in the coming years, Black Americans would be prevalent among those naming HIV as the most urgent health problem.
October 9, 1987
UK Prime Minister Thatcher Gives Anti-Gay Speech at Convention
Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom, sums up her party’s dark views toward the LGBT community in an anti-gay speech, garnering her thundrous applaus at the 1987 Conservative Party conference.
From her convention podium, Thatcher declared: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay, ” she said. “All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life. Yes, cheated.”
In less than a year later, Thatcher would usher in the passage of Clause 28, anti-gay legislation to stop all discussion of homosexuality in British schools. An amendment to the 1988 Local Government Act, Section 28 would effectively ban local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality. Government funds could no longer go toward of books, plays, leaflets, films, or other materials showing same-sex relationships, while teachers weren’t allowed to teach about gay relationships in schools.
In the shadow of the AIDS epidemic, the United Kingdom in the 1980s was a place of renewed LGBT activism and a forward movement toward equal rights. New progressive legislation opened the door for the Greater London Council to fund LGBT groups, and some local authorities in London and Manchester began to employ officers to counter homophobia.
There were also alliances between LGBT organizations and labor unions, such as the one between the mineworkers union and a lesbian-gay support group.And in 1985, Margaret Roff became the mayor of Manchester, making her the first openly lesbian woman to hold such a post in the UK.
But all this progress was made while the UK media was using the outbreak of AIDS/HIV to demonize gay and bisexual men. Thatcher and her Conservative Party saw this as an opportunity to activate their base and even win some votes from “the Labour left.”
At the start of her third term as prime minister, Thatcher gave the speech that made her intentions clear, in front of the audience she knew would praise her pronouncements.
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 almost 2,000 panels measuring 3’ x 6’.
As the quilt moved from city to city, hundreds of panels were added in each location until the quilt returned to San Francisco at triple its original size, with more than 6,000 panels. More than 9,000 volunteers across the country assisted the seven-person traveling crew for the quilt exhibition. The tour raised nearly $500,000 for hundreds of AIDS service organizations.
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.
The Helms Amendment was incorporated into the $129 billion Labor, Health and Human Resources and Education appropriations bill for fiscal 1988, and contained $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 could 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 displayed 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,″ claimed Helms.
The senator said he showed the comic books to President Reagan and complained that the GMHC had received $674,679 in federal funding to produce the pamphlets. According to Helms, President 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 announced in the Senate chambers.
Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Connecticut) and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) are the only two Senators to vote against the legislation. 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.
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.
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. Elizabeth’s 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.
“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.
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.
When Shilts joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 he was the publication’sfirst 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.
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is Founded
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.
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 23, 1987
Jerry Carlson, Conductor of Gay Men’s Choir of LA, Dies
Jerry Carlson, conductor of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home. He was 31 years old.
Originally from Chicago, where he had helped to found the Windy City Chorus and the Chicago Gay Pride Band, Carlson became the principal conductor of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) in 1981. Almost immediately he went to work elevating the Chorus to a more professional sound and look.
Carlson instituted an audition process for the first time, according to the Los Angeles Times. He kept pop music in the chorus’ repertoire, but also challenged his singers to stretch to meet the demands of more serious music like Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” Setting the Chorus on an ambitious musical direction that would continue for decades after his death, Carlson always pushed his singers to the next level.
In early 1987, the GMCLA was invited to sing the text of Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony for a November concert with the Long Beach Symphony — a golden opportunity. But Carlson’s health was on the decline, and he soon grew too weak to conduct rehearsals. Choral conductor Beverly Patton stepped in to help.
For the last rehearsal, Carlson was brought in on a wheelchair, so he could speak to the singers one last time.
“It was important for him to know we were still with him, and he was with us,” said Jon Bailey, chairman of the music department at Pomona College who took over from Carlson as GMCLA’s conductor.
Two weeks later, Carlson died.
“Jerry had taken a bunch of guys and made them into a musical instrument, and now they sang for him, at his memorial service,” Bailey told the Los Angeles Times. “And they sang very well.”
While Carlson was the latest AIDS casualty among members of the GMCLA, members had been steadily dying of AIDS-related illness since late 1984, according to the LA Times. But because Carlson had such a strong influence on the Chorus as a whole, his death had perhaps the most profound impact to date.
In 1991, GMCLA became the first gay men’s chorus to tour central Europe, according to Los Angeles Almanac. The Chorus was also the first to perform before a sitting U.S. president (Clinton in 1999), and the first to tour South America (2006).
Steve Tracy from TV’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Dies
Steve Tracy, a film and TV actor best known for his role as Percival Dalton on Little House on the Prairie, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 34.
In addition to his work on Little House on the Prairie, Tracy appeared in several films and other television programs from 1977 to 1986, including Quincy, M.E.;The Jeffersons; and National Lampoon’s Class Reunion.
Born Steven Crumrine, a young Tracy attended Kent State University when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam War protesters, killing four KSU students and injuring nine others. He moved to Los Angeles, where he attended LA City College and enrolled in a comedy workshop led by veteran TV actor Harvey Lembeck.
As Percival Dalton on Little House, Tracy portrayed the love interest of the show’s bratty antagonist Nellie Oleson. He and Alison Arngrim, the actress who portrayed Nellie, became close friends. Rumors erupted that Tracy and Arngrim were romantically involved, which they denied. Years later, Arngrim said that she was the only one on the set who knew that Tracy was gay.
Not long after Tracy told Arngrim that he had AIDS, the tabloid National Enquirer called Arngrim and peppered her with questions, like “How did Tracy get infected?” and “How long did he have to live?” Arngrim said the Enquirer reporter also wanted to know if she had AIDS, too. He thought Tracy could have infected Arngrim during one of their kissing scenes — a common misconception at the time.
Arngrim accompanied Tracy to his medical appointments, candlelight vigils, and just about everywhere. In her book, Arngrim described her experience with Tracy at a Louise Hay “healing workshop” held at Plummer Park in West Hollywood:
“I was surrounded by people in wheelchairs, people whose friends had carried them in on stretchers. Some were even walking around with Hickman ports, the permanently attached tubes that deliver medicine through a hole cut in the patient’s chest,” she recalled. “What on earth did these people think Louise Hay could do for them?”
She said her skepticism abated when Hay told the crowd that she was angry and disappointed that people were falsely claiming that she could magically “cure AIDS” and other diseases. Hay urged them to seek medical attention and take the advice of their doctors seriously. Arngrim and Tracy became fans of Hay.
Tracy also sought assistance from many of the service agencies that had recently sprung up in and around West Hollywood, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Angel Food and LA Shanti. Tracy inspired Arngrim to get involved.
“I went to AIDS Project Los Angeles and signed up for hotline training, which consisted of weeks of classes with homework and a five-page final exam. I had hated school, but now I was finally studying for a reason,” she said.
Arngrim started working for APLA’s AIDS hotline and ultimately joined the organization’s speakers’ bureau, becoming one of the most popular speakers on the subject of HIV and AIDS. Tracy, meanwhile, tended to his declining health and worked when he could.
Six months before his death, he performed in the Los Angeles theater production of AIDS/US: Portraits in Personal Courage. The piece featured true stories of having AIDS or losing family members to AIDS. Tracy was the only professional actor in the production.
“Then one night in November 1986, Steve called,” wrote Arngrim. “He told me what I had been dreading for several months: he had very little time left, and his mother and sister were coming to take him home to Florida. He wanted to die at home … Less than a week later, on Thanksgiving Day, Steve Tracy died.”
Tracy’s ashes were brought to Los Angeles and scattered under the Hollywood sign, under the letter “D,” per his wishes.
Arngrim continued to work with various AIDS organizations all over the country.
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.
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.
Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.
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.”
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.
AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power/Los Angeles (ACT UP/LA) meets for the first time in West Hollywood.
Inspired by ACT UP/New York and energized by the 1987 March on Washington, about 400 activists packed Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park to form a local chapter of ACT UP. Drawing many members of the Lavender Left, ACT UP/LA decided to follow New York’s model of utilizing non-violent direct action as a means to draw media attention and challenge the status quo.
At the first meeting of the chapter, the membership voted to hold a demonstration against the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for its policies restricting the movement of persons living with HIV.
In the months ahead, the chapter would train its members in civil disobedience techniques and form support teams to track confrontations and arrests.
According to member David Lacaillade, “Hundreds of demonstrations later, ACT UP/LA has had a major impact on AIDS care in Los Angeles County and Southern California. At its peak, ACT UP/LA operated a public office, published a newsletter, had a mailing list of approximately 2,200 names, and met weekly in the city of West Hollywood.”
December 8, 1987
LA County Approves $1.5-million AIDS Hospice & Home Care Program
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ decision to offer AIDS hospice and home care services is met with cheers from the audience, which included dozens of people living with AIDS.
At the recommendation of the LA County Commission on AIDS, the supervisors and the county Department of Health Services took action at its meeting to expedite $1.5-million in funding for local hospice and home care programs.
The AIDS Commission also recommended March 1 deadline for implementing the program, which would provide those needing care with an alternative to hospitalization. At Supervisor Ed Edelman’s recommendation, the Supervisors ordered county staff to investigate Barlow Hospital as a potential location to house a fully integrated AIDS-care facility, according to the LA Times’ coverage of the board meeting.
Meanwhile, cases of AIDS continued to grow at a troubling rate. The LA Times reported that in October 1987, the county reported 192 new cases of AIDS and most were receiving care from hospitals. Because of the lack of alternative care facilities, most deaths in the county due to AIDS-related illnesses were reported to occur in hospitals, away from home and hospices.
December 10, 1987
UK Gay Newspaper Targeted in Arson Attack
The offices of Capital Gay, a London free weekly newspaper serving the LGBT community, are firebombed. No one is ever charged for the crime.
The offices were throught to be targeted, because of the strong stance Capital Gay editors took against Section 28, “the most serious legal attack on our rights since male homosexuality was outlawed more than 100 years ago.”
But aside from their strong editorials opposing Section 28, the editors also sponsored the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and involved itself in events in the wider gay community in London.
Capital Gay was among the first publications to feature a regular column on HIV/AIDS, which was started in 1982 by Julian Meldrum. Meldrum was also the archivist for the Gay Monitoring and Archive Project, which collected evidence of discrimination and police arrests.
Editor and founder Michael Mason would later recall that local police did not appear to undertake a serious investigation of the arson. Local officials were also less than sympathetic.
Elaine Kellett-Bowman, a conservative Member of Parliament, publicly supported the firebombing, saying she was “quite prepared to affirm that it is quite right that there should be an intolerance of evil.”
Capital Gay would resurrect itself following the fire and continue publishing until June 1995, becoming Britain’s longest-running gay newspaper.
December 29, 1987
LGBTQ Political Leader Shelley Andelson Dies
Sheldon “Shelley” Andelson, a leader in the gay community and a fundraiser for politicians such as Senator Edward Kennedy and presidential candidate Walter Mondale, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 56.
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.
“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.
In San Francisco, LGBTQ activists were particularly ready to join the ACT UP network. A group had formed to recruit activists (via the “AIDS Action Pledge”) to engage in civil disobedience if the LaRouche initiative passed. To put the pledge into action, an affinity group called Citizens for Medical Justice (CMJ) was created.
After California voters shut down LaRouche’s Proposition 64, which mandated at all “carriers” of the AIDS virus to be reported to public health officials, the CMJ renamed itself ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and joined ACT NOW (the AIDS Coalition to Network, Organize and Win).
Almost immediately after establishing itself as an ACT UP chapter, the San Francisco activists shut down the west coasts office of Burroughs-Wellcome in Burlingame. Police arrested 19 members in that action.
In February, the group organized a demonstration outside the San Francisco hearings of the findings of the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic. Formed the previous year under President Ronald Reagan, the commission was widely regarded as conservative-leaning, unqualified, and out of touch. Commissioners included Cardinal John O’Connor; John J. Creedon, the CEO of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Penny Pullen, a state legislator who would go on to found the anti-gay group Illinois Family Institute; and Dr. Theresa L. Crenshaw, an opponent of condoms as an HIV-prevention method.
In March 1988, ACT UP/San Francisco protested Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) for their AIDS and lesbian/gay exclusionary policies.
In October, they organized a protest of AIDS-phobic episode of NBC’S television series Midnight Caller. They also joined activists from around the country to shut down the main headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In December, when the Midnight Caller episode runs, the chapter organizes a protest at San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON, where 20 activists were arrested. They also staged a sit-in at San Francisco General Hospital to protest the hospital’s refusal to treat patients with Foscarnet, a drug caught in FDA red tape.
ACT UP/San Francisco would remain active into the mid-1990s.
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.
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 12, 1988
First AIDS Drug Released under New FDA Rules
Trimetrexate becomes the first AIDS drug given pre-approval distribution status under new FDA regulations.
Trimetrexate was used to treat pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in AIDS patients who could not tolerate standard treatments.
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.
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 19, 1988
Michael Cappara, Founder of City Centre Ballet, Dies
Michael Cappara — a dancer, choreographer and teacher — dies of AIDS-related illness in San Diego at the age of 39.
Cappara brought serious dance credentials to San Diego in the 1970s by founding a local chapter of the National Ballet Academy and then the City Centre Ballet Company. At both companies, he performed, choreographed and taught.
Starting dance at the age of five, Cappara won scholarships early on to study at the nation’s top dance schools, including the American Ballet Theatre School in New York City and the National Ballet of Washington, DC.
His career took him across the U.S. and to Europe, Canada and Mexico. Prior to moving to San Diego to found his own dance company, he danced with the Oakland Ballet Company and the San Francisco Ballet. Women dancers preferred to be partnered with Cappara because of his strength and technique.
Noel Baron, Cappara’s dance partner in San Diego for more than ten years, said, “He was a gift to all dancers in the region,” a man “so giving that he would go to extremes to assist and find opportunities for dancers.”
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.
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 2, 1988
Bay Area Artist Chuck Arnett Dies
Community artist Chuck Arnett dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 60.
Formerly a dancer with the National Ballet in New York, Arnett relocated to San Francisco in the 1960s and established himself as an artist and a central figure in the early leather scene. His murals covering the walls of local leather bars like The Stud and the Tool Box (pictured) inspired observers to compare Arnett to Toulouse-Lautrec.
Arnett’s interior murals at the Tool Box were the establishment’s best-known calling card. According to the LGBT Historical Society in San Francisco, one set of Arnett’s murals were located along the south-facing, Harrison Street walls, and two additional mural panels were painted on the glass storefront windows on the west-facing, 4th Street walls.
The Harrison Street murals became internationally known in June 1964 when photographs of the interior of the Tool Box were featured in Life Magazine in a feature article entitled “Homosexuality in America.” The article described San Francisco as “The Gay Capital of America” and inspired many gay leathermen to move there, according to the Leather History Timeline.
Unfortunately, Arnett’s Tool Box artwork was on display for only a brief time. The Tool Box closed in 1971 and the building (along with the Harrison Street murals) was torn down in 1975. The panel that is pictured here was painted on wood and was able to be removed prior to the destruction of the building. A San Francisco couple purchased the panel at a garage sale in the 1990s, and it was donated to the GLBT Historical Society in 2021.
The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley consists of works of art along Ringold Alley honoring leather culture. One of the works of art is a black granite stone etched with a narrative by Gayle Rubin and a reproduction of Arnett’s Tool Box mural. Another of the works of art is bronze bootprints along the curb which honor Arnett and 27 other icons of the leather community.
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.
Ron Woodroof Founds Dallas Buyers Club
Ron Woodroof founds what would become known as the Dallas Buyers Club and begins distributing AIDS medication through an illegal underground network.
Woodroof’s Dallas Buyers Club was among the first of several AIDS buyers clubs that sprang up in the U.S. at a time when effective HIV treatment was not available, according to Biography / A&E Television network.
AZT was the only drug on the U.S. market to treat the disease, and accounts vary as to whether Woodroof was unable to take AZT due to the debilitating side effects or that he was denied AZT because “he was too far gone.”
Diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 and given just weeks to live, Woodroof researched various medicines being used in different parts of the world to counteract AIDS’ effects, spending hours in libraries researching experimental and other drugs.
“I am my own physician,” he was known to say.
Woodroof determined that he would have the best chance of survival if he treated himself with a combination of dextran sulfate, Procaine PVP and other medications — antivirals that were available in other countries but not in the U.S. That didn’t stop him from acquiring these medications and using them.
Woodroof, who made his living as an electrician, found that he could legally purchase many of the medications he wanted just over the Texas border in Mexico. When other AIDS patients came looking for these same medications, Woodroof’s doctor and a fellow patient sent them to Woodroof for help, and the Dallas Buyers Club was born.
He began buying large quantities of the AIDS medications and distributed them out of his Oak Lawn, Texas apartment. Within months, his club became a huge network of buyers and sellers, all of whom attempted to fly under the radar of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Woodroof’s club served not only local people with AIDS but people around the world who learned about the medications the Texan was making available.
Woodroof’s story would become the basis for the 2013 film The Dallas Buyers Club, and actor Matthew McConaughey would play Woodroof and win Best Actor honors at both the 2014 Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
To prepare for his role, McConaughy listened to audio tapes of interviews with Woodroof and read Woodroof’s diaries provided by the family.
“At the beginning of this journey he’s a two-bit cowboy, and by the end of it, he’s a damn scientist,” said McConaughy upon the release of the film. “He did have an engineering mind, which he’d put to good use to make something of a living as an electrician … Once he grasped that he had HIV, he gains purpose, he had this one clear thing to do — stay alive. Everything else followed from that.”
In spite of crackdowns by the FDA and other federal regulators, the Dallas Buyers Club would flourish. Woodroof would charge club participants a fee for membership and sell the medications to them at cost. Unable to continue work as an electrician, he embraced the Buyers Club as his full-time job.
“The FDA largely turned a blind eye when it came to the Dallas Buyers Club’s operations, but there were times when it had no choice but to intervene in the importation of illegal drugs,” writes Bogar Alonso for Biography. “One drug in particular was blocked by the FDA upon delivery, though Woodroof had come to rely on it for his health. Though he wasn’t allowed to sell it on the market, the FDA would eventually let Woodroof keep his own personal stash.”
Woodroof would die of AIDS-related illness on September 12, 1992.
“His fight brought added awareness to the disease, and the awareness in turn helped countless victims find Woodroof and attain a level of help otherwise unavailable,” states Biography.
Gay Activist Group — GUTS — Shames Dallas City Council
Members of the Gay Urban Truth Squad (GUTS) take over an empty lot and transform it into a “potters field” to put a spotlight on the Dallas City Council’s inadequate funding of HIV/AIDS programs.
Thirty-five activists from GUTS, an offshoot of the Dallas Gay Alliance, brought to the abandoned construction site about 500 hand-painted white crosses bearing the names of Dallas County residents who had succumbed to AIDS and hammered them into the dirt in the early hours of the morning.
Led by activists William Waybourn, Bill Hunt, Bill Nelson and John Thomas, GUTS was known for staging protests to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in such a way that “streets were never blocked, no one was arrested,” wrote Kimberly Goad for D magazine in 1996.
The spectacle they created at the intersection of Lemmon and Cole avenues in Dallas remained in place for weeks, drawing attention to the issue of HIV/AIDS funding, and the lack of it, in the city, according to the Dallas Observer,
The lot had been abandoned by a developer that had already dug a large hole into the property, according to former GUTS member Bill Monroe, and it was receiving media attention as a notorious eyesore in the community. Responding to the unwanted community attention, the Dallas City Council voted to allocate $500,000 to fill the hole.
GUTS was appalled that the City Council could throw this kind of money at an empty lot when, earlier the same year, the council members designated just $55,000 toward AIDS programs at a time when local residents were sick and dying of AIDS.
So, once the hole was filled and started growing grass again, GUTS converged on the location to construct a potters field with over 500 white crosses to represent the number of HIV cases in Dallas at the time. Some of the crosses bore the names of people that the activists personally knew.
They also posted two large banners on the site that read “The City of Dallas Spent $500,000 Filling This Hole” and “The City of Dallas Spent $55,000 on AIDS.”
The theatrical demonstration worked. Media swarmed the makeshift potter’s field and it was featured on the evening news.
Waybourn, one of the organizers, told The Dallas Observer that the city was so embarrassed by the demonstration, council members increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs to $552,000 the following year.
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.
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.
Florida Governor Supports Quarantine of HIV-infected People
Florida Governor Bob Martinez voices his support for state legislation that would permit health officials to confine people with AIDS.
Florida Gov. Bob Martinez called for the quarantine of AIDS sufferers who risk infecting others.
“AIDS carriers who refuse to inhibit their contacts, who refuse to stop spreading this fatal disease, should no more be allowed to roam free than criminals armed with a deadly weapon,” Gov. Martinez declared during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. ‘The time has come to quarantine those whose character and conduct are a clear threat to society.’
The legislation pending in the state House and Senate was introduced to provide $1.1 million to the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, which would use the funds to lock up six juveniles and up to 22 adults who tested positive for the virus and were deemed by state officials to “behave in ways likely to spread the disease,” according to United Press International (UPI) reporting.
If passed, the legislation would permit confinement of any person with AIDS whose behavior was considered dangerous to public health.
“What [Gov. Martinez] is doing is sending up a trial balloon for the nation,” AIDS activist Bob Kunst told UPI. “We’ve got to knock it down real fast.”
Kunst added that state legislators should instead award $1.1 million to AIDS service providers and education campaigns.
State Senator William Myers, chair of the Senate Select Committee on AIDS, endorsed the quarantine proposal. A similar but more modest bill was introduced in the House, but it was expected to be quashed by House leaders who opposed the large detention facilities sought by the Social Services Department.
Representative Lois Frankel, chair of the House Select Committee, told UPI, ‘That’s not how we’re going to stop the spread of AIDS. We know that education of high risk groups, education in the schools — that’s how we’re going to stop the spread of AIDS.”
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.
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 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.
Nationally known flamenco dancer Cruz Luna dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.
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 died at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.
New Study: Human Saliva Prevents Spread of AIDS Virus
A new study suggests that human saliva contains substances that prevent the AIDS virus from infecting white blood cells.
In the study, published in the May issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association and reported widely in the media, the researchers tested saliva from three healthy men aged 35, 40 and 42. Researchers determined that the subjects were not infected by HIV and they were not known to be at high risk of infection.
The researchers said the finding might help explain why no cases have been documented in which the AIDS virus was transmitted from person to person through saliva.
The research was led by Philip Fox, M.D., who cautioned that the study results do not eliminate the possibility of HIV infection from oral sex or deep kissing. Dr. Fox explained that the virus could enter the bloodstream through cuts in the mucous membranes that line the mouth or it might be able to infect cells on the surface of mucous membranes.
UT researchers Samuel Baron, Joyce Poast and Miles W. Cloyd sought to confirm the results of Fox’s 1988 study and subsequent studies that showed that proteins in saliva seem to neutralize or disable the AIDS virus, Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the UT study would indicate that saliva inactivates more than 90% of the HIV-infected blood cells by breaking the virus apart into non-infectious components.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
May 31, 1988
Society of Janus Editor Mark Joplin Dies
Markalan “Mark” Joplin, a well-loved figure in San Francisco’s SM community, dies of AIDS-related illness at Fairmont Hospital at the age of 32.
Joplin was co-coordinator of the newsletter published by the Society of Janus, and also served as an editor. He was also the drummer for the San Francisco Precision Whip Drill Team in the 1987 Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade.
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.
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
Gay Vietnam Veteran Leonard Matlovich Dies
Leonard “Mat” Matlovich — an activist who famously said “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one” — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.
Matlovich was featured on the cover Time magazine in September 1975, under the headline “I Am a Homosexual.” He was wearing his Air Force service uniform, with his nameplate attached on one side and his medals on the other.
Matlovich challenged the military ban on gay service members by coming out in a letter to his commanding officer and simultaneously in an interview with Time magazine. The Air Force responded by issuing Matlovich a general discharge. He decided to fight it and got it changed to an honorable discharge. He then tried to get the Air Force to take him back, but was unsuccessful.
“He … was the epitome of a perfect soldier, one of those people that stuck his neck out, and he was proud to be the person to challenge that law,” said Jeff Dupre, a longtime friend of Matlovich who spoke with NPR in 2015.
Matlovich, who followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the Air Force, served three tours of duty in Vietnam, where he received a Bronze Star for heroism under fire, and a Purple Heart for being seriously wounded in a land mine explosion, according to The Legacy Project.
He went on to teach Air Force “race relations” courses, where he realized that prejudice and discrimination against gays were similar to that against Black people. He reached out to Frank Kameny, an Army veteran who co-founded a chapter of the Mattachine Society in Washington DC. Kameny was intent on challenging institutions whose policies forced people to remain closeted, and he was looking for a test case to challenge the military ban on homosexuals. Matlovich stepped forward.
Kameny worked with Matlovich to orchestrate the latter’s public coming out — simultaneously to the Air Force and the readers of Time magazine. Matlovich’s discharge in 1975 was followed by a five-year legal battle and eventually an order from the U.S. District Court to reinstate him. The court, however, declined to give a ruling on the ban itself.
Convinced that the Air Force would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service, Matlovich accepted the Air Force’s offer of a financial settlement and devoted the remainder of his life to championing the fight against anti-gay discrimination.
In the late 1970s, Matlovich spoke out against Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade in Florida and California Proposition 6, which sought to ban gay and lesbian teachers from public schools. In 1978, Matlovich’s story was made into a film titled Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force.
On May 19, 1987, Matlovich appeared on Good Morning Americaand disclosed that he had contracted the AIDS virus. He delivered his final public speech on May 7, 1988 in front of the California State Capitol during the March on Sacramento for Gay and Lesbian Rights. He died just weeks later.
Andrew Meltzer, resident conductor with the San Francisco Opera, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.
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.
U.S. Launches Study on Transmission in Women & Infants
An epidemiologic study of HIV transmission during pregnancy and birth is launched by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The Women and Infants Transmission Study (WITS) captured data on the natural history of HIV infection in pregnant women and their infants. The study followed the women with their infants through the infants’ first few years of life.
Conducted at obstetric/gynecologic and pediatric clinics in Boston, Chicago, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Houston, and San Juan, the first phase of the study captured data from 788 HIV-infected pregnant women and 657 infants born to them.
Of the women studied in the initial phase of the trial, 82% were women of color, which was intentionally representative of infected women in the U.S. The researchers found they needed to be resourceful in finding ways to retain participants, because many in the cohort had low incomes and histories of substance abuse.
In 1993, WITS would receive another $5 million in funding and expand to include participants from additional cities. Over the years, data collected from WITS would become intrumental in determining treatment and transmission prevention strategy for women and infants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 comedyMy 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.”
“Tommy was a macho Guido trapped inside a flaming Queen, and he played both roles to the hilt,” wrote friend Dolores DeLuce in RDF magazine. “I met Tommy at Purple Heart Thrift Store on Mission Street, where I noticed him in the mirror trying on a glitter halter over his clothes and flipping his long, dark hair like a girl in the shampoo commercial.”
Pace and DeLuce grew close as they performed together in theatrical events in the late 1970s. After DeLuce moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, their friendship continued over long-distance phone calls.
In 1988, she returned to San Francisco to see Pace when she heard from mutual friends that he was dying of AIDS.
“He refused his morphine drip so he could fully take in these last moments,” DeLuce wrote of her reunion with Pace. “We both knew this was the end for him, but we never spoke of it. Instead, we talked about the glorious days of shows, drag and juicy dish.”
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.
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.
August 5, 1988
Colin Higgins — ‘Harold & Maude’ Screenwriter — Dies
Colin Higgins — acclaimed screenwriter, director, and producer of films such as Harold and Maude and 9 to 5 — dies of AIDS-related illness at his Beverly Hills home. He was 47.
Best known for writing the screenplay for the 1971 cult movie Harold and Maude and for directing the films Foul Play (1978) and 9 to 5 (1980), Higgins’ last project was co-writing and co-producing with Shirley MacLaine a 1986 television mini-series based on her book, Out on a Limb.
Born on the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia, Colin Higgins lived in Australia until his family migrated to California. He attended Stanford University on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue acting in New York, according to The Legacy Project in Chicago. From there, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked overseas for the newspaper Stars and Stripes. Returning to the U.S. in 1965, he re-entered Stanford, where he wrote a rough treatment for the story of Harold and Maude as part of his Master’s thesis.
Harold and Maude was the story of an unlikely romance between a suicidal teenager, played by Bud Cort, and an eccentric 80-year-old woman, portrayed by Ruth Gordon. The film drew scant attention when it was released in 1971, but went on to become a revival-house and college campus classic.
Higgins, who was openly gay, wrote the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter (1972), followed by a stage version of Harold and Maude, which ran in Paris for seven years. His Hollywood breakthrough occured with his screenplay for the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder movie Silver Streak (1976). Higgins followed this by writing and directing Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in Foul Play (1978) and then Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin in the smash hit 9 to 5 (1980). In 1982, he directed the film version of the stage musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton.
Following his diagnosis with HIV in 1985, Higgins founded the Colin Higgins Foundation to provide support for LGBT youth. The foundation supports numerous LGBTQ organizations, ranging from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender outreach and AIDS prevention programs.
Since 1988, the Foundation has awarded over 660 grants totaling over $5.8 million dollars to further the humanitarian vision of its founder, Colin Higgins.
At the time, researchers and the medical community were hopeful that a vaccine would be quickly developed and rolled out to the general public. But in spite of the optimism expressed by many, Dr. Anthony Fauci published a Public Health Report that warned that developing a HIV vaccine would be difficult. Dr. Fauci listed the following as issues that complicate the development of an effective AIDS vaccine:
– the lack of “an appropriate animal model for AIDS,”
– the absence of a defined protective immune response in persons infected with HIV,
– the long latent period between initial infection and the development of symptoms,
– the existence of multiple strains of HIV, and
– the spread of HIV by way of cell-associated virus.
“When HIV was discovered and established as the cause of AIDS in 1983–1984, many people believed that a vaccine would be easily developed and rapidly deployed. After all, vaccinologists had been very successful in developing vaccines for a whole range of viral diseases,” José Esparza of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wrote in 2013. “However, the paradigm that allowed the development of most existing viral vaccines, which is based on the recreation of the protective immunity that develops after natural infection, does not work in the case of HIV.”
Still today, scientists continue their quest to develop a vaccine. Extensive studies are underway to determine how HIV is able to avoid the immune responses spurred by vaccines. In an article for the Association of American Medical Colleges, David Diemert, M.D. explained the challenge.
“From the very second HIV infects a person, it starts to escape from the immune response,” said Dr. Diemert, clinical director of vaccine research at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
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 .
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 Christian, Where the Buffalo Roam and Tattoo and the television series’ Mission Impossible, Quincy, M.E. and Barney Miller.
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.
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.
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.”
September 3, 1988
“Hooray for Hollywood’ Benefit on Fire Island Supports God’s Love We Deliver
Gloria DeMann and her husband Larry host an extravagant benefit at their bayfront home on Fire Island to raise money for the AIDS service provider God’s Love We Deliver.
The event, titled “Hooray for Hollywood, was one of the most famous benefits in Pines history at one of the most historic party houses on Fire Island, according to the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society. Showman Peter Allen and comedian Joan Rivers performed, as well as Chippendale Dancers and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
Gloria DeMann, owner of the Manhattan restaurant Café Pacifico, often opened the doors of her home for big parties, and she went all-out for this one. Proceeds for the benefit went to God’s Love We Deliver, a three-year-old organization that provided free, nutrious meals for people with AIDS.
Stone, who was told by a minister that “you’re not just delivering food, You’re delivering God’s love,” would lead her organization of a handful of volunteers into a world-class service provider with a budget of $23 million. In 2021, the year Stone died at the age of 79, God’s Love would distribute 2.5 million meals to 10,000 people homebound in the New York metropolitan area.
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.
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.
“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 14, 1988
Poll: Sympathy for PWAs, But Not if Gay or IV Drug Users
The New York Times publishes the results of a poll that suggests that people are sympathetic toward people with AIDS — but not if they are sexually active gay men or use IV drugs.
Of the 1,600 respondents interviewed by NYT/CBS, 75% stated they had ”a lot” or ”some” sympathy for people who have AIDS and 19% said they had ”not much” or ”no” sympathy. (The poll had a margin of sampling error of +/- 3%.)
The level of sympathy declined dramatically, however, when the two groups at highest risk of exposure to the disease were mentioned: 36% with “a lot” or “some” sympathy for “people who get AIDS from homosexual activity,” and 26% for ”people who get AIDS from sharing needles while using illegal drugs.”
NYT reporter Michael R. Kagay wrote: “The most recent poll made it clear that public attitudes toward these high-risk groups are linked to support or opposition to steps that might help to slow the spread of AIDS.”
Kagay then presented the example of the belief of 52% of those interviewed that drug addiction was “more an illness,” compared with 34% who believed that addiction was “more a crime.”
“These views about the nature of drug addiction appeared to influence how respondents reacted to a proposal to give free sterilized needles to intravenous drug users as a public health measure,” Kagay wrote.
The respondents viewing addiction as an illness were more likely to favor free distribution of sterilized needles to drug users, with 52% of these respondents supporting this as a way to slow the spread of AIDS. Only 26% of those who viewed addiction as a crime supported the proposal.
For Black Activist Robert Arrington, Life Begins with HIV Diagnosis
After being diagnosed at the age of 28 with HIV, Robert Arrington returns to his hometown of Durham, North Carolina to live out the rest of his days close to family. But instead of dying young, he finds himself embarking on a new path of activism and spiritual leadership.
Arrington traveled around North America to speak at AIDS conferences and, along the way, decided to somehow — as an openly gay man with HIV — become a minister in the Baptist Church.
Born in February 1960 in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, Arrington grew up as one of three siblings with a strict father and a religious mother, according to a 2021 interview Arrington gave with Outwords. As a child, Arrington was a child with special needs. He was prescribed glasses when still an infant and was required to wear special medical shoes.
Arrington told Outwords that he remembered his grandfather called him “twisted.” In elementary school, he was misdiagnosed with “mental retardation” and placed in special education classes. He realized he was gay when he was six years old. At eight, Robert found sanctuary in his family’s church, a place that he said saved him from suicidal thoughts.
When Arrington was 14, his father was killed and his family left New York to stay with his maternal grandparents’ home in North Carolina. During those years, he felt invisible and unmoored, he told Outwords.
He eventually found his way to the care of his Aunt Shirley, who often took in the family’s rejected children. With her encouragement and nurturing, Arrington graduated from high school and enrolled in college. His goal was to enter the ministry, and a cousin advised him to get married to demonstrate that the “gay demon was no longer inside him.” So he married a woman, and when the marriage failed, he spiraled into alcoholism. According to Arrington, it was likely during this difficult time in his life, when he regularly engaged in reckless and self-destructive behavior, that he contracted HIV.
In the fall of 1988, he suffered a near-fatal bout with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. His doctor informed him that he had HIV and a life expectancy of five years.
Arrington returned to North Carolina, expecting his health to quickly deteriorate. But when he recovered from his respiratory illness and began to feel healthy, he started traveling to HIV/AIDS conferences in the U.S. and Canada for a series of speaking engagements.
He realized he still wanted to be a minister, and began a six-year battle to become an ordained pastor at his family’s conservative Baptist church. Unfortunately, church leaders refused to fully accept him and would only ordain him as a “non-practicing homosexual.”
So he found a church that would accept him as he was. In 2003, he became ordained in the LGBTQ-affirming Unity Fellowship Church (UFC) Movement.
With the help of his aunt, Pastor Arrington founded an HIV care team at his family’s Baptist church. In his 40s, he returned to college and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina. When he was 49, Pastor Arrington was commissioned by the UFC Archbishop to open the first UFC church in South Carolina – the Unity Fellowship Church of Charleston.
In the first few years of leading the new church, Pastor Arrington held memorials for two young men who lost their lives to AIDS-related illness, both tested too late for medical treatment to prolong their lives.
In 2014, Pastor Arrington told The Post and Courierthat he would always be available to offer a shoulder, a prayer, and an empathetic ear to other Black people struggling with their sexuality and HIV infection.
His church holds HIV testing days, but the turnout can be thin, because people fear being seen at them.
“They’ve been so hurt by the churches here,” he told The Post and Courier. “You have pastors preaching that they are going to hell or that this is a punishment from God.”
Pastor Arrington said that he and his church is different. Instead of judgment, he offers acceptance and help.
In 2021, Pastor Arrington said, “I got health problems, but I’m determined to do this until my Big Boss takes me out of this body and I return back to spirit, which I came from.”
In a recent Facebook post, Pastor Arrington wrote:
“I want to remind somebody. You are a Survivor. Let that sink in today. Just remember the last battle or war that you survive. The sickness you survive. As the things that people took you through. And you survived it. Now pat yourself on your back … and remember you are a SURVIVOR. We are ready for whatever comes, because we are a SURVIVOR.
Baby I know I Am a SURVIVOR”
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.
The AIA funds projects to support moving the children into foster care or other more traditional living arrangements.
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.
Choreographer to the Stars Howard ‘Howie’ Jeffrey Dies
Dancer and choreographer Howard Jeffrey, who worked with Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 53.
Known as “Howie” to close friends, Jeffrey danced with American Ballet Theatre and the Ballet Alicia Alonso before assisting Jerome Robbins on the stage and film versions of West Side Story in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Elisa Rolle in LiveJournal.
Jeffrey was the choreographer for Broadway’s Georgy Girl (1970) and the films On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), according to The New York Times.
He was an associate film producer for The Turning Point, The Seven Percent Solution, and Nijinsky. and went on to produce other films and television programs, according to the Los Angeles Times. He produced two of Bette Midler’s films, Divine Madness and Jinxed, and Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not to Be, according to AP News Service.
Jeffrey was also a much-sought-after dance coach, assisting Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), and Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968) and Funny Lady (1975).
Jeffrey was born in Philadelphia, and at the age of 7, moved with his family to Los Angeles, where his mother encouraged him get involved in the entertainment industry. Jeffrey’s first childhood jobs were acting on radio and stage plays. When he was 13, he performed at a dance competition and won a scholarship to Eugene Loring’s American Academy of Dance.
His professional debut was with Alicia Alonzo’s Ballet Theater, touring Europe and South America starting at the age of 18. In the mid 1950s, he moved to New York and danced on and off Broadway.
As a young man, Jeffrey became a close friend of fellow dancer Nora Kaye and eventually Kaye’s husband, who was director-producer Herbert Ross. Jeffrey subsequently assisted Ross in several of his films.
Mart Crowley’s play Boys in the Band was reportedly based on Jeffrey’s birthday party. Two characters are modeled after Jeffery and his roommate Garrett Lewis.
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.
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
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.
Black Randy’s lyrics gave him a reputation for being as witty as he was offensive with songs about porn, actor Marlon Brando, and Ugandan President Idi Amin. The band was known for its theatrical performances and frequent vocal assistance from various “Blackettes” like Belinda Carlisle, Alice Bag, and Exene Cervenka.
The band released a selection of its vinyl singles and cassette tapes on the 1979 album Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie. In 1981, Black Randy and the Metrosquad appeared in Lou Adler’s satirical punk rock film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, performing their song, “I Slept in an Arcade.”
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 19, 1988
Texas Judge Lightens Sentence of Homophobic Killer
After two gay men are murdered in Reverchon Park in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, a Texas judge rejects the recommended life sentence for one of the killers, instead imposing the more lenient sentence of 30 years in prison.
In a demonstration of the bigotry and homophobia faced by gay men in America, Judge Jack Hampton of State District Court told The Dallas Times Herald that he gave an 18-year-old murderer a more lenient sentence than prosecutors had sought because the two victims were gay and, the judge said, they would not have been killed ”if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teenage boys.”
Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, were driving through the Oak Lawn section of Dallas on a night in May 1988 when they were distracted by a group of young men shouting at them from the street corner. Not realizing that the group, which included students from North Mesquite High School, had come to the neighborhood to ”pester the homosexuals,” Trimble and Griffin invited the young men into their car.
Witnesses testifed that 18-year-old Richard Lee Bednarski and a friend entered the car with the intent of assaulting them. After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Bednarski ordered Trimble and Griffin to remove their clothes and, when they refused, Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing at them. Trimble died immediately, and Griffin died five days later.
A jury found Bednarski guilty of the double homicide. Since Texas law allowed the defendant to choose whether the judge or the jury set the penalty, Bednarski chose the judge at the advice of his lawyer, who said he thought the judge would be more sympathetic.
Judge Hampton said that in determining the sentence, he considered that the guilty party had no criminal record, was attending college and was “reared in a good home by a father who is a police officer.”
In explaining the Nov. 19 sentence to The Times Herald, Judge Hampton said, ”I don’t care much for queers cruising the streets. I’ve got a teenage boy.”
November 22, 1988
FDA Approves Intron A and Roferon A for Treatment of KS
The Food and Drug Administration approves the first drug specifically developed for treating Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a leading complication of AIDS.
The FDA reported that up to 45% of KS patients receiving large doses of alpha interferon ”responded with a significant reduction in the size of their tumors.” Dr. Kathryn C. Zoon, an F.D.A. official, said that alpha interferon works best in people in the early stages of the disease.
The FDA based its approval on studies involving about 500 patients with KS. Alpha interferon joined AZT and pentamidine as the only drugs approved in the U.S. for the treatment of AIDS or its related conditions. Previous treatments for KS were radiation and other cancer drugs.
Alpha interferon was manufactured as Intron-A by the Schering Corporation of Kenilworth, New Jersey, and as Roferon by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. of Nutley, New Jersey.
November 25, 1988
CDC Study: One of Every 500 College Students Infected with HIV
One out of every 500 college students are infected with HIV, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of its series of HIV surveys and studies, the CDC collaborated with the American College Health Association to assess HIV infection in college students. For the first 12,000 students tested, a seroprevalence of HIV of 0.2% was found. The majority of seropositive specimens came from male students.
The tests were conducted anonymously on blood specimens drawn from students at student clinics. The initial results came from student specimens from 17 of 19 participating campuses. The researchers stated that the survey did not include a random sampling of all college students, just students who had blood drawn at their campus health center.
The researchers conclude that “these results demonstrate that HIV infection and the potential for its transmission are present on many college campuses.” They interpret the data to mean that older students and men are at greatest risk in this population.
The colleges participating in the study were:
Central Missouri State University
Mississippi State University
San Diego State University
Southern Illinois University
University of California – Berkeley
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut – Storrs
University of Georgia
University of Kansas
University of Maryland – Baltimore County
University of Maryland – College Park
University of Massachusetts – Amherst
University of New Hampshire
University of Southern California
University of Texas – Austin
University of Washington
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.
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 theElizabeth 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.
November 28, 1988
FDA Approves Ganciclovir for Treatment of Cytomegalovirus Retinitis
The Food and Drug Administration approves ganciclovir, a still-experimental medication for the treatment of cytomegalovirus retinitis in AIDS patients.
Issued under the FDA’s treatment investigational drug protocol, the approval allowed for ganciclovir (GCV) to be issued in a clinical setting, with precautions similar to chemotherapy treatment. Manufactured by Roche Laboratories under the brand name Cytovene, the drug was administered to a patient by intravenous infusion over one hour, a time designed to reduce its toxicity.
The U.S. announces a new program which would engage city doctors, group practices and private clinics in federal AIDS research.
Under the coordination of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the program would issue contracts to doctors for the treatment and data collection regarding thousands of AIDS patients, health officials said. The program has received a $6 million budget for its first year.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of NIAID, told the New York Times that the program’s aim was to expand federal research opportunities to doctors and patients who were not affiliated with existing clinical trials. Dr. Fauci said the program was seeking to involve more Black and Hispanic people, as well as intravenous drug users and sex workers.
In the program, patients using potentially effective but unapproved therapies would be monitored. The opportunity for patients to receive access to experimental drugs in community settings would be another component of the program, according to health officials.
December 1, 1988
World AIDS Day is Observed for 1st Time
December 1st is designated by the World Health Organization as “World AIDS Day.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
December 16, 1988
Gay Rights Leader to Texas Judge: ‘We Will Remember’
William Waybourn, president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, tells the Los Angeles Times that outraged voters will be sure to remember on Election Day the judge who lightened the sentence of a murderer because his two victims were gay.
Waybourn said he hopes the light sentence imposed by Texas State District Judge Jack Hampton will prompt the public to vote against him when he comes up for reelection in two years.
“Judge Hampton said it himself: No one will remember this in 1990. But we will remember,” Waybourn told the LA Times. “I’m sorry for the families of the men who were killed. They don’t deserve this. And Hampton doesn’t deserve to be a judge.”
Richard Lee Bednarski was given a 30-year sentence rather than life in prison for the murder of Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, in a Dallas park in May 1988.
Hampton, a district court judge for eight years, said the sexual identities of Trimble and Griffin influenced his decision on Nov. 28, 1988 to give Bednarski a lighter sentence.
“These two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teen-age boys,” Hampton told the Dallas Times Herald.
Hampton expressed no reservations about his statements, the newspaper reported.
“Just spell my name right,” Hampton said. “If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget it by 1990.”
Robert Flowers, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, declined to comment to the LA Times on Hampton’s statements and said the 11-member commission would investigate if a complaint were filed.
“A judge’s discretion is his or her own,” Flowers said. “And generally, we haven’t had too many occasions where the judge has spoken about what his thought process has been (in sentencing).”
Hampton would be voted out of office, but not until 1992. Waybourn of the Dallas Gay Alliance would move in 1991 to Washington, D.C. to start the Victory Fund, a very influential national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people to all levels of government.
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.”
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).
Max Robinson, the first Black network news anchor in the U.S., and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, dies of AIDS-related illness at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 49.
In July 1978, Robinson rose to national prominence when he became a co-anchor of World News Tonight on the ABC television network. The program had three anchors: Frank Reynolds in Washington, Peter Jennings in London and Robinson in Chicago.
In the early 1970s, Robinson was a co-anchor for the ABC news affililate in Washington, WTOP (now WUSA).
According to The New York Times, Robinson often spoke on issues of concern to him as a Black journalist. Speaking at Smith College in 1981, he told students that the news media were “a crooked mirror” through which “white America views itself,” and that “only by talking about racism, by taking a professional risk, will I take myself out of the mean, racist trap all Black Americans find themselves in.”
“During his battle with the disease, Mr. Robinson expressed the desire that his death be the occasion for emphasizing the importance, particularly to the Black community, of education about AIDS and methods for its prevention,” Wilkins said. “More generally, he hoped that people would recognize the urgency of developing effective treatments of the disease and more humane policies towards its victim.”
John Jacob, an acquaintance of Robinson’s and co-chair of the citizens committee on AIDS of New York City and Northern New Jersey, told the Los Angeles Times: “For a long time this disease was seen as a disease of gays. Clearly, there was not the kind of attention given to it that we (Blacks) need to give it. Clearly, drug use is the major factor causing the disease in Black America.”
Jacob said he didn’t know how Robinson was infected with the AIDS virus, and told the LA Times reporter that he should be more focused on raising awareness about the disease.
“I think the one thing we do know is that if you get it, your sentence is death,” Jacob said. “We have to attack this disease whatever the causes are.”
Dr. Beny J. Primm, a member of the President’s AIDS commission and a longtime friend of Robinson’s, also refused to discuss with the LA Times the circumstances under which Robinson got AIDS.
“What’s important,” Dr. Primm said, “is that Max Robinson died of a disease that certainly could have been prevented had certain precautions been taken. I hope he has not died in vain.”
The first AIDS hospice in California opens in Elysian Park in Los Angeles, down the street from Dodger Stadium.
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.
December 27, 1988
Activist-Author Joseph Beam Dies
Joseph Beam — best known for editing In the Life, the first collection of writings by gay Black men — dies of AIDS-related illness three days before his 34th birthday.
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 the LGBT bookstore Giovanni’s Room. 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 continued 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.
When Beam died, he was in the process of compiling the sequel, “Brother to Brother.” His mother, Dorothy Beam, and poet Essex Hemphill would go on to complete the work and publish it in 1991.
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.
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.
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.
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 11, 1989
56,000 Dead, No Mention of HIV/AIDS in President Reagan’s Farewell Address
In his farewell address to the nation, the president talks about his accomplishments and regrets during his eight years in office. He neglects to mention the AIDS crisis, which has claimed the lives of more than 56,000 people in the U.S.
Speaking from the Oval Office in the White House, President Ronald Reagan focused his farewell speech on the following topics:
In his speech, Reagan took credit for the country’s economic recovery from the 1981-82 recession and for raising the profile of the U.S. on the world stage. With underlying themes of global power, patriotism and “what it means to be an American,” Reagan spoke about many threats and challenges the country faced during his eight years in office. But he neglected to mention one of the biggest threats facing the U.S. population: the AIDS crisis.
From 1981 to 1989, a total of 26,223 people in the U.S. died of AIDS, and 102,706 people were diagnosed with HIV. More than 95% of those diagnosed with AIDS between 1981 and 1987 died. And on this day when Reagan left office, the U.S. was no closer than it was eight years ago to announcing a cure or vaccine.
From the start, the Reagan administration kept the new disease at arm’s length, avoiding any public acknowledgement of it. In the first years of the epidemic, researchers at the CDC referred to the disease in reports and media accounts as “Gay Related Immune Disorder,” or GRID, which caused many — including political operatives in the Reagan administration — to believe that this was an exclusively gay disease.
Some religious leaders used this as an opportunity to condemn homosexual activity and suggest that the disease was punishment. Jerry Falwell, founder of the ultra-conservative Moral Majority, proclaimed AIDS to be “the wrath of God upon homosexuals,” a view that spread into public opinion.
“The sexual revolution has begun to devour its children,” said Catholic columnist Patrick Buchanan, who would work in Reagan’s White House from 1985 to 1987.
Influenced by religious leaders and his own conservative advisors, Reagan decided that AIDS was a moral issue and one that would not impact his supporters — even after the CDC retitled the disease “AIDS” in September 1982 and started reporting on cases in populations outside the gay community.
“If ever there was a disease made for a Surgeon General, it was AIDS,” said Dr. Koop, who served two terms as U.S. Surgeon General under President Reagan.
According to the NIH, President Reagan and his domestic policy advisers held the view that homosexuals and intravenous drug users brought the disease upon themselves by engaging in conduct they deemed immoral. Those afflicted with the disease were, in their view, “in greater need of moral reform than of new health information or policies.”
From 1983 to 1985, Koop was excluded from the Executive Task Force on AIDS established by his immediate superior, Assistant Secretary of Health Edward Brandt. In advance of press conferences, Brandt instructed journalists to not ask Dr. Koop about AIDS and that the Surgeon General would not answer questions about it.
First Lady Nancy Reagan and her son, Ron Reagan Jr. both tried to convince the president to take a more active approach, according to Karen Tumulty, a political columnist for The Washington Post who wrote The Triumph of Nancy Reagan, in 2021.
“We’d start mentioning it, bringing it up as a topic, starting to get it into his head,” Ron Jr. was quoted in Tumulty’s book, which was excerpted in The Atlantic.
The First Lady knew more about the AIDS crisis than her husband, likely because she was kept informed by her son, a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.
“I’m in New York; I’m dancing; I know people who are HIV-positive,” Ron Jr. told Tumulty. “Dancers, fashion designers, people like that. I would talk to her about people, how many people, who these people were. And she began to understand that this is a big deal. This is a crisis. She began to sense that pretending this isn’t happening is not a good way to go.”
In the summer of 1985, the epidemic hit close to home when actor Rock Hudson, a longtime friend of the Reagans, went to France to seek treatment for AIDS-related illnesses.
On July 24, Hudson’s publicist sent a telegram to the Reagans at the White House, asking for their help in getting Hudson admitted to the hôpital d’instruction des armées Percy (“Percy Training Hospital of the Armies”), a military hospital near Paris. The hospital had initially refused to admit Hudson because he was not a French citizen, according to various reports. The White House referred the matter to the U.S. embassy in France.
Months later, on September 17, 1985, President Reagan finally mentioned AIDS publicly when responding to a reporter’s question, calling it a “top priority.” He called for Congress to allocate $120 million in funding for AIDS research, and Congress responded by upping the budget to nearly $190 million.
On October 2, 1985, Hudson died of complications from AIDS at the age of 59. Amid growing calls from the public for Reagan to do more about the disease, the president began asking his White House physician to provide him with information about AIDS, according to Tumulty.
“Some of the president’s more conservative advisers contended that AIDS should be viewed as the consequence of moral decay rather than as a health issue,” Tumulty wrote. “Many of Reagan’s allies on the right were more concerned with identifying and isolating those who had AIDS than treating and caring for them.”
In February 1986, nearly five years after the outbreak of the epidemic, President Reagan finally instructed his Surgeon General to prepare a report on AIDS, according to the NIH tribute to Dr. Koop. During the next several months, Dr. Koop met with numerous groups and experts involved in the fight against AIDS. He sought input from leaders from organizations like the National Hemophilia Foundation and the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, and he also reached out to members of the medical research community, Christian fundamentalists, and hospitalized AIDS patients. He spent a considerable amount of time with Dr. Anthony Fauci, then the leader of AIDS research at the NIH.
Dr. Koop drafted the report in the basement of his home on the NIH campus, with only a handful of trusted staff members as advisers, including Fauci. According to the NIH, Dr. Koop sought to treat AIDS as a public health issue, and not as a moral issue.
Concerned that, if given the chance, Reagan’s domestic policy advisers would remove crucial public health information from the report, such as the advocacy of condom use, Dr. Koop would permit members of the Domestic Policy Council to review drafts of the report and then collect all the copies at the end of the meeting.
On October 22, 1986, Dr. Koop released Surgeon General’s Report on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome at a press conference. In his remarks, he emphasized that since education was the best strategy in preventing AIDS and since AIDS was spread primarily through sex, school children from grade three onward should receive sex education.
Members of Congress, public health organizations, and Parent-Teacher Associations would eventually distribute 20 million copies to the public. In plain language, the 36-page report discussed the nature of AIDS and ways in which people could protect themselves, including use of condoms and abstaining from sex.
Reagan’s conservative supporters expressed their shock and dismay at the explicit language in Dr. Koop’s AIDS report, and above all by Dr. Koop’s advocacy for sex education in elementary schools. They said they were outraged by the lack of moral censure in the report. They tried to appeal to Dr. Koop’s conservative views.
But Dr. Koop held firm. In his many speeches on AIDS in 1987-1988, Dr. Koop continued to dispense health advice. He also denounced discrimination against people living with AIDS, calling for fairness and compassion in the workplace, schools, housing, and insurance policies. He publicly denounced the idea of a quarantine for people living with AIDS, calling it unconstitutional and unnecessary from an epidemiological standpoint.
President Reagan continued to remain in the background, content to let Dr. Koop be the mouthpiece for the administration’s policy on AIDS. But the First Lady wanted Reagan to speak out more forcefully, according to Tumulty’s account in her Nancy Reagan biography.
Nancy Reagan believed that she could make this happen when film legend Elizabeth Taylor, whom Nancy had known for many years, asked if the president would give the keynote address at a fundraising dinner for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). The event was scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. in late May 1987, the night before a large medical conference on AIDS.
At Nancy’s urging, the president accepted the invitation. And then, according to Tumulty, the First Lady recruited Landon Parvin, her favorite speechwriter, to write the keynote speech. But when Parvin tried to arrange a meeting with President Reagan and Dr. Koop to gather their thoughts on the speech, White House staff brought in conservative advisors to weigh in.
At one point, Dr. Koop advised the president to make it clear that AIDS could not be transmitted from swimming pools, telephones, mosquitoes, or food prepared by someone infected with HIV, and he was immediately countered by an advisor who claimed that “the jury is still out.” The meeting continued in this vein.
As the event grew near, conservative forces tried to influence the content of the president’s speech. When asked for his input on the latest draft, Robert Sweet, a senior member of the Domestic Policy Council, crossed out language that said victims of the disease should not be blamed, and wrote in the margin, “Homosexuals and drug users choose their lifestyle — it’s the innocent children, hemophiliacs, and unsuspecting spouses who are the victims.”
On May 31, 1987, President Reagan delivered the keynote address at the amfAR dinner before hundreds of people, some of whom were living with AIDS. His speech was repeatedly interrupted by catcalls and hissing.
In late June 1987, Reagan created the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic. But the 13-member panel nearly collapsed in its first few months because of poor leadership and internal feuding. Packed with conservatives whose views did not conform with mainstream scientific thinking about the disease, the commission also included Frank Lilly, an openly gay geneticist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a board member of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and members of the medical community.
In the final year of Reagan’s presidency, policy and programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS forged slowly ahead as the infection rate grew exponentially.
In May 1988, Dr. Koop sent a condensed version of his AIDS report to every household in the United States. The distribution of 107,000,000 AIDS pamphlets was the largest mailing in American history and, to the horror of many conservatives, it was the first time that the federal government provided explicit sex information to the public.
Around this time, as the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic was preparing to release its report on the federal response to HIV/AIDS, the Reagans met, through a mutual friend, Elizabeth Glaser, the wife of TV star Paul Michael Glaser who had been infected with HIV through a blood transfusion. Glaser, who had not yet disclosed her HIV-positive status to the public, had two children who had also tested positive for HIV.
After Glaser told her story, President Reagan asked her what he should do. According to Tumulty’s account. Glaser said, “I want you to be a leader in the struggle against AIDS, so that my children, and all children, can go to school and continue to live valuable lives; so that no one with AIDS need worry about discrimination. Secondly, you have commissioned a report on the epidemic … I ask you to pay attention to that report.”
Two weeks later, the commission’s report was released. It cited a “distinct lack of leadership” from the federal government and issued 579 recommendations to the president ranging from allocating an annual $3 billion in funding to address the AIDS crisis to issuing human rights protections for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“We criticized the Reagan Administration, suggested attitudes and approaches not comfortable to its leaders, asked for monies that had not been authorized,” wrote Kristine M. Gebbie, who would go on to become President Bill Clinton’s national AIDS policy coordinator in 1993-1994. “It was probably too much to hope that there would be a sudden turn around.”
Despite his assurances to Elizabeth Glaser, President Reagan did not act on the report’s central recommendations.
“Time went by, and nothing happened,” Glaser wrote later. “It was almost unimaginable, but the White House took the report and put it on the shelf. Hope for thousands of Americans and people around the world sat gathering dust in some forgotten corner of some forgotten room.”
When Reagan left office on this day in 1989, he left behind the slashed budgets of public healthcare programs and a public largely bewildered by the nature of AIDS and the ways in which people could protect themselves. In the eight years he was president, a total of 56,223 people died of AIDS-related illness and 102,706 people were infected with HIV.
January 16, 1989
‘Ryan White Story’ Captivates TV Audiences
ABC’s The 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.
The TV drama depicts a young Ryan White (portrayed by Lukas Haas, who was nominated for an Emmy for the role) fighting back after being barred from attending school due to his AIDS diagnosis. Emmy-award-winning actor Judith Light starred as Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White.
Ryan White was featured in a cameo as another hemophiliac with AIDS. White would die of his illness about 15 months later, on April 8, 1990.
With its large viewership during “prime time,” The Ryan White Story was able to make a significant impact on how the public perceived issues around HIV/AIDS.
January 19, 1989
Claude Duvall — Founder of Noh Oratorio Society — Dies
Claude Duvall, a Bay Area patron of the arts who personally commissioned works with local composers and artists, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 47.
A resident of San Francisco since 1973, Duvall founded the Noh Oratorio Society in 1981 to present little-heard musical compositions set to literary works, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
“Unique is the way to describe him,” wrote the Reporter. “No one ever spoke in those tones, dressed as he did, thought along his lines, or carved in the world so special a niche.”
The Noh Oratorio Society flourished in San Francisco during the 1980s, largely due to the dedication and creative direction of Duvall. Not only did he personally commission works for the Society, he served as calligrapher, actor, stage director, and litterateur for various productions. The Society’s wide range of artistic interests was grounded in the importance of the human voice and the use of language.
Among the Society’s productions were Michael McClure’s !The Feast! (1982), Chaucer’s Parlement of Fowles (1987), Edith Sitwell and William Walton’s Façade (1987), and Robert Duncan’s Faust Foutu in 1989. The musical-literary productions were presented in various venues in the Bay Area over the course of 15 years.
In 1987, the Society commissioned a concert of Ladies Voices, an opera set to words by Gertrude Stein with music by Charles Shere. Ladies Voices premeired at the Berkeley Art Center with sopranos Judy Ruth Hubbell and Anna Carol Dudley, and mezzo-soprano Marcia Gronewold.
On behalf of the Society, Duvall also published Noh Quarrter, a short-lived and highly admired literary magazine that promoted poetry, essays, short fiction, and experimental prose that was intended to be read aloud.
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.
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.
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.”