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

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cases of a rare lung infection in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles — the first official reporting of what would become known as the AIDS epidemic.  Two of the men have already died.

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

While this was the first official reporting of the disease, the history of the AIDS epidemic actually reaches back to the early 20th Century, when Simian Immunodeficiency Virus made the jump from chimpanzees to humans in Central Africa.

The new virus began infecting residents in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo some time between 1990 and 1920.  according to History.com/A&E Networks.  More than 60 years later, when HIV tests became available, blood samples from a Congolese man who died in 1959 tested positive for HIV and this was the first confirmed HIV-related death.

But the existence and spread of HIV had gone unreported in the medical community until around 1980, when a handful of doctors serving urban populations in the U.S. started to see unusual symptoms in their patients.

One of these doctors was Michael Gottlieb, a young immunologist at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) who diagnosed a rare lung infection in five young men between 1980-1981.  Dr. Gottlieb arranged for his findings to be disclosed to the medical community in the CDC’s weekly alert, MMWR.

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 the patient’s lung tissue through a non-surgical procedure.  He was astounded by the test results.

The patient tested positive for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a rare lung infection, 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 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 relevant.

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.”

The five Los Angeles men in Dr. Gottlieb’s report were not the only early cases in the U.S.  Starting around 1979, 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.

While sporadic cases of AIDS were documented prior to 1970, available data suggests that the epidemic started in the mid- to late 1970s. Grethe Rask, a Danish physician who worked in the Congo, died of pneumonia on December 12, 1977 after suffering for several years from opportunistic infections.  Ten years after her death, samples of her blood were tested and found to be positive for HIV.

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.

* * * *

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Pneumocystis Pneumonia – Los Angeles,” June 5, 1981

American Journal of Managed Care, “A Q&A With HIV/AIDS Pioneer Dr Michael Gottlieb” by Maggie L. Shaw, June 4, 2021

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts

www.Be In The Know.org, “Origin of HIV and AIDS”

PBS News Hour, “America’s HIV Outbreak Started in This City, 10 Years Before Anyone Noticed” by Nsikan Akpan, October 26, 2016

www.History.com | A&E Television Networks, “AIDS Crisis Timeline”

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

Skyline NYC
June 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 among gay men in New York and California.

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Dr. Friedman-Kien, whose clientele were primarily young men who identified as gay, said he was surprised at the finding that previously healthy men were developing Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), a rare cancer historically associated with elderly men of Eastern European or Mediterranean descent.

KS is also associated with people who have weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Heath (NIH).  The disease often presents as a purple plaque on the skin or internal surface of the mouth.  KS can also manifest on internal organs, such as the lungs and gastrointestinal system.

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.”

Later research would establish that AIDS-related KS is the second most common tumor in HIV patients with CD4 counts less than 200 cells, according to the NIH.  Up to 30% of HIV patients not taking high-activity antiretroviral therapy (HAART) will develop Kaposi sarcoma.

* * * * *

New York magazine, “Fighting AIDS” by Janice Hopkins Tanne, January 12, 1987

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

National Institutes of Health“In Their Own Words … NIH Researchers Recall the Early Years of AIDS”

Frontline | PBS “Interview: Jim Curran,” interviews conducted Jan. 18, 2005 and Feb. 15, 2006

The New England Journal of Medicine, “Epidemiologic Aspects of the Current Outbreak of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections,” January 28, 1982

June 16, 1981
First Person with AIDS Admitted to NIH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

National Cancer Institute, “How Cancer Research Led to AIDS Breakthroughs,”

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.

June 30, 1981
UCSF Researchers Identify Oral Lesion as AIDS Precursor

The husband-and-wife academic team of John and Deborah Greenspan are first to identify hairy leukoplakia, an oral lesion which is a precursor to HIV and AIDS, while conducting research at the University of California San Francisco’s School of Dentistry.

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When Dr. Deborah Greenspan started seeing a white lesion on the tongue of gay men coming to her clinical practice, she consulted with her pathologist husband, who suggested a biopsy to find out what was causing it.  Dr. John Greenspan (1937-2023) identified the oral lesions as a rare form of cancer which impacted the lymphatoid system, and he decided it warranted a closer look.

“I thought this was strange,” he said in 2012 on the occasion of receiving the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research.  “We typically saw it in Africa. But in this country, we only used to see it rarely — for example, in immunosuppressed patients, such as kidney transplant recipients. So, we ended up seeing one of the first AIDS lymphoma patients reported in the world.”

The Greenspans conducted studies that showed the lesions — dubbed “oral hairy leukoplakia” (HL) because of its corrugated or shaggy appearance — failed to respond effectively to the usual treatment of antifungal applications.  In fact, many of their patients already had or soon developed other immune-depressed symptoms associated with AIDS, such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS).

They would publish the first description of HL and the results of their research in a 1984 medical report in The Lancet.  Co-authors of the research article included , , , and , all researchers at UCSF.

The Greenspans would then go on to establish a connection between HL and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in a 1985 report.  By 1987, they would be able to announce that HL and EBV were symptoms associated with AIDS.

They would continue their work at UCSF over the next 30-plus years, leading a series of studies relating to the mouth and HIV/AIDS.  Their work has been instrumental in teaching physicians, nurse practitioners and other clinicians how to identify oral lesions associated with HIV infection.

“The work of Dr. Greenspan and his colleagues has provided guidelines that enable dentists to recognize early oral manifestations of HIV/AIDS and thereby assist with early diagnosis and referral for treatment,” said John Featherstone, dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry.  “This is of particular importance in the global health world.”

Skyline San Francisco
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 (KS) The man would die a short time later.

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

Dr. Volberding remembered his first patient with clarity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

San Francisco Examiner, “Pioneering AIDS Doctor Reflects on First Cases in SF as City Strives to Eradicate Virus,” February 8, 2015

University of California San Francisco, UCSF Profile: Paul Volberding, M.D.

The New York Times, “For Doctors, Years of Grief and Daring,” December 23, 1997

New York magazine, “Fighting AIDS” by Janice Hopkins Tanne, January 12, 1987

Yale Medicine AIDS Care Program, website

Yale University, Yale Profile: Gerald H. Friedland, M.D.

The Body Pro, “HIV ‘Providers’ Aren’t Just Doctors: An Interview with Gerald Friedland, MD” by Stephen Hicks, June 19, 2018

The New York Times, ” Ideas & Trends: The Strain of Caring for the Littlest AIDS Victims” by Jane Gross, August 4, 1985

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

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

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

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Bay Area Reporter, “Health Shorts: ‘Gay Men’s’ Pneumonia,” July 2, 1981

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

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

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The CDC report, titled “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men — New York City and California,” described cases of KS and PCP among 26 gay men (25 white and one black, and ranging in age from 26 to 51).

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

In the last paragraphs of the article, Altman wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men — New York City and California,” July 3, 1981

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

James Curran 2
July 1981
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.

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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.

Upon learning of these first cases, the CDC formed the Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections to begin surveillance and conduct epidemiologic investigations.  Despite budget constraints at the time, about 30 CDC officers and staff were assigned to the Task Force during the summer of 1981.  CDC Director William Foege, appointed epidemiologist James Curran to lead the task force.

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.

* * * * *

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention“AIDS: The Early Years and the CDC’s Response” by James W. Curran, M.D., and Harold W. Jaffe, M.D., October 7, 2011

Global Health Chronicles, “Interview: Jim Curran,” video posted on YouTube on June 7, 2016

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Washington Post, “AIDS: The Glaser Family’s Battle” by Janet Huck, August 28, 1989

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation“Elizabeth’s Story”

The New York Times, “The Youngest Victims of AIDS” by Bettyann Kevles, March 3, 1991

Forbes, “Before Charlie Sheen, They Went Public With HIV” by Barron Lerner, November 17, 2015

Larry Kramer young
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.

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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.

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

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.

Kramer’s crusade would continue for decades.

* * * * *

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France (2017, Vintage Press)

Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture and AIDS by David Román (1998, Indiana University Press)

40 Years Ago: Meeting at Larry Kramer’s House as a Pandemic Began” by Andy Humm, Plus magazine, August 11, 2021

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.

Learn More.

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

News of the article alarms the gay community for its indication that the new disease is spreading and that the outcome of those infected was likely to be a quick and brutal death.

* * * * *

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Follow-Up on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia,” August 28, 1981

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

Fifty leading clinicians gather in Bethesda, Maryland for the first conference to address the new epidemic.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

www.HIV.gov, “A Timeline of HIV and AIDS”

National Institutes of Health, “In Their Own Words: NIH Researchers Recall the Early Years of AIDS | Timeline (1981-1988)”

September 21, 1981
First AIDS Clinic Opens in San Francisco

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.

Learn More.

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

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

On July 1, 1981, Dr. Volberding saw his first patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a rare cancer later linked to AIDS, on his first day working at San Francisco General Hospital.

* * * * *

University of California Libraries, “Marcus A. Conant Papers: 1981-1993”

American College of Physicians, “Dr. Volberding was at the Forefront of the AIDS Epidemic,” December 2017

The New York Times“Constance Wofsy, 53, Doctor Who Directed an AIDS Program,” June 9, 1996

San Francisco Chronicle, “The Good Doctor: He’s been in on the AIDS Battle Since the Beginning,” August 12, 2001

October 28, 1981
‘Patient D’ Dies at NIH Facility

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

National Institutes of Health | National Library of Medicine, “Anti-IL-2 Receptor Monoclonal Antibody (anti-Tac) Treatment of T-cell Lymphoma,” by Thomas Waldmann, M.D., 1994

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

After falling ill in 1979 with unusual conditions related to a suppressed immune system, Ken Horne dies in San Francisco at the age of 38.

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In April 1980, the Centers for Disease Control received a report on Horne, who was diagnosed with the then-rare disease of Kaposi’s sarcoma.  In 1981, the CDC would retroactively identify Horne, who was a gay man, as the first American patient of the AIDS epidemic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

It is now 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.

* * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

www.History.com | A&E Television Networks, “AIDS Crisis Timeline,” June 14, 2021

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

National Park Service, “Robert Rayford”

The Weekly View, “Robert Rayford: America’s First AID S Victim” by Al Hunter, May 8, 2014

University of Copenhagan School of Global Health newsletter, “After Hard Working Days, She Rested by the Beautiful Ebola River,” July 22, 2020

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

Arye Rubenstein
December 1981
Pediatric AIDS Cases Surface in New York City

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

Positively Aware magazine, “The Dawn of AIDS in 1981” by Michael Broder, May 30, 2021

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

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.

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

San Francisco Sentinel, “I Will Survive!” by Bobbi Campbell, R.N.

Newsweek magazine, cover photo of Bobbi Campbell and Bobby Hilliard, August 8, 1983

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc., “Sistory”

Bobbi Campbell Speech, 1984 National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights (YouTube)

CBS News Dan Rather Interview with Bobbi Campbell, June 12, 1982 (YouTube)

December 20, 1981
‘Dreamgirls’ Opens on Broadway

Dreamgirls makes a splashy debut on Broadway with stars Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph, who both begin raising money for AIDS research and other programs after experiencing the loss of some of their cast mates to the disease.

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

* * * * *

The New York Times, “Stage: ‘Dreamgirls,’ Michael Bennett’s New Musical, Opens” by Frank Rich, December 21, 1981

www.RonFassler.org, “The Death and Life of Michael Bennett” by Ron Fassler, July 2, 2018

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

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

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

www.HIV.gov, “A Timeline of HIV/AIDS”

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

Gay Men’s Health Crisis, “History” and “At A Glance”

January 1982
Dancer-Choreographer Antony Valdor Dies

Antony Valdor, a dancer, choreographer and teacher known throughout North America, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.

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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.

Valdor is memorialized in the project Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Kenneth Schnorr
January 1982
Stonewall President Kenneth Schnorr Dies

Kenneth Schnorr, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  He was 35.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

The Liberation of Ivy Bottini by Judith V. Branzburg (Bink Books, 2018)

Watermark“Tribute to ‘Give ’em Hell’ Lesbian Feminist Pioneer Ivy Bottini” by Karen Ocamb, March 3, 2021

Skyline Toronto
February 19, 1982
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.  He was 43 years old.

Learn More.

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.

After a two-day hospital stay, he was sent to Toronto for four weeks of psychiatric treatment.  In December 1981, Kovinsky was diagnosed with thrush, an infection 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.  His friends Phyllis and Jack would also 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.

Learn More.

At the conference, researchers debate whether the opportunistic infections were being caused by one or more transmissible or immune-suppressing agents.

* * * * * *

National Institutes of Health, “Timeline (1981-1988)”

April 8, 1982
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.

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“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.

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

During his address to attendees, Popham 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.

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

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

Meanwhile, the San Francisco community was busy planning its own 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.

* * * * * *

How to Survive a Plague by David France (Penguin Random House, 2017)

Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture and AIDS by David Roman (Indiana University Presss, 1998)

AIDS Quilt - Actors Equity
April 12, 1982
Award-winning Broadway Actor Lenny Baker Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

The New York Times, “Lenny Baker, 37, Stage Actor” by Eleanor Blau, April 13, 1982

IMDb, “Lenny Baker biography”

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman
April 13, 1982
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.

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

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.

* * * * * *

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.”

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

The New York Times Magazine“Karma Chameleon” by Horacio Silva, August 17, 2003

The Washington Post, “Flowers, Guns and an Iconic Shapshot” by David Montgomery, March 18, 2007

The Cockettes, A Film by David Weissman and Bill Weber, 2002 (trailer)

Hibiscus and the Angels of Light, video (YouTube)

May 1982
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

The Liberation of Ivy Bottini by Judith V. Branzburg (Bink Books, 2018)

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “Our 40 Years of History: From 1982 to 2022”

May 11, 1982
Stigmatizing Label ‘GRID’ is Coined

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

Even once the disease was renamed HIV/AIDS, the stigmatization continued.  Early research elicited categories of people, referred to as “high-risk groups,” who were apparently at increased risk of having AIDS.  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.”

* * * * * *

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.

Learn More.

* * * * * *

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.

Learn More.

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.

CBS News / YouTube

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

June 18, 1982
Researchers Connect AIDS Transmission to Sex

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



Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

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

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence“Sistory”

The Abbey of St Joan“Play Fair”

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

Skyline London
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

BBC News, “Terrence Higgins’ Legacy, 30 Years After Death” by Neil Prior, July 5, 2012

Terrence Higgins Trust, “How It All Began”

July 9, 1982
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.

Learn More.

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 CDC warned 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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Persons with Hemophilia A,” July 16, 1982

Gay Cable Network Debuts in New York City

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.

Learn More.

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 USA told 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.

In 2009, the entire archives of the Gay Cable Network were acquired by New York University’s Fales Library for restoration, and preservation.

“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.”

July 1982
Activists Launch Hotline at Center in Los Angeles

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

AIDS Project Los Angeles, “History”

San Francisco Dancer Larry Hinneman Dies

Larry Hinneman, a dancer with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness.

Learn More.

The exact date of Hinneman’s death is not known, nor is his age at the time of his death.

* * * * * *

San Francisco Chronicle, “AIDS at 25” by Steven Winn, June 8, 2006

September 24, 1982
CDC Introduces the Term ‘AIDS’

In a report to the medical community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coins the term “AIDS” — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 24, 1982

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

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

Learn More.

It will be almost one year later, in July 1983, when the first dedicated funding for AIDS research and treatment is approved by Congress.

* * * * * *

www.HIV.gov, “A Timeline of HIV and AIDS”

October 15, 1982
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.’”

Everyone laughs.

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

Learn More.

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

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

President Reagan would not mention AIDS until 1985, 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.

* * * * * *

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 1982
California AIDS Hotline is Launched in San Francisco

In a collaboration between the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the California AIDS Hotline begins taking calls in an effort to provide information and dispel rumors.

Learn More.

Staffed by SFAF volunteers, the hotline quickly gained recognition locally and nationally as a trusted source of information.  The hotline operators received intensive training that included 16 hours of classroom sessions, practice calls, and resource-finding techniques.

Training topics included immunology, virology, epidemiology, risk reduction, harm reduction theory, risk assessment, injection drug use, testing, information access, media reporting and theories, crisis and suicide calls, sex roles and power, role playing and practice calls, according to SFAF.  The training also instructed volunteers on communication skills and cultural competency.

The hotline developed an “Encyclopedia” which was an accumulation of articles, brochures and memos arranged by subject.  Hotline workers would consult the Encyclopedia for the latest information on topics like oral sex, opportunistic infections, alternative treatments, community resources and AIDS research.

In the first few years of the hotline’s operation, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) was still known as Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which was founded in April 1982 (the organization would rename itself SFAF in 1984).

Mark Leger began volunteering at the AIDS Hotline in the mid-1980s, so he could stay updated on AIDS research, treatment, education and politics.

“I do it because I think education is the best way to stop the spread of the disease,” Leger told the San Francisco magazine Processed World in December 1986.

Most people called the hotline to find out where they could get anonymously tested for HIV, according to Leger.  Questions around safer sex techniques and IV drug use were also common.

“At my last shift, I fielded more than 20 calls during a three-hour shift. By the end, I felt like an overworked Bell operator, checking myself from being too snappy, not always succeeding,” Leger said. “My life was a lot less busy when I started working at the hotline. I should stop. But I’m still answering calls.”

Jimmy Howell
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Bay Area Reporter, “Gay Victim Dances Over Death” by Konstantin Berlandt, November 11, 1982

November 5, 1982
AIDS Precautions Created for Medical Personnel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lays out the first set of precautions for clinical and lab staff working with people with AIDS symptoms.

Learn More.

CDC’s report, “Current Trends Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Precautions for Clinical and Laboratory Staffs,” introduced precautions for medical personnel working with people exhibiting signs of AIDS.

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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Gowns should be worn when clothing may be soiled with body fluids, blood, secretions, or excretions.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Blood spills should be cleaned up promptly with a disinfectant solution, such as sodium hypochlorite (see above).
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.

* * * * *

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Current Trends Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Precautions for Clinical and Laboratory Staffs,” November 4, 1982

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was widely 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.

* * * * *

Richard Berkowitz Files, “We Know Who We Are: Two Gay Men Declare War on Promiscuity” by Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz with Richard Dworkin

Gay in the ’80s by Colin Clews (self-published)

November 1982
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.

Learn More.

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.

According to An Annotated Chronology of the History of AIDS in Toronto: The First Five Years, 1981-1986 by Mark L. Robertson, there was wide speculation among health officials at the conference as to the cause of AIDS.  Poppers, promiscuity, and specific sexual acts were discussed as possible candidates.

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.”

Patrick Cowley
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Pitchfork, “Patrick Cowley Is One of Disco’s Most Important Producers. These Are His Must-Hear Deep Cuts” by Jesse Dorris, January 17, 2018

The Guardian, “San Fran-disco: How Patrick Cowley and Sylvester Changed Dance Music Forever” by Geeta Dayal, October 26, 2016

December 10, 1982
CDC Issues First Report on Pediatric AIDS Case by Transfusion

The case of “an unexplained immunodeficiency” and opportunitistic infections in a 20-month-old infant in San Francisco is described in the CDC’s report.

Learn More.

In the MMWR article, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Possible Transfusion-Associated Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — California,” CDC states that the infant was delivered via caesarian section on March 3, 1981 and received six blood transfusions over a four-day period.

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.”

* * * * * *

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report“Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Possible Transfusion-Associated Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — California,” December 10, 1982

December 17, 1982
CDC Reports Additional Pediatric Cases

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

Learn More.

The CDC report provides background on the infant cases:

  • the mother of one 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.

* * * * * *

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Unexplained Immunodeficiency and Opportunistic Infections in Infants — New York, New Jersey, California,” December 17, 1982

AIDS Quilt - Ward 86
January 1, 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

University of California San Francisco, “SFGH’s Ward 86: Pioneering HIV/AIDS Care for 30 Years” by Tristan Cook, June 7, 2011

Bay Area Reporter, “Hospital’s HIV/AIDS Division Marks 25th Anniversary” by Seth Hemmelgarn, November 27, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle, “SF AIDS Ward 86 – 25 Years of Saving Lives” by Elizabeth Fernandez, December 1, 2008

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

National Institutes of Health | National Library of Medicine, “HIV And The Blood Supply: An Analysis Of Crisis Decisionmaking” (National Academies Press, 1995)

The Emergence of HIV in the U.S. Blood Supply: Organizations, Obligations, and the Management of Uncertainty by Kieran Healy (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999)

January 7, 1983
Women Included in AIDS Case Studies

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



Learn More.

“Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York” 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.

* * * * * *

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.

Learn More.

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

* * * * *

AIDS Project Los Angeles, “History”

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

HIV And The Blood Supply: An Analysis Of Crisis Decisionmaking by the U.S. Institute of Medicine  Committee to Study HIV Transmission Through Blood and Blood Products (National Academies Press, 1995)

February 1983
National AIDS Hotline Opens to High Demand

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

National AIDS Hotline: HIV and AIDS Information Service through a Toll-Free Telephone System by Robert R. Waller and Lynn W. Lisella (CDC’s HIV Public Information and Education Programs, November-December 1991)

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Bruce L. Evatt, director of the CDC’s 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.

* * * * * *

New York Times Magazine, “AIDS: A New Disease’s Deadly Odyssey” by Robin Marantz Henig,

NWAF pamphlet
February 8, 1983
Northwest AIDS Foundation Founded in Seattle

A group of Seattle-area health and business professionals launches the Northwest AIDS Foundation to help provide financial and educational resources to people impacted by AIDS.

Learn More.

Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Marsella, NWAF began raising money for public education programs for the Seattle area and setting up volunteer-run support services for persons with AIDS.  One of the first projects was the production and distribution of the AIDS awareness pamphlet “Can We Talk?”

Also instrumental in the foundation’s early days was Dr. Robert Wood, a New York-born internist who moved to Seattle in 1975 to finish his medical training and remained to provide care for people living with AIDS.  Dr. Wood, who served as the foundation’s second president, was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1985. He would go on to become King County’s first AIDS control officer.

In 1986, NWAF opened its first office in Pioneer Square at 619 Third Avenue, and hired a full-time executive director.  In the first year the office was open, a Seattle plumbing company refused to send plumbers to unclog the foundation’s sink, stating that the plumber would be in danger of contracting HIV.

“What did they think they were going to do, have sex with the sink?” responded then-president Robert Rohan, according to historylink.tours.

In 1987, NWAF held its first AIDS Walkathon fundraiser, which attracted more than 2,000 participants and raised about $335,000.  Speaking at the event was Congressman Mike Lowry, who criticized the Reagan administration for viewing AIDS as a moral issue.

“It’s not a moral issue, but the most important health issue in the history of the world,” Rep. Lowry said. “Today we’re going to vote with our feet to get the money the federal government should be providing. And we’ll keep voting until we get the money.”

When HIV infections in the Seattle area spiked in 1990, NWAF launched a new public education campaign called “Keep It Up, Seattle!” to remind gay and bisexual men to adhere to safer sex practices.  In 1991, the foundation turned its focus to at-risk women with a series of skills-building workshops.  NWAF also began training businesses on how to humanely address HIV in the workplace.

The 1991 AIDS Walk raised a record $1.5 million. The next year, the foundation expanded its outreach program, placing volunteers in bathhouses, public parks, bars, clubs, and other late-night venues.

In 2001, the Northwest AIDS Foundation would merge with another Seattle AIDS service organization, the Chicken Soup Brigade, to form the Lifelong AIDS Alliance (now known simply as Lifelong).

– – – – – – –

  HistoryLink.org (an online encyclopedia of Washington state history)

  HistoryLink.tours – https://historylink.tours/stop/northwest-aids-foundation/

February 11, 1983
MECLA Briefing on AIDS Delivers Troubling News

An AIDS briefing hosted by the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA) draws hundreds of attendees eager for more information on the epidemic.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

4H Club
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.

Learn More.

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,
  • hemophiliacs,
  • abusers of intravenous drugs (i.e., heroin), and
  • Haitians (“especially those who have entered the country within the past few years”)

The groups in the report titled “Current Trends Prevention of AIDS: Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations were henceforth cited in every new medical article and media report, resulting in a stigmatizing association with AIDS for people who identified with any of these groups.

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.”

March 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.

In spite of the meager amount allocated for the program, the main accomplishment was getting any funding at a time when the state was attempting to address a financial crisis and most health programs were suffering from budget reductions.

“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.

* * * * * *

Los Angeles Times, “Stan Hadden:  Roberti Aide Influenced AIDS Policy,” December 26, 1991

What to Do about AIDS: Physicians and Mental Health Professionals Discuss the Issues, editor Leon McKusick (University of California Press, 1986)

California Budget Analysis, 1986-1987, State of California Health and Welfare Budget

The Pride, “California Legislative Caucus Honors LGBT Pioneers” by Karen Ocamb

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

New Yorker Magazine, “Larry Kramer, Public Nuisance,” by Michael Specter, May 5, 2002

The Bilerico Project on LGBTQ Nation, “Larry Kramer’s Historic Essay: AIDS At 30,” June 14, 2011

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Los Angeles Blade, “March 27, 1983: 1,112 and Counting” by Larry Kramer, May 27, 2020

LGBT History Archives, “AIDS: 1,112 and Counting …” by Larry Kramer

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

GQ magazine, “It All Started Here: The Gay Legacy of GQ” by David Kamp, June 23, 2017

New York magazine, “AIDS Anxiety” by Michael Daly, May 20, 1983

Vogue magazine, “Chapter One: How Fashion Was Forever Changed by ‘The Gay Plague’” by Phillip Picardi, December 16, 2020

The AIDS Memorial on Instagram, tribute post about Joe MacDonald

April 1983
City of San Francisco and Shanti Open AIDS Hospice

The City of San Francisco partners with Shanti Project to open a hospice-type care center for people with AIDS.

Learn More.

In 1983, the AIDS epidemic began to inundate the Shanti Project’s emotional support services program.  The organization responded by shifting its focus to exclusively serve people with AIDS (PWAs) and expanding its services to include assistance with everyday chores for debilitated PWAs and the creation of the first residence program in the U.S.

Shanti Project was founded by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Garfield in 1974 to offer peer support services to people with life-threatening illnesses.  Shanti trained volunteers to provide dying and chronically ill patients with emotional support.

As Shanti transitioned its services to meet the needs of PWAs, Clifford Morrison was among the volunteers who took part in the volunteer training in December 1982.  Morrison was a clinical nurse specialist and founder of the AIDS Ward (Ward 5B) at San Francisco General Hospital, and he immediately knew that Shanti’s emotional care program would fill a large need at Ward 5B.

“I decided we needed to have psychosocial support,” Morrison told the San Francisco AIDS Oral History Project in 1995-1996.  “The nurses were going to be busy taking care of the physical needs of patients, and I wanted them to have an ability to recognize and deal with the psychosocial issues. But they were not going to be able to handle all of that.”

Morrison pitched his idea to Jim Geary, Shanti’s then executive director, and recommended the organization secure the funding for the project from the City of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.

After some negotiating with city hall, the funding was put into place for Shanti to provide a program of volunteer counselors for Ward 5B.  The result was a place where PWAs could receive both medical care and emotional support.

“All those things did come together, and we did see the advantages right away of having these resources centralized,” Morrison said.  “And almost immediately, what we found was that people from within the system — within the Department of Public Health, within the hospital, from other hospitals — started calling and coming to us and saying, ‘Oh, well, you’ve developed this approach to care, so how can we do it?'”

When Morrison shared Ward 5B’s model of care with healthcare professionals, he often heard excuses why the model wouldn’t work at other hospitals.  It was just “too unique.”

The Ward 5B-Shanti collaboration developed what became to be known as the San Francisco Model of Care, a patient-centered care model that emphasizes interdisciplinary care with a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, case managers, psychiatrists, addiction specialists, nutritionists and so on.

“It wasn’t new, I didn’t invent it,” Morrison said.  “It’s just maybe I’m one of the first people to pick it all up and put it together and see.”

April 30, 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

Lancet, “Acquired Immunodeficiency in an Infant: Possible Transmission by Means of Blood Products” by A J AmmannM J CowanD W WaraP WeintrubS DritzH GoldmanH 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.

Learn More.

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.”

* * * * * *

Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist by Larry Kramer (St. Martin’s Press, 1989)

Acts of Intervention by David Roman (Indiana University Press, 1998)

1983 May 2 vigil in New York
May 2, 1983
Candlelight Vigils Held in San Francisco & NYC

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “SFAF History in Pictures”

San Francisco Examiner, “Candlelight Memorial” by Carol Ness, May 13, 1998

May 3, 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.”

* * * * * *

APLA Health, “35 Years: A Collective Voice of Advocacy”

The Body, “AIDS Project Los Angeles | Public Policy and Communication”

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

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

Learn More.

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.* * * * * *

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.

Learn More.

* * * * * *

www.HIV.gov, “A Timeline of HIV and AIDS”

AIDS United, “Our Timeline: Past and Future”

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

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * *

Vimeo | Lovett Productions, “20/20 AIDS Broadcast,” May 19, 1983


Francoise Barre Sinoussi
May 1983
French Researcher Discovers AIDS-Causing Virus

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

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The following year, U.S. researcher Robert Gallo 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.

* * * * * *

The Nobel Prize, “Women Who Changed Science: Francoise Barré-Sinoussi”

CNN, “HIV discovery ‘will change your life forever’” by Jen Christensen, June 4, 2013

Nature magazine, “The discovery of HIV-1” by Sonja Schmid, November 28, 2018

PBS News Hour, “How the Discovery of HIV Led to a TransAtlantic Research War” by Dr. Howard Markel, March 24, 2020

Pastuer Institute | The Research Journal, “Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Her Research on the HIV-1 VIrus,” July 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We had found the plague,” he wrote.

* * * * * * *

The New York Times, “1,500 Attend Central Park Memorial Service for AIDS Victim” by Lindsey Gruson, June 14, 1983

How to Survive a Plague by David France (MacMillan, 2017)

May 25, 1983
AIDS Coverage Lands on NYT Front Page

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

Learn More.

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * * *

Tell Me David“Candles in the Wind” by David Hunt, February 6, 2016

June 1983
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.

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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.”

In 1998, the Sable/Sherer Clinic would be absorbed into Cook County Hospital’s new Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center.

How to Have Sex in an Epidemic
June 1983
‘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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

POZ magazine, “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: 30th Anniversary” by Joseph Sonnabend, M.D., May 17, 2013

www.RichardBerkowitz.com, “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” (full text)

New York Review of Books, “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Jonathan Lieberson, August 18, 1983

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

UN AIDS, “The Denver Principles” (1983)

How to Survive a Plague by David France (Penguin Random House, 2017)

June 14, 1983
First Legal Services Provider for PWAs Launched

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

AIDS Legal Referral Panel, “ALRP Milestones” and “History”

University of California Libraries, “AIDS Legal Referral Panel Records”

Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom

June 1983
Genesis of AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is Launched

The Brady East STD Clinic responds to the emergence of HIV in other states by re-focusing its services and education programs around HIV and AIDS.

Learn More.

Some of the volunteers at the Brady East STD Clinic (BESTD Clinic) formed the Milwaukee AIDS Project (MAP) as a committee of the clinic and began preparing for the inevitable spread of HIV to the city.

When in 1985 concerns about the new disease were growing, BESTD Clinic President Nova Clite, MAP Director Sue Dietz, local business leader Marc Haupert, and community leader Don Schwamb decided to form a new organization, to be spun off from BESTD.  The new organization was the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW), and Sue Dietz became its Executive Director.

ARCW’s first home was an old residence near what was then St. Anthony Hospital, and later moved to a location at 315 W. Court St., just west of the old Schlitz Brewery complex (the same building that would years later house the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center).

During the early years of the epidemic, one of the most pressing needs was housing.  One of the first major fundraisers was for the rent and renovation of a house in the Sherman Park neighborhood, near Sherman and Hadley, to provide a residence for people with AIDS who had no other place to live.

In 1993, ARCW would merge with an AIDS service organization located in the northern city of Eau Claire, which helped to establish a statewide presence.   In 1996, ARCW would also merge with the Center Project in Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin.  By 2007, ARCW would become the largest provider of medical care to people with HIV in Wisconsin.

The first AIDS case in Wisconsin was reported in 1983, and the number of cases reached 100 in 1986.  By 1991, the number of cases exceeded 1,000.  In 1995, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Wisconsin would peak with the cumulative number of HIV cases exceeding 3,000 and cumulative deaths exceeding 2,000.

Thanks largely to the quick response of BESTD Clinic volunteers, along with the state’s largely rural populations, the spread of HIV was more effectively controlled in Wisconsin than in most states.

  BESTD Sexual Health Clinic
History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin, ARCW – AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

June 17, 1983
NYT Reports on Abandoned Infants with AIDS

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

The New York Times, “Young Victims of AIDS Suffer its Harsh Stigma,” June 17, 1984

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “AIDS: The Early Years and CDC’s Response” by Drs. James Curran and Harold Jaffe, October 7, 2011

National Institutes of Health, “Survival of Children with HIV in the United States has Improved Dramatically Since 1990s, New Analysis Shows,” December 18, 2009

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

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

Learn More.

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

The following month, Falwell’s organization, Moral Majority, would publish a report on AIDS titled “Homosexual Diseases Threaten American Families.” It featured a white couple with two young children, all wearing surgical masks, suggesting AIDS is a gay disease that can be spread casually.  It also poses gay men as adverse to “families,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.

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

* * * * * *

The Milford Daily News“Press: The Sad Legacy of Jerry Falwell” by Bill Press, May 18, 2007

PBS, “Anti-gay Organizing on the Right” by Neil Miller (Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present, Vintage Books, 1995).

American Historical Association, “Fearing a Fear of Germs” by Heather Murray, October 2, 2020

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, “Moral Majority Report,” July 1983

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Tell Me David, “I Will Survive” by David Hunt, May 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Acts of Intervention by David Roman (Indiana University Press, 1998)

And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts (MacMillan, 1987)

The Pride LA, “Debbie Reynolds, Early Hollywood AIDS Activist” by Karen Ocamb, December 29, 2016

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

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

Learn More.

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.”

* * * * * *

ThinkProgress, “Flashback — Buchanan: AIDS is Nature’s ‘Awful Retribution’ Against Homosexuality” by Igor Volsky, May 24, 2011

Fauci at NIH
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.

Learn More.

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.”

* * * * * *

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

AIDS Quilt - Mark Feldman
June 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.

“Sadly, he was not the last,” writes Dan Pine in The Jewish News of Northern California.  “The names of nearly 80 other congregants felled by the virus adorn the synagogue’s memorial wall today.”

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.”

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

The Jewish News of Northern California, “How AIDS Battered One SF Synagogue” by Dan Pine, June 9, 2006

My Jewish Learning“Remembering on World AIDS Day” by Paul Cohen, December 1, 2015.

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, “40th Anniversary Shabbat,” drash by Rabbi Leslie Bergson, February 23, 2018

June 1983
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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

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.

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

Perry v Falwell
July 5, 1983
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.

Learn More.

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

aids may invade india
July 17, 1983
Soviet Disinformation about AIDS Published in Indian Newspaper

The Indian newspaper Patriot publishes an anonymous report claiming that the AIDS virus was created by the Pentagon as a  potential biological weapon.  The account, which was an entire fabrication, was part of a Soviet disinformation campaign.

Learn More.

In a letter to the editor published on the front page of the Patriot under the title “AIDS May Invade India: Mystery Disease Caused by U.S. Experiments,” the writer cited the involvement of U.S. special services and the Pentagon in the appearance and rapid spread of AIDS.

The writer claimed to be a “well-known American scientist and anthropologist,” but in fact, the source of the account was a disinformation campaign led by the KGB, the foreign intelligence agency of the Soviet Union which was engaged in the “Cold War” against the U.S.

The Patriot was “a known front for KGB disinformation,” according to the Wilson Center, a U.S. organization dedicated to non-partisan counsel on global affairs.

The letter claimed that the AIDS virus was developed at Fort Detrick, an Army-run biological warfare laboratory located in Frederick, Maryland.  Because the U.S. military was allegedly conducting experiments in neighboring Pakistan, the letter’s claims inferred that AIDS could soon spread to India.

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.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *

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.”

Learn More.
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.* * * * * *

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

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

Learn More.

At the hearing, members of Congress heard testimony from researchers, heathcare officials, and three AIDS men with AIDS who described their personal experiences.

Here is the testimony of Michael Callen of New York:
(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.

Here is the testimony of Roger Lyon of San Francisco:
(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.

* * * * * *


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.

Learn More.

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.”

* * * * * *

AIDS Quilt 30 - Klaus Nomi 4 no THIS one
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.

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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

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.”

Learn More.

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.”

Campbell died of AIDS on August 15, 1984.  Hilliard died of AIDS a few months later.

In 2014, a Castro Street History Walk plaque was installed to commemorate Campbell and his work.

* * * * * *
  University of California Berkeley Library
  University of California San Francisco Archives and Special Collections
San Francisco Bay Times



Graham Conly
San Francisco Dancer Graham Conley Dies

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

Learn More.

* * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

  Bay Area Reporter, June 8, 2006

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

Learn More.

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

* * * * * *

September 2, 1983
AIDS Exposure Precautions Issued to Healthcare Workers

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

Learn More.

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

* * * * * *

September 1983
Health Crisis Network Opens in Miami

Health Crisis Network (HCN) is formed to provide a response to the Miami area’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Learn More.

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.

Learn More.

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

* * * * * *

September 12, 1983
NIH Sponsors ‘Workshop on Epidemiology of AIDS’

The National Institute of Health hosts “A Workshop on the Epidemiology of AIDS” at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Rockville, Maryland.

Learn More.

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.

Held over two days, the workshop featured several panel discussions and lectures, including “Summary of Epidemiological Research on AIDS Supported by the NIH” by Robert Edelman, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

* * * * * *

Paul Jacobs 2
September 25, 1983
Classical Pianist Paul Jacobs Dies

Paul Jacobs, the New York Philharmonic’s pianist and harpsichordist, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Manhattan home.  He was 53.

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

September 30, 1983
First AIDS Discrimination Lawsuit Filed in NYC

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

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

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

* * * * * *

AIDS Quilt - Morgan MacDonald
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.

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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.

* * * * * *

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.

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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.

The archives are now known as the Museum of Performance + Design, which also serves as keeper of The Russell Hartley Collection, materials from Hartley’s early days as a costume designer for the San Francisco Ballet to his tenure as director of the Archives for the Performing Arts.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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.

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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.
Keith Barrow
October 22, 1983
Keith Barrow, Soul Singer & Son of Civil Rights Champion, Dies

Keith Barrow, a singer and songwriter best known for the soulful “You Know You Wanna Be Loved” and the disco-beat-fueled “Turn Me Up,” dies of AIDS-related illness at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.  He was 29 years old.

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The only son of Chicago civil rights leader Rev. Willie Barrow (1923-2015), Keith Errol Barrow started singing as a teenager with the gospel group “Soul Shakers.”  His mother told Windy City Times in 2004, “Keith had music in his bones and in his soul.  He started writing music when he was eight.”

After Barrow came out to his activist mother, she publicly embraced gay rights, according to The New York Times.

In 1973, Barrow released a self-titled gospel album at the age of 19 with Jewel Records, and his solo career began to gain traction with the popularity of one of the album’s singles, “Mr. Magic Man.”  The major label Columbia signed him in 1976, and he left Chicago for New York and then Los Angeles.  After a song he wrote for the Philadelphia R&B group Blue Magic rose in Billboard‘s Top 100 R&B hits, Barrow was invited to Philly’s famed Sigma Sound Recording Studios to work under legendary producer Bobby Eli for his first Columbia album.

The release of Barrow’s record was announced in a full-page ad in Billboard magazine for the week ending May 7, 1977.  “Keith Barrow is why you should pay attention to this debut album,” the ad proclaimed.

“Though he’s not talked about much today, Keith was a true talent of his era, a singer’s singer whose velvety falsetto was on par with the finesse of Eddie Kendricks and the fancy of Sylvester,” wrote music critic S.E. Fleming Jr. in 2008.  “When it was all said and done, Keith Barrow didn’t prove a huge hit, but it was a high quality effort that laid the groundwork for what would become his finest hour on record.”

Fleming says the best track on the album is Barrow’s performance of his own composition, “Teach Me (It’s Something About Love),” calling it “one of the most beautiful slow jams the singer ever recorded.”

“It was a perfect fit for a young man at a stage in his life where most people are finding their own voice, a lovely portrait of innocence and melancholy,” Fleming writes.

In 1978, Barrow switched to CBS Records, which produced his second album, Physical Attraction.  Most of the material was co-written by producer Michael Stokes and songwriter Ronn Matlock, and they updated Barrow’s sound to include three disco songs.

Immediately, the seven-minute single “Turn Me Up” became a hit at dance clubs and broadened his fan base.  Meanwhile, another song on the album, a smooth soul ballad titled “You Know You Want to Be Loved,” rose to #26 in Billboard‘s Top 100 R&B hits.

Barrow recorded a final album, moving to Capitol Records.  Produced by Ralph Affoumado, Just As I Am (1980) was an ambitious work, but the dance sound that initially drew in fans was declining in popularity.  Still, the album has a few gems, such as the seductive and funky “In the Light (Do It Better)” and “Tell Me This Ain’t Heaven,” which is reminiscent of some of his earlier work with Columbia.

Barrow tried to  extend his career by performing live.  While touring in Europe in 1983, he fell ill and called his mother, saying he was too sick to perform:

“He called me from Paris and said, ‘Momma, I don’t think I’ll be able to go on stage tonight. I really feel sick.’ I said, ‘Oh, you’ll be alright.’ I prayed for him and then he called again a couple of hours later and he said, ‘Momma, I can’t perform. I have to go; they have to take me to the hospital.'”

After returning to the U.S., Barrow moved back to Chicago and his mother tended to him as his health declined.  After being admitted to Michael Reese Hospital, he was diagnosed with AIDS.

“I remember the first of the weekly reports that Keith was ill and the requests for prayers,” wrote Barrow’s childhood friend in 1007. “Keith’s mother is a fiery orator and fierce civil rights activist nicknamed ‘The Little Warrior,’ so it was hard to see her sadness and distress as his health declined.”

When Barrow died later that year, more than 1,000 people attended his memorial services.  Barrow was one of the first people in the entertainment industry to die of AIDS, and the cause of his death was not reported in his obituary.  But his mother openly talked about it in the years that followed, and she contributed a panel in memory of her son to the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

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 AIDS-related illness at New York University Medical Center.  He was 40.

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In NYT article published in the December 5 issue on Page 1 of Section B, celebrated reporter Maureen Dowd chronicled Lamb’s final months.

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 (PWAs) who needed help.  Some were gay men, but there were also intravenous drug users who were heterosexual as well as people who had received tainted blood transfusions.

The GMHC was running 20 therapy groups, organizing its volunteer-run “buddy” program, and operating a 24-hour hotline which received 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 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 terrible 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.  Kramer told Dowd of how the AIDS crisis 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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 21, 1983
TV Medical Drama Tackles Subject of HIV/AIDS

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

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

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

However, by depicting the patient with AIDS as a white, heterosexual, well-off character who 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.

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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

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

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

Data showed:

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

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

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

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.

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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.”

AIDS Quilt 32 - Gaetan Dugas (2)
March 30, 1984
Canadian flight Attendant Gaëtan Dugas Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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

Performer Bill Kendall, who received rave reviews for his portrayal of “Mr. Peanut” in the long-running San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.


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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Chicken Soup Brigade
April 8, 1984
Chicken Soup Brigade Starts Caring for PWAs in Seattle

Tim Burak, an employee of the Seattle-King County Health Department, founds the Chicken Soup Brigade to help people living with AIDS.

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Brigade members transported people with AIDS to doctor appointments, brought meals, cleaned apartments, helped care for pets, and provided companionship.  Burak and his friend Josh Joshua received referrals from physicians, clinics, and patients, and were assisted by volunteers Tom Speer and Will Jones.

In early 1987, Carol Sterling joined the Brigade as its first paid staff member, and quickly grew the organization’s volunteer pool to 80 people and its budget to $35,000.  AIDS cases were growing rapidly in the Seattle metro area, and CSB expanded to meet the need in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A self-described “loud-mouthed lesbian,” Sterling continued to bring in new volunteers, nearly 50% of them women.  According to Washingtonian Nick Rousso of historylink.org, AIDS had claimed 727 lives in King County by 1990, and thousands more were living with HIV. Eventually, AIDS would claim more than 8,000 lives in Washington state..

In 2001, the CSB would merge with another AIDS service organization, the Northwest AIDS Foundation, to form the Lifelong AIDS Alliance (now known simply as Lifelong).

– – – – – – –
Source:  HistoryLink.org (an online encyclopedia of Washington state history)

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIDS Quilt - Allan Estes
May 6, 1984
Theatre Rhinoceros Founder Allan Estes Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

May 21, 1984
San Francisco Dancer Charlie Butts Dies

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.

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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.

* * * * * * * *
Source:  San Francisco Examiner, December 7, 1986

Gloria Lockett
May 1984
CAL-PEP Founded to Provide HIV/AIDS Services for Bay Area Sex Workers

Gloria Lockett founds California Prostitutes Education Project (Cal-PEP) and begins pioneering HIV/AIDS prevention strategies and testing outreach for sex workers in the San Francisco Bay area.

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As a Black woman who had been supporting her family as a sex worker for more than 10 years, Lockett was uniquely experienced and positioned to create an effective program that sex workers would respond to.  She was motivated by her awareness of how the public commonly scapegoated gay men for transmitting HIV and the fear that the next group to be villified would be sex workers.

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.”

After 35 years as CAL-PEP’s executive director, Lockett would retire in 2019.  On the occasion of her retirement, POZ magazine recognized Lockett’s achievements.

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13, 1984
Portugese Pop Star António Variações Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michel Foucault
June 25, 1984
French Philosopher Michel Foucault Dies

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


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A day later, French newspaper Libération would include in the obituary the rumor that the cause of Foucault’s death was AIDS. In response, Le Monde would issue a medical bulletin cleared by his family that makes no reference to HIV/AIDS.

On June 29, Foucault’s la levée du corps ceremony would be held, during which his coffin was carried from the hospital morgue to the cemetery at Vendeuvre-du-Poitou. Hundreds attend, including activists and academic friends, and French philosopher Gilles Deleuze gave a speech that included excerpts from Foucault’s ground-breaking work The History of Sexuality.

The son and grandson of physicians, Foucault was born to a bourgeois family.  He enrolled 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 San Francisco, where he 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 while he was working on the fourth volume of his history of sexuality.

Foucault’s partner Daniel Defert would go on to found the first HIV/AIDS organization in France, AIDES; a play on the French language word for “help” (aide) and the English language acronym for the disease.  In 1986, two years after Foucault’s death, Defert would publicly announce that Foucault’s death was AIDS-related.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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

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

Turtle Creek Chorale
August 1, 1984
Charley Miller, of Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas, Dies

Charley Miller, a tenor with the Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas, becomes the first of many in the group to die of AIDS-related illness.  He was 30 years old.

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Charley Miller first performed with the Turtle Creek Chorale in July 1981 and he continued to sing with the group through June 1984. During that time, he was featured in the following productions:

Showtime ’81 (July 1981) – “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” from Cabaret as part of a Quartet

The Music of America (July 1982) – Texas Medley in a Septet and “I’ve Got Rhythm” as a member of the Showstoppers

Wintersong (December 1982) – “Cantata 142 – Un ist ein Kind geboren – Air” as a solo

Sing Gloria! (November 1983) – “Satin Doll,” “Java Jive,” “Dream,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and “Save the Bones for Henry Jones” as a member of the Turtle Creek Jazz

Sing We Nowell (December 1983) – “The Three Kings” as a part of a sextet

Of Three We Sing (June 1984) – “Credo” as a Duet, “Agnus Dei” as a solo

Miller was the first AIDS-related death for the Turtle Creek Chorale or, possibly, the first acknowledged AIDS death, according to the Chorale’s memorial website.

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 notoriously homophobic man who threatened to fire openly gay teachers.

The group first rehearsed in February 1980 with 39 singersOn 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.

By 1985, the Chorale was heavily impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As members began to get sick and die, the group transformed to become a space for its members to grieve and heal through performance and community, according to the University of North Texas’ 2017 exhibit Threads of Remembrance.

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.

In April 1994, PBS would televise the documentary After Goodbye: An AIDS Story, which looked at the impact of AIDS on the Turtle Creek Chorale.  The film followed the group through rehearsals and performances of When We No Longer Touch: A Cycle of Songs for Survival, a choral rendition of the stages of grief that was composed by composer-in-residence Kristopher Anthony.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Calvin Hampton
August 5, 1984
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.

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Known nationwide as a leading organist and sacred music composer, Hampton presided over the popular “Fridays at Midnight” organ recital series, which ran from 1974 to 1983.  He also composed music for the church and the concert stage.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Bobbi Campbell 1
August 15, 1984
Early AIDS/KS Activist Bobbi Campbell Dies

AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 32.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

September 23, 1984
Time Magazine Calls PWA’s ‘The New Untouchables’

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.

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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.

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

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

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

The street fair was created by local activists Kathleen Connell and Michael Valerio to create a counter-narrative and demonstrate that the neighborhood was thriving, noteworthy and rich in culture and counter-culture.  While the street fair did not start off as a leather community-focused event — that would come a few years later — it was from the start a celebration of all things South of Market, including the area’s leather and BDSM culture.

Event co-founder Michael Valerio was a SoMa “leatherman” whose day job was as an affordable housing coordinator at the still-existing nonprofit TODCO.  His event partner, Kathleen Connell, also worked at TODCO, but they met at a meeting of the South of Market Alliance, a community advocacy group contesting the decisions being made by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) and the city’s Board of Supervisors.  Inspired by the Castro Street Fair, Valerio and Connell worked with Harry Britt, Harvey Milk’s replacement on the Board of Supervisors, to arrange for SoMa streets to be closed from 12th Street to 7th Street between Howard and Harrison, with Folsom at the center.

On the day of the street fair, dubbed “Megahood,” some attendeees wore leather and other free-spirited outfits, while others wore more typical festival clothing.

Valerio and Connell smartly designed the event to promote the neighborhood’s small businesses and unique culture.  But they also built in another goal: helping to fight for the survival of the LGBT communities as the AIDS epidemic devasted many of its members.

“The fair was to be a healing, celebratory response,” Kathleen Connell and Paul Gabriel wrote in their article The Origin and Evolution of the Folsom Street Fair.

The leather communities in major cities were hit particularly hard by HIV, and none hit harder than San Francisco’s SoMa leather community.  In HIV in the Leather Community: Rates and Risk-Related Behaviors (2011), a study showed that Leathermen were 61% more likely to be HIV-positive than non-Leathermen, and that decreased condom use found in HIV-positive Leathermen (relative to HIV-positive non-Leathermen) was a potential factor contributing to heightened HIV rates.

Among its 37 booths were those from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Shanti Project, conducting community outreach to fairgoers.   In recent years, the number of booths at the Folsom Street Fair has grown to 200 and the number of attendees to over 400,000, making it the third largest street event in California.

October 9, 1984
NYT Article Erroneously Suggests AIDS Transmission via Saliva is Possible

The New York Times reports that new scientific evidence has raised the possibility that AIDS may be transmissible through saliva . It will be another two years before proof emerges that this is false.

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Epidemiologic studies to date point to sexual contact as well as transfusions of blood or blood products as the major risk factors leading to AIDS.

”Right now epidemiological studies do not point to saliva as the key mode of spread of AIDS and data show that close contact is much more important,” Dr. Robert C. Gallo, a leading AIDS researcher, told The New York Times.

Even so, this article spread fear among the public and further stigmatized those living with AIDS.

October 10, 1984
San Francisco Closes 14 Bathhouses

The City of San Francisco orders 14 bathhouses closed due to reports of high-risk sexual activity occurring in these venues.

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“It has been established that the bathhouses contribute to the spread of AIDS and they ought to be closed,” Mayor Dianne Feinstein said.  Frustrated with gay rights groups that were blocking her two-year campaign to close the bathhouses, Feinstein decided on a different approach: closing them one by one.

Under Mayor Feinstein’s direction, the City hired private investigators to go undercover into baths and other venues that were known to serve the gay community and report on anything considered by them to be an unsafe sex act.

The city’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Mervyn Silverman, did not approve of these tactics, but when the investigators submitted an 85-page report that listed the types of sexual activity taking place at these venues, he felt compelled to respond, according to Randy Shilts’ book And the Band Played On.

At a news conference, Dr. Silverman ordered the closure of baths and several other establishments identified in the report as places where gay men partook in unsafe sex, citing them by name, stating, “These 14 establishments are not fostering gay liberation. They are fostering disease and death.”

Within six hours of the order, two would re-open.  An additional 10 re-opened within 24 hours.

The controversy over gay bathhouses and sex clubs and the roles they play in the spread of AIDS was not limited to San Francisco.  Every major city with a significant gay population was struggling with this issue.  Even within the gay community, members debated each other over which was more important — public health or gay civil liberties.

But it was in San Francisco where political debates first broke out.  New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Seattle and Portland followed, with local policy approaches varying from a citywide closure of all bathhouses to collaborations between health agencies and community members to introduce education and precautions for patrons.

Why were bathhouses the focus of so much intense debate?  Because, to the gay community in the 1970s and 1980s, they were places that took decades of social evolution to establish.

“Early American bathhouses evolved out of traditional 1920s and ‘30s Turkish and Russian baths, which offered communal hot tubs and showers to all men,” according to Stephan Ferris in Out of the Tubs, and Into the Streets! Tracing the history of bathhouse regulations in San Francisco, CA  “Gay bathhouses, in contrast, distinguished themselves from these venues by permitting sex among
members and by offering food, entertainment, and private rooms.”

Bathhouses catered to a mixed male clientele, serving those seeking social networking as well as providing a space for anonymous sexual encounters. Membership was driven by a common desire to engage with other members.

“They are not for taking baths,” the Washington Post stated in its reporting of “The Bathhouse War.” “Some of the houses have steam rooms, or saunas, or more lavish facilities that include jacuzzis and swimming pools, but that is not why men pay their $5 or $10 for a locker or a tiny private room in a dimly lit San Francisco bathhouse. Men use them to meet other men, to engage sometimes in what the clinical language calls ‘multiple, anonymous sexual contacts.'”

But for many gay men, the bathhouses of the 1980s represented much more; they were a refuge.

“We were paying money to get in there, and sometimes it was too much, but we weren’t paying for sex. We were paying for the territory — to get in there,” San Francisco historian Allan Be’rube’ told The Post.  “They have a tremendous symbolism.”

In 1984, Be’rube’ submitted a historical brief to the California Superior Court that provided evidence on the social and cultural importance of bathhouses.  He also described the potential role the venues could play to educate the community about AIDS prevention.  A year later, when the City of New York was immersed in a similarly stormy debate, Be’rube’ updated his legal brief and submitted it to the NY Supreme Court.

Be’rube’s defense of the bathhouses stressed the right of gay men “to use them for associational purposes that were sexual as well as social and political.”  A version of this historical brief was later published in 1996 in Policing Public Sex, edited by the scholar-activist group Dangerous Bedfellows.


Roger Lyon
November 4, 1984
Early AIDS Activist Roger Lyon Dies

Roger Gail Lyon, famous for being among the first three Persons With AIDS to testify before Congress about the epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 36.

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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.

Little more is known about Lyon, because his health began to decline in the year following his moment in the political spotlight.  However, his early contribution to the fight against AIDS survives at the National Museum of American History.  In 1990, the museum added his section of the AIDS Quilt to its collections.

Lyon’s ashes were scattered, along with the ashes of many others who died of AIDS, on the White House lawn during an ACT UP protest in 1996.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

November 24, 1984
Fauci: Spread of AIDS is Accelerating

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.

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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.

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A county sheriff’s deputy led the new mayor, Valerie Terrigno, through the crowd to the stage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Terrigno’s family members sat in the front row.  Attendees in the packed auditorium (a space which fire marshalls restricted, leaving scores of additional people outside in West Hollywood Park) included a composite of the city’s residents: elderly Russian-Jewish renters, members of the LGBTQ community, and plenty of activists.

The meeting started with the council officially appointing Terrigno to the office of mayor.

“I’ve worked to become a leader of our dreams and our future, and I know with power comes great responsibility,” she told the crowd.  “It’s a responsibility I eagerly accept … Our dreams are a sound investment.  Don’t let them waver.”

The Council then moved to adopt a ban on sex-orientation bias, and moratoriums on new construction, rent increases and evictions.  Councilmembers voted to roll back rents to August 1984 levels.

The new city was created out of the unrest and fear of rising rents and housing insecurities in the early 1980s, set to the backdrop of a new disease that was spreading among members of the gay community.  An area populated primarily with renters, West Hollywood established itself as a safe place for gays and lesbians.  As a result, many of its residents were living with AIDS and involved in AIDS activism.

In the months that follow, Mayor Terrigno would receive letters from fans and admirers.

On crumpled yellow legal stationery, a woman from Missoula, Montona, wrote to her: “I’ve always been a dreamer, always wanting to find a utopia and always without much luck.  I envy you finding yours, Ms. Valerie.”

From Tahiti, a vacationing Frenchwoman named Vera sent a postcard saying she would stop in West Hollywood before returning to Paris.  The card read: “Felicitation for your victory. You are an escample for a French people homosescule.”

And from Turkey, a teacher afraid to give his name sent a rambling two-page letter. “Homosexuelity is completely forbidden,” he wrote. “Please, please, help me, take me near you — dear my friend, my sister.”

Each week, dozens of such letters arrived at Terrigno’s office in West Hollywood’s temporary City Hall.  They continued to come for months, missives from gay men and women who read about the new city and saw Terrigno as a symbol of the pride they still struggled to achieve.

Before the West Hollywood election, there had been only 13 openly gay elected officials in the country. Now there were three more. In the summer of 1985, Terrigno would go on a hectic three-month cross-country speaking tour, appearing before somber audiences of upwardly mobile gay business leaders and parading before cheering masses at gay-pride events.

But within a year, Terrigno would be charged and convicted of embezzling $7,000 in federal funds during a previous job with a job-referral agency.  Her trial in March 1986 would last three days, and the jury would convict her after just four hours of deliberation.  She was sentenced to 60 days in prison or in a halfway house, five years’ probation, restitution and 1,000 hours of community service.

Terrigno would tell the LA Times: “A situation like this shakes your sense of what life is about.  I feel sad about everything.  I have no idea where to pick up from this point.  I just hope this won’t change peoples’ attitudes about the city or the gay movement.”

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.

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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.

AIDS Conference 1984
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.

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The conference brought together AIDS researchers conducting studies on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which was then a new discovery.

At the time, no effective antiviral drugs for HIV/AIDS existed and research subjects typically died of AIDS-related illnesses within 10 years of infection with the virus.  Researchers worldwide were scrambling to find a way to stop the AIDS virus from replicating within the body, according to the National Institutes of Health’s website for its Cancer Research Center.

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.

In December 1984, scientists at the forefront of this research gathered in southern California to try to answer the life-and-death questions of the day:

  • Was HIV alone responsible for AIDS, or was it activated by a combination with other factors in the way that other viruses — like Epstein-Barr virus or Cytomegalovirus — did.
  • What was the relationship of HIV to Kaposi’s sarcoma (since Kaposi’s sarcoma in AIDS could not be explained on the basis of the underlying immune deficiency)?
  • Where and how did the virus originate?
  • What were the clinical, cellular, and/or serological markers that determined the outcome of HIV infection?

Conference presentations also included work on identifying characteristics of early-stage AIDS and various treatment theories, and the specific ways in which HIV and AIDS exhibited in infants.

The Los Angeles Times covered the conference in its “Orange County” section under the headline “AIDS May Not Always Kill, Experts Report at Conference.”

January 11, 1985
CDC Updates AIDS Definition & Issues Guidelines for Blood Screening

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revises the AIDS case definition to note that AIDS is caused by a newly identified virus. CDC also issues provisional guidelines for blood screening.

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The report includes the following “recommendations for the individual” judged most likely to have an HTLV-III infection:

1. The prognosis for an individual infected with HTLV-III over the long term is not known.
However, data available from studies conducted among homosexual men indicate
that most persons will remain infected.
2. Although asymptomatic, these individuals may transmit HTLV-III to others. Regular
medical evaluation and follow-up is advised, especially for individuals who develop
signs or symptoms suggestive of AIDS.
3. Refrain from donating blood, plasma, body organs, other tissue, or sperm.
4. There is a risk of infecting others by sexual intercourse, sharing of needles, and possi­
bly, exposure of others to saliva through oral-genital contact or intimate kissing. The efficacy of condoms in preventing infection with HTLV-III is unproven, but the consis­
tent use of them may reduce transmission.
5. Toothbrushes, razors, or other implements that could become contaminated with
blood should not be shared.
6. Women with a seropositive test, or women whose sexual partner is seropositive, are
themselves at increased risk of acquiring AIDS. If they become pregnant, their offspr­
ing are also at increased risk of acquiring AIDS.
7. After accidents resulting in bleeding, contaminated surfaces should be cleaned with
household bleach freshly diluted 1:10 in water.
8. Devices that have punctured the skin, such as hypodermic and acupuncture needles,
should be steam sterilized by autoclave before reuse or safely discarded. Whenever
possible, disposable needles and equipment should be used.
9. When seeking medical or dental care for intercurrent illness, these persons should
inform those responsible for their care of their positive antibody status so that ap­
propriate evaluation can be undertaken and precautions taken to prevent transmission
to others.
10. Testing for HTLV-III antibody should be offered to persons who may have been infect­
ed as a result of their contact with seropositive individuals (e.g., sexual partners, per­
sons with whom needles have been shared, infants born to seropositive mothers).
January 28, 1985
Dennis Parker — Disco Star & Soap Opera Actor — Dies

Dennis Parker, a New York actor who performed on the daytime television show The Edge of Night after starring in several adult films in the late 1970s, dies of AIDS-related illness.  He was 39.

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Parker joined the cast of The Edge of Night in 1979 as Police Chief Derek Mallory, and he appeared in more than 500 episodes before he became too sick to continue with the show.

Born Dennis Posa in 1946, Parker grew up in Freeport, Long Island and attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, where he had his first taste of acting.  He left college and returned to New York to pursue a career as a stage actor.

Becoming frustrated with the difficulty of landing good roles, he took on work as a carpenter and also as an illustrator for Jiffy Simplicity, a company that sold sewing patterns.  He also started posing nude for art classes.

In the mid-1970s, he met the love of his life in another aspiring actor, Joey Alan Phipps.  Eleven years Parker’s junior, Phipps soon moved into Parker’s rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan’s East 38th Street and introduced him to a new career path as a model for gay porn magazines, according to “The Story of Wade Nichols and Dennis Parker” in the Rialto Report..

In 1975, Parker appeared in his first adult film, Boy ‘Napped, under the name Wade Nichols, created from his middle name and his father’s first name.  This was followed by 26 additional adult films, all released between 1976 and 1979.

Around this time, Parker met Jacques Morali, a French music producer who was about to become famous for launching The Village People.

“Jacques was instantly attracted by this sexy and handsome guy,” said Henri Belolo, Morali’s creative partner.  “He was always attracted to a good-looking mustache.”

Parker moved into Morali’s luxury apartment in the East 50s, but continued to see Phipps “when he could,” said Parker’s friend Tip Sanderson.  Morali initially offered Parker a role in his new music group — The Village People — but then decided to change direction and wait until he could arrange for Parker a career as a solo act, Sanderson said.

In 1978, Morali made good on his promise by securing a record deal for Parker with Casablanca Records.  He assembled a selection of songs, singling out the two strongest, “Like an Eagle” and “New York By Night.”  Morali’s partner Belolo became the executive producer of the singles.

“Before the recording sessions, Jacques made Dennis prepare intensively, taking singing lessons and practicing a lot,” Belolo said.  “He really made Dennis work hard.”

Parker went to Sigma Sound to record the album, which was titled Like an Eagle after the song they thought was the most likely to become a hit.  According to Belolo, he and Morali tapped their top creative resources for the project.

“We had the best musicians and arrangers,” he said. “In fact, we used the same rhythm section that was featured on the Village People records.”

“Jacques Morali contacted me, and told me to come down to play on his boyfriend’s record,” said bass player Alfonso Carey, who remembered Parker as easy-going and friendly.  “I’m the bass player that played on all the Village People hits, from ‘YMCA,’ ‘Macho Man,’ and the rest.  I also wrote the song ‘Why Don’t You Boogie’ for Dennis.”

Like an Eagle was released in 1979 under the artist name “Dennis Parker” to sever ties with his adult film career and his other identity, Wade Nichols.

Parker’s brother, Richard Posa, said that he remembered asking Parker if the new album release meant that he would stop making adult films.

“Dennis said yes, but he was pleased with the work he’d done nevertheless,” Posa said.  “He also mentioned that Screw magazine had voted him ‘Man of the Year’ in 1978 – and he got a kick out of that.”

Parker went to Europe to promote the album.  Afterward, Parker and Morali’s’ relationship started to cool, according to “The Story of Wade Nichols and Dennis Parker” in the Rialto Report.  Ultimately, Parker returned to his apartment on East 38th Street and invited Joey Alan Phipps to come back.

Parker also returned to another old love – acting.  He leveraged his disco fame to land him auditions for mainstream parts.  On a casting call for a role as an extra on the crime-themed soap opera The Edge of Night, Parker caught the eye of the producer and was offered a recurring role as the local police chief.

He would play the role of Chief Derek Mallory in more than 500 episodes between 1979 and 1984.  He settled easily into his new life as a television actor and embraced all that it entailed, performing at fundraisers for local non-profits and scoring points for The Edge of Night softball team.

“There were a lot of very athletic guys on the crew and in the cast,” said castmate Sharon Gabet. “Dennis would show up in these tight shorts … and an ascot.  He would be there swinging a bat – with his ascot. It was hilarious.”

In the spring of 1984, Parker told his brother that he was experiencing night sweats and prolonged bouts of fatigue. He took some time off The Edge of Night, and when he returned, it was apparent to the cast and crew that he had lost a lot of weight and could not move well.

“They were careful to shoot around his frailty,” Parker’s brother said.  “They had him sitting at desks. They did their best to cover up his physical deterioration.”

Meanwhile, Phipps tended to Parker throughout his illness and took him to appointments at Cabrini Medical Center in mid-town Manhattan.

“Now when I look back, it’s pretty evident to me that the man was dying,” said castmate Sharon Gabet.  “He would just have enough energy to give his lines, and then you would find him asleep in the chair or laying on one of the couches. He just couldn’t do it anymore. They kept cutting his part back.”

His last episode aired on October 18, 1984, just 12 days shy of his fifth anniversary on the show.

After Parker’s death in late January 1985, Phipps moved to Palm Springs, California. In the early 1990s, he contracted AIDS and tried to manage his illness with new treatments that had become available.  Unfortunately, Phipps had an additional health issue that caused his body to reject the new drugs, and he died of AIDS-related illness on December 6, 1996.

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.”

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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.

In the CPAC convention halls, Cameron told anyone who would listen that “it looks as if mosquitoes may be able to transmit AIDS,” according to the Associated Press

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 PressHe 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.

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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.

hiv in prison
March 1985
HIV+ Inmates in Alabama Challenge Segregation Policies in Prison

In a legal first, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Alabama state prisons’ policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners.

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In its suit against the State of Alabama’s Department of Corrections, the ACLU’s National Prison Project charged prison officials with creating a “leper colony” for inmates living with HIV, including those who didn’t exhibit any symptoms associated with the disease.  The suit was the first involving prisoners as a class, rather than case by case, in a challenge to incarceration policies and procedures regarding HIV-positive inmates.

One of the 139 inmates represented by the ACLU’s lawsuit was 30-year-old Carmen Harris, who upon her arrival at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, received the news that she had tested positive for HIV.  Harris told The Washington Post that the prison first put her in solitary confinement and then moved her to the facility’s Death Row.

“It was like they were punishing me not for my crime but for my diagnosis,” Harris told WaPo.

Another HIV-positive inmate was Michael Marsh, a 40-year-old convict confined to Dorm 7 at the Limestone Correctional Facility in Capshaw, Alabama.  Dorm 7 was where Alabama housed the majority of its inmates who were living with HIV, regardless of whether they exhibited any HIV-related symptoms.

“You know the phrase in the Bible about the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  That’s what this is like,’ Marsh told a reporter from The New York Times.

Limestone was a minimum-to-medium security prison, but state officials also transferred into Dorm 7 violent offenders who tested positive for HIV, grouping them with less dangerous inmates.  In contrast with Limestone’s general population, Dorm 7 inmates were restricted from educational, vocational and recreational activities, including those that would allow them to earn credits toward early release.  The very fact of their segregated status made it known to other inmates that they were HIV positive, making impossible any attempt to keep their condition private.

J.D. White, Limestone’s warden, defended the segregation policy to the NY Times.

”It boils down to whose civil rights get violated,” White said.  ”Do you violate the rights of 132 people who test positive, or do you violate the rights of the 12,000 who don’t?”

The lawsuit was the first of many filed against state prison systems across the U.S., seeking to end discriminatory practices against HIV-positive inmates.  This lawsuit would fail, be appealed, and then brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in January 2000, the Justices would decline to hear the case.

It would take until 2012 before a federal judge would decide that Alabama’s policy of segregating HIV-positive inmates violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

James Thomason-Bergner 1
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.

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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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

April 5, 1985
Atlanta Hosts International AIDS Conference

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization  host the first International AIDS Conference  in Atlanta, Georgia on April 15-17.

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More than 2,000 researchers gathered at the conference to share information and assess prospects for controlling the disease, not yet realizing that the worst was yet to come.

The Atlanta conference featured 392 presentations and generated considerable excitement among participants eager to learn about how this new disease was playing out within specific populations in the U.S.

Much of the news was discouraging, however, as presenters introduced new data that showed that many of those dying in 1985 had been infected before 1981, and that within especially vulnerable populations, the epidemic was becoming entrenched.

At a side meeting before the day the conference opened, gay activists protested Reagan administration proposals to implement mandatory HIV testing policies, arguing that this would do little to halt the spread of the disease and would only intensify discrimination against vulnerable groups.

J Pat Miller
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.

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Miller was nominated for Jefferson Awards for playing the title role in Peter Handke’s Kaspar and for his performance as Antonin Artaud in the Victory Gardens Theater production of Artaud.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

April 10, 1985
Haitians Removed from CDC’s High-Risk List

CDC removes Haitians from the list of those at increased risk for AIDS, because scientists can no longer justify including them on statistical grounds,

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The CDC, which began investigating the mysterious and often-fatal disease in 1981, initially identified Haitian immigrants, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and homosexual or bisexual men as groups at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

The CDC’s weekly reports of AIDS statistics included all four groups, but starting in April 1985, Haitians were no longer included as a separate listing.

The April 1985 report cited a total of 9,405 cases of AIDS reported in the U.S.  Of those cases, 285 (about 3%) were Haitians, said Dr. Walter Dowdle, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases. Previously the rate for Haitians had been as high as 5%. By contrast, about 75% of the cases were of males who identified as homosexual or bisexual.

”The Haitians were the only risk group that were identified because of who they were, rather than what they did,” he said.

The Normal Heart
April 22, 1985
‘The Normal Heart’ Opens at the Public Theatre

AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play, The Normal Heart, opens Off-Broadway at the Public Theater.

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The play covers the impact of the growing AIDS epidemic on the NYC gay community, highlighting growing rifts between those — like the play’s protagonist, Ned Weeks (Kramer’s alter ego) — who are desperately banging on the doors of government and science in an attempt to stave off the annihilation of gay men, and those who focus instead on building new institutions that will care for the sick and the dying.

“The blood that’s coursing through ‘The Normal Heart,’ the new play by Larry Kramer at the Public Theater, is boiling hot,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

“In this fiercely polemical drama about the private and public fallout of the AIDS epidemic, the playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage.”

As Is
May 1, 1985
‘As Is’ Opens on Broadway

William M. Hoffman’s play As Is opens on Broadway.

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The plot focuses on a gay couple who have broken up — but when one of them develops AIDS, his ex-partner comes back to take care of him — “as is.”

The play gets excellent reviews and runs for 285 performances.

“Strange as it may sound, Mr. Hoffman has turned a tale of the dead and the dying into the liveliest new work to be seen at the Circle Repertory Company in several seasons,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

May 10, 1985
AIDS Infections Reach 10,000, per CDC Headcount

The Center for Disease Control reports that as of April 30, 1985, the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased substantially.  Of the 10,000 reported cases, 9,887 are adults and 113 are children.

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Since the initial reports of AIDS in the spring of 1981, the number of cases reported each half-year has increased significantly, with more than half of the 10,000 cases being reported within the last year.

Of the 10,000 reported AIDS cases, 4,942 are known to have died (49% of the adults and 69% of the children).  About 75% of patients diagnosed before January 1983 are known dead.

The CDC report states that 90% of adult patients are 20-49 years old, and 94% are men.  The racial breakdown of the cases are: 60% white; 25% black; and 14% Hispanic.

The report also notes that the proportion of AIDS cases in transfusion recipients has increased significantly.

At this point, AIDS has been diagnosed in patients from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.  Among cases reported before May 1983, 47% of the adults were residents of New York.  As the virus spread geographically between 1984 and 1985, the proportion of adults reported with AIDS from New York decreased to 34%.

Among the 113 pediatric patients, 58% percent were under 1 year old at diagnosis; and 72% came from families in which one or both parents had AIDS or were at increased risk for developing AIDS, 13% had received transfusions of blood or blood components before their onsets of illness, and 5% had hemophilia.

Pediatric cases were reported from 17 states; 82% were from New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.  Of the 81 pediatric patients with a parent with AIDS or at increased risk for AIDS, 69 were residents of New York, New Jersey, or Florida.

AIDS Discrimination Project
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.

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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.

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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.

August 1985
‘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.

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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.

Ryan White barred 2
August 27, 1985
Ryan White Refused Entry to School

Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, is refused entry to his middle school.

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James Smith, the school district superintendent issued a statement saying that 13-year-old Ryan White would not be allowed to join his seventh-grade class because he had AIDS, according to the Kokomo Tribune.  Smith’s decision conflicted with a recently released set of guidelines from the state Board of Health that recommended that school-age AIDS patients who felt well enough should be able to attend class.

A state health official confirmed to the Tribune that it was White’s case that prompted the state to issue the guidelines.  The boy’s mother, Jeanne E. White, accused the school administration of “running around a problem they thought they wouldn’t have to deal with.”

The White family’s protracted legal battles to protect a student’s right to attend public school brought nationwide attention to the issue of AIDS and public schools.  In the years that ensued, the teenager became an AIDS activist, speaking out publicly on the need for AIDS awareness among education officials and employees.

August 31, 1985
Pentagon Announces Testing of Military Recruits

The Pentagon announces that, beginning October 1, it will begin testing all new military recruits for HIV infection and will reject those who test positive for the virus.

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Two Pentagon officials, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition they not be identified, said the new directive was promoted most vigorously by top Army officials, out of concern about the potential high cost of treating soldiers who are found to have the disease. Pentagon officials said about 50 soldiers are being treated in military hospitals for the disease.

The U.S. military does not universally test potential recruits for any other disease or disorder as a condition of enlistment, although new recruits are usually tested for syphilis 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.

In about four years, Newsday will publish a story by Laurie Garrett that states that the DOD’s policy of screening recruits and active service members for HIV came at the urging of Major Robert Redfield, of Rockville, Md., chief scientist for the Army’s AIDS research effort

“The reason we have done what we have done is that we think it’s good medicine — and it’s medicine that might work in the civilian sector, as well,” Maj. Redfield would tell Newsday.

In 2018, President Donald Trump would appoint Redfield to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) would write a letter to President Trump asking him to reconsider the appointment due to Redfield’s history of “ethically and morally questionable behavior” as an Army doctor.

September 1985
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.

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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 7, 1985
KGB Telegram Reveals AIDS Disinformation Campaign

The Soviet Union sends a telegram to Bulgarian security officials that references its disinformation campaign purporting the AIDS virus was developed by the U.S. military as a biological weapon.

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The KGB, the foreign intelligence agency of the Soviet Union, directed its media channels and the intelligence services of the Soviet bloc to spread the thesis internationally that HIV was genetically engineered by the Pentagon as part of biological weapons research in the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Here is an English translation of an excerpt of the KGB telegram to Bulgarian State Security that was discovered decades later:

We are conducting a series of active measures in connection with the appearance in recent years in the USA of a new and dangerous disease, ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – AIDS,’ and its subsequent, largescale spread to other countries, including those in Western Europe. The goal of these measures is to create a favorable opinion for us abroad that this disease is the result of secret experiments with a new type of biological weapon by the secret services of the USA and the Pentagon that spun out of control.

In 2016, Christopher Nehring, an intelligence historian based in Europe, uncovered the KGB telegram from the Bulgarian State Security archives and passed it along to U.S. historian Douglas Selvage.

Selvage recognized the artifact as the earliest conclusive evidence that the Soviets and others were engaged in a international disinformation campaign targeting the U.S.  According to Selvage, the confusion and panic around AIDS in the early 1980s made the U.S. a ripe target for disinformation.

“The KGB simply picked up on existing conspiracy theories in the U.S, added a new element that conformed to its disinformation goals (i.e., the exact location of HIV’s construction, Fort Detrick), and spread the resulting conspiracy theory internationally to its own ends,” Selvage said in an interview with the MIT Press Reader.

Once the Soviet campaign was underway, it took on a life of its own.

“A cycle of misinformation and disinformation arose in which the KGB cited U.S. conspiracy theories, and U.S. conspiracy theorists, in turn, began to cite texts associated with KGB disinformation,” Selvage said

Before long, people around the world came to believe, falsely, that the U.S. government was responsible for AIDS.

“The KGB happily noted that foreign journalists, without any prompting on its part, were also picking up on the claims and reporting them,” Selvage said, adding, “Officials from the Reagan Administration were perturbed that Dan Rather reported the Soviets’ accusations about AIDS and Fort Detrick on the CBS Evening News in 1987 without requesting a U.S. government response.”

Selvage said that it was very likely that the KGB had initiated the disinformation campaign against the U.S. as early as 1983.

Chicago House
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.

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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

President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority” and fending off criticism that funding for AIDS research is inadequate.

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By the end of 1984, AIDS had already ravaged the United States for a few years, affecting at least 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. Scientists had identified the virus that caused AIDS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified all of its major transmission routes.

This is why it is notable that it took until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, for Reagan to first publicly address the subject of AIDS.

Exchanges between the Reagan administration and journalists in the early 1980s demonstrate that Reagan and his staffers didn’t take the epidemic very seriously, for which the Reagan administration is still heavily criticized.

Reagan’s successors in the White House eventually acted, albeit often very slowly, on the crisis — leading to much more research, programs like the Ryan White CARE Act that connect people to care, and the development of antiretroviral medication that increases the life expectancy of a person living with HIV by decades.


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.

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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.”

AIDS Quilt - Rock Hudson
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.

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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.

With that announcement, Hudson became the first major celebrity to go public with an AIDS diagnosis, according to A&E’s History.

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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

October 2, 1985
Congress Allocates $190M for AIDS Research

 Congress allocates nearly $190 million for AIDS research — an increase of $70 million over the Reagan Administration’s budget request.

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The House Appropriations Committee also urges President Reagan to appoint a coordinator for the AIDS effort, “in other words, an AIDS czar.”

“Nine agencies have been engaged in this effort. … What we need is a well-coordinated, well-planned effort, with one person running the show,” said Rep. Silvio Conte, (Mass), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

The National Institutes of Health would receive $140.6 million, the Centers for Disease Control would receive $45.6 milion and $3.5 million would go to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

During debate on the appropriations bill, the House accepted an amendment by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), that would allow the surgeon general to use some funds to close bath houses “that may be responsible for transmitting AIDS.”

October 1985
New City of West Hollywood Launches AIDS Response

About one year after West Hollywood is officially incorporated as an independent city, it begins actively addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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HIV/AIDS had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men, which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths among the city’s population.

Following the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city on November 29, 1984, elected officials and city staff begin working on a plan to address the epidemic in their own backyard.

In October 1985, the city launches an AIDS awareness campaign, one of the first in the country.  The City of West Hollywood also becomes one of the first government entities to create a program for awarding social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations.  The city’s response to the AIDS crisis would go on to be recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Also during its first year of cityhood, West Hollywood would adopt landmark legislation to establish rent control and prohibit the discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.  Today, many of the city’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.

Ricky Wilson 1
October 12, 1985
B-52s Guitarist Ricky Wilson Dies

New-wave rock musician and founding member of the B-52s, Ricky Wilson dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

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The B-52s become popular for their dance tunes — “relentless, rhythmic songs built around Ricky Wilson’s scratchy, one- and two-chord guitar riffs, Kate Pierson’s throbbing keyboard bass lines, and Keith Strickland’s propulsive drumming,” writes James Henke in a 1980 feature in Rolling Stone.

Wilson’s musical inspirations were children’s music, The Mamas & The Papas, and Esquerita, writes Stephen Rutledge in The WOW Report.

“At first, The B-52s did not have a bass player, so Wilson invented his own tunings on a guitar, grouping the strings into a bass course,” Rutledge says.  “It was quite an original sound. It was a sound that I still continue to really dig.  I had some major fun on the dance floor in the late 1970s-early and 1980s, courtesy of the B-52s.”

In the beginning, the Athens, Georgia-based band would scrape together the resources to take trips to New York City to perform at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s and Club 57.

“My parents lent us their station wagon,” Ricky tells The Rolling Stone in a 1980 interview, “and we borrowed Keith’s parents’ charge card.”

By the winter of 1978, The B-52s would become the hottest club band in New York, and everyone would be trying to get a copy of their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster.

“At a time when an overwhelmingly straight, male punk scene ruled, The B-52s’ knowingly kooky aesthetic, along with their hilariously surreal lyrics in songs like ‘Quiche Lorraine,’ read as queer to those with the eyes to see it,” writes Billboard reporter Kera Bolonik.

Much of queer aesthetic came from Wilson’s songwriting.

“I remember seeing him write some music and laughing to himself,” says band member Cindy Wilson, who was Ricky’s sister.  “I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’  He said, ‘I just wrote the stupidest riff.’”

It would be for their first single, “Rock Lobster,” which became an instant hit with East Village audiences but wouldn’t reach mainstream listeners until the mid-1980s.  Wilson would go on to become the principle songwriter for the band’s first four albums.

“We were writing [fourth album] Bouncing Off the Satellites, and Ricky just got thinner and thinner,” band member Kate Pierson recalled in an interview years later.  “And we suspected, but we didn’t know.  One day he wasn’t there at rehearsal.  The next day, Keith [Strickland] called me and said, ‘Ricky’s dying of AIDS.’”

Wilson had confided in band member Strickland about his illness, but wanted to keep it a secret — even from his sister Cindy — so no one would worry about him or fuss about it.  Just a few days later, Wilson would die, Kate says.

“We were all mourning Ricky, and I was in a deep depression,” recalls Cindy Wilson in Classic Pop magazine.

The band would wait almost a year to release their fourth albumIn 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.”

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Steve Pieters
October 1985
Televangelist Tammy Faye Interviews PWA Steve Pieters

Tammy Faye Bakker, a televangelist with a nationwide following, interviews AIDS activist and ordained pastor Steve Pieters on her show Tammy’s House Party, becoming one of the very first nationally broadcast, longform interviews with an HIV-positive gay man.

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Rev. Pieters, who agreed to the interview with Bakker on the condition that it be broadcast live so that it could not be edited or taken out of context, presented Christian TV fans with a novel viewpoint, one that never had been heard from outside the LGBTQ community.

At the time, homophobic rhetoric dominated televangelist TV shows, according to Religion & Politics, an online news journal from the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

“As a pastor, [Rev. Pieters] stood in sharp contrast to the often-vitriolic rhetoric about AIDS from conservative Christian spokespeople,” wrote Emily Johnson, author of This Is Our Message: Women’s Leadership in the New Christian Right and a professor specializing in the U.S. histories of gender and sexuality.  “While others quoted the Bible to condemn people with AIDS, Pieters drew on his faith and his theological training to make sense of his diagnosis and to preach about hope and community.”

Although weakened by his illness, Dr. Pieters was a highly capable interview subject.  He had been pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded in Hartford, Connecticut by activist Troy Perry as a place for people from the LGBTQ commuity to worship God.

“There were some virulently anti-gay groups,” Dr. Pieters wrote in a 2022 article for The National Geographic.  “I would find myself on TV arguing with homophobic priests or ministers that I would later see in the gay bars in Hartford around the same time.  So I learned early on how to handle myself in the media around issues of being gay.”

In his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters talked about his life as a gay man and his own battle with AIDS.  During the broadcast, Bakker sat in a studio with a monitor streaming Rev. Pieters from San Francisco.  At that point, Rev. Pieters had been living with AIDS for three years and had survived a near-death experience two weeks earlier.

“She’d say on air that I was having chemotherapy, and that I was being interviewed from Los Angeles because the journey would be ‘too hard on me.’ I think she thought this was true, maybe,” Dr. Pieters wrote in The National Geographic.  “What I heard later was that they were afraid that I might not be treated well, that the camera crew wouldn’t work if I was in the studio.”

After two years battling various illnesses and infections, Rev. Pieters was diagnosed with stage-four lymphoma and Karposi’s sarcoma in April 1984, and given eight months to live.

“I wasn’t actually diagnosed with AIDS; I was diagnosed with GRID — gay-related immunodeficiency — which is what they were calling AIDS back then,” he told Religion & Politics in a 2022 interview.  “In 1982 and 1983, I was sick with hepatitis, thrush, pneumonia, mono, herpes, shingles, and a variety of awful fungal infections.”

However, one of his doctors believed that if he could stay alive, there still was hope that doctors could find a way for him to manage his condition.

“So I set out to do everything I could to take care of myself and create the conditions for healing in my body,” he said.

During his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters also talked about how his faith in God helped him survive.

“When I was finally diagnosed with AIDS, after this long period of feeling abandoned by God and my friends … I fell apart.  I absolutely lost my sense,” he told Bakker.  “My chaplain, my pastor, Nancy Radcliffe, was with me, and she held me, as did several other friends, as I sobbed and cried my despair, cried out for God.’

“Do you know something?  In that deepest, darkest moment, that’s when I found God.  When God touched me, and I realized that my life was not yet over, that I still had time, that God was with me against this disease — not having given me this disease — but was with me against this disease.”

When word of the interview spread, many in the gay and lesbian community became Bakker’s fans.  She, in turn, continued to openly support the LGBTQ community, preaching compassion and risking her standing within the world of conservative Christian televangelism.

Her obituary in The New York Times noted that she attended LGBTQ pride events.  In 1996, Tammy Faye partnered with openly gay actor Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort, ALF) on the talk show The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Show, but left the show after just a few months when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Bakker (who later changed her surname to Messner) died in Kansas City in 2007 at the age of 65.

The Bakker-Pieters interview was recreated in the 2021 biographical drama The Eyes of Tammy FayeJessica Chastain, who portrays Tammy Faye Bakker in the film, won an Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and a BAFTA Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.”

Listen to Jessica Chastain tell the story of Rev. Pieters for STORIES: The AIDS Monument.

Watch the entire interview with Rev. Pieters and Tammy Faye Bakker here.

October 25, 1985
NY Moves to Close Gay Bars & Bathhouses

The New York State Public Health Council empowers local health officials to close gay bathhouses, bars, clubs , and other places where “high-risk sexual activity takes place.”

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The Public Health Council resolution went beyond recommendations made by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Health Commissioner David Axelrod by defining “high-risk sexual activity” to include oral sex.

Mayor Edward I. Koch announced that the new regulation takes effect immediately and is to be enforced by NYC Health Department inspectors who will enter bathhouses in uniform and undercover.

The National Gay Task Force opposes the regulation, citing discriminatory practices.

“This appears to be an unequal application of law” because many experts say AIDS can be transmitted by heterosexual activity, said Ron Najman, a spokesman for the National Gay Task Force. “They are concentrating on the homosexual aspect.”


November 6, 1985
Daytime TV Star Joel Crothers Dies

Joel Crothers, who was twice nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for his role on ABC’s The Edge of Night, died of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  He was 44.

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Joel Crothers performed on stage and TV, with several roles on daytime soap operas.  He became a fan favorite for portrayal of Dr. Miles Cavanaugh on The Edge of Night, which he played for eight years until the show went off the air in 1984.  He had just begun a new role in the NBC show Santa Barbara when his health began to deteriorate.

“I was privileged to be one of the people he called to say goodbye during his final days,” said Sharon Gabet, Crothers’ co-star from Edge of Night.  “He was hilarious, sweet, direct and loving during that phone call – the same as always. One can only imagine what Crothers was going through. Rhodes scholar, stunningly handsome, a zest for life. A gentleman in the finest sense of the word. I adored him.”

Crothers began his TV career at 9 years old, performing in the CBS show Lamp Unto My Feet, which led to other roles for the young actor.  He also performed on Broadway at the age of 12 in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker at the Coronet Theatre, which starred Burgess Meredith.

He put his professional acting career on hold to attend Harvard University, and he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1962.  He returned to acting in 1966 to join the touring production of the Broadway hit Barefoot in the Park.  Simultaneously, he joined the cast of ABC’s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, filming during the day.

In 1969, Crothers took the role of scoundrel Ken Stevens on the long-running soap opera The Secret Storm, and in 1974, he moved on to Somerset, a spinoff series from Another World, where he played newspaper editor Julian Cannell.

From 1977-1984, he grew his fan base on The Edge of Night with his portrayal of Dr. Miles Cavanaugh, for which he was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1979 and 1984.

A few years into his tenure at the soap opera, Crothers was cast in the 1981 production of Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey Fierstein’s three-act play set in the 1970s.  This came about through a mutual friend, author Felice Picano, who knew Fierstein was looking for an established actor to take on the role of Ed, the central character’s bisexual lover and friend (“thirty-five and very handsome”).

Picano described in his book Art and Sex in Greenwich Village how he was able to convince Crothers to audition for the role.  The next day, Fierstein called Picano and gushed, “Where did you ever find this creature?  He’s gorgeous! He’s Olympian! He’s Apollo!”

In October 1981, Torch Song Trilogy opened at the Richard Allen Center on West 62nd Street.  Soap fan came in droves to see Crothers perform in the show (which, incidentally, also included Fierstein, Matthew Broderick and Estelle Getty), and soon they needed a bigger venue. On January 15, 1982, the production moved to the 170-seat Actors’ Playhouse in Greenwich Village, where it ran for 117 performances.

Meanwhile, The Edge of Night had its final show on December 28, 1984.  By then, Crothers had been diagnosed with HIV and his health had begun to decline. Still, he sought new acting roles, and soon found a new home in the NBC show Santa Barbara, which had premiered the previous summer.  The veteran actor was cast in a dual role: playboy attorney Jack Stanfield Lee and his villainous cousin Jerry Cooper.  However, Crothers had to be written out of the show when illness prevented him from working.

When he died about a year later, newspapers initially reported the cause of his death to be “cancer complicated by pneumonia,” a reflection of the stigma commonly associated with HIV and AIDS at the time.

CIA Warfare
November 30, 1985
CIA-AIDS Rumor Spreads in U.S.

Quoting a “prominent physician” in the U.S., the New York Amsterdam News reports that the spread of AIDS in Africa could be traced to experiments conducted there by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

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Dr. Nathaniel S. Lehrman, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, accused the CIA of spreading the AIDS virus in Africa by conducting biochemical experiments.  He also claimed in the Amsterdam article that similar experiments were being conducted in the U.S. on gay men, drug users, and Black people.

The doctor’s alarming but unsubstantiated accusations came at a time when the Soviet Union’s KGB and East Germany’s Stasi were conducting a widespread disinformation campaign around the origins of the AIDS virus.

“It is not known whether Lehrman developed his conspiracy theories on his own, or whether he was influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, by the KGB as part of the operation,” wrote global health scholar Anders Jeppsson, PhD. in the Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.

In his article titled “How East Germany Fabricated the Myth of HIV Being Man-Made,” Dr. Jeppson notes that East Germany’s intelligence agency circulated documents from Dr. Lehrman in East Berlin scientific circles.

Dr. Lehman’s accusations of a CIA-AIDS connection were repeated and cited throughout the U.S. as well, including among LGBTQ writers.

Charles Shively (1937-2017), a gay liberation icon and poet who founded Fag Rag magazine, shared Dr. Lehman’s theories and other rumors with his publication’s largely gay readership.  In a 1987 article for Gay Community News, Shively quoted heavily from a 1986 report about the origin of AIDS crafted by Jakob and Lilli Segal, German scientists who had been recruited by the KGB to spread disinformation about the disease.

The 1980s was a time of widespread confusion and rumors about AIDS.

“Rumors about HIV/AIDS proliferated throughout US society: only gay people can get AIDS; you can catch it from a doorknob, a toilet seat, or a swimming pool; flying insects can transmit it; women are tricking men into having sex with them so they can give them AIDS; AIDS was developed by the Central Intelligence Agency to kill off African Americans and gays; it’s not caused by a virus at all,” wrote sociologist Jacob Heller, PhD. in 2015 for the American Journal of Public Health.

In 1987, the New York Times would publish a letter from Dr. Lehrman that criticized AIDS awareness campaigns for “helping legitimize homosexuality and its culture” and undermining “stable families and societies which are based on … the sacred love of husband and wife.”

Three years later, Dr. Lehrman would be charged, along with the partner of his psychiatric practice, with $1.3 million in Medicaid fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison.  He died at his home in Port Washington, New York in 2020.

December 4, 1985
LA County Imposes Regulations on Bathhouses

Los Angeles County enacts strict regulations on local bathhouses to stop the spread of HIV, and bathhouse owners file suit to stop the regulations from going into effect.

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The LA County Board of Supervisors introduced new county regulations that could put patrols inside bathhouses to ensure that patrons don’t participate in sex acts considered to be unsafe.

“If someone showed me data substantiating a correlation of the spread of this disease and my club, I would deliver the keys to City Hall tomorrow. But so far it’s only been speculation, hysteria and panic, ” Silver Lake bath house owner Steve Downard told the Los Angeles Times.

“The sexual activity at the club is the same as at the Biltmore Hotel, but there are no health posters, no monthly health screening and no free condoms at the Biltmore.”

Under the new County rules, unsafe sex is defined as anal and oral intercourse between men, with or without a condom. Clubs with repeated violations could face closure.

The fact that the county rules make no mention of heterosexual acts, which also can spread AIDS, is proof, Downard says, that homophobia, not health concerns, are behind the regulations.

December 6, 1985
CDC Issues Precautions to Prevent Mother-to-Infant Transmission

CDC issues recommendations on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.   It is believed that HIV is transmitted from infected women to their fetuses during pregnancy, or to their infants shortly after birth.

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The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recommends that HIV-infected women delay pregnancy until more is known about the risks of transmission, and advised new mothers to avoid breastfeeding.

Transmission of the virus during pregnancy or labor and delivery is demonstrated by two reported AIDS cases occurring in children who had no contact with their infected mothers after birth.

With studies on the subject of pediatric AIDS just beginning, the rate of perinatal transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women is unknown and the limited amount of available data suggests a high rate.

However, the report contends that perinatal transmission (from an infected mother to her newborn) is not inevitable.

Of three children born to women who became infected with HIV by artificial insemination from an infected donor, all were in good health and negative for antibody to the virus more than 1 year after birth.  Another child, born to a woman living with AIDS, was HIV-negative and healthy at birth and at 4 months of age.

In December 1985, a total of 217 cases of AIDS have been reported among children under age 13, and 60% of them have died.

Dwight Burk 2
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.

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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.”

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

December 13, 1985
France Sues U.S. for Credit for Discovery of AIDS Virus

The Pasteur Institute files a suit against the U.S. Government in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, DC., seeking recognition that French researchers were the first to discover the virus that causes AIDS.

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The long-simmering transatlantic feud over who will receive royalties on a test for the AIDS virus has erupted into a legal battle, with French scientists seeking recognition in the U.S. courts for their claim that they discovered the virus before their American counterparts.

The Pasteur Institute ‘s suit also seeks the right to grant permission to sell the blood test without being sued by the U.S. for counterfeiting, and the right to share in royalties collected by the U.S. for sales of blood tests by U.S. licensees.

The French scientists were the first to publish a paper on the virus, said Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the U.S. scientist credited with discovering HIV. But he asserts in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I was the first to suggest it was a retrovirus.”

“We had this virus in 1982. We didn’t publish on purpose because we didn’t understand it well enough to stick our necks out. To me, ‘discovery’ is a complicated word. Who first reported discovery of a virus?  They did.  But if the idea comes first — that was us.”

In July 1994, U.S. health officials would concede for the first time that American researchers used a virus obtained from French competitors to make the first American AIDS test kit. At that time, the U.S. would announce the signing of an agreement that would give the French a bigger share of royalties from worldwide sales of AIDS tests.

The contract would end the long-standing and sometimes acrimonious dispute that strained relations between the two countries.


December 19, 1985
LA Times Poll Indicates Americans Support AIDS Quarantine

An Los Angeles Times poll contends that a majority of Americans favor quarantining people who have AIDS.

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The LA Times poll found that more than half of its respondents support quarantining AIDS patients, nearly half would approve of ID cards for those who test positive for AIDS antibodies, more than a third would be willing to pay a one-cent national sales tax to finance greater research, and one in seven would favor such radical action as tattooing those with the disease.

The poll results came from interviews with about 2,300 across the U.S. — a very small pool of respondents — yet the announcement of the poll results garnered considerable attention nationwide with little regard to the small number of Americans involved in taking the survey.

In its article about the poll results, the LA Times also stated that most responents were adverse to electing homosexuals to office and were disinclined to support candidates who espoused homosexual causes.

“Even a whisper of suspicion about homosexuality was enough to turn almost 60% of the voters against a candidate for the office of President,” stated the LA Times article written by political reporter John Balzar.

“Respondents in the poll were given characteristics of make-believe candidates,” Balzar wrote.  “When a rumor of homosexuality was included in the descriptions, support for a make-believe candidate dropped from 70% to 11%.”


December 1985
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.

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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.

By the end of the decade, the World Health Organization would estimate the number of reported cases to be more than 400,000 AIDS cases worldwide.

Charles Lee Morris
January 6, 1986
AIDS Hospice Founder & Publisher Charles Lee Morris Dies

Charles “Chuck” Lee Morris, former owner and publisher of the San Francisco Sentinel, dies of AIDS-related illness in Denver at the age of 42.  Morris is also the co-founder of two AIDS hospice programs in California.

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Believed to be one of the longest-living victims of AIDS, Morris 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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

January 16, 1986
Virus Spread Grows at Increasing Rate in U.S.

More people were diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 than in all earlier years combined, according to the CDC.  Public health experts predict twice as many new AIDS cases in the next year.

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The CDC report states that, on average, people diagnosed with AIDS die about 15 months after the disease is diagnosed.  The report also shows:

  • Between 6/1/1981 and 1/13/1986, there have been 16,458 cases of AIDS (16,227 adults and 231 children) reported in the U.S.  Of these, more than half of the infected people have died.
  • The number of cases reported each 6-month period continues to increase.
  • Cases have been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.

“One million Americans have already been infected with the virus, and this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci tells The New York Times.

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.

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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.”

“It was a very emotional evening in which a lot of tears were shed,” Bayer Sager told The New York Times.

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.

In February 2011, Warwick, Wonder, Knight and John would reunite at amfAR’s kickoff event for New York Fashion Week and give a live performance of “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Chicago House 1
February 23, 1986
Chicago House Opens Its First Residence for PWAs

Chicago House welcomes the first residents to its new two-flat housing facility in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.

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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.

Howard Greenfield 1
March 4, 1986
Award-winning Lyricist Howard Greenfield Dies

Howard Greenfield, the 20-year songwriting partner of Neil Sedaka, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 49.

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The first Greenfield-Sedaka hit would be ‘‘Stupid Cupid,” recorded by Connie Francis in 1958.  Later collaborations with Sedaka included ”Calendar Girl,” ”Oh! Carol” and ”Next Door to an Angel.”

Greenfield would write the lyrics for ”Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,’‘ ”Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” ”Love Will Keep Us Together” and more than 450 other songs throughout his career.

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.

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Under the heading “Critical Steps in Combating the AIDS Epidemic,” Buckley writes:

“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.”

Buckley would later withdraw the proposal, because “it proved socially intolerable.”

At the time of his death in early 2008, Buckley would no longer be considered a journalist of any repute, although conservative circles would continue to champion his ideas.  When he died, he was working on a book about President Ronald Reagan.

AIDS Quilt - Barry Robbins
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.

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In New York Times article, “The Gay Film That Changed My Life,” actor John Cameron Mitchell credits Robin’s portrayal of “Cotton” as having a profound impact on him as a boy.

In particular, Mitchell is moved by the scene in which Robin’s character saves another character, a “delicate, blond shiksa” named Gerold, from a gang of bullies.

“The mean boys part for Cotton as he reaches a hand out to the boy,” Mitchell recalls.  “Branded on my 10-year-old brain was Gerold’s heartbreaking expression when he realizes that for the first time there is someone he can trust and, just maybe, love.”

Mitchell adds, “It was sad to hear that Robins succumbed to AIDS in 1986.  If we’d met, I would’ve thanked him for helping me out of the pond.”

In 2013, actor and comedian Jason Stuart would tell A&U: Art & Understanding magazine:

“When Barry got really sick, he stopped seeing people, including me.  I was devastated.  I remember going by his apartment, knocking on his door, and he would not answer it.  He would tell me, ‘Go away. It’s better that way.’  I respected his wishes.  To this day I regret that.”

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt


Stephen Stucker
April 13, 1986
Comic Actor Stephen Stucker Dies

Stephen Stucker, the scene-stealing comic performer in the Airplane! movies, dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Stucker was known for zany portrayals in comedies, notably the manic air traffic controller Johnny in the 1980s Airplane! movies.

Created by the directing-writing team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker, the Airplane! movies featured Stucker in a non-essential role that wasn’t crucial to the plot.  But in a movie with established stars, larger-than-life performances and endless jokes, Stucker managed to steal every scene he’s in with his comic performance.

Some may see the character as an offensive stereotype that hasn’t aged well, but Stucker’s performance can also be viewed as progressive for its time, a character that is unapologetically gay in an era where that was still taboo.  Johnny is never harassed or bullied by the over-the-top manly-men characters (played by Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen) that dominate Airplane!  Instead, Johnny turns the joke around on them and provides the perfect foil to their authority, gruffness, and self-importance.  The screenwriters developed the character specifically for Stucker, who wrote his own lines for the part and ad-libbed many of them.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Stucker moved with his family to Alameda, California, where he attended Lincoln School.  During his school days Stephen was known as both an accomplished pianist and a class clown with a dry wit.  Stucker made his film debut in 1975 as a crazed asylum escapee in Delinquent School Girls (also released as Carnal Madness).

He went on to perform in the 1977 earthquake-disaster comedy Cracking Up, alongside Fred Willard, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.  Stucker had been a scene-stealing member of the cast of the Madison, Wisconsin Kentucky Fried Theater sketch comedy troupe founded by Abrahams and the Zucker brothers and, in 1977, he appeared in the film based on the troupe’s comedy sketches.  The Airplaine! movies soon followed.

Stucker also appeared on Marie Osmond’s TV show, Marie (1981), and on one of the last epidodes of Mork and Mindy (1982), playing a wildly enthusiastic TV producer intent on capitalizing on Mork’s fame.

Stucker was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1984, and was one of the first celebrities to go public with his diagnosis.  He appeared on talk shows like Donahue, where his unrestrained and acerbic personality sometimes bumped hard against an audience ignorant and fearful of AIDS.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

April 21, 1986
Scientists Discuss Safety of Blood Products at WHO Meeting

About 160 scientists attended a meeting in Geneva hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to discuss the safety of blood and blood products and antibody screening issues in relation to AIDS.

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The meeting’s main conclusion was that the risk of transmitting HIV by factor VIII or factor IX concentrates, commonly used to treat hemophilia, could be reduced or eliminated with proven methods of screening for HIV antibodies and inactivation, according to The Fourth Ten Years of the World Health Organization.

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.

Ed Mock
April 25, 1986
Dancer-Choreographer Ed Mock Dies

Dancer and choreographer Ed Mock — who fused modern dance and jazz dance, acting, improvisation and mime in his work — dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 48.

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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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

May 1, 1986
AIDS Virus Officially Called ‘HIV’

The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses announces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus ” (HIV).

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An international committee of scientists is proposing that the AIDS virus be called by a new name: human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Until now, the closely related variations of the virus have been most frequently referred to as HTLV-3, for human t- cell lymphotropic virus type 3, or LAV, for lymphadenopathy associated virus.

HTLV-3 is the designation given by Dr. Robert Gallo and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, co-discoverers of the virus and leaders in the American research effort. LAV is the name used by Dr. Luc Montagnier and associates at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, also credited as discoverers of the virus.



George Herman
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.

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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 Babylona 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 Babylon closed 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.

Perry Ellis
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.

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Both women and men adored Ellis’ fashion sense for its clean-cut, all-American look.  What the designer did best was take elements of classic American style — like stadium coats, tweed jackets, and homey sweaters — and adapt them to suit the consumer passion for gender-neutral, high-quality separates, 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.

In November 1984, a daughter was born to Ellis and Hollywood TV writer and executive Barbara Gallagher.  Tyler Ellis was only 18 months old when her father died.

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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

June 28, 1986
WHO Convenes to Review Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS

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.

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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.

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The majority opinion, by Justice Byron White, reasoned that the Constitution did not confer “a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”  A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger cited the “ancient roots” of prohibitions against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone’s description of homosexual sex as an “infamous crime against nature,” worse than rape, and “a crime not fit to be named.”

The case arose on August 3, 1982, when a police officer who had been admitted to the home of Michael Hardwick in Atlanta witnessed him and a male companion in a bedroom engaging in sex.  The officer had been executing a warrant for Hardwick’s arrest for failing to appear in court on a charge of public drinking (it was later determined that the warrant was invalid because Hardwick had already paid the $50 fine).  The officer promptly arrested both men for violating Georgia’s antisodomy statute.

In its decision, the Court ruled that while the “right to privacy” protects intimate aspects of marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing from state interference, it does not protect gay sodomy because “no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated.”

The Supreme Court decision would stand for 17 years until 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas would overturn Bowers.

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.

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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.

His last job was as a counselor at AIDS Project Los Angeles, according to his obituary in the LA Times.

“He was always actively involved,” said APLA Founder Nancy Sawaya of Ward. “He was a very gentle, very good, good man.”

Ward is memorialized in the project Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.

Black Community
July 18, 1986
Black Community Mobilizes for Action

At the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, minority leaders meet with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop to discuss concerns about HIV/AIDS in communities of color.

National Minority AIDS Council is founded at the conference.

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The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsors the National Minority AIDS Council, and the National Conference of Black Mayors, and was funded by a U.S. Public Health Service grant.

Other conference topics include:

  • the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans,
  • the role of IV drug use and heterosexual transmission in the AIDS epidemic within black communities,
  • the need for culturally competent AIDS education for black communities,
  • the lack of representation in gay and black media outlets of the epidemic among African Americans, and
  • a plea to black churches to respond to the epidemic.

Frederick Garnett, a black man living with AIDS, addresses the conference, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in Washington, DC, where he lives.

A staff psychologist at St. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett says that although African Americans make up half of the people with AIDS in Washington, DC, they are largely absent from clinics and support groups.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett had studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.

Fifteen months after the 1986 National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, Garnett would die at the Hospice of Northern Virginia on Oct. 22, 1987, of complications resulting from AIDS, at the age of 32.

Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities.  Garnett served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.


Roy Cohn
August 2, 1986
Notorious Lawyer Roy Cohn Dies

Roy Cohn, best known for his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s investigation of alleged Communist sympathizers, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 59.

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A graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of 20, Cohn quickly made a name for himself in his first job with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, prosecuting cases of people with alleged ties to the Communist Party.

Impressed with Cohn’s performance at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would recommend that Cohn be hired as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McCarthy, who chaired the panel, hired the 24-year-old Cohn in January 1953.

“People born in the 1940s or earlier remember Cohn and his master performing on television,” writes Mary Ellen Clark in her 1988 book The Snarling Death of Roy M. Cohn.  “They remember coming home to be hushed by a mother or aunt who was watching the hearings; they remember a father’s opinion, expressed at the family table when families still ate together.”

“For younger people, however, Roy Cohn was simply another name for a très smart lawyer, for Disco Dan, for the international, I-go-by-private-plane man,” writes Clark.

Throughout his later life, Cohn was well known for his lavish Washington parties, with wealthy and famous friends among his guests.

“He was a figure very tough and in on things, a champion of the underdog, though definitely running with the overdog pack,” Clark writes.  “He nested on the nighttime radio call-in shows; he spread his wings over Koppel on Nightline.  He appeared to be able to avoid all taxes and all penalties, maybe because he was connected, or on the A list, or known to the headwaiters and hostesses of New York.”

Cohn would be indicted four times from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s — for stock-swindling, obstructing justice, perjury, bribery, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail, and filing false reports.  He is acquitted in three of the cases, and in the fourth, he would escape with a mistrial.  This experience would give him “a kind of sneering, sinister sheen of invulnerability,” writes Michael Kruse in Politico.

Cohn would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984 after having a doctor examine a small cut from shaving that wouldn’t stop bleeding.  During the visit, the doctor would re­move two suspicious growths and the tests would reveal Cohn is HIV positive.

Cohn’s lover Peter Fraser, a New Zealander roughly half Cohn’s age, reported that, “When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears.”

Cohn would publicly deny that he was HIV positive and would keep his sexuality closeted for the rest of his life.  According to Robert E. Bauman, who says he first meets Cohn on the day McCarthy dies in 1957, Cohn paradoxically had a reputation for “fag bashing” and loudly opposed laws that protected gays from discrimination.

In his last months of life, Cohn would be disbarred from law practice in New York for old fraud charges and he would lash out at the bar ethics committee, calling members “a bunch of yoyos.”

Cohn once said he wanted the first line of his obituary to read: “Roy M. Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.”

“Cohn didn’t quite get his wish,” writes Bauman.

When Cohn dies, the headlines would trumpet the fact that he died from complications of AIDS.  The mention about McCarthy would come second.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Way Bandy
August 13, 1986
Celebrity Make-Up Artist Way Bandy Dies

Way Bandy, one of the fashion world’s best-known makeup artists and a best-selling author, dies of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center at the age of 45.

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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.

Prior to his death, Bandy requested that media outlets report his death as AIDS-related, which was then uncommon.

Born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bandy pursued childhood interests that included sewing, music, painting and movie magazines.  His family moved to Tennessee, where he graduated from high school.  He returned to Birmingham to attend college for two years and then dropped out to model for department stores. He later earned a degree in education at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, and became an English teacher in Alabama. He married, but separated from his wife shortly after visiting New York City for the first time in 1965.

Bandy moved to New York, changed his name (from Ronald Duane Wright) and enrolled at Christine Valmy’s makeup school. Within a few months, he was heading the salon there.


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.

Chaz Watson 1
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.

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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.”

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

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.

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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.

Martinez told NPR reporter Rebecca Sananes what it was like to receive the HIV diagnosis and then be separated from society.

“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.”

Not made in Africa
September 1, 1986
KGB Operatives Spread AIDS Disinformation at Conference

A Russian-born German scientist and his wife distribute AIDS – Its Nature & Origin to attendees of the Conference of Nonaligned Nations in Zimbabwe.  The 47-page pamphlet falsely claims that HIV was created in the U.S. as a biological weapon.

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Jakob and Lilli Segal, along with 20 KGB officers from the Soviet Union, distributed the report at the conference attended by representatives of more than 100 developing nations.

“Segal’s explicit repudiation of the thesis that AIDS originated in Africa was tailor-made for an African audience, and his claims subsequently appeared in the press of 25 African countries.” wrote scholar Thomas Boghardt in his 2009 article, “Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign,” for Studies in Intelligence.

Jakob Segal, a Russian-born German biologist and KGB recruit, crafted the report from information that the Stasi (East Germany’s counterpart to the Soviet KGB) had given him.  With the assistance of his scientist wife Lilli, Segal wrote about a series of occurrences — some founded in fact and others totally fabricated — that concluded that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus and first tested it on gay prison inmates.

The creation and distribution of the report was a notable achievement in the disinformation campaign launched by Soviet and East German officials to “strengthen anti-American sentiments in the world and to spark domestic political controversies in the USA.”

The Stasi’s version of the AIDS disinformation campaign was called “Operation Denver” (notOperation Infektion,” as widely reported at the time).  The campaign’s goal was to “strengthen anti-American sentiments in the world and to spark domestic political controversies in the USA,” according to the Stasi’s plan.

Robin Jacobsen
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.

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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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - Anthony Perles
September 22, 1986
Historian & Author Anthony Perles Dies

Transportation historian and author Anthony Perles dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

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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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - A Lot of Names
September 23, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Raymond Tasco Dies

Raymond Tasco, an actor and director with Oakland Ensemble Theatre and Black Repertory Group, dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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Tasco directed several works at Theatre Rhinoceros and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.  He also co-founded the Bay Area Black Artists’ Connection support group.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

October 1986
AIDS Health Services Program Launches in 11 U.S. Cities

The AIDS Health Services Program launches with $17.2 million in funding for patient-care projects in 11 major cities.

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Created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AIDS Health Services Program seeks to replicate Ward 86’s San Francisco Model of HIV Care nationwide — but with an emphasis on tailoring programs to meet the needs in local context.

The goals of the program are to develop community-based services for persons with AIDS and to determine factors that facilitate or impede service.

The foundation starts with nine projects located in 11 communities: Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Nassau County (NY), New Orleans, Newark, Jersey City, Seattle, and West Palm Beach.

The AIDS epidemic in each site varies substantially.  Lack of health insurance represents a problem for the majority of clients in states having the most restrictive Medicaid policies (Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas) and in communities where a large proportion of clients enter the program before their condition progresses to AIDS (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach).

Between 1987 and 1990, the average annual population with AIDS in program sites increase 126% (with increases ranging from 91% to 175%). During that period, the average increase in the number of persons alive with an AIDS diagnosis in these eleven cities is 191%, ranging from 181% to 257%.

The men and women attempting to build a network of coordinated services for persons with HIV/AIDS find themselves with an extremely difficult task.  As the epidemic progresses, there is a substantial increase in the scope of the epidemic as well as change in the racial, sex, and risk-group composition of HIV-infected persons.

Program staff have to cope with confusing state and federal policy, complicated by changes in medical treatment and in the conceptualization of AIDS. In 1986, AIDS is still perceived as an acute, fatal illness, and policies for expanding terminal care benefits are the focus of discussion. However, soon the focus would shift to early intervention and ongoing treatment programs for a new chronic disease.

Nancy Cole Sawaya
October 6, 1986
APLA Founder Nancy Cole Sawaya Dies

Nancy Cole Sawaya, co-founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies in Sherman Oaks Community Hospital from AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Two months before, on August 4, Sawaya publicly disclosed that she had contracted AIDS, apparently from sexual encounters with men prior to her marriage, at least one of whom later died of AIDS complications.

“I just wish people would realize that it could happen to anybody,” Sawaya would tell the Los Angeles Times.  “I do this couple support group on Monday nights, and all these people are a group of well-educated, down-to-earth, loving, successful people.  It’s not the image like when you see on TV — they immediately shoot to Santa Monica Boulevard, somebody in leather, groping the other person, and it’s not like that.”

Sawaya began her HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when she helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease.  In December 1982, she hosted a Christmas party to raise $8,000 for a new organization — AIDS Project Los Angeles.  In early 1983, APLA would open its doors on Cole Avenue, with herself, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro as Founders.

In the beginning, APLA had five clients, which would grow to 100 by the end of the year, and by the middle of 1984, APLA would serve 200 clients — and the numbers kept growing.  Sawaya was the first to manage APLA’s client services operation, often working 60 hours a week.

Sawaya would leave behind her husband Louis and a daughter.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

October 9, 1986
Violence Against Gays and Lesbians on the Rise

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.

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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.

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“Fred came from a musical family,” Alizio’s partner Jack Grasso told The San Francisco Examiner“He loved playing piano and singing with people.”

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.

October 1986
U.S. Grant Program Feeds Growing Healthcare Needs

The U.S. launches the AIDS Service Demonstration Grants program, allocating $15.3 million in available funding to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

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The grant program is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  As the HRSA’s first AIDS-specific health initiative, program focused its funding on cities hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS.

In the years to come, the HRSA would create the HIV/AIDS Bureau and develop a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medications, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV.

The HIV/AIDS Bureau will oversee the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and play a critical role in helping diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond as part of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative.

Koop report (2)
October 22, 1986
Surgeon General Releases Report on AIDS

The Surgeon General issues the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS. The report makes it clear that HIV cannot be spread casually.

Learn More.

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.”

Esquerita 2
October 23, 1986
Esquerita, Flamboyant Pioneer of Rock n Roll, Dies

Esquerita — an innovative, self-taught pianist and performer whose influence on rock ‘n’ roll started with the birth of the genre in the early 1950s — dies of AIDS-related illness at a hospital in Harlem, New York.  He was 50 years old.

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“Without Esquerita, there might have been no Little Richard, hence no Prince and no Elton John — and no rock ‘n’ roll as we know it,” music reporter Alan Richard wrote in Country Queer.  “Little Richard himself credited Esquerita with showing him how to pound the piano with intensity and soul.”

Born in 1935 in Greenville, South Carolina, he was known locally as Eskew Reeder (or “SQ,” for Stephen Quincy) and was just a teenager when he joined the New York-based gospel group Heavenly Echoes.

Early on, he adopted an unconventional style, sporting a six-inch pompadour and makeup — which was quite shocking during the predominantly conservative culture of the 1950s, music reporter Iaian Ellis wrote in Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists.

When the Heavenly Echoes disbanded in the early ’50s, he returned to Greenville and created an act under the name “Professor Eskew Reeder.”  The Owl Club on Washington Street booked him as the house performer, according to Ellis.

Esquerita also began performing on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” in the Deep South, where audiences embraced his unconventional appearance and performance style.  Encouraged by the responses he received from Black audiences across the South, Esquerita became even more manic as he performed and often added a wig or two atop his already towering pompadour.  His stage costumes typically incorporated sequins, rhinestones, and capes.

It was around this time when Little Richard (also known as Richard Penniman) saw him perform and expressed admiration for Esquerita’s technique on the piano, Ellis writes.  Esquerita responded by teaching Little Richard some of his technique.

While Esquerita was performing live to Black audiences and honing his act to exquisite imperfection, Little Richard was already recording songs as a solo vocalist and piano player.  But after seeing Esquerita perform, he decided to move away from the soothing jump-blues style of Roy Brown and tap instead into the fast rock ‘n’ roll rhythm that he experienced in Esquerita’s performances.

After “Tutti Frutti” became a big rock ‘n’ roll hit in 1955, Little Richard released a series of records in the same style and quickly became a nationwide sensation.  The popularity of his music crossed the racial divide, and he was soon performing on television shows and in some of the earliest rock movies, such as Don’t Knock the Rock and The Girl Can’t Help It.

“I think Little Richard copied off [Esquerita] a lot, but Little Richard got to the studio first,” Lightin’ Lee, a New Orleans guitar player who knew both men, told Baynard Woods for his article “Esquerita and the Voola.”

But in 1957, Little Richard surprised everyone by announcing he was retiring from rock ‘n’ roll to get closer to God, and he enrolled in a theological college in Alabama.  According to Baynard, Little Richard made this decision public at the last concert of his tour, saying, “If you want to live with the Lord, you can’t rock ‘n’ roll, too. God doesn’t like it.”

This opened the door for Esquerita to record his own songs.

While performing at the Owl Club in 1958, Esquerita caught the attention of rockabilly pioneer Paul Peek, who had just performed with Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps in the musical-comedy film The Girl Can’t Help It. Peek helped Esquerita get studio time at a Greenville radio station, and sent the resulting demos to bandleader Vincent.  Seen as “the next Little Richard,” Esquerita was signed to a record deal with Capitol Records, thanks to help from Vincent.

The same year, Capitol started releasing a series of singles featuring Esquerita, first with the rockin’ “Oh Baby” and, on the B side, the slower-moving, bluesy “Please Come Home.”  This was followed quickly by the release of the single “Rockin’ The Joint“/”Esquerita And The Voola.”

“With its thundering piano and obligato holler, ‘Esquerita and the Voola’ could be read as a response to Little Richard’s conversion,” writes Woods in his tribute to Esquerita.  “Just as Richard gave himself to the Lord, Esquerita had dedicated his life to the Voola.”

Woods calls “Esquerita and the Voola” the artist’s “most dissonant song,” and it is fair to say that even the cutting-edge rock ‘n’ rollers of 1958 weren’t prepared for something like this.

“[The song] begins with a rolling rhumba drumbeat and then takes off into a piano rumble that swerves between the almost-off-the-rails high-note plinking of Thelonious Monk and the raucous bass thudding of Fats Domino,” Woods writes. “The piano is enough to make ‘Esquerita and the Voola’ one of the most experimental of the early rock singles, but then the wordless vocals come in and things really get weird, as Esquerita executes the kind of operatic howls that others call rock shouting and he called obligato.”

Fans of rock ‘n’ roll would find similarities between Esquerita and Little Richard — like the driving energy, the high-pitched “who-o-o-o-o-o’s!”, and the rollicking style of the piano playing — but there were obvious differences as well.  Esquerita’s singing voice was deeper and rougher than Little Richard’s, and his handing of the piano was wilder.

“One could perhaps say that Little Richard’s voice had more of a gospel sheen to it, whereas Esquerita’s is far more dirty blues,” states George Starostin on his music review website .  “As for the piano-playing, here, too, Esquerita shows far less discipline and far more aggression, not really minding getting off tempo every now and then, as long as the spirit stays strong inside him.”

Capitol would release Esquerita’s eponymous album in 1959, but it would not include “Esquerita and the Voola” on the LP.  Unfortunately, the record did not do well, and Capitol dropped Esquerita from its roster.

From that point on, Esquerita drifted around the fringes of the musical world, performing under various names, such as the Magnificent Malochi, Estrelita, Eskew Reeder, and The Voola, writes Woods in his tribute to Esquerita.

In Dallas, he assembled a band and recorded a series of demos. Then he moved to New Orleans and became a house musician at the Dew Drop Inn, performing with many of the city’s best musicians.

In the 1960s, legendary record producer Berry Gordy brought Esquerita to Detroit as part of an ensemble exploring new Motown sounds.

“That’s when the Gordy sound changed,” Esquerita said later. “We just started jammin’, payin’ no mind, carryin’ on, and Berry taped us right there in Hitsville, USA.”

Even though Motown updated its sound to a harder-charging R&B beat after hearing the crew from New Orleans, it didn’t result in a recording deal for Esquerita.  By the late ’60s, he had moved to New York, where he worked with the great drummer Idris Muhammad for a while.

In 1970, Little Richard launched a comeback and invited Esquerita to the studio to play piano on “Dew Drop Inn,” a song Esquerita wrote about the New Orleans club.  For the LP (The Rill Thing), Little Richard recorded a second Esquerita number called “Freedom Blues.”

But after that, work dried up for Esquerita, and he reportedly turned to criminal activity to make ends meet, resulting in prison time in Puerto Rico and New York City.

In 1981, he was booked to perform on Monday nights at a tiny club on West 17th Street called Tramps.  Music writer James Marshall said he saw the small Village Voice ad for “Every Monday: Esquerita!” and couldn’t believe the rock ‘n’ roll legend was still performing.

“We headed for Tramps, and there he was: the legend, the man — Esquerita himself!” Marshall wrote on his website, The Hound Blog.  “His hair was short, and he looked like he’d ridden some hard miles, but it was he, the guy who made those insane records way back when.”

Marshall and his friends Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, publishers of Kicks magazine, began to attend Esquerita’s shows regularly.  They put Esquerita on the cover of an issue of Kicks, and soon others were coming to Tramps on Monday nights.

Being friends with Esquerita was a mixed bag, Marshall recalled.  Sometimes, he would show up at a party and treat everyone to a private recital, “rocking through versions of ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzie.'”  But at other times, write Marshall, Esquerita would appear in the middle of the night, pounding on windows and asking for money.

In the early 1980s, crack was cheap and plentiful in New York City, and Marshall watched his friend succumb to the effects of this dangerous drug.  According to Pierre Monnery, who wrote “The Magnificent Malochi: The Esquerita Story,” Esquerita was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985.

“He died of complications arising from AIDS in a Harlem Hospital on 23rd October, 1986, aged just fifty,” Monnery wrote.  “Shamefully, he was buried in an unmarked grave in New York’s ‘Potters Field’ on Hart Island in northeast Bronx, where he rests today with other New Yorkers who could not afford a proper burial.”

In 1986, Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Esquerita was buried in an unmarked grave the same year.

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.

Learn More.

The report, titled  Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research,  is issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the principal health unit of the NAS.  The IOM anticipates that the cost of the public health campaign will reach $2 billion by 1990.

The mission of NAS is to provide scientific advice to the government “whenever called upon” by any government department. The Academy receives no compensation from the government for its services.

Stasi cartoon
October 31, 1986
AIDS Fears Amplified by Soviet Disinformation Campaign

Soviet newspaper Pravda publishes a cartoon depicting the false idea that AIDS was the work of American biological warfare researchers.

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The cartoon is part of a massive disinformation campaign as part of the Soviet Union’s Cold War strategy against the United States.

“Of all the many disinformation campaigns inaugurated during the Cold War, most but not all by the USSR, arguably the most infamous was the effort by the KGB and its allies to convince the world that AIDS was created in an alleged secret US biowarfare lab at Ft. Detrick, MD,” wrote David Durant, librarian for East Carolina University’s Cold War & Internal Security Collection.

A collaboration of the KGB, their counterparts in the East German Stasi, and other Warsaw Pact secret services, the campaign began in 1983, intensified in 1985, and then wound down in late 1987.

“Despite being refuted by all credible medical experts, the AIDS as bioweapon theory has lingered on, serving as a sort of gateway drug to other conspiracy theories, and paving the way for later falsehoods regarding diseases such as Ebola virus and COVID-19,” Durant wrote in 2023.

Prop 64
November 4, 1986
Activists Defeat California Prop 64, Attempt to Expose PWAs

LGBT activists organize voters to overwhelmingly defeat Prop 64, a Lyndon LaRouch-backed initiative on the California ballot requiring “carriers of the AIDS virus” to be reported to government authorities.

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Proposition 64 would have declared that HIV/AIDS and the “condition of being a carrier” of the virus  are communicable diseases and, therefore, subject to the reporting requirement to the State Department of Health Services.

Proposition 64’s supporters, led by the LaRouchian group PANIC (Prevent AIDS NOW Initiative Committee), say it would require any individual who carries the AIDS virus, even without the disease’s symptoms, to be reported to state authorities and barred from schools or jobs in restaurants.  State officials could quarantine such carriers, they contended.

LGBT activists in California argue that the initiative would lend an air of legitimacy to job discrimination against homosexuals, and public health authorities say it would deter people with HIV/AIDS from seeking treatment if there were a requirement to report them.  This, they say, would further the spread of the disease undetected.

Proposition 64 is opposed by the 34,000-member California Medical Association and most statewide elected officials, including members of both political parties.  Nearly every major newspaper has recommended a “no” vote.

Torie Osborn, the southern California coordinator of the No On 64/Stop LaRouche campaign, told the Washington Post that campaign leaders had considered focusing on LaRouche’s bizarre politics — based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism.

But polling data suggested that to many voters, “it really doesn’t matter who is behind the initiative,” Osborn said.

LaRouche’s PANIC team operated their campaign out of a Los Feliz headquarters, which became besieged by death threats and vandalism.

November 21, 1986
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.

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Born in Puerto Rico, Sánchez began acting in the late 1970s, according to the Los Angeles Blade. He played Ricardo on The Bloodhound Gang mystery vignettes featured on the 1980s children’s educational television show 3-2-1 Contact.  He also appeared in TV shows CHiPs, Hill Street Blues and the film 48 Hrs.

In an interview with Noblemania.com, Bloodhound Gang co-star Nan-Lynn Nelson recalled:

“Marcelino had actually contacted me months prior to his passing to let me know that he was sick. We met and spent an entire day together while he was here in NYC, basically to say good-bye.  I still think of Marcelino often.”

In 1986, Sánchez’s health would decline quickly.  His sister and brother would come to Los Angeles to take care of him until his death just 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.

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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.”

In the Life
November 1986
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.

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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.”

Beam began collecting this material in 1984 after years of frustration with gay literature that overlooked the experience of Black gay men.

“The bottom line 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.

Arthur Conrad
November 25, 1986
Bay Area Opera Director Arthur Conrad Dies

Arthur Conrad — director of more than 200 productions for the Marin Opera, West Bay Opera, Oakland Opera, Sacramento Opera and the Lamplighters — dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 51.

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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.

HIV/AIDS services advocate Bev Sykes wrote in her blog Funny The World about how in the summer of 1986 she was Conrad’s assistant as he directed a production of The Mikado for the Oakland ballet.

He had a ‘cold’ during the rehearsal period and complained that he couldn’t shake it,” she recalled.

The show ran throughout the month of August and, at its conclusion, Conrad promised Sykes that he would take her to lunch to thank her for all her help.  She never heard from him again.

In November, she found out that Conrad was hospitalized with pneumocystis pneumonia.  He died shortly afterward.

Until that time, AIDS had been something that happened to someone else,” she wrote.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

madge and madonna
November 30, 1986
Martin Burgoyne, British-born Designer and Madonna Pal, Dies

Martin Burgoyne, a designer whose close friendship with Madonna would later inspire the lyrics of one of her songs, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City.  He was 23.

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“Sitting on a park bench thinking about a friend of mine,” Madonna sings on the track for “In This Life” on her 1992 album Erotica. “He was only 23, gone before he had his time.”

Martin Burgoyne was born in England in 1963 and moved with his family to Florida as a young child. After graduating from high school, he moved to New York City as a teenager to study art at the Pratt Institute.  To pay the rent, he worked at Studio 54 as a bartender and soon became an insider on the Manhattan nightclub scene.

When Madonna arrived in New York in the late 1970s, she met Burgoyne and they became fast friends.  Soon they moved in together in an apartment on NYC’s Lower East Side.  They became regulars in the downtown clubs and performance spaces, and with his nightlife connections, Burgoyne was able to usher Madonna into the spotlight that she craved.

“He knew everyone in New York and showed her around all the clubs, introduced her to Andy Warhol, whisked her through the side doors,” wrote music industry executive Seymour Stein (1942-2023) in his memoir Siren Song: My Life in Music.  In 1982, Stein signed Madonna to Sire Records, and became acquainted with Burgoyne as a member of Madonna’s inner circle.

Stein credited Burgoyne with putting Madonna in the right places at the right time.  Burgoyne was also her sounding board for new songs and style choices.

“She worked out all her early songs, outfits, and moves with Martin giving her his honest feedback,” Stein wrote.

Burgoyne designed a cover for Madonna’s first album, but Sire Records went with a different design.  His second attempt at designing for Madonna was more successful; he created silkscreens that were used for the cover of her single “Burning Up.”

Burgoyne was one of Madonna’s dancers for live performances, but following the massive response to Sire’s release of the single “Everybody,” Burgoyne and other amateur dancers in Madonna’s show were replaced by professionals, according to Andrew Morton in his 2001 biography, Madonna.

One of those dancers, Jordan Levin, recalled Burgoyne inviting her to dance in Madonna’s first video in 1982.

“I was on the street one night when I heard someone yelling ‘Jordan!’ and turned to see Martin running up behind me,” Levin wrote in an article for the Miami Herald.

Burgoyne told her that Madonna was going to make a video for “Everybody,” and she wanted Levin to dance in it.  Of course, she accepted the invitation.

Meanwhile, Burgoyne became the road manager for Madonna’s performances at Danceteria, CBGB and Mudd Club in 1982 and 1983, shows which allowed Madonna to hone her act in time for her national debut on the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

Soon, Sire Records took over every aspect of her record and tour production, and Burgoyne no longer had an official role in the commercial industry that had sprung up around Madonna.  However, the two remained close friends, according to David Blaine in his 2014 interview with Madonna for Interview magazine.

In the summer of 1986, Burgoyne was diagnosed with AIDS-related complex (ARC), an early medical term to describe the multi-symptom condition of AIDS.  Burgoyne’s friends organized a fundraising party at the Pyramid Club, which was held in early September 1986, and raised $6,000 for Burgoyne’s living expenses, according to The New York Times.  Andy Warhol and Keith Haring designed the invitation, and more than 500 people showed up, including Wendy Wild, Lady Bunny, John Sex, Kenny Scharf, Anita Sarko, Steve Rubell and, of course, Madonna.

According to Christopher Ciccone, Madonna’s brother, the rising star paid for Burgoyne’s medical expenses at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and she also leased an apartment for him close to the hospital in the West Village.

Former dancer Jordan Levin said she visited Burgoyne at his apartment, recalling that he was “frantic” because The New York Post ran a story under the headline “Madonna’s Former Roommate has AIDS — Sean is Furious!”

Burgoyne told her that he saw Madonna and Sean Penn in the last week, and Penn had hugged him.

“Sean isn’t angry at me … How can they do this?” she recalled Burgoyne saying.

Still, he found the energy and motivation to paint a denim jacket that would be auctioned off at an AIDS benefit fashion show for St. Vincent’s. Madonna modeled the jacket at the event, which was held on November 10, 1986.

Twenty days later, Burgoyne died with Madonna at his side.

Chuck Solomon
December 2, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Chuck Solomon Dies

Founder of the Gay Men’s Theater Collective and co-creator of its pioneering production Crimes Against Nature, Chuck Solomon dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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As an actor and director, Solomon worked with several local companies, including the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Theatre Rhinoceros.

He is immortalized in Marc Huestis’ 1987 documentary “Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age,” which received the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.  In the film, Solomon is celebrated by members of his family and about 350 friends on his 40th birthday.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

December 1986
Starcross Monastery Begins to Adopt AIDS Babies

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.

Learn More.

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.

In 1988-89, San Francisco filmmaker Bob Elfstrom followed the Starcross Monastic Community for two years and produced the documentary Christmas at Starcross, which premiered in 1990 on PBS station WGBH in Boston.

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.

AIDS Quilt 1 - Marvin Feldman
February 1987
Cleve Jones Creates First Panel for AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman, who died on October 10, 1986 of AIDS at the age of 33.

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The quilt panel measured three feet wide by six feet long — the size and shape of a grave plot.

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.

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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.

Specifically, the Special Programme on AIDS sought to:

  • raise awareness;
  • formulate evidence-based policies;
  • provide technical and financial support to countries;
  • initiate relevant social, behavioral, and biomedical research;
  • promote participation by nongovernmental organizations; and
  • champion rights of those living with HIV.

With 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.

AIDS Quilt 12 - Liberace
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.

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Liberace’s doctor claims that the man called “Mr. Showmanship” died of a heart attack caused by an underlying brain infection. But an autopsy by the county coroner reveals that Liberace died of AIDS-related illness.

Just weeks before his death, Liberace was treated at Eisenhower Medical Center for what his staff called “the effects of a watermelon diet.”  Hundreds of friends and tourists kept vigil outside of his Palm Springs home as rumors of his real illness became rampant.

When death seemed imminent, his attorney would tell reporters that Liberace chose his Palm Springs home to die because, “I think he wanted to rest in the place he loves. He’s always thinking about his fans. He wants to be remembered as he was — an entertainer. I think it’s nice that fans are here and supporting him.”

The news of Liberace’s death 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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Neil LoMonaco
February 12, 1987
Sacramento Classical Musician Neal LoMonaco Dies

Neal Lo Monaco, the principal cellist of the Sacramento Symphony, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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Lo Monaco was also a member of the Sacramento String Quartet.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

February 17, 1987
Jay Phillips, Sculptor of Contemporary Work, Dies

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.

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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.

Fight Back Fight AIDS
March 12, 1987
Activist Larry Kramer Founds ACT UP

Activist Larry Kramer founds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP ) at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City.

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Kramer’s goal is to create a political direct-action group that will force governments, elected officials, public health agencies, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and religious institutions to act to protect those at risk of HIV, and those who are sick with AIDS.  The organization was founded in response to the U.S. government’s lack of action on the growing number of deaths from HIV infection and AIDS.

ACT UP quickly made its name with tactics that were unapologetically confrontational, says David France, the author of a history of AIDS activism called How to Survive a Plague, as well as a 2012 documentary by the same name.

Time magazine calls ACT UP “the most effective health activist [group] in history ” for “pressuring drug companies, government agencies and other powers that stood in their way to find better treatments for people with AIDS — and, in the process, improving the way drugs are tested and approved in the U.S.”

AIDS Quilt - Antonio Lopez
March 17, 1987
Fashion Illustrator Antonio Lopez Dies

Antonio Lopez, whose drawings appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Interview, dies of AIDS-related illness at the UCLA Medical Center at the age of 44.

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Based in New York, Lopez had come to Los Angeles for a showing of his drawings at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica when he became ill and was hospitalized, according to fashion model Susan Baraz.

Lopez is credited with launching the careers of Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, Tina Chow and Grace Jones, and he also was the first artist to use black models in his work, which was seen in the top fashion magazines in the mid-1960s.

He also was credited with being the first artist to draw not only the inanimate creations of the haute couture but to idealize the models behind them.

His family migrated to New York City when Lopez was seven and he attended P.S. 77 on East 104th Street.  To keep her son preoccupied and away from street violence, Lopez’s mother, a seamstress, would ask him to draw flowers for her embroideries, according to the tribute to Lopez on the Visual AIDS website.

While a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he received a work-study assignment at Women’s Wear Daily, where his talent was immediately recognized.  WWD put him on staff and he left FIT.

At the time of his death, Lopez had been in California for an exhibition of his fashion drawings and personality portraits at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. An exhibition of his drawings was also taking place in Munich, West Germany.

Lopez’ creative partner, Juan Eugene Ramos, would die of AIDS-related illness eight years later, on Nov. 3, 1995, at the age of 53.

In 2016, a retrospective of Lopez’ and Ramos’ work was exhibited at El Museo del Barrio in New York.  The exhibit, “Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion,” was curated to evoke serious discourse on gender, sexuality, race, and heritage, and simultaneously invited viewers to revel in Lopez’ and Ramos’ legacy.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

March 19, 1987
U.S. Approves AZT, First Medication for AIDS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first medication for AIDS — AZT (zidovudine), an antiretroviral drug initially developed to treat cancer.

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FDA directors approved AZT treatment, even though they had serious concerns about the toxicity of the medication.

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.

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In a few months, the FDA would go on to issue treatment IND (investigational new drug) regulations on May 22 to permit new drugs to be used to treat patients before clinical trials are completed where no alternative therapy exists for a “serious disease.”

In its explanation of the regulations, the FDA mentions advanced cases of AIDS as the first example of an immediately life-threatening disease, but did not include AIDS in its list of examples of serious diseases.  It explained that some diseases, like multiple sclerosis, are not serious at earlier stages, and that the Treatment IND regulations would not apply to drugs intended to treat those earlier stages of disease.

AIDS Protestors Arrested 03 1987
March 24, 1987
ACT UP 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.

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ACT UP’s first-ever demonstration takes place at the busy intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, near Trinity Church, a location selected with the goal of disrupting the morning rush hour.

Formed in New York City in 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.

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The countries agree that patent rights to a blood test that emerged from that discovery will also be shared, with most of the royalties to be donated to a new foundation for AIDS research and education.

This settles a years-long rift between the two countries, each laying claim to the valuable patent for the first HIV-antibody test.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed virologist Robert Gallo first developed the test, while the Pasteur Institute claimed it was French virologist Luc Montagnier.

Gallo had won the prestigious Lasker Award in 1986 for his share of the work (his second Lasker, having won in 1982 for his work on retroviruses).

Years later, the National Institutes of Health would conduct an investigation that proves Gallo and his colleagues first had isolates of HIV with the exception of one sample that originated from the Pasteur Institute’s lab (which was requested by the Gallo lab and sent to them from Paris).

Gallo and Montagnier later agree to share the title of co-discovers of the virus and they write several papers together describing their work in Science (Dec. 29, 2002) and the New England Journal of Medicine (Dec. 11, 2003).

However, in 2008 when Stockholm would call with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, it was only for Luc Montagnier.  The scientific world would be shocked to learn that the Nobel Committee was snubbing Gallo’s work, but because those archival records are locked up until 2058, we will not know the precise argument behind this decision for many years.

April 6, 1987
Dr. Koop Focuses on Children with AIDS, Calls for Sex Ed

At a four-day workshop at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop draws attention to the plight of the growing number of children who acquire AIDS from their mothers or through blood transfusions.

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The workshop kicks off with a large press conference, where Dr. Koop announces that AIDS is a growing menace to the nation’s children and reiterates his call for early sex education as part of the general effort to halt its spread.  He recommends that sex education start in kindergarten and include information about AIDS.

”It’s the responsibility of parents, and it should begin before children go to school,” Dr. Koop says.

He mentions that parents are often reluctant to discuss sex with their children, and so the burden falls upon schools, churches and synagogues to teach children and youth about sex and AIDS.

“If parents don’t do it, they’ve abrogated their responsibility and somebody else has to do it,” Dr. Koop says.

Dr. Koop’s stance for early sex education puts him at odds with some of his fellow conservatives.

The workshop brings together families affected by HIV, leading HIV researchers and clinicians, mental health professionals, public health officials, and representatives from the insurance, legal, and nonprofit organizations.

In the last week, the number of children under 13 years old diagnosed with AIDS reaches 471, double the number of cases reported a year ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, there are 139 cases among teen-agers.

But Dr. Koop says these figures do not include as many as 2,000 children who have some AIDS symptoms but who do not meet the strict Federal definition of the illness, and he says the number of infected children is expected to continue to increase ”dramatically.”

Dr. Koop also notes that a disproportinate number of children infected with AIDS are members of minority groups: about 50% are black and 33% are Hispanic.

”We have, therefore, a segment of society that is very difficult to reach,” Dr. Koop says.

gold condom
April 7, 1987
FDA Declares HIV Prevention as Indication for Condoms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes the sale of male condoms to include HIV prevention as an indication for use, marking a major stride in public health communication and safe sex and HIV/AIDS transmission.

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AIDS brings condoms back to the forefront for sexually active people of all sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, condom use does not equal 100% protection from HIV, and its effectiveness largely depends on correct and consistent use.  Also, some people are allergic to the latex, lubricants, and perfumes.

The FDA also begins to test latex condoms for leaks, resulting in an improvement in the overall  quality of condom products.

AIDS Quilt 8 - Willi Smith
April 17, 1987
Fashion Designer Willi Smith Dies

Fashion star Willi Smith dies in New York at the age of 39.

Smith was apparently unaware that he had contracted the virus and had shown no symptoms.

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Thinking he was suffering from an attack of shigella, a form of dysentery, acquired on a textile-buying trip to India, Smith admitted himself to the hospital, where tests showed he was HIV positive.

At the time of his death, Smith was regarded as one of the most successful African-American designers in the fashion industry.  His company, WilliWear Limited, launched in 1976 and by 1986 was grossing over $25 million in sales.

“Smith was, in the truest sense of the word, a streetwear designer, long before anyone used the term,” writes Jenny Comita in W magazine.  “Even as he was collaborating with some of the most avant-garde artists of the day and staging fashion shows that doubled as performances, he was taking his cues as a designer from the women he saw on the sidewalks of midtown.”

Smith was born in Philadelphia, the son of an ironworker and a homemaker.  He studied drawing at Mastbaum technical school and, later, fashion illustration at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art.

His big break came through his grandmother Gladys, who worked as a housekeeper. One of her clients had a connection to the famed couturier Arnold Scaasi and secured an internship for Willi.

Smith’s first major role, in 1969, was as head designer of the sportswear label Digits, where he quickly made a name for himself with bright, bold prints; flowy high-waisted pants; and an ahead-of-its-time marketing campaign featuring women on the gritty streets of New York. Two years later, he became the youngest designer to be nominated for a Coty Award, then the fashion equivalent of an Oscar.

In 1976, he and his former assistant Laurie Mallet founded WilliWear; she handled the business side and he the design. WilliWear’s affordable, wearable clothes were picked up by Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and eventually hundreds of stores.

Smith designed the costumes for “Secret Pastures,” a 1984 work by dance pioneers Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane; Keith Haring created the sets.  Smith also contributed to Spike Lee’s 1988 musical comedy-drama School Daze, making the gowns for the homecoming court.

Many of his friends wonder what would have happened if Smith had lived.

Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, curator of the Willi Smith: Street Couture exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. says:

“We’ve been told that he wanted to move to India permanently, a place he visited constantly.  He might have gone to Hollywood to produce films full-time after making a short film called Expedition.”

Smith’s legacy is the streetwear that lives on in menswear season after season.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

April 19, 1987
U.K. Princess Extends Hand to Person Living With HIV

Princess Diana makes international headlines when she is photographed shaking the hand of an HIV-positive patient in a London hospital.  She goes on to become a passionate advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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The 26-year-old Princess of Wales reportedly was living with the specter of AIDS every day. In the loneliness of her failing marriage to Prince Charles, gay men arere the bedrock of her private world: fashion designers, ballet dancers, art dealers and numerous members of the palace staff. They sympathize with her, escort her, lighten her load. It pains her to watch them sicken and die.

When London’s Middlesex Hospital invited Princess Diana to open the Broderip Ward, the U.K.’s first dedicated ward for AIDS and HIV-related diseases, she agrees to do it.  She is intensely nervous, but she knows it is the chance to dispel the stigma surrounding the disease.

“With her instinctive understanding of the power of gesture, she resolved not only to open the new ward but to shake the hands of 12 male patients without gloves,” writes Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles.

In a time when fear and misinformation runs rampant surrounding the transmission of a disease widely associated with gay men, the simple act of shaking an ill patient’s hand was a headline-making moment that helped educate the public.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Princess Diana would go on to use her platform to bust myths about how HIV/AIDS could be contracted, and spends time with people affected by the virus around the world.

She would become an official patron for the National AIDs Trust, and spoke of the impact on mothers and children, further dispelling the myth that it was purely a problem for the gay community.

Even after her death, her legacy continues with her sons, who would continue to help fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDs.  Prince Harry would take an HIV test on live TV to show how easy it is, and Prince William would appear on the cover of Attitude Magazine to discuss the mental health issues faced by victims of homophobia and transphobia.

April 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.

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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.

The unanimous vote by the five-member LA County Board of Supervisors followed an April 14, 1987 editorial by the Los Angeles Times calling for the supervisors to approve the proposal for a county AIDS commission.

“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.

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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.

Paul Jacobs 2
May 5, 1987
Jack Romann, 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

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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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

GMHC Founders
May 7, 1987
GMHC President Paul Popham Dies

Paul Popham, founder and first president of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, dies at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of AIDS-related illness at the age of 45.

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Popham was a Bronze Star Medal-winning Vietnam veteran who had a successful career as a Wall Street banker.  He was politically inactive until 1981, when he first read about the disease that later became known as AIDS.

In January 1982, Popham, along with Larry Kramer, Lawrence Mass, Nathan Fain, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White, founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and Popham became the organization’s first president.

At the time of its founding, GMHC was the largest volunteer AIDS organization in the world.

Popham’s leadership style was infused with charm and diplomacy, which some found to be an ideal approach in the new fight against AIDS.  However, others thought Popham should have lead the organization with more urgency and ferocity.  The latter camp included Larry Kramer, who thought Popham’s approach was overly accommodating and ineffective.

Tensions between Kramer and Popham led to Kramer leaving GMHC in 1983 and, later, their contentious relationship would be portrayed in Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, one of the first plays to address the AIDS crisis.  Popham was the basis for the character of Bruce Niles.

In the program notes for one of GMHC’s earliest benefits, Paul Popham wrote, “I think the most impressive thing I’ve seen over the last year and a half is how affectionate men have grown. We are finding out who we are, what we can do under pressure.  Although we’re paying a terrible price, we’re finding in ourselves much greater strength than we dreamed we had.”

Popham also helped found the AIDS Action Council, a lobbying organization in Washington, and was chairman of the group.

Popham was diagnosed with AIDS in February 1985.  He remained active with GMHC until his illness became too severe.

In July 1986, Popham testified before Congress about allowing AIDS patients to receive drugs that were still undergoing clinical trials. This was less than a year before his death and he was clearly ill. However, he still spoke in his usual calm and resolute manner.

“As a person with AIDS, I am luckier than many in that I know resources that I can use,” he told members of Congress.  “But there are many people who have AIDS that don’t have the advantage of coming with the knowledge that I have of where to go to get the resources they need.  There is no place to go that is providing up-to-date information about the drug trials going on and how to get into these trials.”

Paul Jacobs 2
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.

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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.

In “AIDS and the Arts: Behind the Scenes of a Tragedy,” a December 1990 article by Sean Mitchell for the Los Angeles Times, Jacobson’s name would appear alongside seventeen other prominent people in the arts who died of AIDS.

“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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

May 15, 1987
U.S. Bans HIV-Positive Immigrants & Travellers

The U.S. Public Health Service adds HIV as a “dangerous contagious disease” to its immigration and travel exclusion list. The HIV ban will not be lifted until 2010.

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“It was not the discovery of HIV alone, but the economic and political climate of the 1980s that led to the introduction of the ban,” writes Dr. Susanna E. Winston and Dr. Curt G. Beckwith in AIDS Patient Care STDS.

In the early 1980s, a worldwide economic recession drove immigrants to enter the U.S., fueling American fears of foreigners taking jobs and becoming a burden on the health and welfare systems.  This coincided with the explosion of the AIDS epidemic, with fear and misunderstanding about the disease feeding into the growing xenophobia.

It is in this environment that HIV/AIDS is added to the U.S. list of dangerous contagious diseases.

At first, only individuals whose illness advanced to AIDS are excluded from U.S. travel (based on the argument that AIDS affects a person’s wage-earning capacity). But then, under pressure to demonstrate efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, President Reagan moves to require all immigrants be tested for HIV, and that HIV infection (with or without AIDS) be included as a disease of public health significance.

This adds HIV to the list of dangerous diseases that includes leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis and gonorrhea.

The U.S. starts mandatory AIDS testing of the 500,000 applicants seeking permanent residence.  The ban includes travellers from other countries who test positive for HIV.

The ramifications of the HIV immigration and travel ban would come to light both domestically and internationally with the case of Hans Paul Verhoef.  While traveling to San Francisco to attend the 1989 National AIDS Forum, Verhoef, an HIV-infected Dutch citizen and rising chair of the Dutch HIV Foundation, would be detained and arrested when Immigration and Naturalization Service agents find AZT in his luggage.

Verhoef’s arrest sets off an outcry from the international AIDS community in objection of the ban, with protests and threats of boycotts of the two upcoming international conferences, planned for San Francisco (1990) and Boston (1992).  For the 1990 International AIDS Conference (IAS), President George H.W. Bush issues an executive order temporarily waiving the ban for all attendees.  But IAS organizers decide to hold no further conferences in the U.S. until the ban is revoked, and the 1992 IAS conference is relocated from Boston to Berlin.

The travel ad immigration ban would be lifted 22 years later, on January 4, 2010.  A new federal rule under President Barack Obama’s administration would be heralded as a monumental achievement, accomplished through the hard work of advocates.


AIDS Quilt - Charles Ludlam
May 28, 1987
Ridiculous Theatrical Company’s Charles Ludlam Dies

Charles Ludlam, whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company had become one of New York City’s more popular attractions, dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.

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An actor, writer and director, Ludlam was one of the more prolific artists on the off-Broadway scene.  His productions in a small basement theater Greenwich Village included such parodies as Bluebeard, Galas (a spoof on operatic diva Maria Callas) and Reverse Psychology.

Jeremy Gerard of The New York Times memorialized Ludlam, calling him was one of the most prolific and flamboyant artists in the theater avant-garde.

“He was a master of travesty, creating in a tiny grotto theater on Sheridan Square critically and popularly acclaimed parodies of such familiar genres as the dime novel (The Mystery of Irma Vep), film noir (The Artificial Jungle) and opera (Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet),” Gerard wrote.

Ludlam’s productions received a Drama Desk award and six Obie awards.  The Ridiculous Theatrical Company has toured extensively in the United States and Europe.

Recently, he was retained by producer Joseph Papp to direct the production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus for the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park.  However, the play was postponed when Ludlam was admitted to the hospital on April 30.

”We lost an extraordinary artist who was just on his way to a tremendous breakthrough in theater and opera,” Mr. Papp said of Ludlam’s untimely death.

At a July 13 memorial event for Ludlam, about 1,000 people crowded the Second Avenue Theater to pay tribute to the king — and sometimes queen — of downtown theater and celebrate his work.

The most moving remembrance was offered by Everett Quinton, Ludlam’s longtime partner and his successor as artistic director of the company.

”I’ve never felt so alone in my life, but it’s going to be all right,” Quinton said. ”We’re going to continue to do wild theater and wonderful theater.”

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

May 31, 1987
President Reagan Makes His First Public Speech about AIDS

President Ronald Reagan makes his first public speech about AIDS at the American Foundation for AIDS Research Awards Dinner.

The epidemic is now six years old; 36,058 people have been diagnosed with the disease and 20,849 have died.

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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.

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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
  • James D. Watkins, a retired admiral

Dr. Lilly of the GMHC is considered to be the most controversial appointment, opposed by conservaties including Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-New Hampshire).

“The President should strive at all costs to avoid sending the message to society – especially to impressionable youth – that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle,” Sen. Humphrey tells The New York Times.

At the commission’s first meeting, Lilly finds himself seated next to Cardinal O’Connor, and they would be observed “chatting cordially.”

AIDS Quilt - Althea Flynt
June 27, 1987
Hustler Publisher Althea Flynt Dies

Wife of Larry Flynt and publisher of Hustler magazine, Althea Flynt drowns in a bathtub in her Bel-Air mansion in Los Angeles at the age of 33.  Her husband says she was diagnosed with AIDS four years ago and likely fell asleep while bathing.

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Althea is Larry Flynt’s fourth wife, and because she married him in 1976, she is the only partner who joins him in his rise to celebrity.  She would meet Flynt in Ohio, while working in one of his clubs as a go-go dancer.

Born in poverty in a Kentucky mining town, Althea Flynt was orphaned at eight years old, when her father murdered her mother and her grandfather and her mother’s best friend, and then killed himself.  Flynt recounted her childhood ordeal in a 1978 interview with New York magazine:

“They put you in a bare room with dirty floors and a single mattress that was stained and filthy and stank,” she said. “I still remember the smell. They put a pot and a roll of toilet paper in the room. Then they locked you in.”

In the late 1960s, she and Larry Flynt started a relationship that would last until the rest of her life.  As partner in her husband’s publishing business, she would be known to come to work in outrageous attire, including in leather dog collars and bangled chains that ran from her ear to her nostril.

As documented on video from Flynt’s library, Althea’s style was complex and highly unusual, particularly once she came into money and moved to Los Angeles. Her attraction to drug culture, Sunset Strip clubs and punk rock led her to patronize Hollywood shops like North Beach Leather and Trashy Lingerie.

In March 1978, her husband would be shot by a religious extremist, leaving him paralyzed and in pain, and she would remain with him, for better and for worse.

In a 1983 magazine article by the Washington writer Rudy Maxa, the Flynts would descibe how Larry tried to manage the pain with methadone, marijuana, cocaine, sleeping pills, morphine, and Dilaudid.  Althea would experiment with drugs with her husband, and soon both would become addicted to narcotics.

She would be diagnosed with HIV in 1983, reportedly from a blood transfusion while undergoing a hysterectomy.  Larry Flynt explained that Althea “always used clean needles when using drugs.”

The cause of Althea’s death is a perscription drug overdose-induced drowning, according to the coronor’s report.  Her husband, however, states that she was in the advanced stages of AIDS and would have died within that year, regardless.

Flynt’s body is buried in Saylersville, Ky., where her husband keeps a family burial plot.

In 1997, Althea would be portrayed by singer-actress Courtney Love in The People vs. Larry Flynt; Love’s performance with garner her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Houston pride logo 1987 color
June 27, 1987
‘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.

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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.


AIDS Quilt - Michael Bennett
July 2, 1987
Broadway Director Michael Bennett Dies

Director and choreographer Michael Bennett, the mastermind behind A Chorus Line, dies at his home in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 44.

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Bennett was the ultimate Broadway ″gypsy,″ a dancer in the chorus who went on to become a successful choreographer, director and producer, associated with such hit shows as Promises, Promises; Company; Follies; Dreamgirls; and of course, A Chorus Line.

″I went from dancer to choreographer to director to producer to sometime writer,″ he once said. ″But I never had to deviate from my ambition, which was to work in theater.″

Born Michael Bennett DiFiglia in Buffalo, New York, Bennett started dance lessons as the age of 3.  As a teen-ager, Bennett studied dance during the summer in New York with Aubrey Hitchins, Matt Maddox and others.

He dropped out of high school at age 16 to perform in a European tour of West Side Story, directed by Jerome Robbins, one of Bennett’s dance idols. Upon his return to New York, he found work dancing in several Broadway shows, as well as TV shows like The Dean Martin Show.

Bennett made his debut as a choreographer in 1966 with A Joyful Noise.  Two years later, he had his first Broadway success with the choreography for Promises, Promises, the Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical based on the film The Apartment.  This was quickly followed by more hits: Coco starring Katharine Hepburn, and then Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

In 1971, he both choreographed and co-directed Follies, another Sondheim show, and won Tony Awards in both categories. In 1975, he directed, choreographed, and wrote A Chorus Line, which became the longest running musical on Broadway up to that time.

Compared with his contemporary Bob Fosse, Bennett did not have an immediately recognizable choreographic style, according to Masterworks Broadway’s tribute to Bennett.

“Like Jerome Robbins, whom he endeavored to emulate, he strove for unity of style within each separate work, shaped by the story and the characters in it,” Masterworks’ tribute states.  “Thus the movement might be jazzy or balletic, romantic or angular, athletic or even a little bumbling, depending on the circumstances.  Even in A Chorus Line, the dancers’ execution becomes progressively more polished as the ‘show within the show’ crystallizes.”

Michael Riedel, theater columnist for the New York Post, said A Chorus Line came at a privotal time for Broadway.

“By the mid-1970s Broadway was starting to flounder and so was the city,” Riedel said.  “The 1960s rock revolution had changed everything, and new musicals were mostly doing mediocre business or they simply tanked.  Times Square had become the preserve of pimps and prostitutes and drug-pushers.”

When A Chorus Line moved to Broadway from its original downtown location of the Joseph Papp Theater, many of the surrounding theaters were dark.  But that soon changed.

“Somehow it caught the moment, and when it transferred to the Shubert Theatre on Broadway people started to flock back to Times Square,” said Riedel.  “It was the Hamilton of its day. I don’t think any show has ever been so vital to the New York economy.”

In 1986, Bennett determined he was too sick to work, sold his New York property, and moved to Tucson, where he stayed until his death.

Donna McKechnie, an original star of A Chorus Line who was briefly married to Bennett, thinks that if he survived, he could have gone on to even greater things.

“But I learned on Chorus Line to relish the moment you’re in as a performer, because it can end any moment – especially for a dancer,” McKechnie said.

Bennett’s striking panel was among the first to be included in the original display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

July 2, 1987
San Francisco Ballet Dancer Sean O’Neill Dies

Dancer Sean O’Neill, who performed with the Pacific Ballet and also edited the San Francisco Ballet program, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.

AIDS Quilt 7 - Tom Waddell
July 11, 1987
Gay Games Founder Tom Waddell Dies

Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 49.

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Waddell was a superior athlete, good enough to take sixth in the world in the decathlon in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, writes Mart Dobrow of ESPN.  He was a paratrooper in the Army, and a doctor with a sense of adventure — working in Africa on patients with tropical diseases and becoming the physician for the Saudi Arabian Olympic team in 1976.

“To Waddell, the symbolism of the Games spoke to his highest ideals: the five interlocking rings, the parade of nations, the torch being lit,” writes Dobrow.  “In some ways, this felt like sports at its most pure. It brought people of the world together.”

After his athletic career, Waddell would worked for years as a medical consultant for Whittaker Corp., enjoying the opulence of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh.  When he wasn’t in the Middle East, he settled in San Francisco.

There, in the hub of American gay life, Waddell embraced the bacchanal fully, its drug use and promiscuity, before finding what he hoped was true and lasting love with Charles Deaton, a 50-year-old former CIA operative.

Then Waddell had a grand vision; it started out as the “Gay Olympic Games.”  Waddell was aware that for many gay people, sports had meant a door slamming shut.  His goal was to open the door of completitive sports wide open to the LGBTQ community.

He modeled the Gay Olympic Games after what he considered to be the true principles of the Olympics: equality, fairness, human dignity.  Except that the U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t see it that way.

Just 19 days before the games were to begin, the USOC persuaded a federal court to issue an injunction prohibiting Waddell and his group, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, from using the word “Olympic” because of copyright infringement.

Waddell was incredulous and wounded to the core. He pointed out that in the past there had been no opposition to multiple other uses of the term (e.g., the Special Olympics).

With no legal recourse, Waddell and the SFAA scrambled to remove the offending word from a slew of merchandise and promotional material.  The hastily rechristened “Gay Games” played out nevertheless in the summer of 1982 with some 1,300 athletes from 12 countries participating.

By the next summer, as Gay Games 2 came to a now-besieged San Francisco, Waddell knew his days were numbered. He checked himself out of the hospital, marched in the opening ceremonies, and delivered a stirring opening address as part of the Games, which attracted some 3,500 athletes from 17 countries.

In one final feat of athletic strength, Waddell managed to win the gold medal in the javelin.  Within a year, he was gone.

Today, the Gay Games live on and are help in locations all around the world, including Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris and Hong Kong.  Since 1986, The Federation of Gay Games Scholarship Fund has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships to underfunded LGBTQ+ individuals from 70 countries around the world, where the daily struggle for equality is harsh and often dangerous.

Tom Waddell’s core principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best continue to bring thousands of athletes together to compete.

Every four years in conjuntion with the Gay Games, the Tom Waddell Award is presented to a person or organization involved in the Gay Games that embodies the standards of commitment, selflessness, and love of humanity, and inspires pride through leadership and excellence in sports, culture, or volunteerism.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Love Your Asian Body
July 1987
Group Launches to Help API People Living with HIV/AIDS

Five members of the Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific Lesbian and Gays (APLG) start a new group within their organization to address healthcare, education and social support needs of members in their community affected by HIV.

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The launch of the APLG AIDS Intervention Team was a response by Dean Goishi, Douglas Chin, Tak Yamamoto, Roy Kawasaki, and Herb Dreiwitz after they started to see friends struggle with HIV at a time when no government funding existed to address the crisis within their community.

In 1989, APLG AIT would become the first LGBTQ+ organization to join the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and would help the council establish its HIV/AIDS committee.

The same year, APLG AIT would receive a California Community Foundation grant to develop HIV education materials in seven API languages.  The committee’s first education campaign, “Love Your Asian Body,” would be launched in  and it broke through the stigma and shame associated with HIV and AIDS to promote HIV testing as a form of self-care.

Due to the demand in the API community for HIV education, the committee would break off and form its own organization called the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT) in 1991.  With Goishi as the Founding Director, APAIT fought against ignorance, racism, and homophobia to break the silence about HIV/AIDS in the Asian community.

“It was a role that … if I didn’t step up, nobody else would, and we would have been left out and we would have been left behind in services, funds and so forth,” said Goishi in 2023 for Okaeri Voices, an oral history project featuring LGBTQ+ Japanese Americans.

AIDS Quilt - Arthur J Bressan
July 29, 1987
Gay Cinema Pioneer Arthur J. Bressan Jr. Dies

Arthur J. Bressan Jr., best known for his devastating 1985 AIDS drama Buddies, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 44.

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A pioneer of independent gay cinema in the 1970s and ’80s, Bressan is best known for his 1985 drama Buddies, the first feature film about the AIDS pandemic.  He also directed the largely influential Gay USA, the first documentary by and about LGBT people, and the feature film Abuse (1983).

“If you want to submit one director as the auteur for the post-Stonewall, pre-New Queer Cinema era of Gay Liberation, Arthur J. Bressan Jr. is that director,” writes film critic Caden Mark Gardner.

Bressan’s first credited film work is that of a documentary short called Coming Out, about the first official San Francisco Pride march in 1972.  Shot in 16mm and in color, it offers a snapshot of many people who made the pilgrimage to San Francisco.

Bressan would expand this cinematic approach for his 1978 feature-length documentary, Gay USA, made during the National Gay Freedom marches across the country in 1977, the year Harvey Milk became America’s first openly gay elected official.

“Many of the interviewers and testimonies in Gay USA are not just talking about the pleasantness of seeing themselves and being out at this Pride parade, but are speaking with righteous indignation about homophobic violence and systemic homophobia,” Gardner writes.

Bressan’s 1983 film Abuse, a drama with an intensely provocative portrayal of child abuse, is hailed by film critic Rex Reed as “a film of astonishing power and emotional impact.”

“Artie loved butch men and women, drag queens, black, brown and white,” writes Emmy Award-winning director Greta Schiller.  “Artie was exceptional in that he loved women. He had none of the misogyny that was (and still is) rampant in our culture, even in the LGBT community. He knew who and what he was, and he was not threatened by women.”

Schiller, who met Bressan in 1983 through activist Vito Russo at a screening of Abuse, said she went to the event “angry that it was a film about a man in authority sleeping with an abused teen.”

After watching the film, she emerged “with my mind blown by the complexity of what I’d seen.”

Russo convinced Schiller to share her reaction to Abuse with Bressan.

“I told him it was a brilliant film that made me realize not all older men who fall in love with a younger man are predators,” she recalled.  “The story and acting made me think of Italian postwar neorealist films.”

Schiller says that when Bressan became sick, he was determined to complete Buddies.

“He cut the film on a flatbed in his tiny apartment. He poured his heart and soul into making one last film,” she writes.  “I lived a few blocks away from him [in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City], and I would come get him for a walk around the block. Soon, he could only make it to the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue, a block from his home. He would gaze at the high-school boys and talk about the ones he fancied, and how those who were gay would have a better, freer life.”

About 10 years after Bressan’s death, his sister Roe Bressan and LGBT film historian Jenni Olson would launch The Bressan Project to preserve and promote Bressan’s films.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

August 4, 1987
Cost of Ongoing AIDS Treatment Estimated at $50 Billion

A task force of the Society of Actuaries issues a report claiming that the cost of AIDS to insurance companies could exceed $50 billion by the year 2000.

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The study, commissioned by the 10,000-member Chicago-based organization, also predicts that future life insurance policies could add $30 billion to $60 billion to the total, depending on whether applicants are screened for the AIDS virus.

The study bases its findings on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, which suggests that 15% of those infected with the AIDS virus develop the fatal disease after five years and up to 36% are stricken after seven years.

The CDC reported there were 8,000 AIDS deaths in 1986, and is projecting that the number to rise to 54,000 by 1991.

The authors of the study, who are actuaries for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, contend that based on the Federal projections, AIDS claims are expected to go up by a factor of 10 by the 1990s.

August 5, 1987
Florida Schools Ordered to Enroll HIV-Positive Brothers

A federal judge orders the DeSoto County School Board in Florida to enroll HIV-positive brothers Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray.  The school board had refused to allow the three boys to attend the district’s schools in their hometown of Arcadia, Florida.

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After the court ruling, some town residents would refuse to allow their children to attend school, many would anonymously call the Ray home with threatening messages, and ultimately someone would set fire to the Ray house, destroying it and forcing them to move.

“Arcadia is no longer our home,” their father, Clifford Ray, tells the press the day after the fire. “That much was made clear to us last night.”

Ricky, Robert and Randy, who were 10, 9 and 8 at the time, were all born with hemophilia, a condition that required them to receive blood transfusions.  Ricky would go on to become an activist in the fight against AIDS.  President Bill Clinton reaches out to him and thanks him for his work raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The young teenager 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.

Jorge Samaniego
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.

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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 CarolPeter 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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

August 9, 1987
LA Times Publishes ‘AIDS: A Global Assessment’

In a 16-page special section, the Los Angeles Times attempts to present the latest data reflecting the magnitude of the global AIDS epidemic.

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William F. Thomas, editor of The Times, was reportedly pleased with the section, titled “AIDS: A Global Assessment,” but commented: “Even after you read it, you’ve got your hands full of smoke … Everything is still so inconclusive. It’s hard to decide what to do (with AIDS) in the paper. All you can do is chase the bouncing ball.”

The Times estimated the number of people infected with the AIDS virus worldwide as somewhere between 5 million and 10 million.

The report provided the following estimates for “individuals considered AIDS virus carriers”:

United States 1-2 million
Brazil up to 238,000
France 175,000-200,000
Italy more than 100,000
Haiti 100,000
West Germany up to 100,000
Canada 50,000
England 30,000-50,000
Switzerland 20,000
Mexico 25,000-50,000
Netherlands 10,000-20,000
Denmark 10,000-15,000
Sweden 9,000-11,000
Belgium 5,000-10,000
Japan 2,500-10,000
Greece 5,000-7,000
Israel 1,000-2,000

About two months later, on October 13, 1987, The New York Times would publish editorial writer Phillip Boffey’s examination of the nation’s initial reponse to the AIDS crisis.  He would dedicate much of his article to addressing the charges laid out by Randy Shilts, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, in his just-released book And the Band Played On: People, Politics and the AIDS Epidemic.

As if to continue the conversation, Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw would suggest in December 1987 that the press and other outlets of journalism played an outsized role in the failure of the U.S. to appropriately address the early AIDS crisis.

“Most critics say the biggest shortcoming of the press on the AIDS story, especially in the first few years, was not medical/scientific coverage but political coverage; the press didn’t aggressively pursue the public policy and funding aspects of the story,” Shaw writes.

He goes on to point out that during the early years, the press reported various Reagan Administration statements about AIDS largely without question or investigation.  This included the administration’s statement that the nation’s blood supply was “100% safe” at a time when HIV-tainted blood was being circulated to hospitals and clinics in many cities.

The media also reported the administration’s promise to start trials of an AIDS vaccine within two years, but failed to hold it to account when the first clinical tests did not start for another three years.  (Decades later, a successful vaccine still has not been developed.)

Shaw cites the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the very few papers to report on federal AIDS policy in the early years, largely due to the dedication of reporter Randy Shilts.  Most major media outlets did not dedicate a full-time reporter to cover AIDS until about 1987.

The media “went to sleep on the story,” Shilts told Shaw.  “I’m not God’s gift to journalism. I’m a good reporter, but I didn’t get [stories] because I’m a brilliant reporter. I just did … the work that any reporter could have done.”

August 14, 1987
CDC Updates Guidelines for Counseling & Antibody Testing

The CDC releases guidelines for public health agencies to help them reduce fear and concerns as they implement HIV testing programs.  The report encourges agencies to target outreach to at-risk populations and strengthen policies for patient confidentiality.

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The report, titled Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Public Health Service Guidelines for Counseling and Antibody Testing to Prevent HIV Infection and AIDS, reflects the strong stance by the CDC against the unauthorized disclosure of personal information and inappropriate discrimination against those who seek to be tested.

Per the guidelines, health agencies should endeavor to provide ready, confidential access to HIV testing to those most at risk of HIV infection.

As examples, the report cites programs offering counseling and testing to gay men, IV-drug users, persons with hemophilia, the sexual and/or needle-sharing partners of these persons, and patients of sexually transmitted disease clinics.

The report also addresses the issue of false-positive HIV test results and its impact, stating that most false-positives are due to human error and more precautions should be used by medical personnel to ensure the accuracy of results.

“All laboratories should anticipate the need for assuring quality performance of tests for HIV antibody by training personnel, establishing quality controls, and participating in performance evaluation systems,” the report advises.


August 18, 1987
Human Testing of HIV Vaccine Begins

FDA sanctions the first human testing of a candidate vaccine against HIV.  While the clinical trials do not lead to a vaccine, the FDA’s approval marks an important milestone in the development of HIV/AIDS treatment options.

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Manufactured by MicroGeneSys of West Haven, Conn., the vaccine 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.

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The report emphasizes the need for healthcare workers to consider all patients as potentially infected with HIV and/or other blood-borne pathogens and to adhere rigorously to infection-control precautions for minimizing the risk of exposure to blood and body fluids of all patients.

The CDC defines healthcare workers as “persons, including students and trainees, whose activities involve contact with patients or with blood or other body fluids from patients in a healthcare setting.”

Universal precautions are listed in the report, along with precautions for invasive procedures, dentistry, dialysis, laboratory procedures, and autopsies and mortuary work.

Ray Family
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.

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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.

Paradise Garage
September 26, 1987
New York City ‘Paradise’ Ends

With owner Michael Brody dying of AIDS-related illness, the influential NYC dance club Paradise Garage closes.

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Paradise Garage was a focal point of the downtown Manhattan gay disco scene in the 1970s and ’80s.  It was a cavernous members-only nightclub with a 25,000-square-foot dance floor, powerful sound system, and a DJ who would become world-famous.

Hundreds of live acts also performed at the club, including Madonna, Tim Curry, Whitney Houston, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Sylvester, Jody Watley, and salsa pioneer Willie Colón.

The club, located at 84 King Street in SoHo, derived its name from its former life as a parking garage, according to Douglas Martin of The New York Times.

A departure from the glitter and glamor of nightclubs like Studio 54, the minimalist Garage drew lines around the block that led up the ramp to the entrance.  The main room was simply but effectively designed around the sound system and a cushioned dance floor.

Paradise Garage was the love child of record executive Mel Cheren and impresario Michael Brody.  With a capacity of 1,400, the club was the place to go to dance.

“People didn’t come to network or get laid. Booze wasn’t sold, drug use was discrete … From midnight until 10 a.m. every Friday and Saturday you could shake your butt and not get harassed by chemically-altered assholes,” wrote Carl Brown in his tribute to the club.  “To the Blacks, Latins, and Gays who went there each weekend, the Garage was more than sanctuary. It was church.”

Synonymous with Paradise Garage was its resident DJ, Larry Levan.

“For 10 years from 1977 to 1987, Levan was the star attraction at New York’s legendary Paradise Garage, writing himself into clubbing lore with swashbuckling DJ sets that took in minimal underground disco, funky rock, dub and synth-pop, which foreshadowed the house music revolution,” Sam Richards wrote in The Guardian in 2016.  “At the same time, his uncanny ability to mix and tweak records for maximum emotional impact would regularly send his devoted congregation into raptures.”

Levan revolutionized the art of DJing by mixing tracks to create the dance sounds he wanted to produce for his fans, Richards said.  Club members, who couldn’t get enough of Levan’s sets, danced until daybreak.

“Safer than the sex they were often afraid to have, they could move, sweat, laugh, cry, relinquish, replenish and take a trip with the pulsating beat of the club as soundtrack,” wrote Johnnie Ray Kornegay III in his article “Black Gay Men of the AIDS Generation Invented Your Party” in The Reckoning.

Michael Brody, the club’s owner, died of AIDS-related illness in December 1987, just a few months after closing the Garage.

Levan, who was HIV-positive, died five years later, on November 8, 1992, of heart failure caused by endocarditis at the age of 38.  He was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004 for his outstanding achievement as a DJ.  In 2014, a petition was started to rename King Street, the site of the former Paradise Garage, “Larry Levan Way.”

In 2018, the building that housed the former club was demolished to make room for luxury condominiums, according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

September 27, 1987
Seattle Holds its First AIDS Walk-a-thon

In an event organized by the Northwest AIDS Foundation. more than 2,000 people march 6.2 miles in Seattle to raise money for AIDS treatment and research.

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The inaugural Seattle walkathon raised more than $335,000.  Walking with other volunteers was Michael Otto, an AIDS patient who was released from the city’s Swedish Hospital so he could participate in the event.  According to historylink.org, Otto walked part of the route and rode the rest in a van. He died two months later at the age of 33.

HIV surfaced in Washington state in late July 1982, when a Seattle man was diagnosed with AIDS.  Later that year, another man was diagnosed with the AIDS-related conditions of neumocystis pneumonia and a bacterial infection.

Geoffrey Bowers
September 30, 1987
Geoffrey Bowers, Plaintiff in Landmark Discrimination Case, Dies

Geoffrey Bowers, the plaintiff in one of the first HIV/AIDS discrimination cases to go to public hearing, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City.  He was 33.

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Geoffrey Bowers would not live to hear that the court had ruled in his favor.

In early 1987, Bowers filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, alleging that the international law firm Baker & McKenzie fired him in 1986 because he was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma and AIDS, according to the American Association for Justice.

During the court proceedings, Bowers testified that the firm terminated his employment with little warning.  He said his firing occurred shortly after  dark purplish lesions from Kaposi’s sarcoma, a symptom of AIDS, began to spread over his face.

In response, Baker & McKenzie arranged for colleagues to testify they had not known that Bowers was sick and that they thought the KS marks were “bruises or bicycle scrapes.”

In the mid 1970s, Bowers attended Brown University, and received a Bachelor’s degree in political science.  He also learned to speak Italian, German, French, Dutch and Spanish.  After a few years working as a television news reporter and factory worker, he enrolled in Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

To support himself through law school, he held several part-time jobs and also earned a position on the Cardozo Law Review.  After receiving his Juris Doctor and passing the Bar exam in 1982, he joined Phillips, Nizer, et al. as an associate, and then in August 1984, be became a litigation associate with Baker & McKenzie.

Bowers was diagnosed with AIDS in April 1986.

Jay L. Katz, a Cardozo classmate who went with him to get the test results, told The New York Times:  “But he dealt with that. He continued work and he continued with his life.”

The visible signs of Kaposi’s sarcoma were appearing on Bowers’ face, starting with a dark spot under the pale white skin of his chin, Katz said.

The following month, Bowers received a satisfactory evaluation from his supervisors at Baker & McKenzie.  However, in July 1986, the firm moved to fire him, and went outside the normal termination procedures to do so.

Bowers told Lynne Weikart, the Executive Deputy Human Rights Commissioner overseeing his case: “In light of the fact that I was dealing with my AIDS and my Kaposi’s sarcoma, I merely felt as though they had taken the last thing in the world that meant anything to me.”

Hearings on the case were held between July 1987 and June 1989. Bowers asked two friends from Cardozo — Robert Balsam and Daniel Felber — to represent him.  After Bowers died, Balsam and Felber would continue with the case to its conclusion.

Commissioner Weikart would rule in Bowers’ favor with a record-breaking award — $500,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress, pain, suffering, and humiliation, plus the back pay he would have earned had he remained employed.  In his will, Bowers named his mother as beneficiary.

The commissioner wrote that the firm’s claim of not recognizing the lesions was “unbelievable” and the criticism of Bowers’s performance was unsubstantiated.

“They took from [Bowers] the one thing that kept his spirits high in spite of impending death,” Weikart wrote. “[He] no longer had the opportunity to prove that he could be a competent attorney despite suffering from AIDS.”

The court ruling brought AIDS discrimination to the public eye and established a favorable legal precedent.

In 1994, Geoffrey Bowers would be in the news again, when the trustees of his estate filed suit against the makers of the movie Philadelphia, alleging that the film used Bowers’ story without providing credit or compensation.  In 1996, Tristar Pictures would settle with the Bowers estate and issue a statement saying the film “was inspired in part” by Bowers’ story, according to The New York Times.

dont just worry about it 1
September 30, 1987
HIV/AIDS PSAs Pop Up in America

The CDC launches its PSA campaign, America Responds to AIDS, to kick off October as the newly designated AIDS Awareness Month.

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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.

October 1987
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.”

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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.

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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.

AIDS Quilt 1987 display 3
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’.

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Starting at sunrise, six teams of eight volunteers ceremonially unfolded the quilt sections as celebrities, politicians, families, lovers and friends read aloud the 1,920 names of the people who died of AIDS.  The quilt display covered a space larger than a football field.

Half a million people gathered on the National Mall during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and listened to the reading of each name represented by a panel.

The overwhelming response to the quilt’s display in the nation’s capital led to a four-month, 20-city, national tour for the quilt the following year, according to the National AIDS Memorial, the permanent caretaker and steward of the quilt.

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.

leather man
October 11, 1987
Helms Amendment Imposes Restrictions on AIDS Education

In a 94-2 vote, the U.S. Senate adopts the Helms Amendment, which requires federally financed educational materials about AIDS to stress sexual abstinence and forbids any material that “promotes” homosexuality or drug use.

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The Helms Amendment 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.

AIDS Quilt - Frederick Garnett
October 22, 1987
Advocate & Educator Frederick Garnett Dies

National Minority AIDS Council co-founder and board member Frederick Garnett dies at the age of 32 of complications resulting from AIDS, at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.

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Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities.  Garnett also served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.

Fifteen months before his death, in July 1986, Garrett addressed the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in his adopted hometown of Washington, DC.

A staff psychologist at St. 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.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

October 22, 1987
Worldwide Impact of AIDS Tops Concerns at United Nations

At the 42nd convening of the United Nations, AIDS becomes the first disease ever debated on the floor of the General Assembly.  The UN resolves to mobilize in the worldwide struggle against AIDS.

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“AIDS is one of those critical issues, like nuclear weapons, global development, and environmental pollution, which affects the future of all peoples in all countries,” says UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in his address.

“It is, in many senses, a global combat, and it threatens us with all the consequences of war – not only of massive death tolls and even greater an numbers of disabled,” he said, “but of orphans, of mass displacements, of loss of productivity, of overwhelming and bankrupting demands on financial, administrative and human resources, of fear, anger and panic, and of social instability.”

In closing, Pérez de Cuéllar says:  “We must combat fear with knowledge, panic with reason and isolation with compassion. We must affirm through solidarity that we are but one human family.”

After the World Health Organization gives a presentation on the global status of AIDS, the UN General Assembly designates WHO to lead the worldwide effort to end HIV/AIDS.

November 1987
And the Band Played On: Book Recounts Early Years of HIV

Journalist Randy Shilts’ book about the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, is published.

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When Shilts joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 he was the publication’s first openly gay journalist. He had been hired to cover issues in the gay community, though he also reported other stories. As part of his beat, he wrote about the growing number of immune system-related diseases occurring in gay men in San Francisco.

In the early 1980s, he persuaded The Chronicle to let him report on AIDS full time.  “And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic,” a history of the first five years of the epidemic, is largely the result of his newspaper work.

In the book, Shilts charges the Reagan Administration, the medical establishment and even some gay organizations with indifference to the disease.

The book would make Shilts a trusted commentator on AIDS, to the point that he becomes the closing speaker at the Fifth International AIDS Conference in Montreal in 1989.

Shilts also wrote The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982) and the bestselling Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (1993).

Shilts would die of AIDS-related illness on Feb. 17, 1994 at his ranch in the Sonoma County redwoods, at the age of 42.

Debra Fraser-Howze 2
November 1987
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is Founded

Debra Fraser-Howze , director of teenage services at the Urban League of New York, founds the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS .

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The organization works to educate, mobilize, and empower black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.

Fraser-Howze would lead the NBLCA for 21 years as President and CEO.  She would also become advisor to two U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) while serving on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1995-2001.

As the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization of its kind, dedicated to educating, mobilizing and empowering Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS, the NBLCA would evolve to become a comprehensive advocacy, policy and action organization that addresses multiple health disparities affecting Blacks/African Americans.

In 2019, the organization would change its name to National Black Leadership Commission on Health (Black Health), with an expanded focus that includes not only HIV/AIDS, but also Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health.

November 13, 1987
AMA Declares Ethical Obligation to Treat PWA’s

The American Medical Association declares that doctors have an ethical obligation to care for people with AIDS, as well as for those who have been infected with the virus but show no symptoms.

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In a response to reports that some doctors are refusing to treat patients who are HIV-positive , the AMA advises physicians that it is unethical to deny care in such situations if the care required is within the doctor’s normal range of practice.

AMA ethics council also tells physicians that if a patient carrying the AIDS virus refuses to discontinue dangerous sexual practices, a doctor should notify public health authorities and even take it upon himself to directly inform individuals who may be in danger of infection.

The new AMA strictures conflict with California law, under which it is illegal for a doctor, without the patient’s consent, to tell anyone a person has tested positive for the AIDS virus or has AIDS.

The AMA states that no evidence exists that large numbers of doctors have refused to treat patients who tested positive for the AIDS virus.

But an AMA spokesperson concedes, “There have been physicians who have chosen to make public statements that they will not treat HIV-positive people. Those statements have generated tremendous amounts of discussion and debate.”

November 1987
AIDS Hotline Expands Reach to Spanish Speakers

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) initiates efforts to reach the Latino community through a Spanish-language AIDS Hotline.

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Promoted as “Linea de Informacion Sobre el SIDA,” the hotline was operated by Spanish-speaking volunteers who were trained to provide the latest information about resources regarding HIV and AIDS.  The San Francisco AIDS Foundation had been operating the California AIDS Hotline since fall of 1982.

Jorge Zepeda started at SFAF as a volunteer for the Spanish-language hotline shortly after it was launched.  Seeing friends and acquaintances in the Latinx community become sick and die inspired him to get involved in SFAF’s work.

“Much of what we needed to do, was to make information only available in English about HIV and AIDS accessible to Spanish-speaking communities,” Zepeda shared in 2021 on SFAF’s website.  “This effort has turned into a mission that I continue to do to this day, as the director of Latinx Health at SFAF.”

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.

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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.

Before the end of the 1980s, more than 40 members had died of AIDS.  By 1995, the Chorus had lost over 150 members, sometimes losing another member with each passing week, according to the GMCLA website.  Many of the members are memorialized on Russ Bickers’ website.

For many years, the Chorus could not sing a sad song without the specter of AIDS hanging over the performance.

GMCLA was one of the first gay men’s choruses in the U.S., according to the organization’s Executive Director Lou Spitzo.  The Chorus had its first rehearsal in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park in July 1979 with 99 men.

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).

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Steve Tracy 4
November 27, 1987
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.

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Choo San Goh
November 28, 1987
Washington Ballet Choreographer Goh Choo San Dies

Goh Choo San, a Chinese ballet dancer and choreographer with the Washington Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at his New York City home.  He was 39 years old.

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As the Washington Ballet’s first resident choreographer, Goh worked with the company from its 1976 founding until his death.  Goh’s distinct style emphasized technique and musicality over plot and blended Eastern movement with classical ballet technique, showcasing the dancers’ strengths that company founder Mary Day had cultivated in her studio.

“Those of us in Washington who witnessed his artistic blossoming over the past 11 years … have an enormous legacy to be grateful for,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic Alan M. Kriegsman in his tribute to Goh in The Washington Post.  “And his works — 34 ballets created since 1973, 14 of them expressly for the Washington Ballet — will live on and transmit his genius to posterity.”

Raised in Singapore with eight older siblings, Goh followed in the path of an older brother and sister who were training in the art of dance.  After graduating from the University of Singapore with a degree in bio-chemistry, Goh travelled to Europe and joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, where he was eventually promoted to soloist.

While still a dancer with the company, Goh created his first ballets and began drawing the attention of dance aficionados, including that of Mary Day, who was starting a new ballet company in Washington, DC.  Day offered him a position in 1976 with her newly founded Washington Ballet.

“It is no exaggeration to call [Goh’s] choreographic ascent meteoric,” wrote Kriegsman.  “Within two years of his arrival, he had choreographed six ballets for the Washington company. He had also attracted the attention of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who met with Goh in Washington, watched him work and laid the groundwork for a major commission for American Ballet Theatre.”

The commissioned work became the 1981 ballet Configurations, which was danced by Baryshnikov and a contingent of ABT dancers at Lisner Auditorium as part of the Washington Ballet’s historic “Golden Gala.”  The creation and performance of the work were documented by London Weekend Television and is now available as Baryshnikov: The Dancer and the Dance.

Goh’s choreography for Configurations is considered a concrete example of his command of the classical dance vocabulary and his ingenuity in creating striking imagery.  The ballet is set to Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Piano Concerto, a score that is difficult to play and even more difficult to dance to.

”He is intensely musical, and his ballets are all marked by a first-rate command of structure and fluency,” Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote in 1980. ”He concentrates on speed, intricacies of movement, difficult toe work and streamlined partnering. His base is strongly neo-Classical with a sleek contemporary look, incorporating modern-dance idioms and unexpected gestures, wrist rotations, interpolated academic steps that burst out of the usual flow of movement, acrobatic tumbling within a partnering technique and subtle nuances.”

In 1982, he would choreograph In the Glow of the Night, a ballet set to music by Bohuslav Martinu that would be praised as Goh’s most perfectly realized work.  In 1986, Unknown Territory — his last completed ballet — was touted as an important work for both Goh and the Washington Ballet.

“Every two years since his arrival in Washington in 1976, he’s come up with a breakthrough of sorts: the propulsive abstraction Fives in 1978; the distilled romanticism of Lament in 1980; a fusion of these contrary impulses in the 1982 In the Glow of the Night; his first full-length narrative work, Romeo and Juliet, in 1984 (for the Boston Ballet); and now the richly exotic Unknown Territory,wrote Kriegsman in 1986, not realizing that this work would be Goh’s last.

In 1992, five years after Goh’s death, the Choo San Goh & H. Robert Magee Foundation was formed to provide annual scholarships and grants for new dance works in an effort to further develop choreographic talent. The foundation also oversees the licensing of Goh’s ballets in performances by dance companies throughout the world.

In 1997, the Singapore Dance Theatre commissioned a monograph on Goh entitled Goh Choo San, Master Craftsman in Dance. It contains a detailed overview of Goh’s life in written text and photos of his ballets.  The company also added to their repertoire twelve of Goh’s works, bringing his identity as a Singaporean choreographer back to his homeland.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - Lyle Loder 2
December 3, 1987
Hollywood UMC Member Lyle Loder Dies

Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.

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Loder was a key leader in development of an LGBT witness among United Methodists in southern California during the early 1980s, recalls his friend Morris Floyd.

Feeling called to the United Methodist ministry, Loder studied philosophy and religion and served as a student pastorate while at Kansas Wesleyan University in the early 1970s, according to Floyd.  However, Loder chose to not hide his identity, and by the time of his graduation from KWU, the denomination had incorporated into its Discipline the language describing same-sex relationships as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“Lyle’s dream of serving as a United Methodist clergyman was never realized,” writes Floyd in the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.

Instead, Loder would go on to help build a local congregation that would welcome lesbian and gay United Methodists in the Hollywood area.  By 1986, Loder would be an active member of HUMC and he would share with the congregation that he was living with AIDS.

In October 1987, the Health and Welfare Ministries Division of the Board of Global Ministries hosted a consultation conference on AIDS at a hotel near the San Francisco airport.  Loder was invited to help plan the conference and participate in a panel discussion about the needs of people living with AIDS.

“Lyle’s participation on a panel, sharing his story, and in the midst of it, despite everything, his love for God and his refusal to give up on the United Methodist Church,” recalls Floyd.  “He was frail and only a few weeks from death, though he did not know it at the time.  If ever God’s Spirit was present anywhere, it shone in Lyle in those hours.”

On November 29, 1987, the day before his birthday, Loder was admitted to the hospital, where he was visited by his brother.  When Loder died a few days later, many friends came to his hospital room, spread rose petals on his bed, and sang hymns

Memorial services were held at HUMC and again at Loder’s home church in Kansas.  Loder was the first of the HUMC family to die of complications of HIV/AIDS, but he wouldn’t be the last.

A memorial plaque inside the church narthex carries the names of Loder and 34 additional members of the congregation who died in the early years of the pandemic. On World AIDS Day in 1993, members of HUMC fashioned two giant red ribbons and attached them to the tower of the church.  In 1996, more permanent ribbons replaced them and remain today.

Loder’s life is also memorialized by three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of them made by church and community worker Donna Kay Campbell.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

December 4, 1987
ACT UP Chapter Launches in Los Angeles

AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power/Los Angeles (ACT UP/LA) meets for the first time in West Hollywood.

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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.

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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.

Capital Gay
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.

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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.

Sheldon Andelson
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.

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The founder of the Bank of Los Angeles and a successful lawyer, Andelson raised large sums for liberal politicians at parties in his Bel-Air home and at his restaurant, Trumps.  He served as a Founding Board Member for the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Born in Boyle Heights, Andelson was the first openly gay University of California Regent.  His nomination by Gov. Jerry Brown to the UC Board of Regents was met with a nasty confirmation battle but he ultimately served as a Regent from 1980 to 1986.

The Los Angeles Times called him a “Democratic Party heavyweight, once regarded as the nation’s most influential gay political figure.”  Andelson was instrumental in the 1980 appointment of one of the first openly gay judges in California, Rand Schrader.

Additionally, Andelson was a member of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, director of the ACLU Foundation, and a member of a committee of the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

The Andelson Collection at the UC Santa Barbara Library supports the teaching curriculum and research interests of faculty and students in LGBTQ+ studies across the disciplines.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - Joah Lowe
January 6, 1988
San Francisco Dancer-Teacher Joah Lowe Dies

Dancer and dance teacher Joah Lowe dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 34.

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Lowe performed in the San Francisco area and taught dance classes, including one titled, “Lessons in the Art of Flying.”

In 2004, dancer Keith Hennessy was asked to write about Lowe, his first dance teacher.

“Joah taught a weekly class, an introduction to contemporary dance that involved technique and improvisation,” Hennessy writes.  “Joah, thanks a lot.  Thanks for welcoming me, for steering me into the future and away from the past….  You were my first authentically intuitive man.”

The Joah Lowe collection — which includes theater, performance and dance ephemera, performance and dance production notes, and related art and artifacts from Lowe’s work — is stored at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.  The collection includes material collected by Charlie Halloran, a dancer who worked with Lowe and who subsequently died in 1993, also from AIDS-related illness.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Women dont get AIDS
January 15, 1988
ACT UP Protests Cosmopolitan Magazine

After Cosmopolitan Magazine publishes an article by a psychiatrist claiming that women with “healthy vaginas” did not have to worry about contracting HIV, 300 activists gather outside the magazine’s New York headquarters to express their outrage.

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The demonstration was organized by the women members from the largest radical AIDS organization in the US, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).  On a cold winter day, hundreds of activists distributed 5,000 fact sheets and called for a boycott of the magazine.

Two two months later, Cosmopolitan published its first article on safer sex practices for women .

This was ACT UP’s first protest that specifically targeted the issue of women and AIDS.  But there was more to come.

The discovery of HIV in 1984 led to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to broaden slightly the definition of AIDS in 1985.  However, the definition largely excluded women because it failed to reference the opportunistic infections most commonly experienced by women with AIDS. infections.

This resulted in women being excluded from most HIV/AIDS clinical trials and also perpetuated the falsehood that only very promiscuous women or women who used IV drugs could get HIV.

Activists began demanding that the CDC broaden its AIDS definition again, so that it could include women, first through attempts to talk with CDC leaders and then through letter-writing campaigns.  Tired of having demands ignored, ACT UP organized two massive demonstrations in 1989 and 1990 in Atlanta, at the headquarters of the CDC.

Hundreds of activists were arrested carrying banners reading “Women don’t get AIDS, they just die from it.”

Activist pressure to study the disease among populations other than gay men finally led the CDC to announce in 1991 a new study that would include women—the Spectrum of Disease Study. Representatives of ACT UP were allowed to participate in the design of the study and the organization provided 60% of the female participants, according to Gilbert Elbaz, author of Women, AIDS, and Activism Fighting Invisibility.

– – – – – – –
Sources: Gilbert Elbaz, author of Women, AIDS, and Activism Fighting Invisibility.

ACT UP san francisco
January 15, 1988
ACT UP Chapter Forms in San Francisco after Crushing LaRouche Initiative

Already a fertile breeding ground for LGBT activism, San Francisco becomes the latest city to start its own chapter of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).

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After AIDS activists joined together in 1986 to fight the discriminatory AIDS initiatives proposed by Lyndon LaRouche, it was only a matter of time before ACT UP chapters began to pop up in major California cities.

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).

According to archival ACT UP documents,  1988 would be a busy and productive year for ACT UP/San Francisco.

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 McKellen 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 — spreads through the LGBTQ+ community, actor Ian McKellen decides to come out on live BBC radio to demonstrate his personal stake in his opposition to the law.

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Broadcast live on this date in 1988, McKellen was interviewed along with Section 28 supporter Peregrine Worsthorne.  Early in the broadcast, the interviewer asked McKellen, “So you would just like to see Clause 28 disappear altogether?”

McKellen responded, “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 said the law would not have “any very serious effect on the Arts,” McKellen countered with an example of how homophobia was 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,” McKellen said.

“The Devonshire County Council has recently removed £10,000 from the grant to its local arts center, because it proposes to do that play,” McKellen argued.  “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.

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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.

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On this day, Hospice Los Angeles/Long Beach announced the opening of its location on the 1300 block of Ogden neighborhood of Los Angeles, bordering West Hollywood.

Called Hughes House after Shawn Hughes, the first City of West Hollywood employee to die of AIDS, the hospice was one of only two in Los Angeles available exclusively for AIDS patients, although additional AIDS hospices were in the works to open later in 1988 and 1989.  Shawn Hughes’ mother attended the event to show her support of the hospice, along with media representatives and AIDS activists.

Disgruntled neighbors also attended the event, according to the Los Angeles Times, “milling around the fringes of the press conference.”

Opposed to Hughes House opening in their neighborhood and angry with the facility’s plan to care for a total of six AIDS patients in the three-bedroom home, the neighbors provided the Times reporter with a litany of complaints, ranging from alleged zoning violations to the possibility of lowered property values.

“Our problem has nothing to do with AIDS,” one neighbor said. “It has to do with R-1 (single-family zoning) conformity … It’s the same as if somebody put in a body-and-fender shop in your neighborhood.”

Los Angeles City Councilperson Michael Woo, who attended the hospice opening event, would become the target of of much of the residents’ anger.

Woo, however, defended the hospice location, saying he had obtained an opinion from the city attorney’s office stating that hospices could be operated in residential zones as long as they are no larger than six beds.

“A hospice is not a hospital,” Woo told the LA Times. “It is a place where (AIDS patients) can die with respect and dignity.”

LA Times reporter Bob Baker pointed out, “The conflict is symptomatic of why Los Angeles County has so few AIDS hospices, where patients can die in an environment far more sympathetic and less expensive than a hospital.  In addition to a lack of governmental assistance — it was only late last year that the county Board of Supervisors voted to release $1.5 million to support alternative-care AIDS programs — the few existing hospices created with private funds or contributions have been placed in commercial areas or low-income neighborhoods.”

This marked the beginning of a long fight between Hughes House and its neighbors, the latter who would ask the city’s Zoning Board to close down the hospice.  In its first year, Hughes House would provide hospice care to numerous people, including famous television performer Wayland Flowers.

Michael Cappara
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.

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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.

“Ballet was Michael Cappara’s life and joy,” according to Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.

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.”

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

February 20, 1988
20,000 March in Manchester Against U.K.’s Section 28

As the conservative government prepares to enact Section 28 to disenfranchise members of the LGBTQ+ community, 20,000 activists take to the streets of Manchester to protest the law.

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Section 28 targets the teaching of school children, with the bill prohibiting the promotion or “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”  It also banned government funding that supported LGBT events, services and programs.

Paul Fairweather, who worked for Manchester’s city council, recalls how he helped organize for what would become one of the largest LGBTQ+ demonstrations in the country’s history.

“There was a sense that the whole community was under threat,” Fairweather told The Guardian.  “There were also lots of questions about Section 28’s possible impact on gay bars and clubs, as well as concerns about the attitude of the police force.”

Concerns about police hostility deter people from joining the demonstration.  About 20,000 people marched, and the event revitalized Manchester’s LGBTQ+ movement.

March 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.

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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.

March 1988
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.

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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.

March 1988
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.


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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.

AIDS Quilt - Arnie Zane
March 30, 1988
NYC Choreographer Arnie Zane Dies

Arnie Zane, the co-artistic director of Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Dance Company, a leading postmodernist dance troupe, died of AIDS-related illness at his home in Valley Cottage, New York. He was 39 years old.

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Zane was born in the Bronx and attended public schools in New York City, receiving an undergraduate degree from the State University at Binghamton.  Zane began working with Bill T. Jones in 1971, and they formed the American Dance Asylum with Lois Welk in 1973 in Binghamton, New York.

“They made an unlikely team: Jones is tall and muscular and his dancing expansive, while Zane, short and wiry, leaped about the stage in bursts of nervous energy,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

After touring together in the U.S. and abroad, the two choreographer-dancers formed the Jones-Zane company in 1982 and appeared in that year’s Next Wave festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Through much of the 1980s, the company drew critical acclaim for its stylish, punchy dance that incorporated narrative and text set to music by noted post-modernist composers.  Zane and Jones’ choreography often explored issues such as racism, religion, sexism, and the nuclear age.

Zane held two Creative Artists Public Service Fellowships: for photography in 1973 and for choreography in 1981. He also was awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and 1984.

In 1986, he and Jones were recipients of New York’s Dance Performance Award (the “Bessie”) for their 1985 season.

Following Zane’s death, Jones kept the name of the company the same.  Published in 1990, Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane is a collaboration by the two men, examining their work together.

“The reader of Body Against Body is left to contemplate the toll the disease is taking in the arts community and to reflect on what the premature death of so many young artists means to the performing arts, to their audience and to humanity,” wrote Charles Solomon in the LA Times.

Also in 1990, Jones (who was also diagnosed as HIV-positive) created the now canonical work, D-Man in the Waters, which explored the grief, loss and existential fear shared by many in the dance community at that time.

* * * * * * * *

Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

April 4, 1988
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.

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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 15, 1988
Pentagon Transfers HIV+ Soldiers to Ft. Hood Barracks

The U.S. Department of Defense transfers 50 soldiers who tested positive for HIV since their enlistment to Army barracks in Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and confines them there.

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The HIV-positive service members were lodged in a special barracks wing known on base as “the HIV hotel” and “the leper colony,” according to reporting by Newsday, which was reprinted in the Los Angeles Times.  Most of the men were housed on the third floor of Building 21006.

In the first story of its kind, Newsday reporter Laurie Garrett interviewed John O. Brisbois, a former service member who “escaped” the barracks in October 1988.

“The Army did everything possible to make me want to leave,” Brisbois told  Newsday. “I feel I don’t have a future anymore. I don’t want to die, but I get so depressed.”

The DOD began testing its troops for HIV in October 1985, at the urging of Maj. Robert Redfield, chief scientist for the Army’s AIDS research effort.

Redfield, who in 2018 would be appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Newsday, “The reason we have done what we have done is that we think it’s good medicine — and it’s medicine that might work in the civilian sector, as well.”

Fort Hood was the largest tank and artillery post in the world, and its commanding general in the mid 1980s was Lt. Gen. Crosbie Saint.  It was Lt. Gen. Saint who made the decision to consolidate all soldiers testing positive for HIV into one barracks, according to author Randy Shilts (1951-1994) in his 1993 book Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf War.

Saint maintained that the segregation was necessary to preserve the combat readiness of his other units,” Shilts wrote.

When the 50 HIV+ service members suddenly arrived at Fort Hood, the 38,000 soldiers already on the base quickly found out why they were there.  The result was unbridled discrimination and harassment of anyone housed in the barracks, according to Shilts.

“To make matters worse, the 50 soldiers were not allowed to leave the barracks at night,” Shilts wrote.  “The HIV Hotel was more a prison than a hotel. Any infraction of the rules earned a disciplinary hearing.”

The HIV Hotel was shut down after Laurie Garrett’s exposé was published in April 1989, according to Shilts.  The media attention also caused the Inspector General to order an investigation and determine that Army regulations had been violated.  However, no disciplinary action was issued against the officers who had caused the violations.

Meanwhile, the HIV+ service members were quietly reintegrated into military housing, and Lt. Gen. Saint was promoted to a command post in Europe.

Shilts reported that Saint was overheard to boast, “I will have no trouble controlling the troops in Europe.  After all, I ran the largest leper colony in the United States here at Fort Hood.”

Between 1985 and 1988, the DOD had identified nearly 6,000 soldiers and recruits who had tested positive for HIV.  Per DOD policy, all recruits testing positive were turned away.  More than 2,200 active service members remained on duty, Shilts wrote.

In December 1988, Colonel John Cruden, chief of the Pentagon’s legislative division, wrote a letter to the DOD’s general counsel, stating, “Maintaining in the active duty force over 2,200 permanently nondeployable combat assets who are certain to progress to medical unfitness in a relatively short period of time is a very unwise personnel policy.”

The Pentagon estimated the cost of maintaining the “nondeployable assets” at $57 million a year.

Youri Egorov
April 16, 1988
Classical Pianist Youri Egorov Dies

Russian-born pianist Youri Egorov dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Amsterdam at the age of 33.

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Egorov made his mark on the performance of classical music in his own highly individual way.  Between the ages of 6 and 17, he studied music at the Kazan Music School and then studied for six years at the Moscow Conservatory.  In 1976, at the age of 22, Egorov defected from Russia to Amsterdam. applying for asylum just before a concert in Italy.

The year following his defection, Egorov participated in the Cliburn music competition in Fort Forth, Texas and became an audience favorite.  When he was not chosen by judges as a finalist, a group of patrons and Cliburn board members formed an ad-hoc committee to raise money equal to the top prize of $10,000 to further Egorov’s career.

In 1978, Egorov had his New York recital debut in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center at the age of 24, and his career took off.  By the end of the year, Egorov would give a performance at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded live.  The same year, he performed for the Schumann Carnaval, a recital for German TV.

”Mr. Egorov plays in a free, romantic style, and his approach is quite different from that of so many competition winners,” wrote Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times after Egorov’s New York debut.

Egorov’s dramatic style can be heard (and seen) in this abbreviated recording of a concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in June 1979.

In the book Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves compiled by Elyse Mach, Egorov spoke candidly on the topics of rehearsal, pre-concert nervousness, artistic restrictions in Russia, and homosexuality.  In Amsterdam, Egorov met Jan Brouwer, who became his long-term partner.

Although he took an apartment in Manhattan in the late 1970s, and he and Brouwer established a residence in Monte Carlo for tax purposes, Egorov counted Amsterdam as his home throughout his 12 years in the West.

When Egorov died in 1988, he had recordings of several performances awaiting release.  His partner died about four months after Egorov, and both their remains are interred at Driehuis Velsen Crematorium, Noord-Holland, Netherlands.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - Cruz Luna
April 29, 1988
Flamenco Dancer Cruz Luna Dies

Nationally known flamenco dancer Cruz Luna dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.


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A native of Spain, Luna learned flamenco dancing in cafes there and studied later in Mexico and Los Angeles. He launched his career at the age of 17 with appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Dave Garroway television shows.

Luna danced in an international tour with the Ballet Nacional of Spain and in a Broadway show titled Ole! Ole!  He moved to San Francisco in 1959 and performed with the Smothers Brothers and Phyllis Diller. From 1960 to 1974, he operated Cafe Madrid in North Beach and presented flamenco dancers from around the world.

He died at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.

Luna is memorialized in the project Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

May 6, 1988
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.

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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.

In 1999, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston would conduct a study that confirmed the results of the 1988 research.

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.

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The clause in question prohibited “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Prime Minister, said at the time: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.”

Section 28 arose within a wider social and political landscape that sought to disenfranchise members of the LGBTQ community.  In 1983, 50% of those surveyed agreed that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” were “always wrong.”  By 1987, the figure had risen to 64%, perhaps fuelled by fears associated with the spread of HIV — which was often characterized as “the gay disease.”

One of the original sources of complaint was from someone who objected to Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, a children’s storybook by the Danish author Susanne Bösche and published in England by Gay Men’s Press. The author’s intention was to give children knowledge about different types of family relationships and she seemed stunned by the subsequent uproar in the U.K.

In 1986, the book was discovered in a library of the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority. A National Council for Civil Liberties pamphlet revealed there was only one copy, located in a teachers’ resource centre where access was controlled. Yet an atmosphere of media-stoked paranoia soon arose.

Many LGBT+ people who came of age during the era of Section 28 felt vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse and, because of Section 28, teachers would not step in to protect them.

“School was hard,” said Divina De Campo, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in the 2019 season.  “I got a lot of flak from pretty much everybody in the school. Growing up for everybody was hard, but then you add on being gay and it was just a whole other level.”

Understanding AIDS
May 26, 1988
Surgeon General Launches Nationwide Education Campaign

C. Everett Koop, the U.S. Surgeon General, launches the nation’s first coordinated HIV/AIDS education campaign.  It is the largest public health mailing in history.

Learn More.

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.

Mark Joplin
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.

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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.

Joplin also wrote comic book stories and was known as a talented DJ and musician, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

June 6, 1988
AIDS Hospice Ordered to Move from Hollywood Neighborhood

A Los Angeles zoning administrator rules that Hughes House, one of just a few AIDS hospices in the county, is in violation of zoning laws and cannot remain in the neighborhood where it has operated for five months.

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Likening the hospice to a hospital, Chief Zoning Administrator Franklin P. Eberhard ruled that Hughes House is not allowed to operate in the three-bedroom house on the 1300 block of Ogden, a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Previously, Los Angeles building and safety officials said the hospice could operate in its location, because the six-bed facility observes state and city laws which allow up to six unrelated people to share a single-family home.  The city has no zoning code that applies specifically to where hospices can be located.

Hughes House responded by filing an appeal to Eberhard’s decision.  Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles/Long Beach, which runs Hughes House, told the Los Angeles Times that he was confident that they would win their appeal on grounds that Hughes House is not a medical facility.

“We feel that, No. 1, it’s a legal use,” Wolff told the Times. “No. 2, the moral imperative is so overwhelming. There needs to be a place for these people to be cared for in the final stages of life.”

Leonard Matlovich
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.

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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 America and 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.

Matlovich’s body was buried with full military honors in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., according to Making Gay History.

His headstone reads “A Gay Vietnam Veteran” and is inscribed with the words he made famous: “When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

June 22, 1988
Opera Conductor Andrew Meltzer Dies

Andrew Meltzer, resident conductor with the San Francisco Opera, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Meltzer made his West Coast conducting debut with the Spring Opera Theater’s 1974 production of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, according to The Washington Post.  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.  Opera fans in San Francisco considered Meltzer a rising star.

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.

“Anyone who heard him conduct last year’s La Traviata cannot help but feel the tragedy,” said Anthony Turney, administrative director of the San Francisco Opera.

June 1988
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.

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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 instrumental 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.

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Born in 1941 in the Bohemian town of Bergreichenstein (now part of the Czek Republic), Raab started life as the son of a farm hand.  While attending high school at Straubing, he would befriend Peer Raben, the future composer for many Fassbinder films, and the two would move to Munich together.

Raab would play his first role in Raben’s staging of Antigone, where they both would meet Fassbinder.  In 1969, Raab would play the lead role in Fassbinder’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and then go on to perform in numerous other Fassbinder films and TV productions.

Raab is considered one of the most versatile members of Fassbinder’s stock company, and he would work on more than 30 of the director’s films, on and behind the screen.

Before he died, he worked to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Germany. In 1987, he discussed his illness in Herbert Achternbusch’s Wohin?, a film about AIDS hysteria. Shortly before his death in 1988, he made Mitten im Leben, a documentary about AIDS, for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen.

Raab’s tragic death in 1988 played out publicly and painfully in Germany, where understanding of the illness was poor at best.

The actor was practically quarantined in the Hamburg Tropical Institute, and following his death, his body was frefused burial in Steinbeißen, the Bavarian town where his family had settled in 1945.

His body would be shipped to Hamburg, where he would be buried in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery.

Raab’s last days were recorded for Yearning for Sodom, which he codirected with Hanno Baethe and his former Fassbinder colleague Hirschmüller, and for which Raab would be posthumously awarded the Adolf Grimme Award.

AIDS Quilt - Anthony Holland
July 9, 1988
Stage & Film Actor Anthony Holland Dies

Actor Anthony Holland, whose health was declining due to infection with HIV, commits suicide in his Manhattan apartment; he was 60 years old.

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A graduate of the University of Chicago, Holland had been a member of the original Second City comedy troupe, where he met Joan Rivers, with whom he remained friends until his death.

He made his Broadway debut in 1963 in Lillian Hellman’s comedy My Mother, My Father and Me. His half-dozen subsequent Broadway roles included Division Street and We Bombed in New Haven. He appeared in many regional-theater productions, as well as Off Broadway productions of Brendan Behan’s ‘Quare Fellow, Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

He gave one of his best performances in The Hunger Artist, Martha Clarke’s 1987 adaptation of several stories by Franz Kafka.

“His soft voice, unpretentiously conversational in tone yet mesmerizingly grave, could be Kafka’s,” Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times.

In 1979, he gives a standout performance in the film All That Jazz as Broadway songwriter Paul Dann, and appears in scores of other films between 1964-1986.

Holland took his own life just as he was entering the final stages of the disease “in what can only be called an act of sheer bravado,” writes friend David Ehrenstein.  He had saved enough medication to facilitate a lethal overdoes.

“Tony had elected to make his exit on a day when he was in a good mood,” Ehrenstein recalled.  “He was in New York at that time and friends recall seeing him around town at his usual haunts in high spirits.

Holland had left instructions for the paramedics and even rubber gloves in case they were concerned about handling an “AIDS corpse.”

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

July 23, 1988
FDA Approves Importation of Experimental Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will allow the importation of small quantities of unapproved drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS.

August 1, 1988
San Francisco Actor Tommy Pace Dies

Tommy Pace, a member of the pioneering Gay Men’s Theater Collective, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 39.

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Pace was known locally as a brilliant comic actor with the Angels of Light, a theater troupe that originated as an offshoot of the Cockettes, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

Pace was also cast in numerous San Francisco-made films, including the role of a deranged Catholic
schoolgirl in David Weissman’s 7-minute comedy Beauties Without a Cause (1986).

“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.

Learn More.

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.
Colin Higgins
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.

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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.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS Quilt - Jesse Hollis
August 6, 1988
Bay Area Theater Designer Jesse Hollis Dies

Jesse Hollis, the resident set designer at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.

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Hollis’ designs were seen at theater and opera companies throughout the country, including Berkeley Rep, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Magic Theatre.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

August 1988
Volunteers Enroll in Clinical Trials for HIV Vaccine

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Anthony Fauci, M.D., creates the first U.S. cooperative HIV vaccine clinical trials group and begins enrolling volunteers.

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NIH established the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), which then launched the AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG) to oversee the first study of an experimental AIDS vaccine.

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.”

By 2003, the first wave of vaccine trials would end in negative results and failure.

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 .

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Although secures support from the Tacoma mayor and police chief for his one-man effort, Purchase must pay out-of-pocket for the needles.

Within five months, he would exchange 13,000 clean needles for contaminated ones.

Purchase would go on to form the North American Syringe Exchange Network, and become known as the “Godfather of Needle Exchange.”

AIDS Quilt - Angels of Light
August 15, 1988
Angels of Light Founder Rodney Price Dies

Rodney Price, co-founder of the wildly creative Angels of Light performance troupe in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

Learn More.

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.”

Price is memorialized in the project Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS.

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Photo of quilt panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt


No Place Like Home
August 16, 1988
Los Angeles Zoning Board Decides AIDS Hospice Can Stay

Reversing a decision by the City of Los Angeles’ zoning administrator, the zoning board voted to allow Hughes House to remain at its location in a Hollywood residential neighborhood.

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Following the zoning board’s decision, supporters of the hospice declared the ruling a victory for the rights of the terminally ill.  Many of them wore pink buttons bearing the words “There’s no place like home.”

Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles-Long Beach, the nonprofit group that runs Hughes House, said the hospice acts as a surrogate family for dying patients during the last three or four weeks of their lives.

The ruling of the zoning board ended a months-long attempt by residents to remove the hospice from their neighborhood.

Area residents filed complaints with the city, accusing Hughes House of operating a medical facility.  In response, city inspectors visited the hospice three times and concluded that the facility was not violating zoning laws.

Then neighbors began to keep detailed logs of