History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sources:

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

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

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

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

Dr. Friedman-Kien told New York magazine:

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

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

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Source:

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.

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Sources:

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.”

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Sources:

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.

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

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

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

Dr. Volberding remembered his first patient with clarity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sources:

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

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

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

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

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Source:

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).

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.

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Sources:

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
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.

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Sources:

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.

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Sources:

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

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.

When Dr. Friedman-Kien suggested that the disease may be linked to “something about gay sexual activity,” attendees became agitated at the thought that their newfound sexual freedom could have deadly implications, according to David France’s account of the AIDS crisis, How to Survive a Plague.

Still, when Dr. Friedman-Kien asked attendees to contribute money to support his research, attendees ponied up a total of $6,635.  This would be the only money, public or private, that would be raised to fight the AIDS epidemic in 1981.

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

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

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.

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Sources:

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)

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

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

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

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.

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Source:

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.

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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.

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Sources:

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.

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

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

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Sources:

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 the man who was admitted in June to its facility in Bethesda, Maryland.  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.

* * * * *
Sources:

National Institutes of Health, “Dr. Thomas Waldmann Oral History 1990,” interview with Dr. Waldmann on March 14, 1990 by interviewers Dennis Rodrigues, NIH Program Analyst, and Victoria Harden, M.D., Director of the NIH Historical Office.

Retrovirology journal, “A Historical Reflection on the Discovery of Human Retroviruses” by Anders Vahlne, May 1, 2009

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

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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

1981
Pediatric AIDS Cases Surface in New York City

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

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

* * * * *
Sources:

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.

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

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

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

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

* * * * *
Source:

University of California Libraries, “The San Francisco AIDS Oral History Series | The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: The Response of Community Physicians, 1981-1984,” interview with James R. Groundwater, M.D., conducted by Sally Smith Hughes, Ph.D. in 1996

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

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

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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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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 get involved fighting AIDS after some of heir cast mates become sick and die.

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

* * * * *
Sources:

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.

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By this time, some researchers began to call the condition GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).  This terminology influences both the medical profession and the public to perceive the epidemic as limited to gay men, with serious long-term consequences for women, heterosexual men, hemophiliacs, people who inject drugs, and children.

* * * * *
Source:

www.HIV.gov, “A Timeline of HIV/AIDS”

1982
Stonewall President Kenneth Schnorr Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was all guys — and (Bottini’s 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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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

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.

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

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

Washington Blade, “AIDS at 40: White House Laughs as Gays Try to Save Themselves” by Karen Ocamb, June 23, 2021

The Atlantic, “The Heroic Story of How Congress First Confronted AIDS” by Joshua Green, June 8, 2011

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

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

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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)

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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.”

* * * * * *
Sources:

The New York Times, “New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials” by Lawrence K. Altman, May 11, 1982

The Conversation“AIDS: What Drove Three Decades of Acronyms and Avatars?” by Carla Tsampiras, June 4, 2015

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

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

Learn More.

* * * * * *
Source:

Los Angeles Times“Anti-Gay Bias? : Coverage of AIDS Story: A Slow Start” by David Shaw, December 20, 1987

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

Mortality and Morbity Weekly Report, “A Cluster of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Homosexual Male Residents of Los Angeles and range Counties, California,” June 18, 1982

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.”

* * * * * *
Sources:

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

Terry Higgins
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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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

Terrence Higgins Trust, “How It All Began”

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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

1982
San Francisco Dancer Larry Hinneman Dies

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

Learn More.

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

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

AIDS Project Los Angeles, “History”

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

The Washington Post“How Attitudes toward AIDS have Changed, in the White House and Beyond” by Juliet Eilperin, December 4, 2013

Washington Blade, “AIDS at 40: White House Laughs as Gays Try to Save Themselves” by Karen Ocamb, June 23, 2021

Vanity Fair, “The Reagan Administration’s Unearthed Response to the AIDS Crisis is Chilling” by Richard Lawson, December 1, 2015

October 21, 1982
Jimmy Howell – Bay Area Dance Teacher – Dies

Dancer and teacher James “Jimmy” Howell dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 47.

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * *
Source:

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
Early AIDS Activists Issue Warning to NYC Community

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article also included these remarkably prescient suggestions:

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

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

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

* * * * *
Sources:

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

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

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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.”

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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

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.  The clinic becomes the gold standard for treating patients living with HIV/AIDS .

Learn More.

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

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.

* * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York,” January 7, 1983

January 7, 1983
APLA Elects Founding Board of Directors

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

Learn More.

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

* * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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)

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

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

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.

* * * * * *
Source:

March 4, 1983
CDC Issues Recommendations on AIDS Prevention

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

Learn More.

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

* * * * * *
Source:

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, “Current Trends Prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations,” March 4, 1983

1983
Young Legislative Aide Steers AIDS Policy in California

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *
Sources:

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

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.”

* * * * * *
Sources:

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 30, 1983
Report of Infant Diagnosed with AIDS following Blood Transfusion

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

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.”

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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 Westwood

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

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.”

* * * * * *
Sources:

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

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

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.* * * * * *
Source:

Los Angeles Times“Daniel P. Warner; AIDS Activist, Shanti Foundation Co-Founder,” June 15, 1993

May 18, 1983
Congress Passes Bill with AIDS Research Funding

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

Learn More.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * *
Source:

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

 

Francoise Barre Sinoussi
1983
French Researcher Discovers Virus that Causes AIDS

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

Learn More.

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We had found the plague,” he wrote.

* * * * * * *
Sources:

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

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

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

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

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.

* * * * * * *
Source:

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

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

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

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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

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

Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom

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

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

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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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 publishe a report on AIDS headlined “Homosexual Diseases Threaten American Families.” It features a white couple with two young children, all wearing surgical masks suggesting AIDS is a gay disease that can be spread casually and that gays do not have families.

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

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.”

* * * * * *
Source:

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.

Learn More.

“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.

* * * * * *
Sources:

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.”

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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.”

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Source:

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.

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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.”

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Source:

Annals of Internal Medicine | American College of Physicians, “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Epidemiologic, Clinical, Immunologic, and Therapeutic Considerations” by Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Abe M. Macher, M.D., Dan L. Longo, M.D., H. Clifford Lane, M.D., Alain H. Rook, M.D., Henry Masur, M.D., Edward P. Gelmann, M.D., January 1, 1984

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.

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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.”

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Sources:

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

1983
Employer Puts Activist Michael Callen on Medical Leave Without Pay

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

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

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

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Stanford
July 1, 1983
Stanford Blood Bank Begins Screening Donations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 1, 1983
UCLA Researchers Push for Discovery of AIDS Cause

At a UCLA medical conference, Los Angeles researchers urge the scientific community to focus their work on identifying the cause of “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he said, “We don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Source:

 

Jobriath
August 3, 1983
Singer-Musician Jobriath Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1983
San Francisco Dancer Graham Conley Dies

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

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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.”

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn More.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 22, 1983
WHO Brings Global Eye to Pandemic

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

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

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

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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
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 AIDS in Episode

NBC’s “St Elsewhere” airs the episode “AIDS and Comfort,” with the 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’s the victim of an ill-timed affair and the subsequent confusion about whether the patient is straight or gay once he is diagnosed, the viewers are presented with the message that “gay = AIDS,” reinforcing the stereotype  stigmatizing the gay community.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

Data showed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 21, 1984
San Francisco Dancer Charles Butts Dies

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

Gloria Lockett
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 Anthony J. Ferrara Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13, 1984
Portugese Pop Star António Variações Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michel Foucault
June 25, 1984
French Philosopher Michel Foucault Dies

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 1984
San Francisco Closes 14 Bathhouses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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“I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available — there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered,” said Lyon in 1983 in his testimony before Congress.

“We do not need in-fighting, this is not a political issue,” he said.  “This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue.  This is a human issue.”

Lyon travelled from the Bay Area to the nation’s capital to speak before a Congressional hearing on the government’s (largely nonexistant) response to the AIDS crisis.  Accompanying him on the panel were activists Michael Callen of New York and Anthony Ferrara of Washington.

Lyon was born in 1948 in Houston, later moved to Chicago and then San Francisco.  He was a branch manager for the San Francisco Maritime Shipping Company when he was diagnosed with AIDS in early 1983.

Little more is known about Lyon, because his health began to decline in the year following his moment in the political spotlight.

However, his contribution to the fight against AIDS survives at the National Museum of American History.  In 1990, the museum added his section of the AIDS Quilt to its collections.

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

November 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.

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).
ELISA
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.

March 20, 1985
Musical Director James Thomason-Bergner Dies

James Thomason-Bergner, musical director and conductor for the San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness on his 40th birthday.  He was also a vocal coach and headed the musical theater program at Lone Mountain College.

April 5, 1985
Atlanta Hosts International AIDS Conference

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization  host the first International AIDS Conference  in Atlanta, Georgia on April 15-17.

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More than 2,000 researchers gathered at the conference to share information and assess prospects for controlling the disease, not yet realizing that the worst was yet to come.

The Atlanta conference featured 392 presentations and generated considerable excitement among participants eager to learn about how this new disease was playing out within specific populations in the U.S.

Much of the news was discouraging, however, as presenters introduced new data that showed that many of those dying in 1985 had been infected before 1981, and that within especially vulnerable populations, the epidemic was becoming entrenched.

At a side meeting before the day the conference opened, gay activists protested Reagan administration proposals to implement mandatory HIV testing policies, arguing that this would do little to halt the spread of the disease and would only intensify discrimination against vulnerable groups.

April 10, 1985
Haitians Removed from CDC’s High-Risk List

CDC removes Haitians from the list of those at increased risk for AIDS, because scientists can no longer justify including them on statistical grounds,

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The CDC, which began investigating the mysterious and often-fatal disease in 1981, initially identified Haitian immigrants, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and homosexual or bisexual men as groups at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

The CDC’s weekly reports of AIDS statistics included all four groups, but starting in April 1985, Haitians were no longer included as a separate listing.

The April 1985 report cited a total of 9,405 cases of AIDS reported in the U.S.  Of those cases, 285 (about 3%) were Haitians, said Dr. Walter Dowdle, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases. Previously the rate for Haitians had been as high as 5%. By contrast, about 75% of the cases were of males who identified as homosexual or bisexual.

”The Haitians were the only risk group that were identified because of who they were, rather than what they did,” he said.

The Normal Heart
April 22, 1985
‘The Normal Heart’ Opens at the Public Theatre

AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play, The Normal Heart, opens Off-Broadway at the Public Theater.

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The play covers the impact of the growing AIDS epidemic on the NYC gay community, highlighting growing rifts between those — like the play’s protagonist, Ned Weeks (Kramer’s alter ego) — who are desperately banging on the doors of government and science in an attempt to stave off the annihilation of gay men, and those who focus instead on building new institutions that will care for the sick and the dying.

“The blood that’s coursing through ‘The Normal Heart,’ the new play by Larry Kramer at the Public Theater, is boiling hot,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

“In this fiercely polemical drama about the private and public fallout of the AIDS epidemic, the playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage.”

As Is
May 1, 1985
‘As Is’ Opens on Broadway

William M. Hoffman’s play As Is opens on Broadway.

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The plot focuses on a gay couple who have broken up — but when one of them develops AIDS, his ex-partner comes back to take care of him — “as is.”

The play gets excellent reviews and runs for 285 performances.

“Strange as it may sound, Mr. Hoffman has turned a tale of the dead and the dying into the liveliest new work to be seen at the Circle Repertory Company in several seasons,” said New York Times theater critic Frank Rich.

May 10, 1985
AIDS Infections Reach 10,000, per CDC Headcount

The Center for Disease Control reports that as of April 30, 1985, the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased substantially.  Of the 10,000 reported cases, 9,887 are adults and 113 are children.

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Since the initial reports of AIDS in the spring of 1981, the number of cases reported each half-year has increased significantly, with more than half of the 10,000 cases being reported within the last year.

Of the 10,000 reported AIDS cases, 4,942 are known to have died (49% of the adults and 69% of the children).  About 75% of patients diagnosed before January 1983 are known dead.

The CDC report states that 90% of adult patients are 20-49 years old, and 94% are men.  The racial breakdown of the cases are: 60% white; 25% black; and 14% Hispanic.

The report also notes that the proportion of AIDS cases in transfusion recipients has increased significantly.

At this point, AIDS has been diagnosed in patients from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.  Among cases reported before May 1983, 47% of the adults were residents of New York.  As the virus spread geographically between 1984 and 1985, the proportion of adults reported with AIDS from New York decreased to 34%.

Among the 113 pediatric patients, 58% percent were under 1 year old at diagnosis; and 72% came from families in which one or both parents had AIDS or were at increased risk for developing AIDS, 13% had received transfusions of blood or blood components before their onsets of illness, and 5% had hemophilia.

Pediatric cases were reported from 17 states; 82% were from New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.  Of the 81 pediatric patients with a parent with AIDS or at increased risk for AIDS, 69 were residents of New York, New Jersey, or Florida.

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.

August 27, 1985
Ryan White Refused Entry to School

Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, is refused entry to his middle school.

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His family’s protracted legal battles to protect Ryan’s right to attend school call national attention to the issue of AIDS, and Ryan chooses to speak out publicly on the need for AIDS education.

August 31, 1985
Pentagon Announces Testing of Military Recruits

The Pentagon announces that, beginning October 1, it will begin testing all new military recruits for HIV infection  and will reject those who test positive for the virus.

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Two Pentagon officials, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition they not be identified, said the new directive was promoted most vigorously by top Army officials, out of concern about the potential high cost of treating soldiers who are found to have the disease. Pentagon officials said about 50 soldiers are being treated in military hospitals for the disease.

The U.S. military does not universally test potential recruits for any other disease or disorder as a condition of enlistment, although new recruits are usually tested for syphillis and German measles soon after they enlist.

The announcement was condemned by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which asserted that the testing would unfairly stigmatize many people who have been exposed to the virus but who do not have the disease.

Timothy Sweeney, executive director of Lambda Legal, also contended that military testing for HIV might become a precedent for AIDS screening in private industry.

September 17, 1985
Reagan Finally Mentions ‘AIDS’ in Public Remarks

President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, calling it “a top priority” and fending off criticism that funding for AIDS research is inadequate.

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By the end of 1984, AIDS had already ravaged the United States for a few years, affecting at least 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. Scientists had identified the virus that caused AIDS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified all of its major transmission routes.

This is why it is notable that it took until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, for Reagan to first publicly address the subject of AIDS.

Exchanges between the Reagan administration and journalists in the early 1980s demonstrate that Reagan and his staffers didn’t take the epidemic very seriously, for which the Reagan administration is still heavily criticized.

Reagan’s successors in the White House eventually acted, albeit often very slowly, on the crisis — leading to much more research, programs like the Ryan White CARE Act that connect people to care, and the development of antiretroviral medication that increases the life expectancy of a person living with HIV by decades.

 

Rock Hudson
October 2, 1985
Film Legend Rock Hudson Dies

Actor Rock Hudson dies of an AIDS-related illness at age 59. As the first major U.S. public figure to publicly acknowledge AIDS diagnosis, Hudson’s death marks a turning point in public perceptions about the epidemic.

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Hudson leaves $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Actress Elizabeth Taylor serves as the organization’s founding National Chairman.

 

October 2, 1985
Congress Allocates $190M for AIDS Research

 Congress allocates nearly $190 million for AIDS research — an increase of $70 million over the Reagan Administration’s budget request.

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The House Appropriations Committee also urges President Reagan to appoint a coordinator for the AIDS effort, “in other words, an AIDS czar.”

“Nine agencies have been engaged in this effort. … What we need is a well-coordinated, well-planned effort, with one person running the show,” said Rep. Silvio Conte, (Mass), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

The National Institutes of Health would receive $140.6 million, the Centers for Disease Control would receive $45.6 milion and $3.5 million would go to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

During debate on the appropriations bill, the House accepted an amendment by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), that would allow the surgeon general to use some funds to close bath houses “that may be responsible for transmitting AIDS.”

1985
New City of West Hollywood Launches AIDS Response

About one year after West Hollywood is officially incorporated as an independent city, it begins actively addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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HIV/AIDS had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men, which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths among the city’s population.

Following the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city on November 29, 1984, elected officials and city staff begin working on a plan to address the epidemic in their own backyard.

In October 1985, the city launches an AIDS awareness campaign, one of the first in the country.  The City of West Hollywood also becomes one of the first government entities to create a program for awarding social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations.  The city’s response to the AIDS crisis would go on to be recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Also during its first year of cityhood, West Hollywood would adopt landmark legislation to establish rent control and prohibit the discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.  Today, many of the city’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.

Ricky Wilson 1
October 12, 1985
B-52s Guitarist Ricky Wilson Dies

New-wave rock musician and founding member of the B-52s, Ricky Wilson dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

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The B-52s become popular for their dance tunes — “relentless, rhythmic songs built around Ricky Wilson’s scratchy, one- and two-chord guitar riffs, Kate Pierson’s throbbing keyboard bass lines, and Keith Strickland’s propulsive drumming,” writes James Henke in a 1980 feature in Rolling Stone.

Wilson’s musical inspirations were children’s music, The Mamas & The Papas, and Esquerita, writes Stephen Rutledge in The WOW Report.

“At first, The B-52s did not have a bass player, so Wilson invented his own tunings on a guitar, grouping the strings into a bass course,” Rutledge says.  “It was quite an original sound. It was a sound that I still continue to really dig.  I had some major fun on the dance floor in the late 1970s-early and 1980s, courtesy of the B-52s.”

In the beginning, the Athens, Georgia-based band would scrape together the resources to take trips to New York City to perform at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s and Club 57.

“My parents lent us their station wagon,” Ricky tells The Rolling Stone in a 1980 interview, “and we borrowed Keith’s parents’ charge card.”

By the winter of 1978, The B-52s would become the hottest club band in New York, and everyone would be trying to get a copy of their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster.

“At a time when an overwhelmingly straight, male punk scene ruled, The B-52s’ knowingly kooky aesthetic, along with their hilariously surreal lyrics in songs like ‘Quiche Lorraine,’ read as queer to those with the eyes to see it,” writes Billboard reporter Kera Bolonik.

Much of queer aesthetic came from Wilson’s songwriting.

“I remember seeing him write some music and laughing to himself,” says band member Cindy Wilson, who was Ricky’s sister.  “I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’  He said, ‘I just wrote the stupidest riff.’”

It would be for their first single, “Rock Lobster,” which became an instant hit with East Village audiences but wouldn’t reach mainstream listeners until the mid-1980s.  Wilson would go on to become the principle songwriter for the band’s first four albums.

“We were writing [fourth album] Bouncing Off the Satellites, and Ricky just got thinner and thinner,” band member Kate Pierson recalled in an interview years later.  “And we suspected, but we didn’t know.  One day he wasn’t there at rehearsal.  The next day, Keith [Strickland] called me and said, ‘Ricky’s dying of AIDS.’”

Wilson had confided in band member Strickland about his illness, but wanted to keep it a secret — even from his sister Cindy — so no one would worry about him or fuss about it.  Just a few days later, Wilson would die, Kate says.

“We were all mourning Ricky, and I was in a deep depression,” recalls Cindy Wilson in Classic Pop magazine.

The band would wait almost a year to release their fourth album and consider calling it quitsIn 1988, still mourning the loss of his close friend, Stickland isolated himself in the upstate New York countryside and began working on new songs.

“Eventually, he called Kate and me to see if we were interested in working on new music,” Cindy Wilson would tell Classic Pop.  “When we started jamming, it felt like Ricky was in the room with us. I was having a really hard time with the grieving and sorrow, but creating this music was such a wonderful thing. Ricky’s spirit was there and it was amazing.”

For Cosmic Thing, the first album without Ricky Wilson, band members reject the idea from industry professionals that they find a new guitarist.  Instead, Strickland would learn how to play guitar in Wilson’s unique style.

Inspired by Wilson, the band’s song “Roam” is “a beautiful song about death,” Cindy says.  “It’s about when your spirit leaves your body and you can just roam.”

Steve Pieters
1985
Televangelist Tammy Faye Interviews PWA Steve Pieters

Tammy Faye Bakker, a televangelist with a nationwide following, interviews AIDS activist and ordained pastor Steve Pieters on her show Tammy’s House Party, becoming one of the very first nationally broadcast, longform interviews with an HIV-positive gay man.

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Rev. Pieters, who agreed to the interview with Bakker on the condition that it be broadcast live so that it could not be edited or taken out of context, presented Christian TV fans with a novel viewpoint, one that never had been heard from outside the LGBTQ community.

At the time, homophobic rhetoric dominated televangelist TV shows, according to Religion & Politics, an online news journal from the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

“As a pastor, [Rev. Pieters] stood in sharp contrast to the often-vitriolic rhetoric about AIDS from conservative Christian spokespeople,” wrote Emily Johnson, author of This Is Our Message: Women’s Leadership in the New Christian Right and a professor specializing in the U.S. histories of gender and sexuality.  “While others quoted the Bible to condemn people with AIDS, Pieters drew on his faith and his theological training to make sense of his diagnosis and to preach about hope and community.”

Although weakened by his illness, Dr. Pieters was a highly capable interview subject.  He had been pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded in Hartford, Connecticut by activist Troy Perry as a place for people from the LGBTQ commuity to worship God.

“There were some virulently anti-gay groups,” Dr. Pieters wrote in a 2022 article for The National Geographic.  “I would find myself on TV arguing with homophobic priests or ministers that I would later see in the gay bars in Hartford around the same time.  So I learned early on how to handle myself in the media around issues of being gay.”

In his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters talked about his life as a gay man and his own battle with AIDS.  During the broadcast, Bakker sat in a studio with a monitor streaming Rev. Pieters from San Francisco.  At that point, Rev. Pieters had been living with AIDS for three years and had survived a near-death experience two weeks earlier.

“She’d say on air that I was having chemotherapy, and that I was being interviewed from Los Angeles because the journey would be ‘too hard on me.’ I think she thought this was true, maybe,” Dr. Pieters wrote in The National Geographic.  “What I heard later was that they were afraid that I might not be treated well, that the camera crew wouldn’t work if I was in the studio.”

After two years battling various illnesses and infections, Rev. Pieters was diagnosed with stage-four lymphoma and Karposi’s sarcoma in April 1984, and given eight months to live.

“I wasn’t actually diagnosed with AIDS; I was diagnosed with GRID — gay-related immunodeficiency — which is what they were calling AIDS back then,” he told Religion & Politics in a 2022 interview.  “In 1982 and 1983, I was sick with hepatitis, thrush, pneumonia, mono, herpes, shingles, and a variety of awful fungal infections.”

However, one of his doctors believed that if he could stay alive, there still was hope that doctors could find a way for him to manage his condition.

“So I set out to do everything I could to take care of myself and create the conditions for healing in my body,” he said.

During his interview with Bakker, Rev. Pieters also talked about how his faith in God helped him survive.

“When I was finally diagnosed with AIDS, after this long period of feeling abandoned by God and my friends … I fell apart.  I absolutely lost my sense,” he told Bakker.  “My chaplain, my pastor, Nancy Radcliffe, was with me, and she held me, as did several other friends, as I sobbed and cried my despair, cried out for God.’

“Do you know something?  In that deepest, darkest moment, that’s when I found God.  When God touched me, and I realized that my life was not yet over, that I still had time, that God was with me against this disease — not having given me this disease — but was with me against this disease.”

When word of the interview spread, many in the gay and lesbian community became Bakker’s fans.  She, in turn, continued to openly support the LGBTQ community, preaching compassion and risking her standing within the world of conservative Christian televangelism.

Her obituary in The New York Times noted that she attended LGBTQ pride events.  In 1996, Tammy Faye partnered with openly gay actor Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort, ALF) on the talk show The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Show, but left the show after just a few months when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Bakker (who later changed her surname to Messner) died in Kansas City in 2007 at the age of 65.

The Bakker-Pieters interview was recreated in the 2021 biographical drama The Eyes of Tammy FayeJessica Chastain, who portrays Tammy Faye Bakker in the film, won an Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and a BAFTA Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.”

Listen to Jessica Chastain tell the story of Rev. Pieters for STORIES: The AIDS Monument.

Watch the entire interview with Rev. Pieters and Tammy Faye Bakker here.

October 25, 1985
NY Moves to Close Gay Bars & Bathhouses

The New York State Public Health Council empowers local health officials to close gay bathhouses, bars, clubs , and other places where “high-risk sexual activity takes place.”

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The Public Health Council resolution went beyond recommendations made by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and State Health Commissioner David Axelrod by defining “high-risk sexual activity” to include oral sex.

Mayor Edward I. Koch announced that the new regulation takes effect immediately and is to be enforced by NYC Health Department inspectors who will enter bathhouses in uniform and undercover.

The National Gay Task Force opposes the regulation, citing discriminatory practices.

“This appears to be an unequal application of law” because many experts say AIDS can be transmitted by heterosexual activity, said Ron Najman, a spokesman for the National Gay Task Force. “They are concentrating on the homosexual aspect.”

 

December 4, 1985
LA County Imposes Regulations on Bathhouses

Los Angeles County enacts strict regulations on local bathhouses to stop the spread of HIV, and bathhouse owners file suit to stop the regulations from going into effect.

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The LA County Board of Supervisors introduced new county regulations that could put patrols inside bathhouses to ensure that patrons don’t participate in sex acts considered to be unsafe.

“If someone showed me data substantiating a correlation of the spread of this disease and my club, I would deliver the keys to City Hall tomorrow. But so far it’s only been speculation, hysteria and panic, ” Silver Lake bath house owner Steve Downard told the Los Angeles Times.

“The sexual activity at the club is the same as at the Biltmore Hotel, but there are no health posters, no monthly health screening and no free condoms at the Biltmore.”

Under the new County rules, unsafe sex is defined as anal and oral intercourse between men, with or without a condom. Clubs with repeated violations could face closure.

The fact that the county rules make no mention of heterosexual acts, which also can spread AIDS, is proof, Downard says, that homophobia, not health concerns, are behind the regulations.

December 6, 1985
CDC Issues Precautions to Prevent Mother-to-Infant Transmission

CDC issues recommendations on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.   It is believed that HIV is transmitted from infected women to their fetuses during pregnancy, or to their infants shortly after birth.

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The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recommends that HIV-infected women delay pregnancy until more is known about the risks of transmission, and advised new mothers to avoid breastfeeding.

Transmission of the virus during pregnancy or labor and delivery is demonstrated by two reported AIDS cases occurring in children who had no contact with their infected mothers after birth.

With studies on the subject of pediatric AIDS is just beginning, the rate of perinatal transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women is unknown and the limited amount of available data suggests a high rate.

However, the report contends that perinatal transmission (from an infected mother to her newborn) is not inevitable.

Of three children born to women who became infected with HIV by artificial insemination from an infected donor, all were in good health and negative for antibody to the virus more than 1 year after birth.  Another child, born to a woman living with AIDS, was HIV-negative and healthy at birth and at 4 months of age.

In December 1985, a total of 217 cases of AIDS have been reported among children under age 13, and 60% of them have died.

Dwight Burk
December 13, 1985
Infant Dwight Burk Dies

Dwight Burk , aged 20 months, dies of AIDS in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of a hemophiliac known to be born with AIDS.

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Dwight’s case prompted the National Hemophilia Foundation in April 1985 to advise hemophiliacs to postpone having children for a few years until scientists can perfect a technique to kill the AIDS virus in blood clotting concentrates.

Dwight’s father, 27-year-old Patrick Burk, was infected with HIV from his hemophiliac treatment of blood clotting concentrates. More than a year before learning he had HIV, he passed the virus to his 25-year-old wife, Lauren, who became pregnant with Dwight.

Doctors believe Dwight most likely contracted the disease in utero.

Burk told the Associated Press that an autopsy was to be performed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and that the body would be used for medical study.

December 13, 1985
France Sues U.S. for Credit for Discovery of AIDS Virus

The Pasteur Institute files a suit against the U.S. Government in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, DC., seeking recognition that French researchers were the first to discover the virus that causes AIDS.

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The long-simmering transatlantic feud over who will receive royalties on a test for the AIDS virus has erupted into a legal battle, with French scientists seeking recognition in the U.S. courts for their claim that they discovered the virus before their American counterparts.

The Pasteur Institute ‘s suit also seeks the right to grant permission to sell the blood test without being sued by the U.S. for counterfeiting, and the right to share in royalties collected by the U.S. for sales of blood tests by U.S. licensees.

The French scientists were the first to publish a paper on the virus, said Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the U.S. scientist credited with discovering HIV. But he asserts in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I was the first to suggest it was a retrovirus.”

“We had this virus in 1982. We didn’t publish on purpose because we didn’t understand it well enough to stick our necks out. To me, ‘discovery’ is a complicated word. Who first reported discovery of a virus?  They did.  But if the idea comes first — that was us.”

In July 1994, U.S. health officials would concede for the first time that American researchers used a virus obtained from French competitors to make the first American AIDS test kit. At that time, the U.S. would announce the signing of an agreement that would give the French a bigger share of royalties from worldwide sales of AIDS tests.

The contract would end the long-standing and sometimes acrimonious dispute that strained relations between the two countries.

 

December 19, 1985
LA Times Poll Indicates Americans Support AIDS Quarantine

An Los Angeles Times poll contends its that a majority of Americans favor quarantining people who have AIDS.

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The LA Times poll found that more than half of its respondents support quarantining AIDS patients, nearly half would approve of ID cards for those who test positive for AIDS antibodies, more than a third would be willing to pay a one-cent national sales tax to finance greater research, and one in seven would favor such radical action as tattooing those with the disease.

The poll results came from interviews with about 2,300 across the U.S. — a very small pool of respondents — yet the announcement of the poll results garnered considerable attention nationwide with little regard to the small number of Americans involved in taking the survey.

In its article about the poll results, the LA Times also stated that most responents were adverse to electing homosexuals to office and were disinclined to support candidates who espoused homosexual causes.

“Even a whisper of suspicion about homosexuality was enough to turn almost 60% of the voters against a candidate for the office of President,” stated the LA Times article written by political reporter John Balzar.

“Respondents in the poll were given characteristics of make-believe candidates,” Balzar wrote.  “When a rumor of homosexuality was included in the descriptions, support for a make-believe candidate dropped from 70% to 11%.”

 

1985
Global Scope of Epidemic Becomes 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 had reportedly been seriously ill since April 1978, but he wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until 1982

Morris was a confidant of then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and often was sought for political endorsements from such people as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale.

In the early 1980s, Morris helped found two hospice programs in California for those dying of AIDS.

Morris and his partner moved to Denver in the spring of 1984.  Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick, Morris’ physician and an AIDS researcher at National Jewish Hospital, said Morris survived four to five times longer than most AIDS patients. He said the average survival time of someone with full-blown AIDS is 12-18 months.

January 16, 1986
Virus Spread Grows at Increasing Rate in U.S.

More people were diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 than in all earlier years combined, according to the CDC.  Public health experts predict twice as many new AIDS cases in the next year.

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The CDC report states that, on average, people diagnosed with AIDS die about 15 months after the disease is diagnosed.  The report also shows:

  • Between 6/1/1981 and 1/13/1986, there have been 16,458 cases of AIDS (16,227 adults and 231 children) reported in the U.S.  Of these, more than half of the infected people have died.
  • The number of cases reported each 6-month period continues to increase.
  • Cases have been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.

“One million Americans have already been infected with the virus, and this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci tells The New York Times.

Howard Greenfield
March 4, 1986
Award-winning Lyricist Howard Greenfield Dies

Howard Greenfield, the 20-year songwriting partner of Neil Sedaka, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 49.

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Born in 1936, Greenfield grew up in the same Brighton Beach apartment building as Sedaka, who was three years older than Greenfield.

“After Howie’s mother Ella had seen me, he came ringing my doorbell,” Sedaka would tell Goldmine magazine years later.  “I was playing Chopin, and he said, ‘My mother heard you play and thought we could write a song together.'”

The first Greenfield-Sedaka hit would be ‘‘Stupid Cupid,” recorded by Connie Francis in 1958.  Later collaborations with Sedaka included ”Calendar Girl,” ”Oh! Carol” and ”Next Door to an Angel.”

Greenfield would write the lyrics for ”Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,’‘ ”Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” ”Love Will Keep Us Together” and more than 450 other songs throughout his career.

Greenfield was openly gay at a time when it was particularly courageous to do so. His companion from the early 1960s until his death was cabaret singer Tory Damon.

The two lived together in an apartment on East 63rd Street in Manhattan before moving to Los Angeles in 1966.  Damon would die of AIDS-related illness just 26 days after Greenfield’s death.

Greenfield’s and Damon’s bodies are interred side-by-side at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.  Damon’s epitaph reads: Love Will Keep Us Together…, and Greenfield’s epitaph continues: … Forever.

March 18, 1986
NYT Columnist William F. Buckley Proposes AIDS Tatoo

William F. Buckley, seen by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes in The New York Times that people diagnosed with HIV should be tatooed with a warning on their arm and buttocks.

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Under the heading “Critical Steps in Combating the AIDS Epidemic,” Buckley writes:

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

Buckley, founder of National Review magazine, also proposes that everyone seeking a marriage license must “present himself not only with a Wassermann test but also an AIDS test.”

He goes on to write that the couple could marry only after “the intended spouse is advised that her intended husband has AIDS, and agrees to sterilization.”

Looking back at this time, Michael Spector would write in The New Yorker in 2021, “Several years into a harrowing epidemic, gay Americans were told that an act of consensual sex could not only infect them with a fatal disease; it could also, at the will of a state, send them to prison. The fears of internment were not easily dismissed as hysteria.”

Buckley would later withdraw the proposal, because “it proved socially intolerable.”

At the time of his death in early 2008, Buckley would no longer be considered a journalist of any repute, although convervative cicles would continue to champion his ideas.  When he died, he was working on a book about President Ronald Reagan.

Barry Robins
April 1, 1986
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 at the age of 41.

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In New York Times article, “The Gay Film That Changed My Life,” actor John Cameron Mitchell credits Robin’s portrayal of “Cotton” as having a profound impact on him as a boy.

In particular, Mitchell is moved by the scene in which Robin’s character saves another character, a “delicate, blond shiksa” named Gerold, from a gang of bullies.

“The mean boys part for Cotton as he reaches a hand out to the boy,” Mitchell recalls.  “Branded on my 10-year-old brain was Gerold’s heartbreaking expression when he realizes that for the first time there is someone he can trust and, just maybe, love.”

Mitchell adds, “It was sad to hear that Robins succumbed to AIDS in 1986.  If we’d met, I would’ve thanked him for helping me out of the pond.”

In 2013, actor and comedian Jason Stuart would tell A&U: Art & Understanding magazine:

“When Barry got really sick, he stopped seeing people, including me.  I was devastated.  I remember going by his apartment, knocking on his door, and he would not answer it.  He would tell me, ‘Go away. It’s better that way.’  I respected his wishes.  To this day I regret that.”

 

April 13, 1986
Comic Actor Stephen Stucker Dies

Stephen Stucker, the scene-stealing comic performer in the Airplane! movies, dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Stucker was known for zany portrayals in comedies, notably the manic air traffic controller Johnny in the 1980s Airplane! movies.

Created by the directing-writing team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker, the Airplane! movies featured Stucker in a non-essential role that wasn’t crucial to the plot.  But in a movie with established stars, larger-than-life performances and endless jokes, Stucker managed to steal every scene he’s in with his comic performance.

Some may see the character as an offensive stereotype that hasn’t aged well, but Stucker’s performance can also be viewed as progressive for its time, a character that is unapologetically gay in an era where that was still taboo.  Johnny is never harassed or bullied by the over-the-top manly-men characters (played by Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen) that dominate Airplane!  Instead, Johnny turns the joke around on them and provides the perfect foil to their authority, gruffness, and self-importance.  The screenwriters developed the character specifically for Stucker, who wrote his own lines for the part and ad-libbed many of them.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Stucker moved with his family to Alameda, California, where he attended Lincoln School.  During his school days Stephen was known as both an accomplished pianist and a class clown with a dry wit.  Stucker made his film debut in 1975 as a crazed asylum escapee in Delinquent School Girls (also released as Carnal Madness).

He went on to perform in the 1977 earthquake-disaster comedy Cracking Up, alongside Fred Willard, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.  Stucker had been a scene-stealing member of the cast of the Madison, Wisconsin Kentucky Fried Theater sketch comedy troupe founded by Abrahams and the Zucker brothers and, in 1977, he appeared in the film based on the troupe’s comedy sketches.  The Airplaine! movies soon followed.

Stucker also appeared on Marie Osmond’s TV show, Marie (1981), and on one of the last epidodes of Mork and Mindy (1982), playing a wildly enthusiastic TV producer intent on capitalizing on Mork’s fame.

Stucker was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1984, and was one of the first celebrities to go public with his diagnosis.  He appeared on talk shows like Donahue, where his unrestrained and acerbic personality sometimes bumped hard against an audience ignorant and fearful of AIDS.

Ed Mock
April 25, 1986
Dancer-Choreographer Ed Mock Dies

Dancer and choreographer Ed Mock — who fused modern dance and jazz dance, acting, improvisation and mime in his work — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

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Born in Chicago, Mock performed as a boy in his family’s pool hall, tapping out steps for customers.  Athletic in high school, he chose to pursue dance because, as he would tell the San Francisco Examiner in 1980, “I just love body movement, it was all just movement for me, and sports was just a function of that. I just was always aware of my body in a sort of a dance sense. I never try to tell anybody it’s an easy life, but not a day has ever gone past that dancing didn’t make me feel good emotionally and spiritually.”

As the founder of the West Coast Dance Company (1974-1979), Ed Mock Dancers (1980-1985), and the Ed Mock Dance Studio, Mock’s dance style and teaching influenced future generations of dancers and artists.

Brontez Purnell, Director of the documentary Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock, states, “I believe Ed Mock is the missing choreographic link between Alvin Ailey, Anna Halprin, and Bill T. Jones.  He is my direct predecessor, creatively.  We – artists, black queers, Bay Area dancers, gay men – have to extract our collective past and create the historical record.”

Mock would teach and perform taught and performed up until weeks before his death.  In 1988, he would posthumously be elected to the Bay Area Dance Coalition Hall of Fame.

 

 

May 1, 1986
AIDS Virus Officially Called ‘HIV’

The International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses announces that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be known as “Human Immunodeficiency Virus ” (HIV).

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An international committee of scientists is proposing that the AIDS virus be called by a new name: human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Until now, the closely related variations of the virus have been most frequently referred to as HTLV-3, for human t- cell lymphotropic virus type 3, or LAV, for lymphadenopathy associated virus.

HTLV-3 is the designation given by Dr. Robert Gallo and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, co-discoverers of the virus and leaders in the American research effort. LAV is the name used by Dr. Luc Montagnier and associates at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, also credited as discoverers of the virus.

 

 

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 at the age of 46.  Ellis presented his first collection under his own name on Seventh Avenue in 1979 and almost immediately achieved star status.

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Both women and men adored Ellis’ fashion sense for its clean-cut, all-American look.  What the designer did best was take elements of classic American style — like stadium coats, tweed jackets, and homey sweaters — and adapt them to suit the consumer passion for gender-neutral, high-quality separates.

His ethos earned him accolades — including the Coty Award for his first show in 1979, which he would go on to win eight more times, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Designer of the Year Award in 1982.  And in 1984, he became the head of the CFDA, extending his influence on designers worldwide.

At the time, the cause of Ellis’ death was listed as viral encephalitis, but rumors of Ellis’s HIV-positive status made news after it came to light that his lover and business partner, Laughlin Barker, died earlier in the year of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

In a controversial move, some media organizations mentioned the rumor that Ellis was HIV-positive in his obituary.

While the vast majority of newspapers omitted mention of the rumor, the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsday and the San Francisco Examiner decided to publish it.  Among the news magazines, Newsweek mentioned the AIDS rumor, and Time did not.

This started a conversation among media professionals worldwide about whether media outlets should mention AIDS as a cause of death if AIDS can be proved or is openly acknowledged — as was ultimately the case with actor Rock Hudson.  Or, they posited, should they mention AIDS if it is only widely believed but neither acknowledged nor proved?

At the time, disclosure of HIV-positive status was a very sensitive subject, involving matters of privacy — medical and sexual — since many media consumers automatically assumed someone was gay if he had AIDS.

But many close to Ellis, including top industry professionals, already knew the fashion designer was ill.

“What really, truly, abruptly woke up the entire fashion industry was Perry walking out at the end of his last fashion show,” fashion designer Michael Kors recalled.  “He barely could walk, and here was someone young, talented, great-looking, full of charm and life, and suddenly this was a shell of a human being.”

The show took place on May 8, and afterward Ellis checked himself into New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where he died 22 days later.

June 30, 1986
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Georgia Sodomy Law

Bowers v. Hardwick was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld, in a 5–4 ruling, the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults.

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The majority opinion, by Justice Byron White, reasoned that the Constitution did not confer “a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”  A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger cited the “ancient roots” of prohibitions against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone’s description of homosexual sex as an “infamous crime against nature,” worse than rape, and “a crime not fit to be named.”

The case arose on August 3, 1982, when a police officer who had been admitted to the home of Michael Hardwick in Atlanta witnessed him and a male companion in a bedroom engaging in sex.  The officer had been executing a warrant for Hardwick’s arrest for failing to appear in court on a charge of public drinking (it was later determined that the warrant was invalid because Hardwick had already paid the $50 fine).  The officer promptly arrested both men for violating Georgia’s antisodomy statute.

In its decision, the Court ruled that while the “right to privacy” protects intimate aspects of marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing from state interference, it does not protect gay sodomy because “no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated.”

The Supreme Court decision would stand for 17 years until 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas would overturn Bowers.

Black Community
July 18, 1986
Black Community Mobilizes for Action

At the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, minority leaders meet with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop to discuss concerns about HIV/AIDS in communities of color.

National Minority AIDS Council is founded at the conference.

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The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsors the National Minority AIDS Council, and the National Conference of Black Mayors, and was funded by a U.S. Public Health Service grant.

Other conference topics include:

  • the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans,
  • the role of IV drug use and heterosexual transmission in the AIDS epidemic within black communities,
  • the need for culturally competent AIDS education for black communities,
  • the lack of representation in gay and black media outlets of the epidemic among African Americans, and
  • a plea to black churches to respond to the epidemic.

Frederick Garnett, a black man living with AIDS, addresses the conference, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in Washington, DC, where he lives.

A staff psychologist at St. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett says that although African Americans make up half of the people with AIDS in Washington, DC, they are largely absent from clinics and support groups.

Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett had studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.

Fifteen months after the 1986 National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, Garnett would die at the Hospice of Northern Virginia on Oct. 22, 1987, of complications resulting from AIDS, at the age of 32.

Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities.  Garnett served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.

 

Roy Cohn (2)
August 2, 1986
Notorious Lawyer Roy Cohn Dies

Roy Cohn, best known for his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s investigation of alleged Communist sympathizers, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 59.

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A graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of 20, Cohn quickly made a name for himself in his first job with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, prosecuting cases of people with alleged ties to the Communist Party.

Impressed with Cohn’s performance at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would recommend that Cohn be hired as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McCarthy, who chaired the panel, hired the 24-year-old Cohn in January 1953.

“People born in the 1940s or earlier remember Cohn and his master performing on television,” writes Mary Ellen Clark in her 1988 book The Snarling Death of Roy M. Cohn.  “They remember coming home to be hushed by a mother or aunt who was watching the hearings; they remember a father’s opinion, expressed at the family table when families still ate together.”

“For younger people, however, Roy Cohn was simply another name for a très smart lawyer, for Disco Dan, for the international, I-go-by-private-plane man,” writes Clark.

Throughout his later life, Cohn was well known for his lavish Washington parties, with wealthy and famous friends among his guests.

“He was a figure very tough and in on things, a champion of the underdog, though definitely running with the overdog pack,” Clark writes.  “He nested on the nighttime radio call-in shows; he spread his wings over Koppel on Nightline.  He appeared to be able to avoid all taxes and all penalties, maybe because he was connected, or on the A list, or known to the headwaiters and hostesses of New York.”

Cohn would be indicted four times from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s — for stock-swindling, obstructing justice, perjury, bribery, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail, and filing false reports.  He is acquitted in three of the cases, and in the fourth, he would escape with a mistrial.  This experience would give him “a kind of sneering, sinister sheen of invulnerability,” writes Michael Kruse in Politico.

Cohn would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984 after having a doctor examine a small cut from shaving that wouldn’t stop bleeding.  During the visit, the doctor would re­move two suspicious growths and the tests would reveal Cohn is HIV positive.

Cohn’s lover Peter Fraser, a New Zealander roughly half Cohn’s age, reported that, “When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears.”

Cohn would publicly deny that he was HIV positive and would keep his sexuality closeted for the rest of his life.  According to Robert E. Bauman, who says he first meets Cohn on the day McCarthy dies in 1957, Cohn paradoxically had a reputation for “fag bashing” and loudly opposed laws that protected gays from discrimination.

In his last months of life, Cohn would be disbarred from law practice in New York for old fraud charges and he would lash out at the bar ethics committee, calling members “a bunch of yoyos.”

Cohn once said he wanted the first line of his obituary to read: “Roy M. Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.”

“Cohn didn’t quite get his wish,” writes Bauman.

When Cohn dies, the headlines would trumpet the fact that he died from complications of AIDS.  The mention about McCarthy would come second.

Way Bandy
August 13, 1986
Celebrity Make-Up Artist Way Bandy Dies

Way Bandy, one of the fashion world’s best-known makeup artists and a best-selling author, died of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center at the age of 45.

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Prior to his death, Bandy requested that media outlets report his death as AIDS-related, which was then uncommon.

Born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bandy pursued childhood interests that included sewing, music, painting and movie magazines.  His family moved to Tennessee, where he graduated from high school.  He returned to Birmingham to attend college for two years and then dropped out to model for department stores. He later earned a degree in education at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, and became an English teacher in Alabama. He married, but separated from his wife shortly after visiting New York City for the first time in 1965.

Bandy moved to New York, changed his name (from Ronald Duane Wright) and enrolled at Christine Valmy’s makeup school. Within a few months, he was heading the salon there.

Considered the “greatest makeup artist in the world” by Vogue fashion editor Polly Allen Mellen, Bandy was in high demand throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.  He worked with hundreds of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Farrah Fawcett, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Cher.

He worked closely with top photographers, such as Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Horst, Hiro and Victor Skrebneski.  In 1977, he authored a bestselling makeup manual entitled Designing Your Face, and followed this in 1981 with another manual, Styling Your Face.

Bandy was one of the first to use color and texture innovatively.  For example, he recommended blending moisturizer with a little water and “red-colored fluid” and “spreading all over the face for a rosy glow.”  This was decades before the use of red liquid cheek stains became popular.

A pioneer of contouring, Bandy instructed his subjects to “reveal to our mirror only our best angles and most flattering illusions of reality, as seen through blurred vision and whatever other tricks we have at our disposal.”

Bandy’s techniques sought to create what he referred to as a “Personal Sculpture Portrait” through contouring with “light and dark.”

The opening paragraph of Designing Your Face contains this piece of advice: “I was bored for most of my youth because I tried to do not only what was expected of me, but also many other things I did not enjoy.  One day I realized that when you do something with your whole being simply because you love to do it, you experience life as it should be lived.  It was then I decided to be free and to do something I loved doing – creating beauty.”

Bandy’s makeup techniques continue to inspire generations of beauty pros and consumers.

August 24, 1986
San Francisco Actor-Drummer Chaz Watson Dies

Charles “Chaz” Watson, who acted in stage productions in the Bay Area, dies at the age of 37.  Watson was also a drum major for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band.

September 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.

September 22, 1986
Historian Anthony Herschel Perles Dies

Transportation historian Anthony Herschel Perles — author of Tours of Discovery, co-author of The People’s Railway and Inside MUNI — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

September 23, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Raymond Tasco Dies

Raymond Tasco, an actor and director with Oakland Ensemble Theatre and Black Repertory Group, dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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Tasco directed several works at Theatre Rhinoceros and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.  He also co-founded the Bay Area Black Artists’ Connection support group.

1986
AIDS Health Services Program Launches in 11 U.S. Cities

The AIDS Health Services Program launches with $17.2 million in funding for patient-care projects in 11 major cities.

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Created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AIDS Health Services Program seeks to replicate Ward 86’s San Francisco Model of HIV Care nationwide — but with an emphasis on tailoring programs to meet the needs in local context.

The goals of the program are to develop community-based services for persons with AIDS and to determine factors that facilitate or impede service.

The foundation starts with nine projects located in 11 communities: Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Nassau County (NY), New Orleans, Newark, Jersey City, Seattle, and West Palm Beach.

The AIDS epidemic in each site varies substantially.  Lack of health insurance represents a problem for the majority of clients in states having the most restrictive Medicaid policies (Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas) and in communities where a large proportion of clients enter the program before their condition progresses to AIDS (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach).

Between 1987 and 1990, the average annual population with AIDS in program sites increase 126% (with increases ranging from 91% to 175%). During that period, the average increase in the number of persons alive with an AIDS diagnosis in these eleven cities is 191%, ranging from 181% to 257%.

The men and women attempting to build a network of coordinated services for persons with HIV/AIDS find themselves with an extremely difficult task.  As the epidemic progresses, there is a substantial increase in the scope of the epidemic as well as change in the racial, sex, and risk-group composition of HIV-infected persons.

Program staff have to cope with confusing state and federal policy, complicated by changes in medical treatment and in the conceptualization of AIDS. In 1986, AIDS is still perceived as an acute, fatal illness, and policies for expanding terminal care benefits are the focus of discussion. However, soon the focus would shift to early intervention and ongoing treatment programs for a new chronic disease.

October 6, 1986
APLA Founder Nancy Cole Sawaya Dies

Nancy Cole Sawaya, co-founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies in Sherman Oaks Community Hospital from AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Two months before, on August 4, Sawaya publicly disclosed that she had contracted AIDS, apparently from sexual encounters with men prior to her marriage, at least one of whom later died of AIDS complications.

“I just wish people would realize that it could happen to anybody,” Sawaya would tell the Los Angeles Times.  “I do this couple support group on Monday nights, and all these people are a group of well-educated, down-to-earth, loving, successful people.  It’s not the image like when you see on TV — they immediately shoot to Santa Monica Boulevard, somebody in leather, groping the other person, and it’s not like that.”

Sawaya began her HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when she helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease.  In December 1982, she hosted a Christmas party to raise $8,000 for a new organization — AIDS Project Los Angeles.  In early 1983, APLA would open its doors on Cole Avenue, with herself, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro as Founders.

In the beginning, APLA had five clients, which would grow to 100 by the end of the year, and by the middle of 1984, APLA would serve 200 clients — and the numbers kept growing.  Sawaya was the first to manage APLA’s client services operation, often working 60 hours a week.

Sawaya would leave behind her husband, Louis; and an adopted daughter, Morgan.

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.

 

 

1986
U.S. Grant Program Feeds Growing Healthcare Needs

The U.S. launches the AIDS Service Demonstration Grants program, allocating $15.3 million in available funding to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

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The grant program is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  As the HRSA’s first AIDS-specific health initiative, program focused its funding on cities hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS.

In the years to come, the HRSA would create the HIV/AIDS Bureau and develop a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medications, and essential support services for low-income people with HIV.

The HIV/AIDS Bureau will oversee the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and play a critical role in helping diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond as part of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative.

Koop report (2)
October 22, 1986
Surgeon General Releases Report on AIDS

The Surgeon General issues the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS. The report makes it clear that HIV cannot be spread casually.

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The report, issued by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., also calls for a nationwide education campaign that includes early sex education in schools, increased use of condoms, and voluntary HIV testing.

“By the end of 1991, an estimated 270,000 cases of AIDS will have occurred with 179,000 deaths within the decade since the disease was first recognized,” Dr. Koop states in the report’s preface.

“In the year 1991, an estimated 145,000 patients with AIDS will need health and supportive services at a total cost of between $8 and $16 billion.”

October 24, 1986
Black & Latinx Cases Grow at Higher Rate

CDC reports that AIDS cases are disproportionately affecting black and latinx communities. This is particularly true for children in these communities, who make up 90% of perinatally-acquired AIDS cases.

October 29, 1986
Report Calls for Nationwide Education Campaign

The National Academy of Sciences issues a report calling for a “massive media, educational and public health campaign to curb the spread of the HIV infection,” as well as for the creation of a National Commission on AIDS.

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The report, titled  Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research,  is issued by  the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the principal health unit of the NAS.  The IOM anticipates that the cost of the public health campaign will reach $2 billion by 1990.

The mission of NAS is to provide scientific advice to the government “whenever called upon” by any government department. The Academy receives no compensation from the government for its services.

Prop 64
November 4, 1986
Activists Defeat California Prop 64, Attempt to Expose PWAs

LGBT activists organize voters to overwhelmingly defeat Prop 64, a Lyndon LaRouch-backed initiative on the California ballot requiring “carriers of the AIDS virus” to be reported to government authorities.

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Proposition 64 would have declared that HIV/AIDS and the “condition of being a carrier” of the virus  are communicable diseases and, therefore, subject to the reporting requirement to the State Department of Health Services.

Proposition 64’s supporters, led by the LaRouchian group PANIC (Prevent AIDS NOW Initiative Committee), say it would require any individual who carries the AIDS virus, even without the disease’s symptoms, to be reported to state authorities and barred from schools or jobs in restaurants.  State officials could quarantine such carriers, they contended.

LGBT activists in California argue that the initiative would lend an air of legitimacy to job discrimination against homosexuals, and public health authorities say it would deter people with HIV/AIDS from seeking treatment if there were a requirement to report them.  This, they say, would further the spread of the disease undetected.

Proposition 64 is opposed by the 34,000-member California Medical Association and most statewide elected officials, including members of both political parties.  Nearly every major newspaper has recommended a “no” vote.

Torie Osborn, the southern California coordinator of the No On 64/Stop LaRouche campaign, told the Washington Post that campaign leaders had considered focusing on LaRouche’s bizarre politics — based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism.

But polling data suggested that to many voters, “it really doesn’t matter who is behind the initiative,” Osborn said.

LaRouche’s PANIC team operated their campaign out of a Los Feliz headquarters, which became besieged by death threats and vandalism.

November 21, 1986
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 a two weeks shy of his 28th birthday, according to the tribute to him on Gran Varones, a website dedicated to pop culture, queer history & storytelling through a Afro-Latinx Queer lens.

 

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
1986
Redbone Press Publishes ‘In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology’

A breakthrough book that dared to explore the experiences of gay Black men, In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology hits bookshelves to little fanfare.

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In the Life was the first collection of writings about being gay in the age of AIDS written by 29 Black, gay authors.  The collection includes stories, verses, works of art, and theater pieces, all voicing the point of view of “an often silent minority.”

Editor Joseph Beam began collecting this material in 1984 after years of frustration with gay literature that overlooked the experience of Black gay men.

“The bottom line,” Beam wrote, “is this: We are Black men who are proudly gay. What we offer is our lives, our love, our visions… We are coming home with our heads held up high.”

The book received little mainstream attention at publication, but goes down in history as a watershed moment in gay literature.  A showcase for new literary talent, a source of inspiration for its readers, and a literary and cultural milestone for the gay community, In the Life advanced the visibility of gay Black men in a lasting way.

“For the first time,” wrote James Charles Roberts, a contributor, “Black gay men got to tell about their lives and experiences in their own words.”

Charles Stephens, co-editor of Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call, recalled coming across In the Life at a pivotal moment.

“I lacked the language to describe what I was longing for, and perhaps in a sense Beam, and his stunning vision of community, provided that language for me,” said Stephens in an interview for Lambda Literary.  “I absorbed his words, and found a home in them. In the Life became a compass for me, to first locate myself, and then others that shared my commitments.”

Beam would die of AIDS-related illness in December 1988, three days before his 34th birthday. His unfinished manuscript for a second anthology would be completed by his friend Essex Hemphill and published in 1991 as Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men.

Arthur Conrad
November 25, 1986
Bay Area Opera Director Arthur Conrad Dies

Arthur Conrad — director of more than 200 productions for the Marin Opera, West Bay Opera, Oakland Opera, Sacramento Opera and the Lamplighters — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 51.

December 2, 1986
Bay Area Actor-Director Chuck Solomon Dies

Founder of the Gay Men’s Theater Collective and co-creator of its pioneering production Crimes Against Nature, Chuck Solomon dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.

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As an actor and director, Solomon worked with several local companies, including the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Theatre Rhinoceros.

He is immortalized in Marc Huestis’ 1987 documentary “Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age,” which received the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival.  In the film, Solomon is celebrated by members of his family and about 350 friends on his 40th birthday.

AIDS Quilt 1 - Marvin Feldman
1987
Cleve Jones Creates First Panel for AIDS Memorial Quilt

AIDS activist Cleve Jones creates the first panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman, who died on October 10, 1986 of AIDS at the age of 33.

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The quilt panel 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.

AIDS SIDA
February 1, 1987
Global Response Begins with WHO Program

The World Health Organization (WHO) launches the Special Programme on AIDS to serve as the architect and keystone of a global AIDS plan.

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The mission set out by the Special Programme was to:

  • raise awareness;
  • formulate evidence-based policies;
  • provide technical and financial support to countries;
  • initiate relevant social, behavioral, and biomedical research;
  • promote participation by nongovernmental organizations; and
  • champion rights of those living with HIV.

With the technical and financial support of the Special Programme, AIDS programs rapidly begin to be established in nations throughout the world.  The program recogizes that AIDS affects both the developing and the industrialized worlds; and, therefore, every country will need a national AIDS program.

WHO puts forth the idea that a global response is vital not only for national interests but also because “ultimately AIDS cannot be stopped in any one country unless it is stopped in all countries.”

At the global level, the Special Programme is responsible for strategic leadership, developing consensus, coordinating scientific research, exchanging information, assuring technical cooperation and mobilizing and coordinating resources. By the end of 1988, the Special Programme would support every country in the world that requests collaboration.

In 1988, it will be renamed the Global Programme on AIDS.

AIDS Quilt 12 - Liberace
February 4, 1987
Pianist-Showman Liberace Dies

Emmy-Award winning pianist and mainstay of the Las Vegas entertainment scene Liberace dies at his Palm Springs, California home at the age of 67.

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Liberace’s doctor claims that the man called “Mr. Showmanship” died of a heart attack caused by an underlying brain infection. But an autopsy by the county coroner reveals that Liberace died of AIDS-related illness.

Just weeks before his death, Liberace was treated at Eisenhower Medical Center for what his staff called “the effects of a watermelon diet.”  Hundreds of friends and tourists kept vigil outside of his Palm Springs home as rumors of his real illness became rampant.

When death seemed imminent, his attorney would tell reporters that Liberace chose his Palm Springs home to die because, “I think he wanted to rest in the place he loves. He’s always thinking about his fans. He wants to be remembered as he was — an entertainer. I think it’s nice that fans are here and supporting him.”

The news of Liberace’s death demonstrates the powerful stigma of AIDS and leads to a national discussion about the rights of people living with AIDS to privacy, both before and after death.

AIDS Quilt - Neil LoMonaco
February 12, 1987
Sacramento Musician Neal Lo Monaco Dies

Neal Lo Monaco, the pincipal cellist of the Sacramento Symphony and a member of the Sacramento String Quartet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

Fight Back Fight AIDS
March 12, 1987
Activist Larry Kramer Founds ACT UP

Activist Larry Kramer founds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP ) at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City.

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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.

azt-1985
March 19, 1987
U.S. Approves AZT, First Medication for AIDS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first medication for AIDS — AZT (zidovudine), an antiretroviral drug initially developed to treat cancer.

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FDA directors 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 Marches on Wall Street

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) stages its first protest on Wall Street, bringing widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic.

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ACT UP’s first-ever demonstration takes place at the busy intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, near Trinity Church, a location selected with the goal of disrupting the morning rush hour.

Formed in New York City in 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (more commonly known as ACT UP) brought widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic and helped make significant advances in AIDS research.

ACT UP’s first demonstration in 1987 targeted pharmaceutical companies that were profiteering from the epidemic (especially Burroughs Wellcome, manufacturer of AZT).  ACT UP also accused the industry of not doing research to find a cure or better treatments for AIDS.

Some 250 protestors, many of whom laid down in the street and/or held signs, call for corporate and government action to end the AIDS crisis.  The protest targets pharmaceutical companies that are profiteering from the epidemic, specifically Burroughs Wellcome, the company manufacturing the high-priced AZT.

Demonstrators chant “We are angry! W want action!” and “Release those drug!”  Seventeen people are arrested.

A flyer announcing the protest lists several immediate demands, including:

  • the release of life-saving drugs by the FDA,
  • the availability of affordable drugs,
  • a program to educate the public to combat the spread of AIDS, and
  • enacting policies to end AIDS-related discrimination in the workplace, housing, insurance, and medical treatment.

Soon after the demonstration, the FDA would announce it would shorten its drug approval process by two years, a process that normally took up to nine years.

ACT UP would stage three more demonstrations on Wall Street, the world’s leading financial center and home to the New York Stock Exchange, in the 1980s and 1990s.

March 31, 1987
American & French Researchers Share Credit for Discovery of Virus

President Ronald Reagan and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac end an international scientific dispute when they announce that researchers from the two countries will share credit for discovery of the AIDS virus.

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The countries agree that patent rights to a blood test that emerged from that discovery will also be shared, with most of the royalties to be donated to a new foundation for AIDS research and education.

This settles a years-long rift between the two countries, each laying claim to the valuable patent for the first HIV-antibody test.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed virologist Robert Gallo first developed the test, while the Pasteur Institute claimed it was French virologist Luc Montagnier.

Gallo had won the prestigious Lasker Award in 1986 for his share of the work (his second Lasker, having won in 1982 for his work on retroviruses).

Years later, the National Institutes of Health would conduct an investigation that proves Gallo and his colleagues first had isolates of HIV with the exception of one sample that originated from the Pasteur Institute’s lab (which was requested by the Gallo lab and sent to them from Paris).

Gallo and Montagnier later agree to share the title of co-discovers of the virus and they write several papers together describing their work in Science (Dec. 29, 2002) and the New England Journal of Medicine (Dec. 11, 2003).

However, in 2008 when Stockholm would call with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, it was only for Luc Montagnier.  The scientific world would be shocked to learn that the Nobel Committee was snubbing Gallo’s work, but because those archival records are locked up until 2058, we will not know the precise argument behind this decision for many years.

koop
April 6, 1987
Dr. Koop Focuses on Children with AIDS, Calls for Sex Ed

At a four-day workshop at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop draws attention to the plight of the growing number of children who acquire AIDS from their mothers or through blood transfusions.

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The workshop kicks off with a large press conference, where Dr. Koop announces that AIDS is a growing menace to the nation’s children and reiterates his call for early sex education as part of the general effort to halt its spread.  He recommends that sex education start in kindergarten and include information about AIDS.

”It’s the responsibility of parents, and it should begin before children go to school,” Dr. Koop says.

He mentions that parents are often reluctant to discuss sex with their children, and so the burden falls upon schools, churches and synagogues to teach children and youth about sex and AIDS.

“If parents don’t do it, they’ve abrogated their responsibility and somebody else has to do it,” Dr. Koop says.

Dr. Koop’s stance for early sex education puts him at odds with some of his fellow conservatives.

The workshop brings together families affected by HIV, leading HIV researchers and clinicians, mental health professionals, public health officials, and representatives from the insurance, legal, and nonprofit organizations.

In the last week, the number of children under 13 years old diagnosed with AIDS reaches 471, double the number of cases reported a year ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, there are 139 cases among teen-agers.

But Dr. Koop says these figures do not include as many as 2,000 children who have some AIDS symptoms but who do not meet the strict Federal definition of the illness, and he says the number of infected children is expected to continue to increase ”dramatically.”

Dr. Koop also notes that a disproportinate number of children infected with AIDS are members of minority groups: about 50% are black and 33% are Hispanic.

”We have, therefore, a segment of society that is very difficult to reach,” Dr. Koop says.

gold condom
April 7, 1987
FDA Declares HIV Prevention as Indication for Condoms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes the sale of male condoms to include HIV prevention as an indication for use, marking a major stride in public health communication and safe sex and HIV/AIDS transmission.

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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.

Princess
April 19, 1987
U.K. Princess Extends Hand to Person Living With HIV

Princess Diana makes international headlines when she is photographed shaking the hand of an HIV-positive patient in a London hospital.  She goes on to become a passionate advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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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 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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

July 2, 1987
San Francisco Ballet Dancer Sean O’Neill Dies

Dancer Sean O’Neill, who performed with the Pacific Ballet and also edited the San Francisco Ballet program, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.

AIDS Quilt 7 - Tom Waddell
July 11, 1987
Gay Games Founder Tom Waddell Dies

Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 49.

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Waddell was a superior athlete, good enough to take sixth in the world in the decathlon in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, writes Mart Dobrow of ESPN.  He was a paratrooper in the Army, and a doctor with a sense of adventure — working in Africa on patients with tropical diseases and becoming the physician for the Saudi Arabian Olympic team in 1976.

“To Waddell, the symbolism of the Games spoke to his highest ideals: the five interlocking rings, the parade of nations, the torch being lit,” writes Dobrow.  “In some ways, this felt like sports at its most pure. It brought people of the world together.”

After his athletic career, Waddell would worked for years as a medical consultant for Whittaker Corp., enjoying the opulence of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh.  When he wasn’t in the Middle East, he settled in San Francisco.

There, in the hub of American gay life, Waddell embraced the bacchanal fully, its drug use and promiscuity, before finding what he hoped was true and lasting love with Charles Deaton, a 50-year-old former CIA operative.

Then Waddell had a grand vision; it started out as the “Gay Olympic Games.”  Waddell was aware that for many gay people, sports had meant a door slamming shut.  His goal was to open the door of completitive sports wide open to the LGBTQ community.

He modeled the Gay Olympic Games after what he considered to be the true principles of the Olympics: equality, fairness, human dignity.  Except that the U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t see it that way.

Just 19 days before the games were to begin, the USOC persuaded a federal court to issue an injunction prohibiting Waddell and his group, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, from using the word “Olympic” because of copyright infringement.

Waddell was incredulous and wounded to the core. He pointed out that in the past there had been no opposition to multiple other uses of the term (e.g., the Special Olympics).

With no legal recourse, Waddell and the SFAA scrambled to remove the offending word from a slew of merchandise and promotional material.  The hastily rechristened “Gay Games” played out nevertheless in the summer of 1982 with some 1,300 athletes from 12 countries participating.

By the next summer, as Gay Games 2 came to a now-besieged San Francisco, Waddell knew his days were numbered. He checked himself out of the hospital, marched in the opening ceremonies, and delivered a stirring opening address as part of the Games, which attracted some 3,500 athletes from 17 countries.

In one final feat of athletic strength, Waddell managed to win the gold medal in the javelin.  Within a year, he was gone.

Today, the Gay Games live on and are help in locations all around the world, including Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris and Hong Kong.  Since 1986, The Federation of Gay Games Scholarship Fund has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships to underfunded LGBTQ+ individuals from 70 countries around the world, where the daily struggle for equality is harsh and often dangerous.

Tom Waddell’s core principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best continue to bring thousands of athletes together to compete.

Every four years in conjuntion with the Gay Games, the Tom Waddell Award is presented to a person or organization involved in the Gay Games that embodies the standards of commitment, selflessness, and love of humanity, and inspires pride through leadership and excellence in sports, culture, or volunteerism.

AIDS Quilt - Arthur J Bressan
July 29, 1987
Gay Cinema Pioneer Arthur J. Bressan Jr. Dies

Arthur J. Bressan Jr., best known for his devastating 1985 AIDS drama Buddies, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 44.

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A pioneer of independent gay cinema in the 1970s and ’80s, Bressan is best known for his 1985 drama Buddies, the first feature film about the AIDS pandemic.  He also directed the largely influential Gay USA, the first documentary by and about LGBT people, and the feature film Abuse (1983).

“If you want to submit one director as the auteur for the post-Stonewall, pre-New Queer Cinema era of Gay Liberation, Arthur J. Bressan Jr. is that director,” writes film critic Caden Mark Gardner.

Bressan’s first credited film work is that of a documentary short called Coming Out, about the first official San Francisco Pride march in 1972.  Shot in 16mm and in color, it offers a snapshot of many people who made the pilgrimage to San Francisco.

Bressan would expand this cinematic approach for his 1978 feature-length documentary, Gay USA, made during the National Gay Freedom marches across the country in 1977, the year Harvey Milk became America’s first openly gay elected official.

“Many of the interviewers and testimonies in Gay USA are not just talking about the pleasantness of seeing themselves and being out at this Pride parade, but are speaking with righteous indignation about homophobic violence and systemic homophobia,” Gardner writes.

Bressan’s 1983 film Abuse, a drama with an intensely provocative portrayal of child abuse, is hailed by film critic Rex Reed as “a film of astonishing power and emotional impact.”

“Artie loved butch men and women, drag queens, black, brown and white,” writes Emmy Award-winning director Greta Schiller.  “Artie was exceptional in that he loved women. He had none of the misogyny that was (and still is) rampant in our culture, even in the LGBT community. He knew who and what he was, and he was not threatened by women.”

Schiller, who met Bressan in 1983 through activist Vito Russo at a screening of Abuse, said she went to the event “angry that it was a film about a man in authority sleeping with an abused teen.”

After watching the film, she emerged “with my mind blown by the complexity of what I’d seen.”

Russo convinced Schiller to share her reaction to Abuse with Bressan.

“I told him it was a brilliant film that made me realize not all older men who fall in love with a younger man are predators,” she recalled.  “The story and acting made me think of Italian postwar neorealist films.”

Schiller says that when Bressan became sick, he was determined to complete Buddies.

“He cut the film on a flatbed in his tiny apartment. He poured his heart and soul into making one last film,” she writes.  “I lived a few blocks away from him [in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City], and I would come get him for a walk around the block. Soon, he could only make it to the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue, a block from his home. He would gaze at the high-school boys and talk about the ones he fancied, and how those who were gay would have a better, freer life.”

About 10 years after Bressan’s death, his sister Roe Bressan and LGBT film historian Jenni Olson would launch The Bressan Project to preserve and promote Bressan’s films.

August 4, 1987
Cost of Ongoing AIDS Treatment Estimated at $50 Billion

A task force of the Society of Actuaries issues a report claiming that the cost of AIDS to insurance companies could exceed $50 billion by the year 2000.

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The study, commissioned by the 10,000-member Chicago-based organization, also predicts that future life insurance policies could add $30 billion to $60 billion to the total, depending on whether applicants are screened for the AIDS virus.

The study bases its findings on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, which suggests that 15% of those infected with the AIDS virus develop the fatal disease after five years and up to 36% are stricken after seven years.

The CDC reported there were 8,000 AIDS deaths in 1986, and is projecting that the number to rise to 54,000 by 1991.

The authors of the study, who are actuaries for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, contend that based on the Federal projections, AIDS claims are expected to go up by a factor of 10 by the 1990s.

August 5, 1987
Florida Schools Ordered to Enroll HIV-Positive Brothers

A federal judge orders the DeSoto County School Board in Florida to enroll HIV-positive brothers Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray.  The 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.

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.

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.

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.

October 11, 1987
AIDS Memorial Quilt Displayed on National Mall in DC

The AIDS Memorial Quilt goes on display for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The display features 1,920 4×8 panels and draws half a million visitors.

leather man
October 11, 1987
Helms Amendment Imposes Restrictions on AIDS Education

In a 94-2 vote, the U.S. Senate adopts the Helms Amendment, which requires federally financed educational materials about AIDS to stress sexual abstinence and forbids any material that “promotes” homosexuality or drug use.

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The Helms Amendment 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. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett expressed his concerns to conference members that although African Americans made up roughly 50% of people living with AIDS in Washington, DC, they were largely absent from clinics and support groups.

The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsoring organizations National Minority AIDS Council and National Conference of Black Mayors.

October 22, 1987
Worldwide Impact of AIDS Tops Concerns at United Nations

At the 42nd convening of the United Nations, AIDS becomes the first disease ever debated on the floor of the General Assembly.  The UN resolves to mobilize in the worldwide struggle against AIDS.

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“AIDS is one of those critical issues, like nuclear weapons, global development, and environmental pollution, which affects the future of all peoples in all countries,” says UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in his address.

“It is, in many senses, a global combat, and it threatens us with all the consequences of war – not only of massive death tolls and even greater an numbers of disabled,” he said, “but of orphans, of mass displacements, of loss of productivity, of overwhelming and bankrupting demands on financial, administrative and human resources, of fear, anger and panic, and of social instability.”

In closing, Pérez de Cuéllar says:  “We must combat fear with knowledge, panic with reason and isolation with compassion. We must affirm through solidarity that we are but one human family.”

After the World Health Organization gives a presentation on the global status of AIDS, the UN General Assembly designates WHO to lead the worldwide effort to end HIV/AIDS.

1987
And the Band Played On: Book Recounts Early Years of HIV

Journalist Randy Shilts’ book about the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, is published.

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When Shilts joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 he was the publication’s first openly gay journalist. He had been hired to cover issues in the gay community, though he also reported other stories. As part of his beat, he wrote about the growing number of immune system-related diseases occurring in gay men in San Francisco.

In the early 1980s, he persuaded The Chronicle to let him report on AIDS full time.  “And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic,” a history of the first five years of the epidemic, is largely the result of his newspaper work.

In the book, Shilts charges the Reagan Administration, the medical establishment and even some gay organizations with indifference to the disease.

The book would make Shilts a trusted commentator on AIDS, to the point that he becomes the closing speaker at the Fifth International AIDS Conference in Montreal in 1989.

Shilts also wrote The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982) and the bestselling Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (1993).

Shilts would die of AIDS-related illness on Feb. 17, 1994 at his ranch in the Sonoma County redwoods, at the age of 42.

Debra Fraser-Howze 2
1987
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is Founded

Debra Fraser-Howze , director of teenage services at the Urban League of New York, founds the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS .

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The organization works to educate, mobilize, and empower black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.

Fraser-Howze would lead the NBLCA for 21 years as President and CEO.  She would also become advisor to two U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) while serving on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1995-2001.

As the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization of its kind, dedicated to educating, mobilizing and empowering Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS, the NBLCA would evolve to become a comprehensive advocacy, policy and action organization that addresses multiple health disparities affecting Blacks/African Americans.

In 2019, the organization would change its name to National Black Leadership Commission on Health (Black Health), with an expanded focus that includes not only HIV/AIDS, but also Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health.

November 13, 1987
AMA Declares Ethical Obligation to Treat PWA’s

The American Medical Association declares that doctors have an ethical obligation to care for people with AIDS, as well as for those who have been infected with the virus but show no symptoms.

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In a response to reports that some doctors are refusing to treat patients who are HIV-positive , the AMA advises physicians that it is unethical to deny care in such situations if the care required is within the doctor’s normal range of practice.

AMA ethics council also tells physicians that if a patient carrying the AIDS virus refuses to discontinue dangerous sexual practices, a doctor should notify public health authorities and even take it upon himself to directly inform individuals who may be in danger of infection.

The new AMA strictures conflict with California law, under which it is illegal for a doctor, without the patient’s consent, to tell anyone a person has tested positive for the AIDS virus or has AIDS.

The AMA states that no evidence exists that large numbers of doctors have refused to treat patients who tested positive for the AIDS virus.

But an AMA spokesperson concedes, “There have been physicians who have chosen to make public statements that they will not treat HIV-positive people. Those statements have generated tremendous amounts of discussion and debate.”

November 28, 1987
Washington Ballet Choreographer Goh Choo San Dies

Goh Choo San, a Chinese ballet dancer and choreographer with the Washington Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at his New York City home.  He was 39 years old.

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As the Washington Ballet’s first resident choreographer, Goh worked with the company from its 1976 founding until his death.  Goh’s distinct style emphasized technique and musicality over plot and blended Eastern movement with classical ballet technique, showcasing the dancers’ strengths that company founder Mary Day had cultivated in her studio.

“Those of us in Washington who witnessed his artistic blossoming over the past 11 years … have an enormous legacy to be grateful for,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic Alan M. Kriegsman in his tribute to Goh in The Washington Post.  “And his works — 34 ballets created since 1973, 14 of them expressly for the Washington Ballet — will live on and transmit his genius to posterity.”

Raised in Singapore with eight older siblings, Goh followed in the path of an older brother and sister who were training in the art of dance.  After graduating from the University of Singapore with a degree in bio-chemistry, Goh travelled to Europe and joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, where he was eventually promoted to soloist.

While still a dancer with the company, Goh created his first ballets and began drawing the attention of dance aficionados, including that of Mary Day, who was starting a new ballet company in Washington, DC.  Day offered him a position in 1976 with her newly founded Washington Ballet.

“It is no exaggeration to call [Goh’s] choreographic ascent meteoric,” wrote Kriegsman.  “Within two years of his arrival, he had choreographed six ballets for the Washington company. He had also attracted the attention of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who met with Goh in Washington, watched him work and laid the groundwork for a major commission for American Ballet Theatre.”

The commissioned work became the 1981 ballet Configurations, which was danced by Baryshnikov and a contingent of ABT dancers at Lisner Auditorium as part of the Washington Ballet’s historic “Golden Gala.”  The creation and performance of the work were documented by London Weekend Television and is now available as Baryshnikov: The Dancer and the Dance.

Goh’s choreography for Configurations is considered a concrete example of his command of the classical dance vocabulary and his ingenuity in creating striking imagery.  The ballet is set to Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Piano Concerto, a score that is difficult to play and even more difficult to dance to.

”He is intensely musical, and his ballets are all marked by a first-rate command of structure and fluency,” Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote in 1980. ”He concentrates on speed, intricacies of movement, difficult toe work and streamlined partnering. His base is strongly neo-Classical with a sleek contemporary look, incorporating modern-dance idioms and unexpected gestures, wrist rotations, interpolated academic steps that burst out of the usual flow of movement, acrobatic tumbling within a partnering technique and subtle nuances.”

In 1982, he would choreograph In the Glow of the Night, a ballet set to music by Bohuslav Martinu that would be praised as Goh’s most perfectly realized work.  In 1986, Unknown Territory — his last completed ballet — was touted as an important work for both Goh and the Washington Ballet.

“Every two years since his arrival in Washington in 1976, he’s come up with a breakthrough of sorts: the propulsive abstraction Fives in 1978; the distilled romanticism of Lament in 1980; a fusion of these contrary impulses in the 1982 In the Glow of the Night; his first full-length narrative work, Romeo and Juliet, in 1984 (for the Boston Ballet); and now the richly exotic Unknown Territory,wrote Kriegsman in 1986, not realizing that this work would be Goh’s last.

In 1992, five years after Goh’s death, the Choo San Goh & H. Robert Magee Foundation was formed to provide annual scholarships and grants for new dance works in an effort to further develop choreographic talent. The foundation also oversees the licensing of Goh’s ballets in performances by dance companies throughout the world.

In 1997, the Singapore Dance Theatre commissioned a monograph on Goh entitled Goh Choo San, Master Craftsman in Dance. It contains a detailed overview of Goh’s life in written text and photos of his ballets.  The company also added to their repertoire twelve of Goh’s works, bringing his identity as a Singaporean choreographer back to his homeland.

AIDS Quilt - Lyle Loder 2
December 3, 1987
Hollywood UMC Member Lyle Loder Dies

Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.

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Loder was a key leader in development of an LGBT witness among United Methodists in southern California during the early 1980s, recalls his friend Morris Floyd.

Feeling called to the United Methodist ministry, Loder studied philosophy and religion and served as a student pastorate while at Kansas Wesleyan University in the early 1970s, according to Floyd.  However, Loder chose to not hide his identity, and by the time of his graduation from KWU, the denomination had incorporated into its Discipline the language describing same-sex relationships as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“Lyle’s dream of serving as a United Methodist clergyman was never realized,” writes Floyd in the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.

Instead, Loder would go on to help build a local congregation that would welcome lesbian and gay United Methodists in the Hollywood area.  By 1986, Loder would be an active member of HUMC and he would share with the congregation that he was living with AIDS.

In October 1987, the Health and Welfare Ministries Division of the Board of Global Ministries hosted a consultation conference on AIDS at a hotel near the San Francisco airport.  Loder was invited to help plan the conference and participate in a panel discussion about the needs of people living with AIDS.

“Lyle’s participation on a panel, sharing his story, and in the midst of it, despite everything, his love for God and his refusal to give up on the United Methodist Church,” recalls Floyd.  “He was frail and only a few weeks from death, though he did not know it at the time.  If ever God’s Spirit was present anywhere, it shone in Lyle in those hours.”

On November 29, 1987, the day before his birthday, Loder was admitted to the hospital, where he was visited by his brother.  When Loder died a few days later, many friends came to his hospital room, spread rose petals on his bed, and sang hymns

Memorial services were held at HUMC and again at Loder’s home church in Kansas.  Loder was the first of the HUMC family to die of complications of HIV/AIDS, but he wouldn’t be the last.

A memorial plaque inside the church narthex carries the names of Loder and 34 additional members of the congregation who died in the early years of the pandemic. On World AIDS Day in 1993, members of HUMC fashioned two giant red ribbons and attached them to the tower of the church.  In 1996, more permanent ribbons replaced them and remain today.

Loder’s life is also memorialized by three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of them made by church and community worker Donna Kay Campbell.

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.

December 29, 1987
LGBTQ Political Leader Shelley Andelson Dies

Sheldon “Shelley” Andelson, a leader in the gay community and a fundraiser for such politicians as Sen. Edward Kennedy and Walter Mondale, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 56.

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The founder of the Bank of Los Angeles and a successful lawyer, Andelson raised large sums for liberal politicians at parties in his Bel-Air home and at his restaurant, Trumps.  He served as a Founding Board Member for the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Born in Boyle Heights, Andelson was the first openly gay University of California Regent.  His nomination by Gov. Jerry Brown to the UC Board of Regents was met with a nasty confirmation battle but he ultimately served as a Regent from 1980 to 1986.

The Los Angeles Times called him a “Democratic Party heavyweight, once regarded as the nation’s most influential gay political figure.”  Andelson was instrumental in the 1980 appointment of one of the first openly gay judges in California, Rand Schrader.

Additionally, Andelson was a member of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, director of the ACLU Foundation, and a member of a committee of the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

The Andelson Collection at the UC Santa Barbara Library supports the teaching curriculum and research interests of faculty and students in LGBTQ+ studies across the disciplines.

AIDS Quilt - Joah Lowe
January 6, 1988
San Francisco Dancer-Teacher Joah Lowe Dies

Dancer and dance teacher Joah Lowe dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 34.

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Lowe performed in the San Francisco area and taught dance classes, including one titled, “Lessons in the Art of Flying.”

In 2004, dancer Keith Hennessy was asked to write about Lowe, his first dance teacher.

“Joah taught a weekly class, an introduction to contemporary dance that involved technique and improvisation,” Hennessy writes.  “Joah, thanks a lot.  Thanks for welcoming me, for steering me into the future and away from the past….  You were my first authentically intuitive man.”

The Joah Lowe collection — which includes theater, performance and dance ephemera, performance and dance production notes, and related art and artifacts from Lowe’s work — is stored at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.  The collection includes material collected by Charlie Halloran, a dancer who worked with Lowe and who subsequently died in 1993, also from AIDS-related illness.

January 27, 1988
Ian McKellan Comes Out on U.K. Radio to Oppose Section 28

As news of Section 28 — a new law that prohibits the acceptance of homosexuality in schools and local governmental entities — speads through the LGBTQ+ community, actor Ian McKellan decides to come out on live BBC radio to demonstrate his personal stake in his opposition to the law.

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Broadcast live on this date in 1988, McKellan was interviewed along with Section 28 supporter Peregrine Worsthorne.  Early in the broadcast, the interviewer asks McKellan, “So you would just like to see Clause 28 disappear altogether?”

McKellen responds, “Oh, yes.  I certainly would.  Yes.  I think it’s offensive to anyone who is, like myself, homosexual, apart from the whole business of what can or cannot be taught to children.”

When Section 28 supporter Worsthorne says the clause would not have “any very serious effect on the Arts,” McKellan counters with an example of how homophobia is already impacting the country’s theater landscape.

“You are familiar with the play The Normal Heart, an American play about AIDS in the early days of AIDS in America, which had a huge impact on people’s knowledge of that disease, not just in America but when it was recently seen here in England, at the Royal Court Theatre and in the West End,” McKellan says.

“The Devonshire County Council has recently removed £10,000 from the grant to its local arts centre, because it proposes to do that play,” McKellan argues.  “And it’s in the light of that sort of, we call it, censorship, we call it restriction, we call it too strong expression of opinion, I would have thought, which makes us fear what the effect of this Clause, if it ever happened.”

trimetrexate
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.

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.

Arnett
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.

AIDS Quilt - Arnie Zane
March 30, 1988
NYC Choreographer Arnie Zane Dies

Arnie Zane, the co-artistic director of Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Dance Company, a leading postmodernist dance troupe, died of AIDS-related illness at his home in Valley Cottage, New York. He was 39 years old.

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Zane was born in the Bronx and attended public schools in New York City, receiving an undergraduate degree from the State University at Binghamton.  Zane began working with Bill T. Jones in 1971, and they formed the American Dance Asylum with Lois Welk in 1973 in Binghamton, New York.

“They made an unlikely team: Jones is tall and muscular and his dancing expansive, while Zane, short and wiry, leaped about the stage in bursts of nervous energy,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

After touring together in the U.S. and abroad, the two choreographer-dancers formed the Jones-Zane company in 1982 and appeared in that year’s Next Wave festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Through much of the 1980s, the company drew critical acclaim for its stylish, punchy dance that incorporated narrative and text set to music by noted post-modernist composers.  Zane and Jones’ choreography often explored issues such as racism, religion, sexism, and the nuclear age.

Zane held two Creative Artists Public Service Fellowships: for photography in 1973 and for choreography in 1981. He also was awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and 1984.

In 1986, he and Jones were recipients of New York’s Dance Performance Award (the “Bessie”) for their 1985 season.

Following Zane’s death, Jones kept the name of the company the same.  Published in 1990, Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane is a collaboration by the two men, examining their work together.

“The reader of Body Against Body is left to contemplate the toll the disease is taking in the arts community and to reflect on what the premature death of so many young artists means to the performing arts, to their audience and to humanity,” wrote Charles Solomon in the LA Times.

Also in 1990, Jones (who was also diagnosed as HIV-positive) created the now canonical work, D-Man in the Waters, which explored the grief, loss and existential fear shared by many in the dance community at that time.

April 16, 1988
Classical Pianist Youri Egorov Dies

Russian-born pianist Youri Egorov dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Amsterdam at the age of 33.

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Egorov made his mark on the performance of classical music in his own highly individual way.  Between the ages of 6 and 17, he studied music at the Kazan Music School and then studied for six years at the Moscow Conservatory.  In 1976, at the age of 22, Egorov defected from Russia to Amsterdam. applying for asylum just before a concert in Italy.

The year following his defection, Egorov participated in the Cliburn music competition in Fort Forth, Texas and became an audience favorite.  When he was not chosen by judges as a finalist, a group of patrons and Cliburn board members formed an ad-hoc committee to raise money equal to the top prize of $10,000 to further Egorov’s career.

In 1978, Egorov had his New York recital debut in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center at the age of 24, and his career took off.  By the end of the year, Egorov would give a performance at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded live.  The same year, he performed for the Schumann Carnaval, a recital for German TV.

”Mr. Egorov plays in a free, romantic style, and his approach is quite different from that of so many competition winners,” wrote Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times after Egorov’s New York debut.

Egorov’s dramatic style can be heard (and seen) in this abbreviated recording of a concert with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in June 1979.

In the book Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves compiled by Elyse Mach, Egorov spoke candidly on the topics of rehearsal, pre-concert nervousness, artistic restrictions in Russia, and homosexuality.  In Amsterdam, Egorov met Jan Brouwer, who became his long-term partner.

Although he took an apartment in Manhattan in the late 1970s, and he and Brouwer established a residence in Monte Carlo for tax purposes, Egorov counted Amsterdam as his home throughout his 12 years in the West.

When Egorov died in 1988, he had recordings of several performances awaiting release.  His partner died about four months after Egorov, and both their remains are interred at Driehuis Velsen Crematorium, Noord-Holland, Netherlands.

https://www.youri-egorov.info/desktop/reading_bio1.html

AIDS Quilt - Cruz Luna
April 29, 1988
Flamenco Dancer Cruz Luna Dies

Nationally known flamenco dancer Cruz Luna dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.

 

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A native of Spain, Luna learned flamenco dancing in cafes there and studied later in Mexico and Los Angeles. He launched his career at the age of 17 with appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Dave Garroway television shows.

Luna danced in an international tour with the Ballet Nacional of Spain and in a Broadway show titled Ole! Ole!  He moved to San Francisco in 1959 and performed with the Smothers Brothers and Phyllis Diller. From 1960 to 1974, he operated Cafe Madrid in North Beach and presented flamenco dancers from around the world.

He dies at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.

May 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.

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Between May 26 and June 30, 1988, the Centers for Disease Control mail the pamphlet Understanding AIDS to every U.S. household.  Approximately 126 million copies were distributed, reaching at least 60% of the population.

The brochure was produced in Spanish as well as English, and its purpose was 3-fold: to clarify how AIDS is transmitted; to emphasize that behavior, not identification with risk groups, put people at risk; and to stimulate informed discussions about AIDS at all levels of society.

In conjunction with the mailing, the CDC initiated contacts with state health departments and manufacturers of AIDS testing kits.  In anticipation of increased requests for information that the brochure would generate, the CDC added up to 1,000 operators to the National AIDS Information Line.

The impact of the campaign on AIDS-related behavior was not fully assessed.  Extensive message pretesting and other marketing techniques designed to improve the effectiveness of the brochure, however, helped Understanding AIDS achieve an increase in awareness and concern about AIDS nationwide.

During the process of the campaign, the CDC learned a number of lessons, including the importance of setting a deadline, doing formative research, and achieving a consensus on scientific knowledge.

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.

June 6, 1988
AIDS Hospice Ordered to Move from Hollywood Neighborhood

A Los Angeles zoning administrator rules that Hughes House, one of just a few AIDS hospices in the county, is in violation of zoning laws and cannot remain in the neighborhood where it has operated for five months.

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Likening the hospice to a hospital, Chief Zoning Administrator Franklin P. Eberhard ruled that Hughes House is not allowed to operate in the three-bedroom house on the 1300 block of Ogden, a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Previously, Los Angeles building and safety officials said the hospice could operate in its location, because the six-bed facility observes state and city laws which allow up to six unrelated people to share a single-family home.  The city has no zoning code that applies specifically to where hospices can be located.

Hughes House responded by filing an appeal to Eberhard’s decision.  Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles/Long Beach, which runs Hughes House, told the Los Angeles Times that he was confident that they would win their appeal on grounds that Hughes House is not a medical facility.

“We feel that, No. 1, it’s a legal use,” Wolff told the Times. “No. 2, the moral imperative is so overwhelming. There needs to be a place for these people to be cared for in the final stages of life.”

June 22, 1988
Opera Conductor Andrew Meltzer Dies

Andrew Meltzer, resident conductor with the San Francisco Opera, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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At age 39, Meltzer entered a blind test for AZT, but he was one of the participants given a placebo.  He was switched to AZT at age 40, but it was too late.

Meltzer made his West Coast conducting debut with the Spring Opera Theater’s 1974 production of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo.  He made his company debut during the 1982 summer season with The Barber of Seville, and followed up with Cosi fan Tutte in the summer of 1983, La Gioconda during the 1983 fall season and Die Fledermaus in 1984.

His conducting credits with other companies include productions for Michigan Opera Theater, Edmonton Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Spoleto Festival USA.  He was a rising star.

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 intrumental in determining treatment and transmission prevention strategy for women and infants.

June 28, 1988
German Actor Kurt Raab Dies

Kurt Raab, best remembered for his work with German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, dies of AIDS-related illness in Hamburg at the age of 46.

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Born in 1941 in the Bohemian town of Bergreichenstein (now part of the Czek Republic), Raab started life as the son of a farm hand.  While attending high school at Straubing, he would befriend Peer Raben, the future composer for many Fassbinder films, and the two would move to Munich together.

Raab would play his first role in Raben’s staging of Antigone, where they both would meet Fassbinder.  In 1969, Raab would play the lead role in Fassbinder’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and then go on to perform in numerous other Fassbinder films and TV productions.

Raab is considered one of the most versatile members of Fassbinder’s stock company, and he would work on more than 30 of the director’s films, on and behind the screen.

Before he died, he worked to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Germany. In 1987, he discussed his illness in Herbert Achternbusch’s Wohin?, a film about AIDS hysteria. Shortly before his death in 1988, he made Mitten im Leben, a documentary about AIDS, for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen.

Raab’s tragic death in 1988 played out publicly and painfully in Germany, where understanding of the illness was poor at best.

The actor was practically quarantined in the Hamburg Tropical Institute, and following his death, his body was frefused burial in Steinbeißen, the Bavarian town where his family had settled in 1945.

His body would be shipped to Hamburg, where he would be buried in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery.

Raab’s last days were recorded for Yearning for Sodom, which he codirected with Hanno Baethe and his former Fassbinder colleague Hirschmüller, and for which Raab would be posthumously awarded the Adolf Grimme Award.

AIDS Quilt - Anthony Holland
July 9, 1988
Stage & Film Actor Anthony Holland Dies

Actor Anthony Holland, whose health was declining due to infection with HIV, commits suicide in his Manhattan apartment; he was 60 years old.

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A graduate of the University of Chicago, Holland had been a member of the original Second City comedy troupe, where he met Joan Rivers, with whom he remained friends until his death.

He made his Broadway debut in 1963 in Lillian Hellman’s comedy My Mother, My Father and Me. His half-dozen subsequent Broadway roles included Division Street and We Bombed in New Haven. He appeared in many regional-theater productions, as well as Off Broadway productions of Brendan Behan’s ‘Quare Fellow, Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

He gave one of his best performances in The Hunger Artist, Martha Clarke’s 1987 adaptation of several stories by Franz Kafka.

“His soft voice, unpretentiously conversational in tone yet mesmerizingly grave, could be Kafka’s,” Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times.

In 1979, he gives a standout performance in the film All That Jazz as Broadway songwriter Paul Dann, and appears in scores of other films between 1964-1986.

Holland took his own life just as he was entering the final stages of the disease “in what can only be called an act of sheer bravado,” writes friend David Ehrenstein.  He had saved enough medication to facilitate a lethal overdoes.

“Tony had elected to make his exit on a day when he was in a good mood,” Ehrenstein recalled.  “He was in New York at that time and friends recall seeing him around town at his usual haunts in high spirits.

Holland had left instructions for the paramedics and even rubber gloves in case they were concerned about handling an “AIDS corpse.”

July 23, 1988
FDA Approves Importation of Experimental Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces it will allow the importation of small quantities of unapproved drugs for people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS.

August 1, 1988
San Francisco Actor Tommy Pace Dies

Tommy Pace, a member of the pioneering Gay Men’s Theater Collective, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.  Pace was known locally as a brilliant comic actor with the Angels of Light.

August 1, 1988
U.S. Announces Pediatric AIDS Service Grants

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awards $4.4 million in grants to 11 states and Puerto Rico for the first pediatric AIDS service demonstration projects.

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The HRSA-funded projects are expected to demonstrate effective ways to:

  • reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV;
  • develop coordinated, community-based, and family-centered services for infants and children living with HIV; and
  • develop programs to reduce the spread of HIV to vulnerable populations of young people.
August 5, 1988
Colin Higgins — Screenwriter of ‘Harold & Maude’ — 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.

AIDS Quilt - Jesse Hollis
August 6, 1988
Bay Area Theater Designer Jesse Hollis Dies

Jesse Hollis, the resident set designer at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.  Hollis’ designs were seen at theater and opera companies throughout the country, including Berkeley Rep, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Magic Theatre.

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.

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Price may be best remembered for his final performance, singing and tap dancing in his wheelchair in the film short Song From an Angel.  Made two weeks prior to his death, Price performs a darkly humorous song about his own death, “I’ve Got Less Time Than You.”

No Place Like Home
August 16, 1988
Los Angeles Zoning Board Decides AIDS Hospice Can Stay

Reversing a decision by the City of Los Angeles’ zoning administrator, the zoning board voted to allow Hughes House to remain at its location in a Hollywood residential neighborhood.

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Following the zoning board’s decision, supporters of the hospice declared the ruling a victory for the rights of the terminally ill.  Many of them wore pink buttons bearing the words “There’s no place like home.”

Ron Wolff, executive director of Hospice Los Angeles-Long Beach, the nonprofit group that runs Hughes House, said the hospice acts as a surrogate family for dying patients during the last three or four weeks of their lives.

The ruling of the zoning board ended a months-long attempt by residents to remove the hospice from their neighborhood.

Area residents filed complaints with the city, accusing Hughes House of operating a medical facility.  In response, city inspectors visited the hospice three times and concluded that the facility was not violating zoning laws.

Then neighbors began to keep detailed logs of activity at Hughes House, according to the Los Angeles Times, and they reported to the city every occasion they observed of medical supply trucks making deliveries and new patients arriving.  In June 1988, the chief zoning administrator sided with the neighbors, agreeing with their portrayal of the hospice as a medical facility, and ruled that Hughes House could not continue to operate in its location.

In the end, however, the zoning board found the residents’ complaints to be lacking in substance when compared to the needs of the people staying — and dying — at Hughes House.  Ultimately, members of the zoning board were won over by the fact that Hughes House was providing a service — care for those dying of AIDS — that sadly was much in demand and that few other organizations in Los Angeles could provide.

AIDS Quilt - Leonard Frey
August 24, 1988
‘Boys in the Band’ Actor Leonard Frey Dies

Leonard Frey, an actor admired for his vivid and often flamboyant performances, dies of AIDS-related illness at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 49.

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In 1968, Frey received critical acclaim for his performance as Harold, a bitter, bitchy, gay man who dreads his upcoming birthday, in off-Broadway’s The Boys in the Band.  He, along with the rest of the original cast, appeared in the 1970 film version, directed by William Friedkin, as well.

Frey was nominated for a 1975 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in The National Health. For his role in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, Frey earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Motel the tailor.

Frey also had a number of screen credits to his name, including films The Magic ChristianWhere the Buffalo Roam and Tattoo and the television series’ Mission ImpossibleQuincy, M.E. and Barney Miller.

 

August 27, 1988
‘Father of West Hollywood’ Ron Stone Dies

Ronald L. Stone, the major architect of the incorporation campaign that made a city out of the community of West Hollywood in 1984, dies at his home of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.

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Stone was instrumental in turning the 1.9-square-mile wedge of unincorporated Los Angeles County into the first American city to be governed by a gay majority.

“Without him it wouldn’t have happened,” said John Heilman, then-Councilmember of the new city.

Compelled by a vision of open, local government, Stone saw cityhood as the means by which West Hollywood’s 36,000 residents — most of them renters, many of them gay or elderly — could shape key community issues such as zoning, rent control and anti-discrimination laws.

“He was really concerned about having local control over zoning and planning,” Heilman told the Los Angeles Times.

In his 2014 article about the founding of West Hollywood, former WeHoville editor Henry E. Scott,  wrote:  “It was the construction of a hotel in his neighborhood in 1983, and a county decision to limit the hours at the pool at West Hollywood Park, that prompted Ron Stone, then 37, to take a look at the impact of development and the county’s governance on the area.”

Early on, Stone won the support of an influential renters rights activist, Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival. A major goal of CES was strengthening renter rights so that people could access and keep affordable housing.

In 1983, Gross was assessing the aftermath of CES’s losing campaign to introduce a rent control ordinance in Los Angeles County.  The ballot measure failed to capture the majority of votes, most likely because many of the county’s residents were homeowners, landlords and developers.  In West Hollywood, however, the ballot measure passed by a five-to-one majority.

Through its work on the county rent control initiative, CES had assembled a large base of supporters in West Hollywood.  Gross and Stone organized canvassers to circulate petitions proposing that West Hollywood become its own city – and one out of every four registered voters signed on.  With that petition and economic data, the newly formed West Hollywood Incorporation Committee won the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which assessed the feasibility of West Hollywood as its own city.

Stone also secured the support of the Stonewall Democratic Club and the Harvey Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club, both of which created excitement about the prospect of a city run by LGBTQ officials.  But what ultimately united individuals and groups from a variety of backgrounds — seniors on limited incomes, renters, and gay and lesbian residents concerned about discrimination — was the city’s soaring rents and the lack of any effective way to regulate them.

The Board of Supervisors, which at that time consisted of conversative officials, agreed to put cityhood on the Novemer 1984 ballot.  Immediately, 44 people announced their candidacy for five seats on the West Hollywood City Council.  While 19 of the candidates were gay or lesbian, all of the candidates stated they supported gay rights and rent control of some sort.

Meanwhile, local landlords and developers began to mobilize in opposition of cityhood.  One early opponent was Francis J. Montgomery, a local landowner whose family still manages the Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood.  Montgomery funded a campaign to try to convince the area’s seniors that cityhood would give LGBT people undue influence.  That strategy failed.

Then Montgomery and other landlords and developers formed the West Hollywood Concerned Citizens coalition, and appealed to LA County officials to create a special rent control district for the West Hollywood area.  The coalition hoped that the conservative-leaning officials would create rent-control policies that would be weaker than those a new City Council might adopt.  That effort also failed.

In the November 1984 election, a majority of residents voted to make their unincorporated area the 84th city in Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the new city was “heralded worldwide as creating ‘A Gay Camelot’ — the first openly gay-run city in the nation.”

Almost immediately, the city’s newly elected officials and newly hired staff launched programs for a wide range of services for its residents.  Among the new programs were services providing hot meals, healthcare, low-cost housing, taxi coupons for senior citizens, early childhood education, and even pet care for people with AIDS.  The Metropolitan Community Church, a gay and lesbian faith organization with a worldwide membership of 42,000, moved its headquarters from Culver City to West Hollywood to “be part of this community.”

After the cityhood victory, Ron Stone ran twice for City Council and lost both times.  But he remained active in civic affairs, offering advice behind the scenes, attending council meetings and serving on committees.

In 1987, just as the city was beginning to thrive, Stone’s health began to decline.  After his death, he would be publicly lauded as “the father of West Hollywood.”

hooray+4+hollywood+88+poster
September 3, 1988
“Hooray for Hollywood’ Benefit on Fire Island Supports God’s Love We Deliver

Gloria DeMann and her husband Larry host an extravagant benefit at their bayfront home on Fire Island to raise money for the AIDS service provider God’s Love We Deliver.

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The event, titled “Hooray for Hollywood, was one of the most famous benefits in Pines history at one of the most historic party houses on Fire Island, according to the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society.  Showman Peter Allen and comedian Joan Rivers performed, as well as Chippendale Dancers and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

Gloria DeMann, owner of the Manhattan restaurant Café Pacifico, often opened the doors of her home for big parties, and she went all-out for this one.  Proceeds for the benefit went to God’s Love We Deliver, a three-year-old organization that provided free, nutrious meals for people with AIDS.

God’s Love was founded in 1985 by hospice volunteer Ganga Stone, who began cooking and delivering meals (by bicycle) to one of her clients, Richard Sale, a 32-year-old New York actor who was dying of AIDS.  Stone soon recruited her roommate, Jane Ellent Best, and other friends to help her, and an organization was born.

Sale was born in Texas in 1952, graduated from Denton High School in 1970, and attended the University of Michigan.  He acted in New York stage productions, but then died of AIDS-related illness on August 29, 1985 at the age of 33.

Stone, who was told by a minister that “you’re not just delivering food, You’re delivering God’s love,” would lead her organization of a handful of volunteers into a world-class service provider with a budget of $23 million.  In 2021, the year Stone died at the age of 79, God’s Love would distribute 2.5 million meals to 10,000 people homebound in the New York metropolitan area.

AIDS Quilt - David Anthony Keith
September 22, 1988
Concert Pianist David Anthony Keith Dies

David Anthony Keith, Bay Area concert pianist, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

AIDS Quilt - Wayland Flowers
October 11, 1988
Entertainer Wayland Flowers Dies

Wayland Flowers, best known for creating and voicing the sassy puppet Madame, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

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Wayland Flowers was one of the first openly gay entertainers to find acceptance in mainstream America.

“In an era when even Paul Lynde was still in the closet, Flowers hid nothing,” says Kevin Phinney in his article “This is How Wayland Flowers and Madame Made the ’80s so Gay” in MetroSource.

After refining his act, Flowers’ made a national splash on The Andy Williams Show. From there, Flowers became a regular presence on network TV — although it was not unusual for Madame to get more closeups.

He is best known for the TV series Madame’s Place (1982) and The Hollywood Squares, and also performed in scores of live shows.

Other puppets populated Flowers’ act, but none earned Madame’s notoriety. Among them were a Harlem harlot known as Jiffy, a cranky vaudeville vet named Macklehoney and Crazy Mary, a Bellevue mental hospital escapee.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, Flowers was diagnosed with HIV.  He continued to perform until he collapsed onstage during a show at Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas.  Eventually, he developed Kaposi’s sarcoma.  He made one last visit to his home town in Georgia and then checked into an AIDS treatment facility, the Hughes House hospice center in Los Angeles, where he remained until his death.

October 11, 1988
ACT UP Shuts Down FDA Headquarters in Rockville, MD

Over 1,000 members and supporters of the activist group ACT UP engage in a massive sit-in that shuts down the Rockville, MD offices of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA is targeted for refusing to release HIV/AIDS medications until tests prove them to be safe and effective.

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Arguing that the FDA’s approval process is too slow and that patients dying of AIDS have little to lose by trying experimental medications, ACT UP brings hundreds of its members to the Washington, D.C. area to demonstrate.  They manage to stop business as usual for the day, with ACT UP graphics and banners covering the building’s facade.

“Our takeover of the FDA was unquestionably the most significant demonstration of the AIDS activist movement’s first two years,” organizer Douglas Crimp writes in The Atlantic.

In advance of the event, ACT UP groups across the country conduct teach-ins to provide members with knowledge of complicated issues related to HIV/AIDS treatment.

ACT UP then shares this information, along with their demands to the FDA, with the press in the days leading up to the demonstration.

“The FDA action was ‘sold’ in advance to the media almost like a Hollywood movie,” Crimp writes, “with a carefully prepared and presented press kit, hundreds of phone calls to members of the press, and activists’ appearances scheduled on television and radio talk shows around the country.”

On the day of the FDA demonstration, the media shows up in force to get the story and, due to the advance preparation by ACT UP, reporters are able to report it with a degree of accuracy and sympathy.

ACT UP groups from around the country engage all day in skirmishes with the Rockville police, who apparently are ordered to keep the number of arrests low to minimize media drama.

Protesters push at police lines outside the 20-story building, shouting, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “No more deaths!” as curious workers stare down from windows.

When protesters attempt to enter the building, they are forcibly restrained but not arrested.  Even so, police ultimately arrest 176 protestors, most on loitering charges

Eight days later, the FDA announces new regulations to speed up the process.  In addition, government agencies addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly the FDA and NIH, began to listen to activist leaders and ask for their input.

October 14, 1988
Poll: Sympathy for PWAs, But Not if They Are Gay or IV Drug Users

The New York Times publishes the results of a poll that suggests that people are sympathetic toward people with AIDS — but not if they are sexually active gay men or use IV drugs.

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Of the 1,600 respondents interviewed by NYT/CBS, 75% stated they had ”a lot” or ”some” sympathy for people who have AIDS and 19% said they had ”not much” or ”no” sympathy.  (The poll had a margin of sampling error of +/- 3%.)

The level of sympathy declined dramatically, however, when the two groups at highest risk of exposure to the disease were mentioned: 36% with “a lot” or “some” sympathy for “people who get AIDS from homosexual activity,” and 26% for ”people who get AIDS from sharing needles while using illegal drugs.”

NYT reporter Michael R. Kagay wrote:  “The most recent poll made it clear that public attitudes toward these high-risk groups are linked to support or opposition to steps that might help to slow the spread of AIDS.”

Kagay then presented the example of the belief of 52% of those interviewed that drug addiction was “more an illness,” compared with 34% who believed that addiction was “more a crime.”

“These views about the nature of drug addiction appeared to influence how respondents reacted to a proposal to give free sterilized needles to intravenous drug users as a public health measure,” Kagay wrote.

The respondents viewing addiction as an illness were more likely to favor free distribution of sterilized needles to drug users, with 52% of these respondents supporting this as a way to slow the spread of AIDS. Only 26% of those who viewed addiction as a crime supported the proposal.

October 18, 1988
U.S. Passes Abandoned Infants Assistance Act

The Abandoned Infants Assistance Act becomes law, addressing the issue of so-called “boarder babies.”  These infants, many of whom have been perinatally exposed to drugs or HIV, have been either been orphaned or left at hospitals indefinitely by their parents.

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The AIA funds projects to support moving the children into foster care or other more traditional living arrangements.

AIDS Quilt - Peter Childers
October 25, 1988
San Francisco Ballet Dancer Peter Childers Dies

Dancer Peter Childers, who performed with the San Francisco Opera Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.

November 4, 1988
President Reagan Signs Comprehensive HOPE Act

President Ronald Reagan signs the Health Omnibus Programs Extension (HOPE) Act into law, authorizing the use of federal funds for AIDS prevention, education, and testing.

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As the first comprehensive federal AIDS bill, it establishes the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

November 7, 1988
NYC Pilots Controversial Needle-Exchange Program

The New York City Health Department begins a pilot needle-exchange program to address the growing number of HIV infections among people who inject drugs

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The program is opposed by many of the city’s black and latinx leaders, who see it as an abandonment of IV-drug-using people of color.

The leaders demand a more comprehensive approach to the issue, proposing more resources for drug-prevention education, addiction treatment, and law enforcement.

November 11, 1988
Punk Vocalist John Morris (aka Black Randy) Dies

John Morris, frontman of the Los Angeles punk band Black Randy and The Metrosquad, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 36.

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The band imploded in mid-1982, when Black Randy succumbed to drug and alcohol problems, which were evident in chaotic live shows which even bandmate David Brown could not keep on course, as hard as he tried.
In 2007, Black Randy would be portrayed by Chris Pontius in the Darby Crash biopic What We Do Is Secret.
November 19, 1988
Texas Judge Lightens Sentence of Homophobic Killer

After two gay men are murdered in Reverchon Park in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, a Texas judge rejects the recommended life sentence for one of the killers, instead imposing the more lenient sentence of 30 years in prison.

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In a demonstration of the bigotry and homophobia faced by gay men in America, Judge Jack Hampton of State District Court told The Dallas Times Herald that he gave an 18-year-old murderer a more lenient sentence than prosecutors had sought because the two victims were gay and, the judge said, they would not have been killed ”if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teenage boys.”

Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, were driving through the Oak Lawn section of Dallas on a night in May 1988 when they were distracted by a group of young men shouting at them from the street corner.  Not realizing that the group, which included students from North Mesquite High School, had come to the neighborhood to ”pester the homosexuals,” Trimble and Griffin invited the young men into their car.

Witnesses testifed that 18-year-old Richard Lee Bednarski and a friend entered the car with the intent of assaulting them.  After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Bednarski ordered Trimble and Griffin to remove their clothes and, when they refused, Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing at them.  Trimble died immediately, and Griffin died five days later.

A jury found Bednarski guilty of the double homicide.  Since Texas law allowed the defendant to choose whether the judge or the jury set the penalty, Bednarski chose the judge at the advice of his lawyer, who said he thought the judge would be more sympathetic.

Judge Hampton said that in determining the sentence, he considered that the guilty party had no criminal record, was attending college and was “reared in a good home by a father who is a police officer.”

In explaining the Nov. 19 sentence to The Times Herald, Judge Hampton said, ”I don’t care much for queers cruising the streets. I’ve got a teenage boy.”

Intron A and Roferon A
November 22, 1988
FDA Approves Intron A and Roferon A for Treatment of KS

The Food and Drug Administration approves the first drug specifically developed for treating Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a leading complication of AIDS.

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With the approved FDA licensing, Intron A and Roferon A (human alpha interferon injection) can now be medically administered to patients for the treatment of KS.

The FDA reported that up to 45% of KS patients receiving large doses of alpha interferon ”responded with a significant reduction in the size of their tumors.”  Dr. Kathryn C. Zoon, an F.D.A. official, said that alpha interferon works best in people in the early stages of the disease.

The FDA based its approval on studies involving about 500 patients with KS.  Alpha interferon joined AZT and pentamidine as the only drugs approved in the U.S. for the treatment of AIDS or its related conditions.  Previous treatments for KS were radiation and other cancer drugs.

Alpha interferon was manufactured as Intron-A by the Schering Corporation of Kenilworth, New Jersey, and as Roferon by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. of Nutley, New Jersey.

November 25, 1988
CDC Study: One of Every 500 College Students Infected with HIV

One out of every 500 college students are infected with HIV, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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As part of its series of HIV surveys and studies, the CDC collaborated with the American College Health Association to assess HIV infection in college students.  For the first 12,000 students tested, a seroprevalence of HIV of 0.2% was found.  The majority of seropositive specimens came from male students.

The tests were conducted anonymously on blood specimens drawn from students at student clinics.  The initial results came from student specimens from 17 of 19 participating campuses.  The researchers stated that the survey did not include a random sampling of all college students, just students who had blood drawn at their campus health center.

The researchers conclude that “these results demonstrate that HIV infection and the potential for its transmission are present on many college campuses.”  They interpret the data to mean that older students and men are at greatest risk in this population.

The colleges participating in the study were:

Central Missouri State University
Emory University
Mississippi State University
Northwestern University
Rutgers University
San Diego State University
Southern Illinois University
University of California – Berkeley
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut – Storrs
University of Georgia
University of Kansas
University of Maryland – Baltimore County
University of Maryland – College Park
University of Massachusetts – Amherst
University of New Hampshire
University of Southern California
University of Texas – Austin
University of Washington

November 28, 1988
Elizabeth Glaser Launches Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Elizabeth Glaser, an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-positive children, forms the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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The Foundation funds cutting-edge research that leads to improved treatments for children living with HIV/AIDS and helps to establish protocols to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Elizabeth Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She and her husband, Paul Glaser (who starred in the 1970s television series, Starsky & Hutch), later learned that Elizabeth had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that their son, Jake, had contracted the virus in utero.

The Glasers discovered that the only HIV treatment drugs on the market were for adults; nothing had been developed for children.

After Ariel lost her life to AIDS in 1988, Elizabeth approached her friends Susie Zeegen and Susan DeLaurentis for help in creating the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Elizabeth would die of AIDS-related illness in 1994, and and to honor her legacy, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation would be renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Under this name, the Foundation would become the leading global nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs.

Elizabeth’s legacy would live on with the Foundation and in her son, Jake, who is a healthy adult and  pediatric AIDS advocate.

 

Cytovene
November 28, 1988
FDA Approves Ganciclovir for Treatment of Cytomegalovirus Retinitis

The Food and Drug Administration approves ganciclovir, a still-experimental medication for the treatment of cytomegalovirus retinitis in AIDS patients.

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Issued under the FDA’s treatment investigational drug protocol, the approval allowed for ganciclovir (GCV) to be issued in a clinical setting, with precautions similar to chemotherapy treatment. Manufactured by Roche Laboratories under the brand name Cytovene, the drug was administered to a patient by intravenous infusion over one hour, a time designed to reduce its toxicity.

Some patients taking GCV experienced a range of serious adverse effects, including granulocytopenianeutropeniaanemiathrombocytopenia, fever, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, anorexia, raised liver enzymes, headache, confusion, hallucination, seizures, pain and phlebitis at injection site, sweating, rash, itch, and increased serum creatinine.  It also could cause bone marrow suppression.

But at the time, GCV was the only FDA-approved treatment for cytomegalovirus retinitis, a condition that in its worst phase caused blindness.

In the years to come, ganciclovir would be followed by other treatments, including foscarnet, cidofovir, and valganciclovir.  While these medications were successful in reducing eye infections, their overall effectiveness was often complicated by toxicities and the development of resistance.

November 29, 1988
U.S. Announces Plan to Expand AIDS Research

The U.S. announces a new program which would engage city doctors, group practices and private clinics in federal AIDS research.

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Under the coordination of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the program would issue contracts to doctors for the treatment and data collection regarding thousands of AIDS patients, health officials said.  The program has received a $6 million budget for its first year.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of NIAID, told the New York Times that the program’s aim was to expand federal research opportunities to doctors and patients who were not affiliated with existing clinical trials.  Dr. Fauci said the program was seeking to involve more Black and Hispanic people, as well as intravenous drug users and sex workers.

In the program, patients using potentially effective but unapproved therapies would be monitored.  The opportunity for patients to receive access to experimental drugs in community settings would be another component of the program, according to health officials.

World AIDS Day 3 (2)
December 1, 1988
Initial World AIDS Day is Observed

December 1st is designated by the World Health Organization as “World AIDS Day.”

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Supported by the United Nations, World AIDS Day is observed for the first time with the theme “Join the Worldwide Effort.”  Today, World AIDS Day continues to be observed.

In 2020, there was a reported 37.6 million people across the globe with HIV.  Of these, 35.9 million were adults and 1.7 million were children.

An estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide would acquire HIV in 2020.  This marks a significant decline (30%) in new HIV infections since 2010, but there is still much work to do.

AIDS Quilt - Timothy Patrick Murphy
December 6, 1988
Actor Timothy Patrick Murphy Dies

Timothy Patrick Murphy, best known for this role on the prime-time soap opera Dallas during the 1982-83 season, dies of AIDS-related illness in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 29.

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On Dallas, Murphy played the part of “Mickey Trotter.”  He started his acting career as an adolescent in several television commercials and from there he went on to act in a mini-series called Centennial.

He soon would land more substantial work, including a part in the 1984 inspirational feature film Sam’s Son, the film biography of the life of actor Michael Landon.

Volunteer caregiver Brian Smith recalls visiting with Murphy in 1988 at the Sherman Oaks Medical Center in California.

Smith and Murphy had met in the summer of 1984, and they would talk about “the old times.”

“Sometimes, we would just sit quietly, holding hands, nothing needed to be said,” Smith recalled.  “I was blessed with good timing; Tim rarely had other visitors when I was there.  Even as his health deteriorated, he kept his winning smile and personality.”

On December 6, 1988, Smith would arrive at the hospital to visit his friend and be informed by “a teary-eyed nursing staff” that Murphy had died that day.

On September 11, 2001, Murphy’s younger brother, Patrick Sean Murphy, would be killed in the World Trade Center attacks.

December 12, 1988
Gay GOP Activist Duke Armstrong Dies

Duke Armstrong, a lawyer, leather man and Republican Party activist in the Bay Area, dies of AIDS-related illness at Davies Medical Center at the age of 39.

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Armstrong was president of the Concerned Republicans for Individual Rights (which later became the Log Cabin Republicans) and worked to bridge differences between the GOP and San Francisco’s gay community.

As someone known for prioritizing gay rights above party politics, Armstrong was a well-liked activist even in a locale known as a Democratic Party stronghold.  In 1986, Armstrong was elected “Mr. CMC Carnaval” at the Folsom neighborhood street fair.  He was a member of the local leather scene, as was his partner Jerry Roberts.

When the City of San Francisco began to take actions toward closing bathhouses, Armstrong teamed with Thomas H. Steel, a prominent civil rights lawyer, to represent San Francisco bathhouse owners who organized against regulation in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  Steel would die on July 18, 1998 of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.

Earlier in 1988, Armstrong was presented with a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  He had also been honored by the Golden Gate Business Association and had received several Cable Car Awards for his community service.

AIDS Quilt - Sylvester
December 16, 1988
Singer-Performer Sylvester Dies

Singer Sylvester dies of AIDS-related illness at age 41.  Born Sylvester James, Jr., the black performer is known internationally as “the Queen of Disco.”

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Famous for his song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” Sylvester is the lead singer and co-creator of one of the all-time top LGBTQ anthems.

Born in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, Sylvester had been a member of the ’60s group the Disquotays — which was “somewhere between a street gang and a sorority house,” as one former member puts it.

He moved to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22 and joined the Cockettes, a “cross-dressing hippy performance art troupe,” and sang blues and jazz standards in his gospel-trained voice in solo segments of the show, writes Alexis Petrides in The Guardian.  In the early 70s, he made a bid for mainstream success fronting the Hot Band.

“But the U.S. wasn’t ready for an androgynous black man doing covers of Neil Young songs and A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Petrides writes.  “Band members were threatened with violence when they toured in southern states.”

Sylvester’s career was beginning to take hold in 1978, when “Mighty Real” is released on his second solo album and then later as a single.  When the song catches fire, he would travel to London to perform to packed clubs and be mobbed by fans.  Sylvester would release another 12 albums, many of them featuring top hits and nightclub mainstays.  An album containing Sylvester’s final studio recordings, titled Immortal, woud be posthumously released.

Devastated when his partner, Rick Cranmer, died of AIDS-related illness in September 1987, Sylvester suspected then that he was HIV-positive but declined to be tested.

As a persistent cough begins to develop into more serious symptoms, Sylvester is unable to tour but continues performing for fans in the Bay Area.  Eventually diagnosed with AIDS, he is hospitalized in May 1988 with pneumocystis pneumonia.

Later in the year, Sylvester attends the Castro’s 1988 Gay Freedom Parade in a wheelchair, joining those marching with the “People With AIDS” banner.  Passing crowds along Market Street, Sylvester could hear his name shouted out again and again.  He continues to give interviews to the media, seeking to raise awareness about the pandemic’s impact on the black community.

A month later, Sylvester would die in his home at the age of 41.  He had planned his own funeral down to the details of how he would be dressed (in a red kimono), how his body would be displayed (in an open coffin), and where the service would be held (in his church, the Love Center, with a sermon by the Reverend Walter Hawkins).

Sylvester’s legacy is such that in 2018, the prestigious University of Sussex in England would host an interdisciplinary academic conference on disco and Sylvester’s contribution to the genre.

AIDS Quilt - Max Robinson
December 20, 1988
TV News Anchor Max Robinson Dies

Max Robinson, the first African-American network news anchor in the U.S., and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 49.

Chris Brownlie hospice
December 26, 1988
Chris Brownlie Hospice Opens in Los Angeles

The first AIDS hospice in California opens in Elysian Park in Los Angeles, down the street from Dodger Stadium.

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Furnished with 25 beds, the AIDS Hospice Foundation (which was renamed Chris Brownlie Hospice) opened its doors the day after Christmas to provide 24-hour medical and palliative care to people living through the final stages of AIDS.

From 1988 to 1996, thousands of people suffering through the final stages of AIDS were cared for with dignity and compassion at Chris Brownlie Hospice.  The facility was founded on the idea that, if people were going to pass away as a result of AIDS, they should at least have the opportunity for their lives to end as painlessly and with as much dignity as humanly possible.

Located in a former nursing quarters, the hospice was the brainchild of the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee, founded in 1987 by activists Chris Brownlie and Michael Weinstein as well as Sharon Raphael, PhD, and Mina Meyer, MA, two nationally-recognized women’s and gay & lesbian advocates.

A front-door sign reads, “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Straight, Women, Men, Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Young and Old.  All Are Welcome Here.”

On Saturday, January 26, 1996, the organization would return the property to the City of Los Angeles with a sunset memorial ceremony celebrating the years of hope and help the hospice gave to thousands of brave people battling AIDS.  By 1996, the world of AIDS would be changed; new antiretroviral treatment would mean an HIV-positive diagnosis signified a change in one’s life, not the end of it.

During the ceremony, the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus performed in memory of the hundreds who died there, including 140 chorus members.  As the sun set, seven balloons — one for each year the hospice was in operation — were released.

AIDS Quilt - Joseph Beam
December 27, 1988
Activist-Author Joseph Beam Dies

Gay rights activist and writer Joseph Beam dies of AIDS-related illness three days before his 34th birthday. He is best known for editing In the Life, the first collection of writings by gay black men on the impact of HIV/AIDS on their community.

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Today, In the Life is widely regarded as a literary and cultural milestone in gay literature.

A native of Philadelphia, Beam attended Franklin College in Indiana, where he studied journalism and was an active member of the black student union and the Black Power movement.

After earning a his master’s degree in communications, Beam returned to Philadelphia in 1979, and explored literature on gay figures and institutions while working at Giovanni’s Room, an LGBT bookstore.  Discouraged by the lack of community for black gay men and lesbians, Beam began writing articles and short stories for gay publications.

In 1984, he received an award for outstanding achievement by a minority journalist from The Lesbian and Gay Press Association.  In 1985, he became the first editor of Black/Out, a journal produced by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays.

Beam would continue to collect materials about being black and gay and find ways to increase their reach. In 1986, he produced the first collection written by black gay men, called In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology.

Beam dies from AIDS-related complications at the age of 33 while compiling the sequel, “Brother to Brother.”  His mother, Dorothy Beam, and poet Essex Hemphill would go on to complete the work and it is published in 1991.

January 2, 1989
California Legislature Enacts Laws to Criminalize HIV

Eight AIDS bills signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian during 1988 take effect in California, including three that criminalize HIV and one that weakens rules around doctor-patient confidentiality.

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The legislation, proposed by anti-gay Republican Sen. John Doolittle, include:

  • Penalties — SB 1007, which adds three years to prison sentences of those convicted of some sex crimes if they know they are HIV-positive when they commit the crime;
  • Prostitutes—SB 1007, which makes it a felony for a prostitute to continue working after knowing he or she has been exposed to the AIDS virus; and
  • Donors—SB 1002, which makes it a felony to donate blood, semen, breast milk or body organs to another person if the donor knows that he or she is infected with the AIDS virus.

Also going into effect is Democratic Sen. Gary K. Hart’s bill, SB 2847, which allows physicians to tell other medical personnel if a patient has AIDS so they can protect themselves.

January 3, 1989
APLA Adopts Austerity Program

Three months after the head of AIDS Project Los Angeles quits amid a cash shortage and staff revolt, the organization adopts an austerity program that appears to be working.

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Internal conflicts  continue as increasing numbers of people from locations countywide ask the organization for help.  At base of the conflict is its mission, which started as a compassionate care program funded by and for white gay men in the Hollywood area.  In recent years, APLA finds itself besieged with requests of help from county residents outside the area, including many people of color and heterosexuals.

“We can no longer be all things to all people,” says APLA’s interim Chief Executive Frank Paradise.

Torie Osborn, Executive Director of the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center), says that APLA’s early success led its leaders to believe they could take on anything.

“They set themselves apart,” Osborn tells the LA Times.  “Their attitude was ‘we’re the biggest and we’re the best.’  They grew isolated from the community from which they sprang.”

APLA was founded in 1982 and emerged as a pioneer in providing services to people with AIDS at a time when the government provided no support.  What began as four volunteers in a living room grew into an organization with a food bank, dental clinic, a 14-bed shelter (“Our House”), a transportation program, a hotline, an educational program and a system of case management.

With a budget of $8.2 million, APLA continues to operate as a volunteer-based organization with paid leadership.  The organization is still adjusting from recent moves to replace several of its key paid positions and search for a new executive director.

January 4, 1989
LA Center Resurrects HIV Testing Program

The LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center) finds an insurance carrier willing to cover HIV testing and other AIDS-related services at its Edelman Health Center.

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The clinic was forced to shut down in December 1988 when Boston-based Lexington Insurance Co. pulled its coverage.

January 10, 1989
LA County Prohibits Discrimination against People with HIV/AIDS

On a 3-2 vote, the LA County Board of Supervisors tentatively approves an ordinance prohibiting employers, landlords, schools and businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas from discrimination based on AIDS.

January 16, 1989
‘Ryan White Story’ Captivates TV Audiences

ABC’sThe Ryan White Story,” based on the true story of a 13-year-old hemophiliac from Indiana who contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion, airs nationwide to an audience of 15 million.

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The TV drama depicts a young Ryan White (portrayed by Lukas Haas) fighting back after being barred from attending school due to his AIDS diagnosis.

With Judith Light starring as single mother Jeanne White, the show has a significant impact on how the public perceives issues around HIV/AIDS.

Ryan White is featured in a cameo as another hemophiliac with AIDS.

January 19, 1989
Claude Duvall — Founder of Noh Oratorio Society — Dies

Claude Duvall, a Bay Area patron of the arts who personally commissioned works with local composers and artists, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 47.

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A resident of San Francisco since 1973, Duvall founded the Noh Oratorio Society in 1981 to present little-heard musical compositions set to literary works, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

“Unique is the way to describe him,” wrote the Reporter.  “No one ever spoke in those tones, dressed as he did, thought along his lines, or carved in the world so special a niche.”

The Noh Oratorio Society flourished in San Francisco during the 1980s, largely due to the dedication and creative direction of Duvall.  Not only did he personally commission works for the Society, he served as calligrapher, actor, stage director, and litterateur for various productions.  The Society’s wide range of artistic interests was grounded in the importance of the human voice and the use of language.

Among the Society’s productions were Michael McClure’s !The Feast! (1982), Chaucer’s Parlement of Fowles (1987), Edith Sitwell and William Walton’s Façade (1987), and Robert Duncan’s Faust Foutu in 1989.  The musical-literary productions were presented in various venues in the Bay Area over the course of 15 years.

In 1987, the Society commissioned a concert of Ladies Voices, an opera set to words by Gertrude Stein with music by Charles Shere.  Ladies Voices premeired at the Berkeley Art Center with sopranos Judy Ruth Hubbell and Anna Carol Dudley, and mezzo-soprano Marcia Gronewold.

On behalf of the Society, Duvall also published Noh Quarrter, a short-lived and highly admired literary magazine that promoted poetry, essays, short fiction, and experimental prose that was intended to be read aloud.

January 21, 1989
Protesters Hold Weeklong Vigil at LA County Medical Center

About 150 protesters hold a weeklong vigil in front of Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, which hospitalizes an average of 50-60 persons with AIDS at any given time and has a reported caseload of 6,240 PWAs.

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Demontrators blast the facility’s inadequate care and treatment of PWAs, including misdiagnosis, miscalculated prescriptions, and insufficent capacity.

Demanding that the center create a 50-bed AIDS ward within six months, the activists stage a mock AIDS ward with cots and a soup kitchen, and then hold candlelight vigils at sunset.

In response, an aide to LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich tells the Los Angeles Times that the County does not have enough money for expanded AIDS services.

On the seventh day of the protest, LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents West Hollywood and the Westside’s Third District, would come to the event and demand that the County begin to provide “necessary care” for people with AIDS.

Calling the revelation that LA County has more than $8 million of unspent AIDS funding “intolerable,” Supervisor Edelman promises to meet with ACT UP/LA and county officials.

“We can’t afford to keep the status quo,” he says.

But when he’s jeered by some in the crowd, he says, “It’s not just up to me,” and abruptly leaves.

January 21, 1989
NYT Fashion Columnist John Duka Dies

John Duka, a journalist who wrote with humor and grace about fashion and style, dies of AIDS-related illness in his Manhattan home at the age of 39.

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According to his wife, Kezia, Duka died of complications stemming from major abdominal surgery in November 1988.  He was diagnosed with AIDS the previous year, she said.

Duka began his journalism career in the research department of Esquire magazine. He also worked for Simon and Schuster, Home Furnishings Daily and New York magazine before becoming a columnist at The New York Times.

As a NYT style reporter from 1979 to 1985, he brought a sharp eye and a leveling wit to the world of fashion.  His weekly column, “Notes on Fashion,” documented the parallel rise of downtown chic and uptown hauteur, as well as the grand presentations of Paris and Milan.  He treated fashion as ”an international sport,” from the punk parade on London’s King’s Road to the retro chic of Republican Washington.

A May 1984 column began: ”One of the requisite skills for sitting at a fashion show is being able to roll your eyes, talk to the person behind you, chew mints and say, ‘Yves Saint Laurent did it better years ago’ all at once.”

Ruth La Ferla, fashion reporter for The New York Times, recalled:  “The son of a Greek waiter, he had, in the course of a two-decade career as a reporter, ad man and public relations guru, fashioned a character, a wry, roguish admixture of Cary Grant and the Duke of Windsor.  He was the devil in pinstripes, peppering his columns with the lacerating barbs and dishy mots that made them a must-read for the glitter set.”

Duka left The Times in 1985 to become a founding partner at Keeble Cavaco & Duka, a public relations and advertising agency specializing in life style and fashion.  He continued to write for magazines like Vanity Fair, Elle and Interview.  He wrote a column, ”Duka’s Diary,” for HG magazine and later became a contributing editor of Vogue.

It has been speculated that the character of Felix Turner in Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart was inspired by Duka, who knew Kramer.

“Larry never said to me, ‘This play is about John Duka,’ but some people did,” said Richard Kornberg, the publicist for the original Public Theater production in 1985.  “And some of us just thought it.”

La Ferla, Duka’s former colleague at The Times, observed, “He retained a capacity for self-deprecation — much like Felix in the play.”

Just as in The Normal Heart, as Felix lies dying, he quips, “I should be wearing something white …  It should be something Perry Ellis ran up for me personally.”

1989
Activist Michael Callen Defends Accusations with Proof

AIDS activist Michael Callen publishes in the People With AIDS Coalition Newsline a letter from his physician, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, and his pathology report of his Kaposi’s sarcoma diagnosis.

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“There are easier ways to meet Liz Taylor then by pretending you have the most stigmatized disease of this century,” Callen would tell the Los Angeles Times in a month later.

In an attempt to counter accusations of “faking AIDS” because he appears healthy almost seven years after he was diagnosed with AIDS, Callen puts the rumors to rest by publishing the pathology report of  his Kaposi’s sarcoma diagnosis.

The LA Times article notes that Callen’s long-term survival isn’t unusual, citing a 1987 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine which finds that 20.7% of “non-IV-drug using gay men with AIDS” are still alive four years after diagnosis.

This is one of many indications surfacing that living long-term with AIDS is possible.

February 2, 1989
ACT UP Protests FDA Protocols for DHPG, Forcing Policy Reversal

ACT UP protests the FDA’s new protocols for the drug DHPG (Gancyclovir) that would deny many current DHPG users from continuing to access the drug.

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The action results in the FDA granting access to DHPG under “compassionate use” while the agency reconsiders its methods.

The next day, the FDA would formally authorize pre-approval distribution of aerosolized pentamidine for the prevention of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), conceding to the demands of AIDS activist Michael Callen and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend.

February 7, 1989
Senate Hearings Examine Governmental Response to HIV/AIDS

Sen. Ted Kennedy, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, holds a series of five oversight hearings to examine how the federal government is combating AIDS.

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Education, care, and drug development for HIV/AIDS are key areas of focus of the hearings.

The FDA, CDC, HERSA and Samuel Thier, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, all testify.

AIDS Quilt - James Tyler
February 10, 1989
Dancer-Choreographer James Tyler Dies

Dancer, singer and choreographer James Tyler — who soloed with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and the Arnie Zane Company — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.  Tyler also co-founded the men’s dance company Mangrove, and worked with Blake Street Hawkeyes and Ruth Zaporah.

February 13, 1989
Op-ed by ACT UP Exposes LA County Healthcare Failures

The Los Angeles Times publishes “Fumbling on AIDS Causes Waste, Suffering,” an op-ed by ACT UP Los Angeles members Peter Cashman, John Fall, and Enric Morello about the devistating failures of the LA County healthcare system.

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“Who’s in charge here? Nobody, it seems,” they write. “Since the epidemic began nine years ago, the county’s only major organized response has been to open an outpatient clinic, which has proved grossly inadequate.”

People needing an initial visit must schedule it eight weeks in advance, the activists contend.

They continue: “People with temperatures of 103 or higher sit for hours on hard wooden benches waiting for help.  Some receive chemotherapy in crowded hallways, vomiting in bags.  Others in the same hallways, stripped to the waist, have IVs hooked to their arms.”

The activists express anger about LA County’s failure to put to use $8.6 million in AIDS funding, saying, “services go unprovided, facilities unrehabilitated, staff unrecruited and more patients continue to suffer and die needlessly.”

In the op-ed, Cashman, Fall, and Morello show compassion for the hard-working county healthcare staff, crediting them with being “caring” and doing their best amid “poor conditions.”

February 20, 1989
Doctor Skirts NIH Delay in PCP Treatment Protocol

When a CDC statistician tells AIDS activist Michael Callen that 30,534 Americans have died of AIDS-associated Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), Callen’s physician responds with information indicating that many of these deaths could have been prevented with existing (but “unapproved”) treatment.

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Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, Callen’s doctor, would later write about treatment to prevent PCP with “a drug that had been known to prevent this kind of pneumonia since 1977.”

The doctor would blame NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci for the delay in this treatment being available on a widespread basis, saying that Dr. Fauci “wanted data from a clinical trial of Bactrim for PCP prophylaxis in AIDS before he would recommend its use.”

Dr. Sonnabend says he refuses to wait for the NIH to collect data and reach its conclusions, revealing that he is already prescribing Bactrim (also known as Septra, Septrin or co-trimoxazole) and Dapsone to patients he routinely deems to be at risk for PCP, with positive results in his patients.

Years later, looking back at this time, Dr. Sonnabend would write:  “People were dying of PCP at a terrifying rate; I and some other physicians could not wait for these recommendations.”

February 26, 1989
Madonna & Sanda Bernhard Join Dancefloor at APLA Fundraiser

Wearing sunglasses, a black jacket, a white tee shirt adorned with a huge cross, and denim shorts, iconic performer Madonna dances with the crowd and lesbian friend Sandra Bernhard at AIDS Project LA’s Dance-A-Thon at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

February 28, 1989
Pediatric Cases Grow to 1,440, with Blacks & Hispanics at 76%

The CDC identifies 1,440 AIDS cases among children under 13 years old, of whom 800 have died. Nearly 76% of the pediatric AIDS cases are black and Hispanic.

February 28, 1989
AIDS Anthem ‘Love Don’t Need a Reason’ Released

AIDS activist and singer Michael Callen releases his album, “Purple Heart.”

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The album features the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason,” an AIDS anthem Callen co-writes with Marsha Malamet and Peter Allen.

“I feel compelled to get the message out: AIDS is not an excuse to give up on love,” Callen tells Gay LA Times health reporter Victor Zonana.

* * * *

Lyrics for “Love Don’t Need a Reason”:
If your heart always did
What a normal heart should do
If you always play a part
Instead of being who you really are
Then you might just miss
The one who’s standing there
So instead of passing by
Show him that you care
Instead asking why
Why me? And why you?
Why not we two?
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love don’t always rhyme
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have is time
If we always believe
All the madness that we’re taught
Never questioning the rules
Then we’re living lies we bought so long ago
How are they to know?
It’s not who’s wrong or right
It’s just another way
And I don’t wanna fight
But know I’m gonna stay with you till the end
With you my friend
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love don’t always rhyme
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have is time
I’ll hold you close
Time can’t tear us apart
Forever, I will stand by you
We’ve got to start with the beat of one heart
Together, we will see this through
‘Cause love don’t need a reason
Love’s never a crime
And love is all we have for now
What we don’t have
What we don’t have is time
1989
WHO Estimates Total AIDS Cases Worldwide at 400,000

Reported AIDS cases total 142,000 in 145 countries.  However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are as many as 400,000 cases worldwide.

AIDS Quilt - Robert Mapplethorpe 2
March 9, 1989
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe Dies

Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his erotic, sometimes controversial works, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.

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In the mid-1970s, as the NYC music scene gave rise to New Wave, Mapplethorpe created austere black-and-white album covers for Patti Smith and the group Television.

He credited his close friend Smith with helping embolden the homosexuality of his early photographic images that dealt with sexual audacity — from sadomasochistic scenes with chains and black leather to an oversized image of male genitals resting atop a pedestal — and that were produced on a large scale.

Soon he would join Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine as a staff photographer, and draw attention for his flattering celebrity portraits.

Despite his diagnosis in 1986 with AIDS, he accelerates his creative efforts, broadens the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepts increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art would mount Mapplethorpe’s  first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death.

The tragic news that Mapplethorpe is ill coincides with the zenith of his critical acclaim as a photographer.

“In my experience, even the most optimistic artists are unable to keep the pain and sadness of AIDS from occasionally surfacing in their art,” writes Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“Mapplethorpe was no exception,” Martineau continues. “While studying his photographs, I noticed a perceptible shift in the emotional tone of his self-portraits occurred in 1986: the year he was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1988, while the disease wreaked havoc on his body, Mapplethorpe used the camera as a means of taking artistic control over what was happening to him.”

In February 1989, Mapplethorpe would speak openly to Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne.

“I’m quite frustrated I’m not going to be around to enjoy [my success],”  Mapplethorpe tells Dunne.  “The money’s coming in, though. I’m making more money now than I’ve ever made before.”

In his feature on Mapplethorpe, Dunne writes about how the photographer’s health status had become the topic of speculation in January 1987, when New York aristocrat and art collector Sam Wagstaff died of AIDS-related illness.

“Mapplethorpe, the principal inheritor of Sam Wagstaff’s fortune, had once been Wagstaff’s lover and later, for years, his great and good friend,” Dunne writes.

Mapplethorpe tells Dunne that he has two nurses on twelve-hour shifts that cost him $1,000 a day and he has been on AZT for two years.  He expresses concern about friends who are facing the same illness with fewer financial resources, specifically his black friends.

“Most of the blacks don’t have insurance and therefore can’t afford AZT,” he says.  “They all died quickly, the blacks. If I go through my Black Book, half of them are dead.”

The year before his death, Mapplethorpe establishes the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to fund HIV/AIDS research.  In its early years, the Foundation created medical facilities and programs, including the Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Center for HIV Research at St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York.

Serving as the first president on its board of trustees, he established mandates of furthering the recognition of photography as an art form having the same respect as painting and sculpture and supporting AIDS and HIV medical research.

In late winter 1989, Mapplethorpe is in Boston for a medical treatment when his condition worsens, according to Susan Arthur of the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City, which represents the artist.

He dies at New England Deaconess Hospital at the age of 42.  His body was cremated and his ashes are interred at St. John’s Cemetery, Queens in New York City, at his mother’s grave-site, etched “Maxey.”

In 2011, the Mapplethorpe Foundation would donate its archive to the Getty Research Institute and give a collection of artworks to the J. Paul Getty Museum in partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

March 10, 1989
Dr. Richard Hamilton — Bay Area Doctor — Dies

Richard R. Hamilton, M.D., one of San Francisco’s first openly gay general practitioners, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Orange, California.  He was 44.

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Affectionately called “Dr. Dick” by his clients, Dr. Hamilton authored The Herpes Book (1980) and was well-known for his expertise in treating sexually transmitted diseases in gay men.  He fostered a professional climate in his office of understanding, acceptance and support, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

When AIDS appeared in the Bay Area, Dr. Hamilton responded by focusing on finding effective treatments for AIDS-related illnesses.  He was one of the founding members of the County Community Consortium, an organization of local AIDS care providers.  He also was a member of the State of California’s AIDS Advisory Committee and the AIDS Advisory Committee of Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center.

1989
West Hollywood Settles HIV Discrimination Lawsuit

The City of West Hollywood settles an HIV/AIDS discrimination case brought by Paul Jasperson, who filed suit against the city and Jessica’s Nail Salon two months earlier, alleging HIV discrimination.

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Jaserson’s civil action against the salon, a test case for the West Hollywood’s new HIV discrimination ordinance, is on appeal, with support from Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the American Civil Liberties Union.

AIDS Quilt - Merritt Butrick
March 17, 1989
TV-Film Actor Merritt Butrick Dies

‘Star Trek’ film actor Merritt Butrick dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.

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A native of Gainesville, Florida who grew up in the San Fransisco area, Butrick portrayed Dr. David Marcus, son of James T. Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, in two movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

“I’m part of a legend,” said Butrick about his work on the Star Trek films.  “I gave what I had to give at the right time and place for my own personal gratification. I look at my resume at this point and it reminds me of how well I’ve done in the few years I’ve done it.”

Butrick had just been cast in ST II after starting work as a regular on the short-lived but critical and cult favorite 1982 “new wave” high school series Square Pegs, playing Johnny “Slash” Ulasewicz opposite an equally young Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Gertz.

At the time of his death, he had recently received critical praise on stage for his role as a male prostitute in the play Kingfish.

March 20, 1989
Visual AIDS Founder William Olander Dies

William Olander, the senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness in Minneapolis at the age of 38.

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Olander arrived at the New Museum in 1985, and specialized in performance art and video, especially post-modernist language and theory.

Olander’s 1986 exhibition “Homovideo: Where We are Now” included several videos responding to the spreading of the AIDS virus.  In 1987, he invited the group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to present an installation in the museum’s window on Broadway near Prince Street.

ACT UP’s artist group, Gran Fury, responded to the opportunity with “Let the Record Show.”  The exhibit juxtaposed information and statistics on AIDS with indifferent, callous or manipulative responses to the epidemic from national figures, all bathed in the glow of a neon sign that proclaimed “SILENCE = DEATH.”

The neon piece became part of the New Museum’s permanent collection, and the SILENCE = DEATH graphic was widely disseminated through t-shirts, wheatpastes, and other printed materials.

In 1988, Olander and three friends founded Visual AIDS, the only contemporary arts organization dedicated to raising AIDS awareness by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.  Visual AIDS was one of the first national initiatives to record the impact of the AIDS pandemic on the artistic community.

Olander lived in New York but had returned to Minneapolis to be with his family during the last months of his life.  His longtime companion, Christopher Cox, would die 18 months later, on September 7, 1990.

Olander’s name on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt reads: “Let the record show that there are many in the community of art and artists who choose not to be silent in the 1980s.”

To honor Olander’s ongoing legacy, Visual AIDS presents the “Bill Olander Award” anually to artists living with HIV.

AIDS Quilt - Elwood Thornton
April 7, 1989
Bay Area Classical Singer Elwood Thornton Dies

Elwood Thornton, a baritone who performed with Oakland Symphony, San Jose Symphony, Midsummer Mozart Festival and other Bay Area organizations, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 45.

April 10, 1989
First HIV-information Center Opens in West Hollywood

The nation’s first HIV-information center opens at the West Hollywood Library, offering access to current, accurate and often expensive materials about AIDS treatment and prevention.

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West Hollywood’s HIV Center was the result of the persistence and diligence of local activist Ron Shipton, who at 43 years old was living with HIV.  He decided that the community deserved to have access to up-to-the-minute information about HIV that was regularly published in medical journals and he set about to make it happen.

Shipton spoke with a librarian at the local library and also wrote to City Council, asking why he and his friends should spend hundreds of dollars on medical journals “when the rich city of West Hollywood could buy it for the library.”

He asked for the library to start carrying a subscription to the AIDS Targeted Information Network, which publishes abstracts of important medical journal articles about the virus and the disease.  With initial funding of $20,000 from the City of West Hollywood and County of Los Angeles, the library secured a subscription for public use and then went much further.

The HIV Center, which was the first of its kind in the country, opened with a robust collection of materials that included periodicals, pamphlets, books and, perhaps most importantly, a computer terminal with free access to the Computerized AIDS Information Network (CAIN).  Library staff and volunteers were trained to help visitors with navigating reference system.

Volunteers from the HIV/AIDS service organizations Being Alive and West Hollywood Cares advised the library on the selection of reading materials and with information on testing, treatment and support facilities.

“I think there is something there for everybody, Dan Solliday of Being Alive told the LA Times.   “We have tried to get well-rounded resources for college students and clinicians.”

The City would continue to fund updates and expansions of the HIV Center’s resources, including the addition of a free STD Clinic coordinated by Being Alive for testing, vaccines, treatments, and preventative services.

First housed in the original West Hollywood Library at 715 N. San Vicente Blvd., the collection would move in October 2011 to a newly constructed library at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. and would be renamed the Ron Shipton HIV Information Center.

AIDS Quilt - James Kirkwood Jr
April 21, 1989
Playwright James Kirkwood Jr. Dies

Winner of the Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the Broadway hit A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood Jr. dies in his Manhattan apartment of AIDS-related illness at the age of 64.

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Born in 1924 to a Hollywood acting family, Kirkwood followed his parents into show business at the age of 14.  He appeared in dozens of plays and films, pausing only to serve a three-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard. He performed on stage in Panama Hattie and Wonderful Town, and played opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Welcome Darlings.  He also had roles in the films Mommie Dearest, Oh, God, Book II, and The Supernaturals.

Together with Nicholas Dante, Kirkwood wrote the text for A Chorus Line (1975), which became one of the longest-running musicals in the history of Broadway.  He also wrote the comedy, Legends, in which Mary Martin and Carol Channing toured in 1986 and 1987.

Just before his death, he had finished a nonfiction book about his experiences, entitled Diary of a Mad Playwright.

A memorial service was held for Kirkwood at the Shubert Theater, 225 West 44th Street, on June 1, 1989.

Chris Bernau
June 14, 1989
TV Soap Villain Christopher Bernau Dies

Christopher Bernau, who was one of the first openly gay actors in the world of TV soap operas, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.

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Most famous for his role as Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light, Bernau delighted audiences with his portrayal of a complex villain with the “vices of the middle class” and “virtues of industrial America.”

Bernau trained in the drama department at the University of California Santa Barbara before getting his big break, appearing in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s 1962 production of Antony and Cleopatra. In 1964, he joined the national tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

These roles, in addition to performing at Canada’s Stratford Festival, led to an appearance in a story arc on cult Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows from 1969 to 1970.  On the show, he created the role of Philip Todd and appeared in 22 episodes.

His most famous role, however, was that of villain Alan Spaulding on the soap opera Guiding Light, a role he played from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1986 until shortly before his death in 1989.  Bernau began performing on Guiding Light in 1977 while he was still in the Cherry Lane Theatre production of The Passion of Dracula.  In the comic take on the vampire tale, Bernau performed the title role and was credited by The New York Times as achieving “a fine. balance between the awesome and the ridiculous.”

Bernau continued to work on Guiding Light for as long as he could after being diagnosed with AIDS.
Two weeks after his death, cast members held a memorial service for Bernau in Manhattan.  On Friday, July 13, 1989, the closing credits of that day’s episode of Guiding Light included a tribute to Bernau and his work.

June 16, 1989
CDC Issues Treatment Guidelines for PCP Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues the first guidelines for preventing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, known as PCP, an infection which often leads to the severe illness and death for people living with AIDS.

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The guidelines recommend a regimen of two compounds to prevent the onset of PCP: trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and pentamidine.  The CDC bases its recommendations on a study of 60 adults living with AIDS, which suggest that those who received treatment have fewer episodes of PCP and lived longer, compared with untreated patients.

Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, a combination of the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, commonly causes side effects in patients that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Pentamidine, given as an aerosol in a nebulizing device, commonly causes adverse effects including coughing, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain or congestion.

The Public Health Service recommends physicians to start this treatment with:

  • any HIV-infected adult patient who has already had an episode of PCP, and
  • those whose CD4+ cell count is less than 200/mm3 (or less than 20% of total lymphocytes).

CD4+ cells would soon be referred to as “T-helper” or “T4 cells,” because one of their main goals is to send signals to other kinds of immune cells, which then destroy infectious particples.

Patients with CD4+ cell counts of less than 100/mm3 (or less than 10%), as well as patients with oral thrush or persistent fever, are at particularly high risk for PCP, the report states.

According to HIV.gov, a healthy T cell count should be between 500 and 1,600 T cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3).

June 21, 1989
Geoff Mains — Author of ‘Urban Aboriginals’ — Dies

Geoff Mains — author of Urban Originals, a ground-breaking book about the leather community — dies of AIDS-related illness at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco at the age of 42.

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Mains drew on his extensive knowledge of anthropology and human psychology, as well as his own sexual and social experiences, to present a sex-positive and intimate look at the leather community.

Urban Aboriginals was an instant classic the moment it appeared in the spirng of 1984,” wrote Mark Thompson of Daedalus Publishing, which issued the third edition of book in 2002.

“Its author was a little known Canadian writer, Geoff Mains, who wove an audacious mix of theory and lived experience to explain the gay male leather scene. Mains introduced the notion of endorphins, recently discovered opium-like chemicals in the central nervous system, as a critical component of S/M sexuality. He furthered his insight by linking the social behaviors of this little understood subculture to the tribal rites of indigenous societies around the world. parts biochemistry lesson, anthropological study, and candid journalism, the book opened a gateway of revelation that is still being felt to this day.”

Mains’ prose was illustrated by photographs by Robert Pruzan, who would die on May 29, 1992 of AIDS-related illness at Ralph K. Davies Hospital in San Francisco.  Pruzan’s work documented much of the history of San Francisco and its gay life during the idyllic 1970s and the dark years of the 1980s.

After completing Urban Aboriginals in 1984, Mains settled in San Francisco and wrote stories and articles for Drummer magazine.   His 1989 novel, Gentle Warriors, would be his final work.

“Mains shed bright and positive light on areas of human experience previously kept in the dark by society’s sexual taboos,” wrote the Bay Area Reporter.  “His message has done much to combat the ignorance and fear that cloud issues of radical sexuality, and has brought self-respect, hope and a sense of community to leather-identified people worldwide.”

Prior to settling in San Francisco, he was a faculty member in the Forestry Department of the University of British Columbia.  There, he worked closely with environmental groups in Canada and the U.S.  He received a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Toronto.

June 23, 1989
CDC Updates Guidelines on Transmission Prevention for Healthcare Workers

The Centers for Disease Control releases updated guidelines to help prevent the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis to healthcare and public safety workers.

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The guidelines are a response to recently enacted legislation, the “AIDS Amendments of 1988” in the HOPE Act of 1988, passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 4, 1988.

The legislation calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the CDC, to “develop, issue, and disseminate guidelines to all health workers, public safety workers (including emergency response employees) … concerning methods to reduce the risk in the workplace of becoming infected with the etiologic agent for AIDS, and circumstances under which exposure to such etiologic agent may occur.”

The report states that, as of September 1988, a total of 3,182 (5.1%) of the 61,929 adults reported to be living with AIDS are employed in a healthcare setting.  Of the healthcare workers with AIDS, the means of HIV acquisition is “undetermined” for 5% of them (169 workers), suggesting that infection occurred in the workplace.

Of these 169 health-care workers with AIDS, 44 are interviewed directly or have other background information available about their cases.  The occupations of these 44 are:

  • nine nursing assistants
  • eight physicians, four of whom are surgeons
  • eight housekeeping or maintenance workers
  • six nurses
  • four clinical laboratory technicia)ns
  • two respiratory therapists
  • one dentist
  • one paramedic
  • one embalmer
  • four others who did not have contact with patients

Eighteen of these 44 health-care workers report parenteral (i.e., not delivered via the intestinal tract) and/or other non-needle-stick exposure to blood or other body fluids from patients in the 10 years preceding their diagnosis of AIDS.  None of the exposures involve a patient with AIDS or known HIV infection.

June 26, 1989
Chief Researcher Calls for Access to Experimental Treatment

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), endorses giving HIV-positive people who do not qualify for clinical trials access to experimental treatments.

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In a front-page article by Gina Kolata in The New York Times, Dr. Fauci calls for a new system that would allow patients far greater access to experimental drugs.

This marks a major turnaround in government policy, which restricts access to experimental drugs with the reasoning that patients would have no reason to join a clinical trial if they could get a drugs by other means.

Since his early involvement in developing treatment for HIV/AIDS, Dr. Fauci had adhered to the National Institutes of Health policy that research need not focus on the immediate welfare of patients.

“It was clear to me that Fauci was inclined to enforce the paternalistic medical tradition in which he had trained: doctors and scientists were unquestioned authorities, and drug development had to follow a rigid process that included animal testing and rigorous clinical trials. Otherwise, the benefits and the risks of these drugs could not be adequately assessed,” writes Michael Specter in his profile of Dr. Fauci for The New Yorker in April 2020.  Specter covered the AIDS epidemic for the Washington Post in the 1980s.

AZT (azidothymidine) was the only approved drug available to treat HIV/AIDS, but it had harsh side effects.  When new clinical studies began, involving cocktails of AZT and similar compounds, tens of thousands of people asked to participate.  But volunteers were rejected if they used other experimental drugs.  And many more didn’t have the means to get to facilities and practitioners conducting the clinical trials.

But then the activist group ACT UP started transforming the frustration into anger, and the anger into well-publicized demonstrations against the research community.

“They started becoming amazingly iconoclastic and confrontational, and that scared the hell out of the scientists, who were fundamentally quite conservative,” Dr, Fauci tells Specter in The New Yorker profile. “When they were demonstrating on the NIH campus, disrupting Wall Street, disrupting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, instead of listening to them, scientists withdrew.”

However, Dr, Fauci decided to look beyond the activists’ furious rhetoric and style, and began to listen to what they had to say.

“And what they were saying made absolutely perfect sense,” Dr. Fauci says.

Faced with mounting evidence that his cautious approach made no sense, he reversed himself and promoted activist demands for more access to experimental treatments.

In the process, “Fauci transformed from a conventional bench scientist into a public-health activist who happened to work for the federal government,” writes Specter.

June 28, 1989
Rep. Dannemeyer Reads ‘What Homosexuals Do’ into Congressional Record

Given permission to address the U.S. House of Representatives for one minute on the subject of “Homosexuality,” Rep. William E. Dannmeyer commences on an hours-long diatribe about “the gay agenda.”

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Apparently upset that gay men are attempting to “delude the public into viewing homosexuality as an innocuous alternative lifestyle,” the six-term Republican Congressman from Orange County, California insisted on reading into the Congressional Record his statement titled “What Homosexuals Do.”

In his statement, Rep. Dannemeyer dove into graphic descriptions of the sex acts he believes all gay men engage in “two or three times a week.”  He contrasted these sex acts with the traditional family values he equated to “the heterosexual ethic” evoked in biblical scripture.

He also denied scientific research that indicated that homosexuality is inherent in individuals from birth and advocated for laws that prohibit homosexual sex acts.  In Dannemeyer’s view, homosexuality is, psychologically, a “deep pathology,” but one that can in effect be cured because “counseling can steer people away from that lifestyle.”

He closed his very long statement with the following:

“As long as I have the pleasure to serve in the U.S. Congress, I will con- tinue to affirm the heterosexual ethic at every turn, with every subtly, with every bit of imagery I can conjure, with the help of good people across this Nation, as well as with the help of a majority of my colleagues in Congress, and also by the grace of God.”

Dannemeyer’s speech drew fire from several of his colleagues, including Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.), who found it “unspeakable.”

Eric Rosenthal, political director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, told the Washington Post, “Dannemeyer has opposed every single public health consensus about fighting AIDS from every responsible public health official, from (former surgeon general C. Everett) Koop to the AIDS commission to the National Academy of Sciences.  Dannemeyer has been on the other side from day one.”

Rosenthal expressed hopefulness that the majority federal legislators were not like Dannemeyer and would support legislation that funds AIDS research and services.

“People like Dannemeyer and (Senator Jesse) Helms intimidate their colleagues into voting against us, but most members know that’s not what they ought to do, and they really go out of their way to avoid being homophobic,” Rosenthal said.  “I think there’s an underlying sense of fairness in the American people. They don’t necessarily understand lesbians and gays very well, but deep down is a strong opposition to discrimination.”

* * * * *
Sources:

Congressional Record for the U.S. House of Representatives, Thursday, June 29, 1989

Washington Post, “Out of the Cloakroom: The Anti-Gay Crusade” by Phil McCombs, January 25, 1990

AIDS Quilt - Steve Rubell
July 25, 1989
Studio 54 Creator Steve Rubell Dies

Steve Rubell, co-founder of the Studio 54 discotheque, dies at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York at the age of 45.

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Owning and operating the enormously popular Studio 54 on West 54th Street in Manhattan from 1977 until 1979, Rubell and his business partner Ian Schrager hosted celebrities, society figures and crowds of clubbers.

Rubell often worked the club’s front door, selectively admitting celebrities and spurning others queued outside.  In January 1980, Mr. Rubell and Schrager would be sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion, but they would reduce their sentences by turning in several other club owners and be released from prison in January 1981.

They would sell Studio 54 a short time later and rebound with a new club, the Palladium, which would become just as popular.

In the film Studio 54 The Documentary, Rubell’s brother, Dr. Donald Rubell, says, ““I was the one who told him he had AIDS.”

Dr. Rubell recalls that his brother had “vague symptoms” of HIV infection, and so he administered the test.

“You have to remember at that time AIDS wasn’t a disease,” he says. “It was a condemnation. So he wouldn’t let me tell our parents.”

Held two days after Rubell’s death at the Riverside Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street, the private funeral would be attended by numerous Studio 54 regulars, including Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein and Keith Haring.  His body is buried at Beth Moses Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.

AIDS Quilt - Tim Richmond
August 13, 1989
NASCAR Driver Tim Richmond Dies

Race car driver Tim Richmond dies of AID-related illness at the age of 34.

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One of auto racing’s brightest stars, Richmond is the inspiration behind much of the film Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise.

The 1980 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, Richmond was involved in an Indy car crash where his car was sliced in two at Michigan International Speedway, and was persuaded to switch to stock cars.  By 1986, Richmond would win seven races in three months.

Shortly after his most victorious season, Richmond would suffer a near-fatal bout of pneumonia and receive a diagnosis of HIV-positive.  Still, Richmond would regain his health enough in 1987 to return to NASCAR for an eight-race run that brought him wins at Pocono and Riverside, California.

Unaware of his illness, other drivers accused Richmond of being a drug user and persuaded NASCAR to test him.  When drug tests were inconclusive, NASCAR asked to see Richmond’s medical records. Richmond refused and filed a defamation suit against NASCAR that was settled out of court when it was ruled that his medical records were relevant to the case.

In 1988, NASCAR would suspend Richmond for what the organization said was violation of its drug policy. Although NASCAR later lifted the ban, Richmond would never drive again.

According to the film Tim Richmond: To the Limit, Richmond spent his final days in seclusion.

After Richmond’s death, numerous women would claim that he infected them with the AIDS virus.

Miss Kitty
August 16, 1989
Amanda Blake — TV’s Miss Kitty on ‘Gunsmoke’ — Dies

Actress Amanda Blake, best known for the TV role of the red-haired saloon proprietress “Miss Kitty Russell” on Gunsmoke,  dies of AIDS-related illness at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento.  She was 60.

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Blake, who was born Beverly Louise Neill in 1929, had suffered from AIDS symptoms for about a year.  Her doctor, Lou Nishimura, M.D., told the New York Times that he did not know how she had contracted the disease.

Although Dr. Nishimura listed AIDS as the cause of Blake’s death, it was not made public. When when Blake’s will declared her entire estate, $400,000, be given to the non-profit organization PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society), members of Blake’s family contested the will in court and tried to prove Blake was mentally incompetent.

Pat Derby, who oversaw the PAWS preserve in Sacramento for unwanted performing animals, feared that the legal fight would cause the true circumstances of Blake’s death to be twisted in the media, so she released the AIDS story herself to People magazine.

The year before her death, Blake moved to the 20-acre animal preserve to live with Derby and devote her life to working with their animals.

August 18, 1989
AIDS Cases in U.S. Reaches 100,000

CDC reports that the number of reported AIDS cases in the United States has reached 100,000.

September 7, 1989
Fashion Designer Angel Estrada Dies

Angel Estrada, a Spanish-born designer whose label featured glamorous gowns, dies of AIDS-related illness in Manhattan at the age of 31.

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Estrada started his clothing label in 1983, after his designs for his sister became covetted items in the NYC nightlife scene,

Estrada’s aesthetic was to combine a simple, form-fitting silhouete with bold details.  His clothes were sold in stores such as Bergdorfs and Saks at prices ranging from $800 to $2,000.  His first collection appeared on the cover of the November 1986 issue of Vogue.

Born in Barcelona, Estrada moved to New York with his family when he was three years old.  He attended the Parsons School of Design and worked part time as a hair and make-up designer until he was able to set up his own business.

After Estrada’s death, his sister Virginia took over his business, assumed the design responsibilities. The Angel Estrada brand, which had focused on custom-made evening dresses, transitioned to a sportswear line and also entered a licensing arrangement with a Japanese company, Kindwear, to make clothing in Japan.

September 19, 1989
National Commission on AIDS Convenes

The National Commission on AIDS meets for the first time at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

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At the meeting, witnesses testify on the problems facing AIDS patients and what the government is doing in response.

The meeting is facilitated by June Osborn, M.D., who would chair the commission from its inception through 1993.  Dr. Osborn, who serves on WHO’s Global Commission on AIDS, has extensive experience advising the CDC and the FDA on vaccines for diseases such as influenza, hepatitis, and polio.  Osborn would go onto write numerous articles and give many speeches on AIDS and HIV public healthcare policy.

The National Commission on AIDS consists of 15 members: five appointed by the Senate, five by the House, two by President George W. Bush, and the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense, and the Veterans Administration.

Perhaps the most recognizable member of the National Commission on AIDS, is former NBA star Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson.  However, Johnson would resign from the commission in September 1992, writing to President Bush:  “I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on a commission whose important work is so utterly ignored by your administration.”

Johnson’s resignation is preceded by another six months earlier of Harlon D. Dalton, a Yale Law School professor who is the only other African American appointed to the commission.  In March 1992, Dalton would complain about the lack of action from black politicians, saying, “Any high-visibility politician can point to the one time a year where [AIDS] is mentioned. But there haven’t been any votes there. Gay black men don’t exist, black men don’t vote and babies don’t vote.”

At its first meeting, Chair Osborn gives recognition to Rep. J. Roy Rowland, who she refers to as “the Father of the Commission.”  Rep. Rowland is the principal sponsor of the legislation that created the commission on Nov. 4, 1988.

Other members include:
  • Dr. David E. Rogers, head of the New York City Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS and New York State’s AIDS Advisory Council
  • Diane Ahrens, Minnesota local government official
  • Rev. K. Scott Allen, a Baptist minister, coordinator of the AIDS Interfaith Network in Dallas
  • Don C. Des Jarlais, a NY physician who advocates for needle-exchange programs
  • Eunice Diaz, community affairs director of White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles
  • Mary D. Fisher, appointed by Bush to replace Magic Johnson in October 1992
  • Donald S. Goldman, New Jersey attorney, author on ethical issues involved in AIDS treatment
  • Larry Kessler, executive director of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
  • Charles Konigsberg, Jr., director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
  • Belinda Mason, journalist who dies of AIDS-related illnesses in September 1991

The commission was established by a statute enacted November 4, 1988, with the aim of “promoting the development of a national consensus on policy concerning AIDS.”. It produced several reports over the next 4 years.

The commission approaches its work through numerous hearings, covering the following topics:

  • healthcare, treatment, and international aspects of the HIV epidemic;
  • Federal, State, and Local responsibilities;
  • the Southern California epidemic;
  • social and human issues;
  • Executive and Legislative branch issues;
  • current research and clinical trials;
  • HIV epidemic in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
  • African American communities;
  • Pediatric and Adolescent HIV;
  • Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual communities among Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders;
  • Women and HIV disease and civil rights;
  • religious communities response; and
  • risks of transmission in healthcare settings.
September 20, 1989
Drummer Movie Critic Kenny Lackey Dies

Kenneth J. Lackey, film critic for Drummer magazine, dies of AIDS-related illness at San Francisco’s Hospice By The Bay at the age of 35.

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By day, Lackey was on the editorial staff of Desmodus Inc., publishers of Drummer.  By night, he was the star server at Church Street Station, charming the after-bar crowds and taking dozens of meal orders without writing anything down and never making a mistake.

Lackey also had an amazing memory for film trivia, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

“If you ever had a question about a film, a star, a producer or director (including Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winners), Ken was the man to ask, including a biographical sketch thrown in for good measure!” wrote the Bay Area Reporter.

Prior to moving to San Francisco, Lackey attended George Washington University, where he studied theater, and worked as a model in New York.

October 11, 1989
Actor Paul Shenar Dies

Paul Shenar, best remembered for his performance as the drug lord Alejandro Sosa in  Scarface, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 53.

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Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Shenar moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.  He debuts on Broadway in Tiny Alice as Brother Julian, and continues to work on the NYC stage for several years.

In 1965, Shenar would move to Philadelphia to help found the American Conservatory Theater, where he is not only a regular performer throughout his career, but a teacher and advisor as well.

From there, roles on television and the big screen would follow.  In 1975, Shenar portrays Orson Welles in the television movie The Night That Panicked America, receiving received some of the best reviews of his career.  He continues working steadily on television through the end of the decade, and in the early 1980s starts receiving feature film roles.

In 1983, Shenar delivers a memorable performance as the diabolical Colombian drug lord Alejandro Sosa in Brian De Palma’s Scarface.  Other notable roles are Dr. Lawrence in Luc Besson’s The Big Blue (1988), Joshua Adams in Deadly Force (1983), Paulo Rocca in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal (1986), and Ben Gardner, the father of a troubled Kristy McNichol, in Alan J. Pakula’s Dream Lover (1986).

Shenar would die in West Hollywood.

October 14, 1989
Stage & Film Actor Michael Carmine Dies

Critically acclaimed actor Michael Carmine dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Manhattan.  He was 30 years old.

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Born in Brooklyn, Carmine graduated at the age of 16 from the High School for the Performing Arts in 1975, and then attended the California Institute for the Arts.

Carmine won critics’ praise for his performance in Off Broadway and Broadway productions of Reinaldo Povod’s play Cuba and His Teddy Bear.  He created the role of Papo in another Povod play, La Puta Vida.

Among his screen credits are Batteries Not Included, Scarface and Turk 182; on television, he appeared in episodes of Search for Tomorrow, Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, and Miami Vice.  His final TV appearance was in 1988’s Tour of Duty, and his final film role in Longtime Companion was released nearly a year after his death.

October 26, 1989
Cynthia Slater — Founder of Society of Janus — Dies

Cynthia Slater, co-founder of the leather/SM organization Society of Janus, dies of AIDS-related illness at Pacific Presbyterian Hospital in San Francisco.  She was 44 years old.

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A few months before she died, Slater received an award from Shanti Project, which recognized her for her AIDS activism on behalf of women with AIDS/HIV specifically and all people with AIDS generally.

Before Slater became an AIDS activist, she stirred up controversary as the founder of Society of Janus, the still-active leather/BDSM organization that often rattled anti-pornography feminists and the religious right during the 1970s and early 1980s.

While working as a dominatrix in the early ’70s, a client’s spouse asked Slater for more information about her husband’s interest in BDSM.  Sensing that there might be a widespread interest in such things, Slater and her partner, Larry Olsen, started the first version of the Society of Janus in 1972 by running a classified ad in the back of a counter-culture newspaper, The Berkeley Barb.

Ten people showed up for the first meeting of what would become the Society of Janus, and Slater said she was excited about connecting with others who shared interests that until then had been kept secret.

“There was this isolation pressing in on me, and I felt the need to get together with people with whom I could exchange information, and get a little support from besides,” said Slater in an 1983 interview.

According to the Leather Hall of Fame, Slater did almost all of the work in the first phase of the organization.  She published out a newsletter, held meetings at her home, provided food, and cleaned up after.  As Janus took shape, Slater developed an approach to the theory and practice of SM.

As an early proponent of SM safety, she hosted Janus Society safety demonstrations during the late ’70s, cultivating a space for women within the male-dominated scene established within the leather/kink/fetish culture.  According a tribute to Slater in Living in Leather’s website, Slater coined the term “SM 101,” referring to the safety demonstrations and classes she presented.

While most of her activities were local, Slater influenced many people who became active safer-sex education.  Slater’s teachings, ideas, and lessons were re-created by others at regional and national organizations, especially in the late 1980s as the AIDS epidemic spread.

Slater was well-known in many of the Bay Area’s fringe communities, and in 1980, she was photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe.  When safe sex education was being developed by gay communities in the early 1980s, Slater and bisexual activist David Lourea visited presented bathhouses and sex clubs in San Francisco to present safer-sex education workshops.

In 1985, Slater learned she was HIV+ and she was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. During this period, she became more involved with Shanti Project and began attending support groups.  She wrote an article for Shanti’s newsletter encouraging PWAs to not remain isolated or seek “sameness” when it came to getting support.

In her article, Slater noted that while not faulting PWAs for doing so, there is a risk of eliminating others “until we end up an association of one.”

Even when tending to her declining health, Slater continued to advocate for other PWAs to connect across difference and find commonality among people with diverging agendas.  She also fought to bring attention to the lack of resources for women living with AIDS/HIV in San Francisco.  Despite the city’s reputation for being the leading place for compassionate care for PWAs, women were often overlooked by outreach efforts and service programs.

In an 1989 television interview about her award from Shanti Project, Slater told reporters: “The numbers [of women with AIDS] are changing … and it’s a discounting the value of individuals. How many women have to die before we start to count?”

In her article for the Shanti PWA newsletter, Slater wrote:

“We who are facing life-threatening illness also find ourselves examining issues that most folks don’t readily look at: ‘What is death?’ ‘What does my life mean?’ ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I really need and is that different from what I want?’

“In our support group, it’s not so much that the questions we ask are the same as it is that we share an awareness that we don’t seem to have forever for the exploration. These bonds are the earth of our common meeting ground … We have no basis on which to stigmatize each other, for when we do so we are oppressing ourselves.”

In 2014, Slater was posthumously inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame.  In 2017, Slater was honored at the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley, where her bootprints are immortalized alongside 27 other important figures in San Francisco alternative culture history.

AIDS Quilt - Cookie Mueller
November 10, 1989
Cult Movie Icon Cookie Mueller Dies

Cookie Mueller, a key member of film director John Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble, dies from AIDS-related causes in New York City at age 40.

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Mueller would meet John Waters at the premiere of his 1969 film Mondo Trasho.  Cookie went on to join Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble and would act in five movies for Waters.

Moving to New York City in 1976, she became a cocaine dealer and writer.  She wrote the health column “Ask Dr. Mueller” for the East Village Eye, was an art critic for Details magazine, and wrote the novella Fan Mail, Frank Letters, and Crank Calls, the memoir Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, and several collections of short prose.

Mueller became a muse to many of the photographers and directors of the NYC art/music/film scene.  She would have her portrait taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, and appear in Amos Poe’s Subway Riders, Edo Bertoglio’s Downtown ’81 and Michel Auder’s A Coupla White Faggots Sitting Around Talking.  She also would be featured prominently in her friend Nan Goldin’s iconic The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

Goldin would later recall that she was with Mueller on Fire Island in New York when they first learned of AIDS in 1981, referred to as a “gay cancer” at the time. “Cookie just started reading this item out loud from The New York Times about this new illness… we all kind of laughed it off.”

By 1985, many of Golden’s close friends and acquaintances would be diagnosed with the virus, including Mueller.

Goldin would write in ASX:  “We were very obsessed with what caused it: There were all kinds of rumors, everything from amyl nitrate to bacon. I was in denial that people were going to die. I thought people could beat it. And then people started dying.”

In 1986, Goldin would photograph Mueller’s wedding to Vittorio Scarpati.  An artist who was an HIV-positive heroin addict, Scarpati would create a heartbreaking series of whimsical deathbed drawings of himself and Mueller.

Scarpati would die in 1988, and Goldin would photograph Mueller, by that time walking with a cane, beside her husband’s casket.  After Scarpati’s death, Mueller’s health would begin a steep decline.

“When I went to see Cookie in Provincetown, she had lost her voice,” recalls Goldin. “Her laughter and her verbal wit had been so much of her personality. The fact that she couldn’t talk, the fact that she couldn’t walk without a cane was so devastating that I was calling every doctor, screaming at the impotence I felt.”

Shortly before her dealth, Mueller would write in her final column for the East Village Eye:

“Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same, except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. You will be released from sexual obsessions. You will not have drug addictions. You will not need alcohol. You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free.”

November 18, 1989
French Actor Rémi Laurent Dies

La Cage aux Folles actor Rémi Laurent dies of AIDS-related illness in Paris at the age of 32.

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Born and raised in Suresnes, Laurent starred in a number of French films in the late 1970s and 1980s, but he is best known for his role in the film La Cage aux Folles as Laurent, the son of Renato Baldi.

Laurent also had roles in Les Plouffe (1981) and Let’s Get Those English Girls (1976).

November 26, 1989
AIDS-Care Activist Chris Brownlie Dies

AIDS-care activist Chris Brownlie, for whom the first Los Angeles County-supported AIDS hospice was named, dies of AIDS-related illness at his Silver Lake home at the age of 39.

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Born in Farmington, NY, Brownlie had been active in LGBTQ politics since the early 1970s, when he helped found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center.

Since the mid-1980s, the one-time greeting card company owner also worked for a variety of AIDS-care projects, including service as a volunteer for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and the Minority AIDS Project.  He also helped found the nonprofit AIDS Hospice Foundation, an outgrowth of the 1986 Stop AIDS Quarantine Committee, which defeated a state ballot initiative that would have required detention of those testing positive for the human immunodeficiency virus.

Faced with inaction by the then-conservative Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Hospice Foundation members picketed in front of Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home.  Brownlie, meanwhile, appeared before the LA County Commission on AIDS, emotionally demanding: “You find a way for me to die at home in the arms of my loved ones, or a facility in which my loved ones can care for me in dignity.”

When supervisors eventually voted $2 million for AIDS health care, the Hospice Foundation agreed to operate a facility in Elysian Park at the site of Barlow Hospital’s old nursing quarters.

The 25-bed facility was named the Chris Brownlie Hospice, according to foundation President Michael Weinstein, “because he is a representative of those in the community who have the spirit, courage and grace to fight for those with AIDS.”

The Chris Brownlie Hospice, which had a waiting list in late 1989, was the largest of its kind in the county and offered 24-hour medical service.  At that time, construction was under way on another 25-bed hospice to be operated by the foundation on the grounds of Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.

“If you want a miracle that is better than any drug, work to make life better,” Brownlie said at the start of construction of the Chris Brownlie Hospice.

“Of course, I’ve always hoped that I would not die, that I would live forever,” Brownlie told The LA Times when the facility opened.  “But on another level, I actually get a sense of well-being about this experience.  Sometimes it becomes very profound in a religious sense at the edges of my consciousness.  And this is what the hospice program is about.  It will help others accept the fact that death, too, is part of the life experience.”

Shortly after traveling to Sonoma, Arizona for a vacation with his longtime partner, Phill Wilson, Brownlie became very ill and eventually slipped into a coma.

He was cared for at his namesake hospice, where he would occasionally wake up from the coma and talk with Wilson.

“Finally, after about eight or nine days of that, he woke up and he said, ‘Take me home.’  I knew what he meant, and so I said, ‘We’re going home,’ and nobody agreed,” Wilson told PBS’s Frontline in a 2004 interview.  “The doctor said no; the nurses said no; all of our friends said no.  They didn’t think that I could take care of him.

“I brought him home, and we [got] a little hospital bed and all the supplies, and I kept saying, ‘We won’t need all of that; we won’t need all of that,’ because I knew that he wanted to come home to die.  He wanted to come home so that the last minutes would be in our space, and so we brought him home.”

Wilson said he carried Brownlie into the house, put him into bed and sat with him.  After taking a short nap at the suggestion of the home nurse, Wilson returned to Brownlie’s room and found him “breathing the kind of labored breathing [where] you can kind of hear death happening.”

Wilson said he climbed into bed with Brownlie and whispered that it was okay now, it was going to be OK, and that he was going to be OK.

He sang to Brownlie a favorite song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

“The words are ‘Let me call you sweetheart/ I’m in love with you/ Let me hear you whisper/ That you love me, too,'” Wilson recalled.  “And he took a breath, and then he didn’t take another breath.”

December 1, 1989
Visual AIDS Organizes First ‘Day Without Art’

In response to the worsening AIDS crisis and coinciding with the World Health Organization’s second annual World AIDS Day, Visual AIDS organized its first “Day Without Art.”

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More than 800 arts organizations, museums and galleries throughout the U.S. participated by shrouding artworks and replacing them with information about HIV and safer sex, locking their doors or dimming their lights, and producing exhibitions, programs, readings, memorials, rituals, and performances.

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.  The contemporary arts organization is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness around HIV issues today, by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization supports the preservation of the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement.

AIDS Quilt - Alvin Ailey
December 1, 1989
Choreographer & Activist Alvin Ailey Dies

Alvin Ailey, the African American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Ailey School in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness.

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Ailey’s early childhood would be spent in Texas during the Jim Crow era, a time and place that would inspire some of his most iconic choreography. He discovered dance after moving to Los Angeles but didn’t fully commit to the art form at first.

Then, in the mid-1950s, Ailey would join the Lester Horton Dancers, later becoming a choreographer and then director of the company.  In 1958, he decided to open his own dance company, establishing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.

Ailey and a group of young, black modern dancers perform for the first time on March 30, 1958 at New York’s 92nd Street YM-YWHA.  In its first years, the Company would travel to booked performances on what Alvin Ailey called “the station wagon tours” in a vehicle driven by a longtime friend of the Company, Mickey Board.

In 1960, he would choreograph his classic masterpiece Revelations, which brings the Company international acclaim.

Over the next 30 years, Ailey would create ballets for many notable companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet.

“As common practice at the time, Ailey maintained a closeted persona regarding his sexuality but would utilize his art as an outlet for it,” writes Smithsonian in the website for the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

“His choreographed ballets for AAADT exhibited imagery reminiscent with male and female homosexuality such as juxtaposing same-sex partnering with religious and hypermasculine archetypes.”

Although Ailey dated intermittently, he wouldn’t find long-term companionship while trying to conceal his sexuality from much of the world.  And when he dies amid the AIDS epidemic, his doctor reports the cause of his death as a rare blood disease.

Among the many posthumous accolades for Ailey, President Barack Obama would award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, the highest civilian honor, in recognition of his contributions and commitments to civil rights and dance in America.

“Ailey’s work was groundbreaking in its exploration of the African American experience and the enrichment of the modern dance tradition, including his beloved American masterpiece Revelations,” the award description would state.

The Ailey company continues to perform at the New York City Center and tours cities around the world.  Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations, is currently streaming on the dance company’s website.

1989
HRSA Funds States with $20M for HIV Care & Treatment

The U.S. grants $20 million for HIV care and treatment through the Home-Based and Community-Based Care State grant program, introducing HIV care and treatment to many states that have no programs.

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In its supporting report, the Health Resources and Services Administration notes that only six states have Medicaid program waivers for the treatment and care of people with HIV/AIDS: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio and South Carolina.  The waiver services cover case management, personal care and adult day care in five of the six states.

States with these programs report that the AIDS-specific waiver enables them to establish a uniform system of services, a network of treatment options, and greater access to home and community-based care for people with AIDS, the report states.

Perhaps most importantly, the programs expand financial eligibility for those needing care and treatent.

The newly announced HRSA grant program provides funding so that all states can adopt and strengthen programs that target AIDS-specific services to those who need them.

1989
U.S. Launches Precursor to Ryan White CARE Act

A CDC/HRSA initiative provides $11 million to fund seven community health centers to provide HIV counseling and testing services. This is a precursor to what will be part of the Ryan White CARE Act.

Patrick Kelly (2)
January 1, 1990
Fashion Trailblazer Patrick Kelly Dies

Patrick Kelly, the first American designer to be admitted to Paris’ Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, dies at the Hotel Dieu, a hospital near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, at the age of 35.

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Kelly was part of a generation of Black designers who introduced a new energy and perspective into the fashion industry in the 1980s.

“Patrick’s particular contribution was a quirky, surrealist take on design accented by the subversion of racist imagery as an act of Black empowerment and reclamation,” writes Darnell-Jamal Lisby in i-D.

Celebrated for his designs that incorporated references to pop culture and Black folklore, Kelly moved to Paris after becoming frustrated by the lack of support from the fashion industry in New York.  Black supermodel Pat Cleveland recalled how she and Kelly first met through a mutual friend:

“[Kelly] made this banana costume for me because he knew I liked to dance like Josephine Baker.  So we went out that night, and I did this hair show in Columbus Circle, and I sang like Josephine Baker in that outfit.”

When Kelly told Cleveland about his struggles with the fashion industry, Cleveland said she told him, “You better go to Paris, because there’s no room for Black boys in New York.  They’re not going to give you the break you’re going to get in Paris.”

Once in Paris, Kelly’s popularity quickly grew.  With a perspective rooted in his experience as a Black man from the South, Kelly incorporated details into his work, such as mismatched buttons, which his grandmother had employed while mending clothes.

As Kelly’s reputation in Paris rose, his popularity among the Black American media grew, too. Ebony magazine published a feature on Kelly’s journey to success in Paris, and Jet magazine regularly covered him, as they did other notable Black designers in America and internationally.

Kelly also incorpated his racial perspective in many elements of his runway shows.  At the start of his shows, he would walk onto the runway and spray-paint a large heart on the stage set.

In the gift bags given to the attendees, Kelly would include a “Love List” of items ranging from his favourite foods, like fried chicken, and music from hip-hop to gospel.  He would also give everyone a tiny brown doll with molded black hair.

The designer was always seen in outsize overalls — even if the occasion was formal. He wore a bike messenger’s cap, its brim flipped up to reveal “Paris” embroidered on the underside. Kelly acknowledged most every stereotype attributed to Southern blacks.

“It was Patrick’s way of subtly giving his typically predominantly white audiences a brief education on his design process while simultaneously outlining aspects of various Black experiences in the hope of expanding their purview,”  writes Lisby in his tribute to Kelly.

In 1985, the first “Patrick Kelly Paris” commercial collection was featured in a six-page spread in French Elle magazine.

Kelly would make history, becoming the first American admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, France’s prestigious organization of fashion designers.  In doing so, he was canonized among the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior.

He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where his epitaph states “Nothing Is Impossible.”

January 19, 1990
Report of HIV Transmission via Dentistry Alarms Public

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the transmission of HIV to a patient through a dental procedure performed by an HIV-positive dentist in Florida, releasing a wave of panic across America.

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The CDC report describes the first known case of clinical transmission of HIV:  Kimberly Ann Bergalis, a 19-year-old college student, underwent a molar extraction in December 1987.  About two years later, she would test positive with a strain of HIV related to that of her dentist.

The dentist, Jeffrey Acer, would be villified in the press, even in the years following his death in September 1990.  He would be openly called a lunatic and a murderer, and accused of deliberately infecting his patients — which was in no way supported by facts.

Reported to the CDC by the Florida Department of Health and Rehailitative Services (HRS), the case described Bergalis as having no identified risk factor for HIV infection and that, at some time following an extensive dental procedure with Dr. Acer, she became infected with an HIV strain related to the one that he had.

In an open letter to his patients, Dr. Acer wrote: “I am a gentle man, and I would never intentionally expose anyone to this disease. I have cared for people all my life, and to infect anyone with this disease would be contrary to everything I have stood for.”

The CDC suggested that during the dental procedures, “higher titers of virus may have been present in the dentist’s blood and he may have been more likely to transmit virus than earlier in the course of his HIV disease.”

Following the notification, two more of Acer’s former patients would test positive with a strain similar to his.  In addition, a third infected patient would be identified by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) and a fourth would contact the CDC directly to report that she was HIV-infected and a former patient of the dentist.

The Florida HRS would then reach out to 1,100 additional persons who potentially were patients of Dr. Acer to offer counseling and HIV-antibody testing.  Of them, 141 are tested, and all results were negative.  In addition, none of the dentist’s 14 employees tested positive for HIV.

Staff members of the dental office told HRS officials that barrier precautions had been introduced into the practice by early 1987 and that all staff, including the dentist, wore latex gloves and surgical masks for patient-care activities. Staff reported that they changed gloves and washed their hands between most patient contacts; occasionally, however, they washed gloves rather than changed them between patient contacts.  Additionally, staff reported that by 1987, all surgical instruments were autoclaved.

According to medical records reviewed by the CDC, Dr. Acer was diagnosed with symptomatic HIV infection in late 1986 and AIDS in September 1987.  While he was in practice, he had no record of peripheral neuropathy, dementia, thrombocytopenia or other bleeding disorder, hand dermatitis, or injury.

Dr. Acer closed his practice in 1989 after his T-cell (CD4 lymphocyte) count dropped under 200.  He would die on Sept. 30, 1990 at the Hospice of Palm Beach County at West Palm Beach with his parents at his side.

Kimberly Bergalis would spend her final years advocating for the mandatory testing of medical professionals.  She is described as “the one AIDS patient the AIDS community will not embrace, a frightening and hostile new public symbol of an epidemic the AIDS community thought it had tamed.”

Larry Gostin, professor of health law at Harvard University, would tell The Washington Post in September 1991, “What Kimberly Bergalis symbolizes is … that AIDS is to be feared and that it can be contracted easily in health-care settings. She has created fear.”

Still, Bergalis became a sympathetic victim to many, and would go on to testify to Congress in a 20-second statement that became the world’s headline:

“I’d like to say that AIDS is a terrible disease that you must take seriously. I did nothing wrong, yet I’m being made to suffer like this. My life has been taken away. Please enact legislation so that no other patient or health care provider will have to go through the hell that I have. Thank you.”

Soon, the Senate would pass a bill, sponsored by North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, that required healthcare workers to reveal their HIV status or face imprisonment.

Bergalis would die of AIDS-related illness on Dec. 8, 1991 at the age of 23.

January 24, 1990
Theater Director Leland Moss Dies

Leland Moss, a theater director known for The AIDS Show, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in San Francisco at the age of 41.

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With a group of writers, Moss helped create The AIDS Show, an acclaimed series of songs, monologues and short scenes that he directed in San Francisco in 1984.  The production, which was updated with the new title, Unfinished Business, was also presented in other cities.  A documentary about the play was made for public television and shown in November 1986.

During his nine years in the Bay Area, Moss worked principally with the Theater Rhinocerous, and was active in the city’s LGBTQ movement.  His own play, Quisbies, as well as other works that he directed, explored the effects of AIDS on the gay community.

Moss studied at Harvard University and the London Academy of Music and the Dramatic Arts, and then moved to New York City, where he was a resident director at LaMama and Playwrights Horizons.  He was also an advisor to the New York Shakespeare Festival and an assistant director to Andrei Serban in New York. His acting credits included playing five characters in the Broadway production of ”Yentl.”

January 26, 1990
U.S. Updates Guidelines for Reducing Healthcare Worker Exposure

On January 26, the U.S. Public Health Service issues a statement on managing occupational exposure to HIV, including considerations regarding post-exposure use of the antiretroviral drug, AZT.

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The CDC issues a report reviewing the PHS recommendations for the management of occupational exposures that may place workers at risk of acquiring HIV infection, with a focus on those administering AZT treatment.

Bill Sherwood
February 10, 1990
Filmmaker Bill Sherwood Dies

Bill Sherwood, a promising filmmaker whose career was just taking off, dies from AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 37.

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Sherwood is known for his 1986 film — and his only film — Parting Glances, for which he was Director, Editor and Screenwriter.  Made for $310,000, the film is a bittersweet romantic comedy that spans a 24-hour period in the upwardly mobile New York gay community.

With its realistic look at urban gay life in the Ronald Reagan era and at the height of the AIDS crisis, many film critics consider it an important film in the history of gay cinema. It was also one of the first American films to address the AIDS pandemic.

In 2007, as a part of the Outfest Legacy Project, a restored print of Parting Glances received its world premiere at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles.  The four major stars of the film, Richard Ganoung, John Bolger, Steve Buscemi and Kathy Kinney, were in attendance and participated in a panel discussion after the viewing.  Parting Glances was Buscemi’s feature film debut.

In 2014, the Advocate released its “top 175 essential films of all time for LGBT viewers,” placing Parting Glances at #10.

AIDS Quilt - Keith Haring
February 16, 1990
Artist Keith Haring Dies

Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31 at his LaGuardia Place apartment in Greenwich Village.

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Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981, according to the Keith Haring Foundation.

Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages.

Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images.

Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.  By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.

Since his death, Haring has been the subject of several international retrospectives. The work of Keith Haring can be seen today in the exhibitions and collections of major museums around the world.

Stephan Burns
February 22, 1990
Actor Stephan Burns of ‘The Thorn Birds’ Dies

Stephan W. Burns, an actor known for playing Pete Stancheck in Herbie Goes Bananas and Jack Cleary in the TV miniseries The Thorn Birds, dies in Santa Barbara of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

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In 1984, Burns reportedly received an emergency blood transfusion after being seriously injured in a car accident.  Various reports contend that the blood was contaminated and infected Burns with HIV.

Burns wanted to be an actor all his life.  At an early age, he began staying up late to watch old musicals on television from his small-town home of Chews Landing, New Jersey.  After graduating from high school, Burns moved to New York to study theater while working odd jobs during to pay for his rent and acting classes.

At 6’3″ tall, handsome and naturally athletic, Burns commanded attention at auditions and eventually was cast in the lead role in the national touring production of the Broadway musical Grease.  Soon after, he moved to Los Angeles, where he faced much stiffer competition for acting roles.  But in 1978, after six months in Hollywood, Burns was offered the title role in the TV special Li’l Abner in Dogpatch Today.

But his breakthrough role would come two years later, with the lead in Herbie Goes Bananas, the fourth in Walt Disney Productions’ Love Bug series.  Working alongside veteran actors Vito Scotti, Harvey Korman, Charles Martin Smith, and Cloris Leachman, Burns caught the attention of ABC executives and was cast in the TV drama 240-Robert as a second-season replacement for Mark Harmon.

Pop culture magaine 16, known for introducing hunky entertainers to its young readers, published a profile on Burns as one of “three new and special guys to look out for on your TV screen.”  According to the article, Burns was living in Silver Lake with a black and white cat named Svatch and enjoyed riding horses in the Hollywood hills.

Unfortunately, an actors’ strike delayed the start of the season and 240-Robert was cancelled after only three more episodes due to poor ratings.  But ABC had Burns in mind for another project – The Thorn Birds, a mini-series based on the 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough featuring a forbidden love story set in the Australian outback.  In the drama’s first three parts, Burns played Jack Cleary, an older brother of the lead character Meggie Cleary.  The drama would go on to receive several Emmys and Golden Globe Awards.

In 1984, Burns reportedly received a blood transfusion which was contaminated with the AIDS virus while reeiving emergency medical treatment following a car accident.  [It should be noted that, other than on Wikipedia and a 240-Robert fan page, information about the car accident and the source of Burns’ subsequent infection could not be verified.]

Burns would have only a handful of acting roles in 1986 and 1987, before succumbing to AIDS-related illnesses and dying in early 1990.  A rock musical he was writing called Terminal Hotel would never be completed.

AIDS Quilt - Halston
March 26, 1990
Iconic Fashion Designer Halston Dies

Halston, one of the most successful fashion entrepeneurs in history, dies of AIDS-related illness at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco at the age of 57.

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Born Roy Frowick Halston in Des Moines, Iowa, Halston led a classic heartland childhood playing in soap box derby races, fishing, visiting farms, and the like.  He took an interest in sewing from his mother, and from an early age he showed a special interest in making hats.

His family moved in 1952 to Chicago, where Halston enrolled in a night course at the Chicago Art Institute and took a day job as a window dresser.  Halston continued to design hats and finally obtained his break when a small story on his fashionable creations appeared in the Chicago Daily News.

It was at this time that he would take his middle name Halston as his professional moniker. His hat sales took off, and in 1959, Halston left Chicago for New York City to work for the famed French milliner Lilly Daché.

Following that Halston accepted a position at the fashionable store Bergdorf Goodman, where he charmed his clients and made a grand name for himself.  In 1962 he designed the famous pill box hat worn by Jackie Kennedy at the President’s Inaugural, making the Halston name a household word.

Later that year he was bestowed the Coty’s Fashion Critics Award. In 1966, Halston designed his first ready-to-wear collection for Bergdorf Goodman and continued creating magic with his hat creations.   Women’s Wear Daily heralded him as “New York’s Top Milliner.”

He quickly became the toast of fashion society, including Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham, Lauren Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor among his close circle of friends and clients.

Halston’s career sky-rocketed during the 1970’s and his designs set the standard for American designers. The Halston name became synonymous with classically cut, simple, spare and elegant designs, a phenomenally successful fragrance line Halston by Halston for women X12 and Z14 for men, and the fabric known as “Ultra suede.”  Throughout most of the seventies he epitomized the glamour, as well as the decadence of the era, becoming a central figure in the nightlife scene of New York’s Studio 54 disco.

By 1988, the designer had effectively retired and retreated from the limelight — and it wasn’t long after until he was diagnosed with HIV, according to AP News. After learning of his diagnosis, Halston moved to San Francisco to be cared for by his family, where he reportedly spent his last days touring the California coastline in his Rolls Royce car — which Halston asked his family to auction off after his death in order to donate the proceeds to AIDS research.

Despite his tragic death, there’s no doubt that Halston’s legacy still lives on today, with his dazzling life story becoming the focus of many films and biopics, including the Netflix miniseries, Halston.

AIDS Quilt - Ryan White
April 8, 1990
Teen Activist Ryan White Dies

Ryan White dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 18.

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White was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 13, following a blood transfusion in December 1984.  Living with his family in Kokomo, Indiana, doctors told his parents that he had six months to live but he proved to be more resiliant.

White became a national celebrity when he and his family fought AIDS-related discrimination following his school district’s refusal to let him return to school.

Along with his mother Jeanne White Ginder, Ryan rallied for his right to attend school and became the face of public education about his disease.

After winning a lengthy court case allowing him to return to his classes, Ryan was taunted and shunned by other students. Vandals broke the windows of the White’s home, and cashiers refused to touch his mother’s hands when making change at the supermarket.

Ryan is considered one of the most effective proponents of increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS, Ryan served as an eloquent spokesman about AIDS to his classmates, journalists and, through TV appearances, the American public.

“He valiantly fought against a battalion of bigots who saw AIDS as some kind of divine retribution against gay men and intravenous drug users — two of the largest groups stricken with AIDS during this time,” writes Dr. Howard Markel in PBS’s profile on Ryan Wyite.

He dies one month before his high school graduation and only months before Congress passes the legislation bearing his name — the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.  His name would also be given to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the largest federal program designed specifically for people with HIV, serving over half of all those diagnosed.

 

May 1, 1990
AIDS Cases Rising Among Heterosexuals

Cases attributed to heterosexual transmission are growing faster than any other category of AIDS cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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The CDC reports that from 1988 to 1989, AIDS cases caused by heterosexual transmission jumped 36%.  Of the infected heterosexuals who are women, many give birth to infants who are also infected.

”The heterosexual epidemic is no myth,” Dr. Jerome Groopman, head of the AIDS program at Harvard’s New England Deaconness Hospital, told The New York Times.  ”It is real.”

According to the CDC, about 128,319 cases of fully symptomatic AIDS were reported from 1981 through March 1990. Of those, CDC officials estimate that about 6,231 — 5% — have been cases in which the disease was transmitted by heterosexual sex.

The NYT article noted that federal statistics likely reflect an undercount of heterosexual transmission of AIDS, because the CDC’s reporting system is ”hierarchical,” meaning that AIDS cases were attributed to homosexual sex, intravenous drug use and all other risk categories first. Only those that did not fit into these categories were put in the “heterosexual transmission” category.

Thomas C. Quinn, an AIDS researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, told the NYT that there is a rapid increase in heterosexually transmitted disease in several cities, especially those of the East Coast, including Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Miami.

Dr. Quinn recently presented a paper at an AIDS conference at Johns Hopkins University, where he and his colleagues described syphilis as one of the key factors in spreading AIDS among heterosexuals in the inner city.

The NIAID researchers studied 4,863 patients in two inner city clinics in Baltimore that treat sexually transmitted diseases. Among the heterosexuals who said they did not use intravenous drugs, those who had syphilis were seven to nine times more likely to have AIDS than other patients at the clinic.

In December 1988, NIAID launched the Heterosexual AIDS Transmission Study (HATS) to collect data on male and female heterosexuals at high risk of AIDS who are not IV drug users.

AIDS Quilt - John Winkler
May 2, 1990
Ivy League Professor John J. Winkler Dies

John “Jack” Winkler, who taught classics at Yale and Stanford, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.

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Winkler’s 1989 book Auctor and Actor — which treats the Latin novel The Golden Ass as a detective story — was named best work of classical scholarship by the American Philological Association.  In addition to being a classical scholar, Winkler was also a queer the­o­rist and political activist.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1943,  Winkler attended a Jesuit high school, where he first learned Greek.  From 1960 to 1963, he stud­ied at St. Louis Uni­ver­sity, also a Jesuit insti­tu­tion.  Upon grad­u­at­ing, he joined the Bene­dic­tine reli­gious order, liv­ing first at St. Lawrence’s Abbey in Ampleforth, England, and then con­tin­u­ing at the St. Louis pri­ory.

In 1970, Winkler left the Bene­dictines and decided to pur­sue a career in clas­sics and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1974.  For the next five years, Winkler taught classics at Yale, where he became an advo­cate for fem­i­nist, gay, and minor­ity causes.  He helped to found Yale’s women’s stud­ies pro­gram, openly sup­ported the university’s Gay Alliance, and co-pro­duced an LGBT-themed radio show called Come Out Tonight.

In 1977, Winkler was the sole fac­ulty mem­ber to help orga­nize Yale’s first Gay Rights Week.  That same year, he was the only fac­ulty mem­ber to join a class-action law­suit brought by women stu­dents against Yale for its tol­er­ance of sex­ual harass­ment of stu­dents by fac­ulty.  Jack left Yale for Stanford in 1979, and con­tin­ued to be a lead­ing voice for gay stu­dents and fac­ulty.

Upon being diag­nosed with AIDS in August 1987, he announced a two-year sab­bat­i­cal.  He spent the last years of his life co-edit­ing essay col­lec­tions, trans­lat­ing frag­ments from Greek nov­els, and pub­lish­ing his most influ­en­tial work, Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece.  He donated half of the book’s income to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

He was the author of three books and 19 articles, many of them reinterpreting classical works.

AIDS Quilt - Franklyn Seales
May 14, 1990
Actor Franklyn Seales Dies

Franklyn Seales, best known for playing the finicky business manager Dexter Stuffins on the sit-com Silver Spoons, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.

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Born on the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent, Seales studied at John Houseman’s Acting Company in New York in the early 1970s.  The 1978 PBS drama, ″Trial of the Moke,″ proved to be Seales’ first big break.

Between 1982 and 1986, Seales played business manager Dexter Stuffins on the NBC-TV sitcom Silver Spoons, in which Houseman played a stoic grandfather.  His other television appearances included Hill Street Blues and Amen.

Among his motion picture credits are The Onion Field and Southern Comfort.  A versatile performer, Seales took on stage roles in productions that ranged from Shakespeare to the theater of the absurd.

A member of L.A. Classic Theatre Works, Seales performed in unconventional productions, such as Conversation at Night With a Despised Character, in which Los Angeles Times critic Lawrence Christon found him “one of America’s most compelling stage actors.”

Seales dies at his family’s home in New York City.

May 21, 1990
ACT UP Protests NIH to Demand More HIV Treatment Options

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)  protests at the National Institutes of Health, demanding more HIV treatments and the expansion of clinical trials to include more women and people of color.

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ACT UP protesters occupy the NIH campus, calling on scientists to develop more drugs for people with AIDS and the federal government to disseminate drugs equitably.

Promoted as “Storm the NIH,” the demonstration challenges the NIH to address the issue of growing numbers of women and people of color being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Days later, activist G. Harold Mehlman would write in The Washington Post, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, the saying goes. I’m here to tell you that ACT UP and lots of others will be squeaking to the high heavens until drugs to save the lives of our citizenry affected with the HIV disease are made available.”

Their efforts convince policy makers to change regulations, which results in a new regimen of drugs used to treat AIDS made available in 1996.

AIDS Quilt - Dan Turner
June 4, 1990
San Francisco Playwright-Actor Dan Turner Dies

Dan Turner, author of several plays at Theatre Rhinoceros and other Bay Area theaters, dies in San Francisco of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.

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Turner was one of the first two patients diagnosed with AIDS at San Francisco General Hospital in 1982.  At the time, doctors told him that he had a rare cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Turner was born in 1947 in Bloomington, Illinois, where his father managed the Hotel Rogers. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Cheboygan, Wisconsin, and he began acting in high school drama productions.  In college at Fairfield University in Connecticut, he spent a year abroad at Exeter College in England and traveled throughout Europe. After earning his Bachelor’s degree, he volunteered to work in Malawi with the Peace Corps and then in Alabama with the AmeriCorps VISTA program.  He was in Alabama when he wrote and produced his early play Cottonmouth.

In the early 1970s, he studied playwriting with Kenneth Cameron at the University of Iowa, writing and producing the play Light Years. He moved to Texas to accept an internship with the Dallas Theater, but quickly found that the program’s leaders didn’t approve of Turner’s openly gay identity and progressive political views.

San Francisco became Turner’s next destination.  He joined the productions of both regional and gay theater companies and collectives, and taught a playwriting course at the Eureka Theatre, birthplace of Angels in America.  He occasionally traveled to Los Angeles for acting opportunities.  A prolific artist, Turner also wrote essays and critical articles for local gay papers, as well as poetry, novels, and short stories.  Some of his erotica appeared in gay magazines such as In Touch and Blueboy.

In 1976, Turner contracted hepatitis, and in the same year, he traveled with Tennessee Williams to New Orleans, New York and Cape Cod.  Turner became in awe of Williams, who was in failing health  and yet woke at 4:00 a.m. every day to write.

“I had been perpetuating (my hepatitis) through this negative mind trip,” Turner later told the Los Angeles Times.  “From then on, when my mind said, ‘You can’t do it,’ I’d say, ‘But that’s just your mind.’”

He returned to San Francisco with renewed hope.  He wrote and produced three musical plays, two of which (Cinderella II and Comeback) were in collaboration with playwright-novelist Daniel Curzon. He also directed several plays.

In February 1982, Turner was diagnosed wish Kaposi Sarcoma and was one the first patients of Dr. Paul Volberding at San Francisco General Hospital.  He befriended AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell and together they laid the groundwork for the organization People with AIDS San Francisco.  Both were open about their AIDS diagnosis and began to be sought-after as speakers for community events.  In May 1983, Turner and Campbell represented People with AIDS at the second annual AIDS Forum.

Still, Turner continued to be involved in San Francisco theater, and his work began to incorporate his AIDS activism.  In 1984, he wrote parts of The AIDS Show at the Theatre Rhinoceros.  In 1987, Turner was featured in the televison documentary The Fighting Edge, which addressed how people with AIDS could continue to lead productive lives.

With an eight-year-long illness, Turner was the longest-living known person with AIDS by the time of his death.  He outlived his friend Campbell by almost six years.

“He was a shining symbol,” longtime friend Maura Nolan told the Los Angeles Times. “When Dan would walk into the hospital room of some person afflicted with AIDS, it was as if hope walked though the door.”

AIDS Quilt - Demian Aquavella
June 8, 1990
NYC Dancer Demian ‘D-Man’ Acquavella Dies

Demian Acquavella, a dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Brooklyn.  He was 32 years old.

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A popular figure in post-modernist dance in New York, Acquavella was the inspiration for the 1989 work D-Man in the Waters, a celebration of Acquavella’s determination to fight his illness.

Born in Brooklyn, Acquavella moved to California when he was twenty to major in dance at Santa Monica Community College.  He trained with Marjorie Mussman, Cindi Green, Ernie Pagnano and Phil Black, and also studied at the Nat Horne Musical Theater and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.  He danced with Lillo Way, Elisa Monte, Miss Mussmann, the Rush Dance company, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before joining the Jones-Zane troupe.

He became the central figure in Bill T. Jones’ pivotal work when the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra commissioned Jones to choreograph a dance set to the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-Flat Major.  By then Acquavella was so sick, he had stopped dancing but he continued to stay close to the dance company.

“At first, Bill was going to call it just Waters,” Acquavella recalled.  “But then Bill looked over at me, and changed the title.  I will never forget Bill saying I would be in it, even though I could hardly walk.”

D-Man in the Waters had its premiere at the Joyce Theatre on March 14, 1989.

“As he could no longer walk by the time of the debut, I carried Demian onstage, offering my legs as he executed the arm movements of what would have been his solo,” Jones wrote.

After he was too ill to perform, he was known to attend performances and loudly cheer the dancers from his seat.

The work finds new life in the 2020 documentary Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, directed by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz.

When codirector LeBlanc was 16, she tells us on-screen in the documentary, she saw D-Man performed.  The experience inspired her to become a dancer — and to join Jones’ company.

Now on the dance faculty at Loyola Marymount University in California, LeBlanc chronicles in the film a production of D-Man that she staged with her undergraduate students.

In the documentary, Jones meditates on what the work means now.  In 1989, “It was a place to grieve,” he says.

But he believes D-Man is more than “a response to the plague”; it’s an enduring statement about survival and community.

George+Stavrinos+self+portrait
1990
NYC Fashion Illustrator George Stavrinos Dies

George Stavrinos, best known for his illustrations for New York fashion retailers Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.

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In the late 1970s , Stavrinos’ work became familiar to many gay men through his illustrations for numerous magazines, including GQ, Cosmopolitan, and Christopher Street, according to Visual AIDS, a project created in 1988 to preserve a visual record of the work of HIV+ artists.

Stavrinos also provided illustrations for the New York City Opera, and illustrated the cover of a novel by West Hollywood writer Felice Picano as well as an excerpt of Paul Monette’s first novel, Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, which appeared in the August 1978 issue of Blueboy.

Stavrinos was famous for his high-contrast drawings and technical proficiency using pencil.  He used the style of Superrealism, a movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in which art approaches the realism of photography.

“He created an arresting new look that set the pace for his contemporaries and still continues to be an influence,” writes Cyril Foiret, founder of Trendland.

His process began with hundreds of photographs of his model in various poses and at various focal lengths using a Polaroid SX-70. He would then create an environment around the model that included a variety of shapes and materials, such as pottery, fans, lights and various geometric designs.

In 2007, Stavrinos was elected posthumously to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

June 17, 1990
Paul Giovanni — Composer for ‘Wicker Man’ Soundtrack — Dies

Paul Giovanni — a playwright, actor, director, singer and musician best known for writing the music for the 1973 British horror film The Wicker Man — dies of AIDS-related illness at Cabrini Medical Center in New York.  He was 57.

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Giovanni wrote the music for the The Wicker Man‘s soundtrack, and also wrote the lyrics and performed in the songs “Landlord’s Daughter” and “Gently Johnny.  The music was played by a group of six musicians, using a combination of traditional and modern instruments.

The New York Times considered a highlight of Giovanni’s career to be his 1978 Broadway play, The Crucifer of Blood, a Sherlock Holmes drama. He wrote and staged the play, which received a Tony Award nomination for best director.  The play would be turned into a movie for TV in 1991, shortly after Giovanni’s death.

But many fans of cult films credit Giovanni with crafting one of the most memorable and haunting musical accompaniments to a film with his soundtrack for The Wicker Man. 

“Haunting and warm in both measures, Paul Giovanni’s rustic folk soundtrack for The Wicker Man is the perfect compliment to a dark fairytale,” writes reviewer Laura Thomas.  “His enchanting score and its thorough integration within the film’s narrative mean that The Wicker Man oscillates between folk musical and horror.”

He also worked on several films as producer and production manager, according to Turner Classic Movies.

June 20, 1990
Protestors Disrupt Int’l AIDS Conference in San Francisco

The 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco erupts in demonstrations, boycotts and dramatic disruptions in protest of U.S. immigration policies that bar people with HIV from entering the country.

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“For me, the single most moving episode of the week took place at the conference, when a huge number of the delegates stood up and turned their back on [US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary] Louis Sullivan as he was speaking,” journalist Tim Kingston recalls in an interview with 48 Hills.

For the first time in history, a major policy address got hijacked at an International AIDS Conference.

“Then, all at once, they marched out of the Moscone Center and joined the Pride parade,” Kingston says. “That was such a powerful statement.”

Many of the demonstrations during the conference were organized by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and brought attention to issues the conference failed to address, like the growing infection rate and the lack of treatment programs for women, people of color, and intravenous drug users.

Activists also protested laws against needle exchanges, the federal law forbidding HIV-positive people from entering the country, and the notable absence of President George Bush.

“Three hundred thousand dead from AIDS — Where is George?” chanted activist Peter Staley and other ACT UP members from a conference stage.  Soon, others in the packed auditorium joined them.

Bush refused two invitations to address the conference, Staley told UPI science writer Rebecca Kolberg.  Instead, the president attended a fundraiser for conservative senator Jesse Helms, who lead legislative efforts to restrict travel and employment of people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

For five days, ACT UP stopped business as usual, reported CBS.  Members clogged downtown San Francisco, marching to the Immigration and Naturalization building at 630 Sansome Street to protest the travel and immigration ban for HIV-positive people.  Activists crashed convention events and disrupted speakers.  About 100 protesters were arrested outside the Marscone Center on the first day of the conference.

Even the co-chairman of the conference, John Ziegler, wore a red armband in solidarity with activists and held a moment of silence in support of those who boycotted the conference because of the travel ban.

July 6, 1990
Bay Area Comedian Jim Samuels Dies

Jim Samuels, winner of the 1982 San Francisco Comedy Competition, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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Born in Oakland, Samuels was a popular comedian and sometime comedy teacher.  In the mid-1970, Samuels and then-comedy-partner Marty Cohen were regulars on Merv Griffin’s television show and several other variety programs.  In 1977, Samuels performed solo in a comedy skit on the TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and would embark on a solo career officially in the early 1980s.

Dubbed San Francisco’s Dean of Comedy by his friends and competitors, Samuels was also part owner of the Holy City Zoo club, a small but influential comedy club located at 408 Clement Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in San Francisco.

Samuels died at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.

July 7, 1990
Brazilian Rock Star Cazuza Dies

Brazilian rock legend and heartthrob Cazuza dies from AIDS-related illness at his parents’ Ipanema home at the age of 32.

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“Cazuza was forced to navigate his way through the trying social and medical realities of living with AIDS in Brazil during the 1980s,” according to Brazil: Five Centuries of Change by Thomas E. Skidmore.

Prior to the arrival of AIDS in Brazil in 1983, a sexual liberation had taken hold in the country’s major cities.  Because the first reported AIDS cases were that of gay men, it would be commonly referred to by Brazilians as a “gay cancer” or “gay plague,” and would cause widespread panic and fear.

“Cazuza would come to embody much of the conversation around (homo)sexuality and AIDS that would consume Brazil in the late 1980s,” Skidmore writes.  “Cazuza had relationships with both men and women. He made easy references to kissing girls and having girlfriends, but he neither ascribed to being gay per sé nor denied his interest in men… He would be able to defy the notion that AIDS was purely a gay man’s disease; though he slept with men, he was not necessarily identified, by himself or others, as gay.”

Mixing Bossa Nova music with 1960s British and American rock, he composed and recorded ″Cazuza,″ his first solo album in 1985, a record known for its biting, sarcastic tone and lyrics.

His song “Bete Balanço” 

Changing the ways in which HIV/AIDS were discussed and understood in Brazil, Cazuza demonstrated that people with AIDS could continue to be productive.  According to author and literary critic Marcelo Secron Bessa, Cazuza had become the “face” of AIDS in Brazil.

Cazuza dies in his sleep in his parents’ home in the beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema.

″Fortunately, he died without pain, sleeping,″ his father, Joao Araujo, director of one of the largest record companies in Brazil, would say on television.

Cazuza’s funeral at Sao Joao Batista Church in Rio’s Botofogo neighborhood would draw hundres of fans.

His mother Lucinha Araújo, would go on to create the ‘Sociedade Viva Cazuza’ [Viva Cazuza Society], to help people with AIDS.  A movie about Cazuza’s life would be released in 2004.

July 26, 1990
Congress Passes Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Ethyl Eichelberger
August 12, 1990
Performer Ethyl Eichelberger Dies

Flamboyant actor Ethyl Eichelberger, who turned theatrical conventions upside down in their career as a performance artist, playwright and director, committs suicide.  Eichelberger was 45 years old.

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Eichelberger was diagnosed with AIDS and chose to end their life on their own terms.  Their body was discovered in their Staten Island home by friends Lola Pashalinski and Linda Chapman.

Eichelberger was equally at ease playing characters male or female, including Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, King Lear, Medusa and Klytemnestra.

They wrote more than 30 plays, many of them marked by such Eichelberger trademarks as fire-eating, cartwheels and impromptu accordion concerts.

 

Eichelberger was born to Amish parents on July 17, 1945, and was named James Roy.  After studying theater at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, they attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and worked with Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company.

It was here where they perfected their flair for comedy and their craftmanship as a wig maker. In 1975, they legally changed their first name to Ethyl.

As their reputation grew, they began making forays into mainstream theater, doubling as the courtesan and the abbess in the Flying Karamazov Brothers production of ”The Comedy of Errors” at Lincoln Center.

Eichelberger played themself in Oliver Stone’s movie, ”The Doors.”

August 18, 1990
Bobby DeBarge, of R&B Band DeBarge, Dies

Bobby DeBarge, a singer celebrated for his falsetto vocals and a co-producer the band DeBarge, dies of AIDS-related illness at a hospice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He was 39.

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DeBarge was the lead singer of the Motown R&B group Switch, and later on, he served as both mentor and a co-producer of his siblings’ band, DeBarge.

Bobby DeBarge was the oldest male of eight DeBarge children born to Robert and Etterlene DeBarge over the course of their 21-year marriage.  His mother was a black gospel singer who encouraged her children to hone their musical talents.  His father was domineering and physically abusive to members of the family, according to Parle magazine.

Bobby DeBarge started his career as a singer as part of Barry White’s background group, and when White broke up the group, DeBarge and other members formed a group named Hot Ice.  In 1977, Greg Williams formed the band Switch, featuring DeBarge and his brother Tommy.  Switch managed to get the attention of Jermaine Jackson, and they were soon signed to Motown Records.

Bobby DeBarge released six albums with Greg Williams and Switch members with the last album in 1980.  By 1981, DeBarge was overseeing the production of his siblings’ debut album The DeBarges; he also co-wrote with younger brother El the song, “Queen of My Heart.”

The group’s third album, In a Special Way (1983), featured the hit single “Time Will Reveal.”  But the group would have their biggest hit in 1985 with “Rhythm of the Night.”

Personal problems, including substance abuse which eventually led to drug trafficking charges in Wisconsin in 1988, plagued DeBarge in later years and took focus away from his musical career. Despite having an amazing voice, Bobby DeBarge didn’t release a solo album until 1995, titled It’s Not Over.  The album was released just before he died, and he didn’t get the chance to see the project promoted.

In 2019, TV One produced the biopic The Bobby DeBarge Story.

August 18, 1990
U.S. Enacts Ryan White CARE Act with $220M in Funding

The U.S. Congress passes legislation providing $220.5 million in federal funds for HIV community-based care and treatment services.

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Titled the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the legislation is named for the Indiana teen who became infected through treatment for his hemophilia and died in April 1990.

This creates the nation’s largest HIV-specific federal grant program, and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration is charged with managing the resources,

August 24, 1990
Bay Area AIDS Fundraiser David Lewis Dies

David Lewis, of the Harvey Milk AIDS Education Fund, dies of AIDS-related illness at his parents’ home in Vancouver, British Columbia.  He was 38.

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From the late 1970s through the 1980s, Lewis lived in San Francisco, where he was an active member of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and served on the board of the Harvey Milk AIDS Education Fund, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

Lewis was also a member of the leather community and a founding member of The 15 Association of San Francisco.  He worked as a clinical counselor, income tax preparer, and smoking cessation program coordinator in the Bay Area until 1989, when he returned to his parents’ home in Vancouver upon the deterioration of his health.

Lewis’ body was cremated and his ashes were buried in Point Roberts Cemetery in Washington next to the remains of his partner, James Landsdowne, who died of AIDS-related illness in June 1989.

September 6, 1990
San Francisco Business Owner James Heady Dies

James K. Heady, owner of Male Image barbershop and Image Leather shop, dies of AIDS-related illness at San Francisco’s Hospice By The Bay at the age of 45.

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With the two businesses that he co-owned with his partner, Gary Mootz, Heady worked long hours but still found time to travel and pursue hobbies, according to the Bay Area Reporter.  He and Gary often spent time sailing their boat, “The Crisco Kid,” on San Francisco Bay.

Born and raised in Ohio, Heady joined the U.S. Navy in 1964 and served as the launch director for the USS Independence.  After the service, he moved to London and worked as a cab driver, and then returned to the U.S. to study architecture.  Heady moved from Phoenix to San Francisco in 1977.

AIDS Quilt - Tom Fogarty
September 6, 1990
Rock Musician Tom Fogerty Dies

Tom Fogerty, member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and older brother of frontman John Fogerty, dies of AIDS-related illness in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 48.

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Born November 9, 1941 in Berkeley, California, Fogerty holds a significant place in rock history. As the rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, he played on plenty of rock classics and had a solo career.

In the four years the band was together, they never had a #1 single in the U.S.  However, the band holds the record for the most number of No.2 chart hits without ever having had a No.1.  They also had a U.K. #1 hit with Bad Moon Rising.  

At some point in the 1980s, after moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, Fogerty underwent surgery for his back and an unscreened blood transfusion caused him to be infected with AIDS virus.  The cause of his death was initially reported as tuberculosis.

In the eulogy that John Fogerty made at his brother’s funeral, he said: “We wanted to grow up and be musicians.  I guess we achieved half of that, becoming rock ‘n roll stars. We didn’t necessarily grow up.”

When Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Tom Fogerty’s widow brought his ashes in an urn.

Blood screening
September 16, 1990
Lawsuits Filed against Blood Agencies over Tainted Transfusions

The blood services industry braces itself against more than 300 lawsuits regarding people infected with the AIDS virus through blood transfusions.

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A small number of the medical negligence lawsuits have been settled for large amounts of money, and another 300 lawsuits are headed to trial, mostly in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While eight years has passed since the first medical reports made connections between transfusions and AIDS, legal cases are only beginning to surface because of the lag time between becoming infected with HIV and onset of physical symptoms.  An estimated 26 million people received transfusions between 1977 and 1985, years when the AIDS epidemic spread largely unchecked.

Legal experts expect thousands more cases to be filed in the courts over the next few years as more people discover that they were given tainted blood during the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

In one case, a 5-year-old Arizona boy was awarded $28.7 million — believed to be the largest such award — and several other jury verdicts have been in the range of $12 million.

“These awards are far higher than in other types of cases, because the jury tries harder because of the disease, because they have all personally felt that fear,” attorney Duncan Barr told the LA Times.  Barr had defended San Francisco’s Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in several cases.

Plaintiffs have argued that the blood banks ignored scientific warnings about the threat of HIV-contaminated blood, failed to screen out high-risk donors through questionnaires that identified high-risk behavior, and refused to perform tests for other diseases that were often present in HIV-infected donors.

In Los Angeles County, health officials said 194 adults and 36 children have contracted AIDS through transfusions.

The American Red Cross, which collects half the nation’s blood supply, would not comment to the LA Times on how many lawsuits have been filed against it over allegedly tainted blood transfusions.

The Blood Council of Community Blood Centers released a statement saying that most centers were insured only for $2 million to $5 million a year for the years in question, and if the centers run out of insurance funds, they may be forced to increase the cost of blood sales to hospitals or go bankrupt.

Ray Stephens.png
October 4, 1990
Actor-Singer Ray Stephens Dies

Ray Stephens, best known for his starring role in the 1980s TV series The Great Space Coaster, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.

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Stephens became the lead singer of The Village People in 1985, recorded with the group for their album, Sex Over the Phone, and acted in the movie Village People: New York City.

He was an actor, known for in roles in The Runaways (1975) and Cat’s Eye (1985).  He is also heard singing the tune Cat’s Eye during the closing credits of the 1985 Stephen King movie.

Stephens reportedly became infected with the HIV virus ‘ death through the intravenous use of drugs.

October 26, 1990
FDA Adds AZT to Pediatric AIDS Treatment Options

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves use of zidovudine (AZT) for pediatric AIDS.

AIDS Quilt - Vito Russo 2
November 7, 1990
Film Historian Vito Russo Dies

Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.

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A film historian whose work was the first to examine the portrayal of LGBT people in film, television, and other media, Russo wrote The Celluloid Closet, the consummate reference book on homosexuality in the U.S. film industry.  Russo also was a key voice in the creation of both ACT UP-New York and the influential gay and lesbian media watchdog, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD.

Russo’s 1981 book chronicles the history of depictions of gay people in film, and it was made into an award-winning documentary (1995).  The book found its origins in movie nights Russo organized in the 1970s, when he combined the things he loved — community and cinema.

At the time, with the Stonewall riots a fresh memory, such gatherings were political acts.  Russo would screen a beloved movie and invite friends to watch — and soon the attendance grew to hundreds of gay people who would applaud favorite lines of dialogue and revel in queer subtext.  For many, these precursors of LGBTQIA+ film festivals were a first involvement in queer community.

Russo’s book The Celluloid Closet was published just as AIDS began its devastating march into the lives of many in the community.  Seeing entire circles of friends die, Russo returned to his activist roots and devoted himself to education, support and making as much noise as possible.

“Vito participated in every significant milestone in the gay liberation movement, from Stonewall to ACT UP,” said Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the documentary Vito (2011).  “He was right in the middle of everything, every step of the way.”

Among the many protests he helped stage that made headlines was one in which Russo and a group of activists descended on New York City officials for a mass marriage, complete with cakes topped by figures of same-sex couples — decades before gay marriage became a national issue and, in some states, legal.

In an homage to Russo, GLAAD recently developed the “Vito Russo Test,” a set of criteria to analyze how LGBTQ characters are included within a film.  To pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender;
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity, i.e., they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another; and
  • The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline. The character should “matter.”
AIDS Quilt - Ray Navarro
November 9, 1990
Video Artist-Activist Ray Navarro Dies

DIVA TV founder and Chicano activist Ray Navarro dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 26.

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An active member of ACT UP, Navarro famously dressed as Jesus during a protest held on December 10, 1989 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  The demonstration called out the Roman Catholic Church’s position on abortion rights, gay rights, and safe sex education.

Already visibly sick, Navarro led protestors in chants (“We’re here to say, we want to go to heaven, too!”) and became the “camp superstar” of the documentary Like a Prayer, which covered the demonstration.  Navarro’s activism was also featured in the documentary How to Survive a Plague.

In 1989, Navarro was one of several ACT UP-New York members who founded DIVA TV, a gay and lesbian video activist collective that preserved some of ACT UP’s public displays of civil disobedience.  DIVA TV was an acronym for “Damned Interfering Video Activist Television.”  Founding members also included Bob Beck, Gregg Bordowitz, Jean Carlomusto, Rob Kurilla, Costa Pappas, George Plagianos, Catherine Saalfield, and Ellen Spiro.

DIVA created three notable video productions:

  • Target City Hall, about a March 28, 1989 ACT UP demonstration against New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s inadequate response to the AIDS crisis;
  • Pride on the 20th anniversary of the city’s gay and lesbian pride movement; and
  • Like A Prayer, five 7-minute perspectives on the ACT UP/WHAM (Women’s Health Action Mobilization) December 10, 1989 demonstration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In February 1990, Navarro presented an AIDS program at the CineFestival in San Antonio, Texas.  Shortly afterward, Navarro lost his vision due to cytomegalovirus retinitis, an AIDS-related complication.  Shortly before his death in November 1990, he partnered with artist Zoe Leonard to create Equipped, a series of black-and-white photographs of mobility devices paired with provocative phrases.

Posthumously, Navarro’s art was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.  Navarro’s mother, Patricia, became a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors HIV/AIDS Committee and speaks publicly about her son’s experiences.

In memory of Ray Navarro and Gerardo Velázquez, Harry Gamboa Jr. wrote the chapter “Light at the End of Tunnel Vision” for the 2018 book Latinx Writing Los Angeles: Nonfiction Dispatches from a Decolonial Rebellion.

December 1, 1990
‘Night Without Light’ Launches in NYC

The organization Visual AIDS presents its first Night Without Light, organizing cities nationwide to turn off their architectural lights for 15 minutes as visual reminder of the impact of AIDS.

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“Night Without Light” was launched to coincide with Visual AIDS “Day Without Art” on World AIDS Day.  For fifteen minutes, from 7:45 to 8:00 p.m. on December 1st, the lights on Manhattan’s historic buildings, bridges, monuments and Broadway’s theatre marquees are turned off, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, United Nations Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Life Building, MetLife Tower,  Grand Central Terminal, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and George Washington Bridge among others — transforming the Manhattan skyline into a visual reminder of the impact of AIDS.

In future years, San Francisco would join New York City and also darken its skyline by turning off the architectural illumination on key landmarks as a symbolic reflection for the lives lost due to HIV.

Founded in 1988, Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.  The contemporary arts organization is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness around HIV issues today, by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization supports the preservation of the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement.

December 5, 1990
San Francisco Playwright Robert Chesley Dies

Robert Chesley, whose plays were produced by gay theater companies all over the U.S., dies of AIDS-related illness at San Francisco’s Mt. Zion Hospital.  He was 47.

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“There is no one as articulate and passionate about the issues of gay male sexuality as Robert was as a dramatist,” said actor Michael Kearns upon learning of his friend’s death.

Chesley was known for writing the first full-length play about AIDS, Night Sweat (A Romantic Comedy in Two Acts), which was originally produced at New York’s Meridian Gay Theatre Company and received long runs in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

He also wrote Jerker, or A Helping Hand (A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in 20 Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty).  This play had a reading on Los Angeles’ Pacifica Radio that led to complaints from listeners and a lively censorship debate.

Jerker premiered at the Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles, and then had an eight-month run in New York.

“Chesley was driven by a fierce dedication to both gay and erotic liberation,” wrote theater historian Noreen C. Barnes.

“There is nothing that I do that is not influenced by [Chelsey’s] audacity,” said actor Michael Kearns.

January 1, 1991
HOPWA: Federal Housing Assistance Program Launched

Congress enacts the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Act of 1991, the first and only federal housing program solely dedicated to providing rental housing assistance for persons and their families living with HIV/AIDS.

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Approved as part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, HOPWA funds short-term and permanent housing, together with supportive services, for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

A report by the Congressional Research Service titled “Housing for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS,” describes HOPWA as a way to address the financial vulnerability and likelihood of homelessness associated with AIDS.

“Research has indicated that individuals living with HIV who live in stable housing have better health outcomes than those who are homeless or unstably housed, and that they spend fewer days in hospitals and emergency rooms,” the report states.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged with the administration of the funding, working with state and local community housing programs.

February 7, 1991
Bay Area Dancer Antonio Mendes Dies

Dancer and choreographer Antonio Mendes — who performed as principal dancer or guest artist with the Pacific Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Marin Civic Ballet and the National Ballet of Portugal — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.

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Mendez was also Director of the Redwood Empire Ballet.

AIDS Quilt - Burton Taylor 2
February 13, 1991
Ballet Dancer Burton Taylor Dies

Former leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, known for his speed, lightness and strong acting ability, Burton Taylor dies of AIDS-related illness in White Plains, New York at the age of 47.

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Taylor danced such roles as Captain Belaye in John Cranko’s Pineapple Poll and Arthur Saint-Leon in Robert Joffrey’s Pas des Deesses.  Taylor made his professional debut with the Eglevsky Ballet in 1959.  He joined the American Ballet Theater in 1962 and the Joffrey in 1969, dancing with the company through 1978.

Taylor also wwas a contributing editor of Dance magazine from 1979 to 1983, and wrote several dance articles for The New York Times.

AIDS Quilt - Lou Graydon Sullivan
March 2, 1991
Trans Author-Activist Lou Graydon Sullivan Dies

Lou Graydon Sullivan dies at the age of 39, the first transgender man to die of AIDS-related illness.

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Sullivan was an activist and author known for his work on behalf of trans men.  A pioneer of the grassroots female-to-male (FTM) movement, he is largely responsible for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.

He founded FTM International, and his activism and community work was a significant contributor to the rapid growth of the FTM community during the late 1980s.

Born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sullivan was raised in a very religious Catholic family.  At age 10, he started keeping a journal, describing his early childhood thoughts of being a boy, confusing adolescence, sexual fantasies of being a gay man, and his involvement in the Milwaukee music scene.

He continued to express confusion about his identity throughout his adolescence, writing at age 15, “I want to look like what I am, but don’t know what someone like me looks like.  I mean, when people look at me I want them to think — there’s one of those people … that has their own interpretation of happiness.  That’s what I am.”

By 1975, Sullivan identified himself as a “female-to-male transsexual,” and two years later, he moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco in the hopes he could find “more understanding” and access hormones for his transition.  He got a job with the Wilson Sporting Good Company, where he was employed as a woman but presented as a man much of the time.  In his personal life, Sullivan lived as an out gay man, but he was repeatedly denied gender affirmation surgery because of his sexual orientation.  At that time, transgender people were expected to adopt stereotypical heterosexual opposite-sex gender roles.  This rejection led Sullivan to start a campaign to remove homosexuality from the list of contraindications for gender affirmation surgery.

In 1979, at the age of 28, Sullivan was finally able to find doctors and therapists who would accept his sexuality.  He began taking testosterone and underwent a double mastectomy surgery the following year.  He started a new job as an engineering technician so that he could fully embrace his new identity as a man with new co-workers.

Shortly after undergoing genital reconstruction surgery in 1986, Sullivan was diagnosed as HIV positive and told he only had 10 months to live.  He wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.”

In June 2019, Sullivan was one of the inaugural 50 American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City.  In August 2019, Sullivan was one of the honorees inducted in the Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

March 13, 1991
‘Paris is Burning’ Premieres in New York City

The film Paris is Burning, documenting the Harlem Ballroom scene of the late 1980s, debuts in New York City.  The AIDS crisis would come to touch many of the lives seen in the movie.

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Directed by Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning helped shine a light on New York’s ballroom subculture, a vibrant scene where Black and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women competed in competitions involving fashion runways and vogue dancing battles.  The contestants often represented various “Houses,” self-organized groups which served as surrogate families for members of a community ostracised from mainstream society.

The documentary —  which took Livingston seven years to fund, make and release — was was an immediate hit with critics and fans of independent movies, and since then, it has become a staple of queer cinema.  The appeal of the film transcends time in its thematic core of resilience rooted and thriving in a community cast off by society.

“The defiant joy we witness in the ball walkers at so many moments of the film — despite the AIDS pandemic, racism, homophobia, transphobia, pov­erty, homelessness, violence, harassment, addiction, and what­ever other hardships they may have been dealing with at any given time — was infectious when the film premiered, and remains so today,” wrote filmmaker Michelle Parkerson on the 30th anniversary of the film’s release.

Yet, almost immediately, the film was met with sharp criticism from some of its subjects, who claimed that the filmmaker and Miramax, the film distributor, made considerable profits while they largely remained in impoverished conditions.

Miramax reported more than $4 million in gross earnings from its U.S. theatrical release modest for a Hollywood film but representing considerably wealth to Ballroom participants.  A legal battle between some of the surviving featured performers and Miramax would ultimately be resolved with a payment of about $55,000, divided among 13 performers based on screen time.

The film also drew criticism from feminist scholar bell hooks, who put forth the idea that Livingston – a middle-class, white, genderqueer lesbian – was an enabler of cultural appropriation.

Much of the controversy has centered on a perceived appropriation of a Black gay subculture by a privileged white filmmaker,” said Parkerson in her article for The Criterion Collection upon its re-release of the film.  “It has also involved the perennial question of who has the right to tell someone else’s story, which, I posit, is the lingering dilemma at the doorstep of any documentary project.”

Upon the 2020 re-release of Paris is Burning, Livingston said in an interview that her perspective as the filmmaker was valid, even though she was not a member of the Ballroom subculture.

“My agenda was to tell a great story while not imposing my view, but that is a struggle,” Livingston  told Hyperallergic.  “Whenever you tell a story, you have that control. In terms of my race, I felt very welcome.  I was honored they trusted me, but as a white Jewish person, I knew that I wasn’t from their world.  I tried to be the absolute best listener that I could, and it helped to work with a great editor in Jonathan Oppenheim.  We tried to balance what people were saying without imposing our own agendas onto the film.”

Most of the film’s subjects died in the 15 or so years following its theatrical release, due to factors like transphobic violence, poverty, and AIDS.  Venus Xtravaganza, who was a sex worker, was murdered in a New York hotel room in 1998.  In the TV series Pose, Venus would be the inspiration for character Aphrodite Xtravaganza, created by writer and activist Janet Mock to give Venus “a second life.”

Angie Xtravaganza, the Mother of the House of Xtravaganza, died of AIDS-related illness in 1993, as did Dorian Corey.  Pepper Labeija died in 2003 of a heart attack.  Willi Ninja, who perfected the art of voguing and trained others in the dance style, died of AIDS-related illness in 2006.

“Existing only in memory, enshrined in celluloid, they are and were stars, but they didn’t get to see the fruits of their culture become mainstream and profitable,” writes Canadian film critic Willow Catelyn Maclay.  “Rewatching the movie is a bittersweet experience, because there is deep beauty in the ballroom scene, but the sun always rises and parties always end.”

AIDS Quilt - Howard Ashman
March 14, 1991
Disney Lyricist Howard Ashman Dies

Howard Ashman, the award-winning lyricist “who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul,” dies at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of 40.

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Born in Baltimore in 1950, Ashman would rise to prominence in the musical theater world in 1977, when he became the artistic director of New York City’s WPA Theatre, an off-off-Broadway theater with 99 seats.  This is where Ashman’s collaboration with composer Alan Menken began.

Their first musical was Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater in 1979 (which Vonnegut himself approved of).  Then in 1982, Ashman went on to conceive, write and direct Little Shop of Horrors, again with music by Alan Menken. The musical, based upon Roger Corman’s 1960s-era horror flick, was immediately successful.

In 1986, Howard wrote and directed the Broadway musical, Smile, which featured music by Marvin Hamlisch.  Little appreciated at the time, Smile is now considered a lost gem of musical theater and is performed by high schools and amateur groups around the U.S.

Smile closed after just 48 performances, and Ashman decided to accept an offer from Disney Pictures and moved to Los Angeles.

“Here’s what you need to know about Disney in 1986: it was a total mess,” writes Peter Knegt in his column Queeries.  “The 1970s and 1980s are what many refer to the company’s ‘dark period,’ peaking with 1985’s massive financial disaster The Black Cauldron.

Ashman showed up just in time to rescue Disney’s animation department.  Of the prospective projects presented to Ashman, one grabbed hold of him right away — an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  He took charge of the project and brought in Alan Menken to help him.

“The animation studio was basically shutting down,” Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, recalled in 2016. “When we did our film, we didn’t even have an animation division over at the lot; they’d been kicked off and in these little cubicles in this run-down place…. It was just unbelievable to think that Walt’s vision was dying.”

It was during production of The Little Mermaid that Howard discovered he was infected with HIV.  Despite his illness, he continued to work, giving the story his particular point of view.

In early meetings with Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker, Ashman made a suggestion that would change cinematic history: What if Sebastian the crab, Ariel’s guardian, was Jamaican?

“Now we can’t imagine hearing ‘Under the Sea’ any other way,” writes Maureen Lee Lenker for Entertainment.

Ashman also steered the animators toward his favorite design option for the sea witch Ursula, one based on drag star Divine.

“And really, to think that an openly gay man inserted a queer icon into the essence of a lead character in a Disney film in the late 1980s is incredibly radical,” writes Peter Knegt.  “It would be even today.”

Ashman continued to keep his diagnosis secret, enduring eight-hour days at Disney World doing press.  To receive his daily treatments via IV infusion, he had a catheter in his chest.  He was expected to go on rides, and was too afraid to tell people that it would be too painful.

Over the next few years, Ashman was pivotal in the renaissance of Disney animated musicals and in the development of The Little Mermaid (Producer and Lyrics), Beauty and the Beast (Executive Producer and Lyrics) and Aladdin (Lyrics), all with music by Alan Menken.

Beauty and the Beast premiered as an unfinished film at the 1991 New York Film Festival, but Ashman wasn’t there to see it and hear the rapturous applause during the closing credits.  He had died eight months before its release.

Ashman’s contributions to the revival of classic Disney animated musicals have been acknowledged by many but were perhaps best expressed by his Disney colleagues, who dedicated the film Beauty and the Beast to his memory: “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul. He will be forever missed.”

Ashman’s numerous awards include two Oscars, two Golden Globes, four Grammys, a Drama Desk and a London Evening Standard.  Ashman won his second Oscar posthumously in 1991, for his work on the title song for Beauty and the Beast, and this became the first Oscar given to someone who had died of AIDS.

In 2001, Disney inducted Ashman into its Legends program, an honor reserved for animators, Imagineers, songwriters, actors, and business leaders who made a significant impact on the Disney legacy.

In 2020, Disney+ released Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist.  Directed and written by Don Hahn, the film tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows, and to his untimely death.  His story is told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends, and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast.

April 10, 1991
‘Predator’ Actor Kevin Peter Hall Dies

Kevin Peter Hall, a 7’3″-tall actor known for his TV and film roles as monsters, dies of AIDS-related illness a month short of his 36th birthday.

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Hall’s enormous stature landed him numerous roles in films and TV as monsters and aliens, most famously as the title role in the 1987 science fiction action film Predator and its 1990 sequel, Predator 2.  He is also remembered for playing Harry the Sasquatch in the 1987 film Harry and the Hendersons and in the television series of the same name.

Hall became known in the industry for mastering the technique and art of performing in often-cumbersome masks and costumes.

“When you look at Kevin Peter Hal in that wardrobe, makeup and with that size, and you see him against Arnold [Schwarzenegger] you believe ooh-ooh, Arnie’s in trouble,” Predator co-star Carl Weathers said in The Man Behind the Predator featurette.  “He made it work.  Kevin Peter Hall really made the thing work.”

When Rick Baker won the 1988 Academy Award for Makeup for his work on Harry and the Hendersons, he thanked Hall for his “brilliant performance.”

In 1990, Hall was reprising his role as Harry for TV when he announced that he had contracted HIV from a contaminated blood transfusion following a car accident.  He portrayed Harry for the first sixteen episodes of Harry and the Hendersons before his illness forced him to give up the role.

A monster on the screen, in real life Hall was known as big-hearted and “a sweetheart of a guy.”

AIDS Quilt - Nicholas Dante
May 21, 1991
A Chorus Line’s Nicholas Dante Dies

Nicholas Dante, who won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award as a co-author of A Chorus Line, died of AIDS in New York City at the age of 49.

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Dante started his career as a dancer, appearing in the choruses of shows, including Applause, on television shows and in nightclubs.  His experiences became one of the prominent stories in A Chorus Line,” which ranks among the top ten longest-running shows in Broadway history.

His own story — about growing up poor in New York City and feeling scorned and lonely because of his homosexuality — was told by Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award as best supporting actor for his portrayal of the character, Paul.

Dante described his lonely childhood and his illness in a 1991 Jimmy Breslin column.

“I grew up in the Forties, a Puerto Rican kid on 125th and Broadway, and obviously gay,” he told Breslin.  “Nobody would hang out with me … I was terrified to go out where anybody could see me.”

Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett and with music by Marvin Hamlisch, A Chorus Lie was produced by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1975 and then moved to the Shubert Theater, where it had 6,137 performances before closing in April 1990.

By then, three of the show’s five creators had died: Bennett in 1987, lyricist Edward Kleban in 1987, and co-writer James Kirkwood in 1989.

Red Ribbon
June 2, 1991
Red Ribbon Makes Debut at Tony Awards

The red ribbon becomes a symbol of compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers.

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The Visual AIDS Artists Caucus  launches the Red Ribbon Project to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers. The red ribbon would become the international symbol of AIDS awareness.

New York artist Patrick O’Connel and other artists band together and started making art in response to AIDS, calling their collective Visual AIDS.  The artists, which hold public events and organized gallery shows to raise AIDS awareness, perhaps make their biggest impact with a simple little symbol: the AIDS awareness ribbon.

The idea started with Marc Happel, a costume designer invited to a meeting of the Visual AIDS artist caucus.

After several trips to upstate NY, where he had seen yellow ribbons tied around trees to honor servicement, Marc thought that Visual AIDS could do something similar, to acknowledge the war at home. Marc proposed that the group fold a ribbon and pin it on their lapels; the group decided that the ribbon ought to be red — the color of blood.

A local ribbon supplier donated spools of red grosgrain ribbon, and Visual AIDS began cutting, folding, and pinning. The Visual AIDS Artist Caucus members held what they called “ribbon bees” — like a quilting bee, where a bunch of people gathered to work.

The looped, inverted-V shape came after trying out numerous styles. Visual AIDS would hand-cut, fold, and pin thousands of ribbons, all just to hand out for free, attached to pamphlets.

On Sunday, June 2, Visual AIDS (working with Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS) would launch the Red Ribbon project at the 45th Annual Tony Awards.

The Tonys host, Jeremy Irons, wore the red ribbon, and so did many winners, presenters and guests (Daisey Eagan, Kevin Spacey, Penn and Teller, Tyne Daly, Mercedes Ruehl, Jerry Zaks, Joel Grey, Keith Carradine, and more).

The guests and presenters were asked not to speak directly about what the red ribbon meant. This resulted in media curiosity and the red ribbon became an overnight phenomenon.

June 4, 1991
Thomas Hannan — Opera Singer & AIDS Activist — Dies

Thomas Hannan, co-founder of the first PWA buyers’ club, dies at his Manhattan home of AIDS-related illness.  He was 40 years old.

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In the early 1980s, Hannan was in Europe pursuing a career as an opera singer, but returned to New York City when the AIDS crisis hit.  In 1986, he founded the Public Works Administration Health Group with Joseph Sonnabend and Michael Callen.

As the first and largest formally recognised buyers’ club, the PWA Health Group widened access to people with AIDS seeking AIDS therapies not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to Prabook.com.

Hannan also helped to establish the nonprofit Community Research Initiative (CRI, later renamed CRIA, then ACRIA) in New York in 1987, becoming the organization’s administrative director.  Frustrated and outraged by the slow pace of government-sponsored and academic HIV/AIDS research, members of CRI created the first-ever activist-led, community-based approach to the study of new treatments for the disease.

One of CRI’s early achievements was a trial that contributed to the approval of inhaled pentamidine for preventing Pneumocystis pneumonia, a common AIDS-related infection.  Since then, the organization has contributed to the development of a remarkable 20 medicines that have gone on to receive FDA approval.

June 18, 1991
Poll: Fear of AIDS Causes Singles to Change Sexual Behavior

More than half of single adults under 45 years old say fear of getting AIDS has caused them to change their sexual behavior, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll.

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The poll, conducted by telephone with 1,424 randomly selected adults nationwide, also found indications that many people now know someone who is living with AIDS.

Of the respondents who were single and under 45 years of age, 52% said they had changed their sexual behavior as a precaution against HIV and AIDS.  Of the behavioral adjustments they had made, respondents most frequently cited using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners.

Of all the people surveyed (including those married and older than 45), 20% reported that they had changed their sexual behavior due to the fear of getting AIDS.  The subgroups reporting the highest rates of behavior change are single adults (43%), those aged 18-29 (40%), Blacks (38%), residents of large cities (35%), and Hispanics (32%).

In addition, the survey showed that 21% of respondents either knew “someone who has AIDS” (12%) or knew “someone who has died from AIDS” (17%).  In comparison, only 2% said they knew someone with AIDS in the NYT/CBS News’ poll conducted six years before, in 1985.

Many respondents to the 1991 poll — 40% — said they “know a lot” about AIDS, compared with 11% in the 1985 poll.  Both polls had an overall margin of sampling error of +/- 3%.

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June 22, 1991
Drag Performer Doris Fish / Philip Mills Dies

Performer-writer Philip Mills, who performed in drag in San Francisco under the name Doris Fish, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.

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Co-founder with Miss X and Tippi of the long-lived Sluts-a-Go-Go drag trio, Doris would perform songs and skits based on such cult favorites as The Valley of the Dolls.

Mills would co-write and (as Doris Fish) star in the cult film classic Vegas in Space (1991).

June 23, 1991
Steven Grossman — Singer-Songwriter of ‘Caravan Tonight’ — Dies

Steven Grossman, the first openly gay music artist to address the concerns and sensibilities of gay life in his work, dies of AIDS-related illness at his San Francisco home at the age of 39.

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Grossman’s only album, Caravan Tonight (1974), was hailed by Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone as “one of the most auspicious singer/songwriter debuts of the ’70s.”

According to Joseph Dalton of Queer Music Heritage, Caravan Tonight is regarded as a landmark, because it was the first recording for a major label by an openly gay artist whose work addressed gay life.  Caravan Tonight was recorded in late 1973 and early 1974, at a time when Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and Lou Reed were using androgyny and gender-bending as flamboyant symbols to subvert popular  culture.

“Grossman wasn’t interested in pandering to clichés. Instead he offered a painfully honest portrait of a sensitive gay man’s real life,” writes biographer and New York Times writer James Gavin.  “Wild promiscuity was the accepted defiant lifestyle, but Grossman’s songs ached with sadness and some disapproval over the frivolity of the new so-called ‘liberation,’ which had made commitment unfashionable.”

“His voice is great and his songs personal and beautiful,” wrote Vito Russo in Gay Magazine.  “He is going to be the one to bridge the gap between straight and gay audiences.”

“Grossman’s simple and heartfelt message and persona stood out in sharp contrast to the hypersexual posturings of bigger rock stars of the era,” William Lang said of Caravan Tonight.  “Steve isn’t cute about his sexuality like David Bowie; nor does he see sexuality as a spice for an innocent’s view of decadence, as does Alice Cooper; nor does he invent a never-never land to exploit as do the New York Dolls.  Steve sings of a gay world that is familiar to most of us.”

Caravan Tonight sold around 15,000 copies — not enough, apparently, for Mercury Records to renew Grossman’s contract.

“If this record appeared today, it would still be relevant, but probably no more successful,” wrote Robert Cochrane in Culture Catch. “Consider this a parable of the poverty attached to the sin of innovation.”

July 4, 1991
Gay Man Murdered in Montrose Area of Houston

Paul Broussard is beaten and stabbed to death in a gay-bashing attack outside a Houston nightclub.  He was 26 years old.

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In actions indicative of the homophobia-fueled violence in many parts of the country, ten youths drove from the northern Houston suburb of The Woodlands to the heavily gay area of Montrose to “beat up some queers,” in the words of one of the convicted teens.

Paul Broussard, Clay Anderson, and Richard Delaunay were walking home just after 2:00 a.m. when they were approached by Jaime Aguirre, Javier Aguirre, Derrick Attard, Jon Buice, Paul Dillon, Raphael Gonzalez, Gayland Randall, Leandro Ramirez, Brian Spake, and Jeffrey Valentine.

The large group of youths had already spent hours on an alcohol-fueled drive through Montrose, harassing men they presumed to be gay.  They identified their targets by asking directions to Heaven, an area gay bar, and threw rocks at men who answered with directions.  All but three of them were under 17 years old, and the oldest of them – Brian Spake – was 22.

Upon seeing Broussard, Anderson, and Delaunay, the carloads of men stopped and asked how to get to Heaven. Upon receiving directions, they jumped out of their cars and attacked the three men with a variety of weapons, including steel-toed boots, nail-studded two-by-fours, and a Buck knife wielded by Jon Buice.  They also pummelled them with their fists.  Anderson and Delaunay managed to flee their attackers, but Broussard became trapped, and immediately he was surrounded and fatally beaten.

Broussard, a young banker and graduate of Texas A&M, suffered abrasions, puncture wounds, a broken rib, bruised testicles, and three stab woulds. As he lay dying, blood poured onto the pavement from a chest wound 17-year-old Buice had inflicted with his knife.  That didn’t stop two of his attackers from rifling through his pockets and taking a comb as a souvenir. The attackers returned to their cars and drove off.

Broussard was treated by EMS and then airlifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died shortly after.  His mother, Nancy Rodriguez, flew into Houston from Atlanta, Georgia, and met with city police as well as with Anderson and Delaunay.

Initially, Houston newspapers did not report Broussard’s murder as a hate crime. As a result, gay activists like Ray Hill organized large public protests, some with Broussard’s mother Nancy participating. The resulting media attention led to a girlfriend of one of the assailants calling the police. All ten were soon arrested.

Hill, who coined the phrase “The Woodlands Ten,” lobbied the prosecutor and District attorney for “meaningful sentences.”

Derrick Attard received probation for agreeing to identify the other nine. Four more also received probation, and Broussard’s mother Nancy – aided by the Houston Crime Victim’s Office – worked with the D.A. to set the terms (which included the order for them to pay for Anderson’s hospital bill and Broussard’s funeral).

Buice confessed to inflicting the stab wound that the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office said caused Broussard’s death, and received a 45-year sentence. Dillon received a 20-year sentence for attempted murder and aggravated attempted murder.  The three remaining assailants received sentences of 15-years-and-one-day, for their admitted participation in the beatings. Their sentences were criticized by Broussard’s mother Nancy as being too light.

Over the years, Nancy Rodriguez travelled from her home near Macon, Georgia to Texas to attend more than 20 parole hearings in her efforts to keep her son’s assailants in prison.

July 21, 1991
U.S. Pushes States to Restrict HIV+ Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends restrictions on the practice of HIV-positive healthcare workers, prompting Congress to enact a law requiring states to adopt the CDC restrictions.

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The CDC’s report ecommends that healthcare workers who are HIV-positive “should not perform exposure-prone procedures unless they have sought counsel from an expert review panel and been advised under what circumstances, if any, they may continue to perform these procedures.”

The CDC goes on to say that HIV-positive healthcare workers should notify prospective patients of the worker’s HIV status before they undertaking exposure-prone invasive procedures.

The report cites the case of Dr. David Acer, a dentist with AIDS who likely transmitted HIV to five of his 850 patients.

Although this was the only cluster of health care worker-to-patient transmissions of HIV in the U.S., the report concerning Dr. Acer immediately set off public debate on the effectiveness of existing safeguards of the public’s health, whether it was appropriate for HIV-positive health care workers to practice, and the public’s right to know the HIV status of their physicians.

July 30, 1991
San Francisco AIDS Activist Zach Long Dies

Zachary Long, a Bay Area activist celebrated for his ability to raise thousands of dollars for the HIV/AIDS cause, dies of AIDS-related illness at Davies Hospital at the age of 48.

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“In the galaxy of activists in the San Francisco community, the name of Zach Long consistently glowed brilliantly and with a strong sense of caring, loving and perseverance,” wrote the Bay Area Reporter. “And while that glow is no longer visible, it will remain in the minds and hearts of all of us who were priviledged to know that handsomest of gentlemen.”

Long served on the board of directors for the Larkin Street Youth Center and the AIDS Emergency Fund.  He was also a ruling elder at the Old First Presbyterian Church and a volunteer for the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera.  He was voted “Man of the Year” at the 1991 Cable Car Awards in San Francisco.

In the leather community, Long was known as Zach Daddy Leather V, and was a semi-finalist in the 1988 International Mr. Leather competition.  Just a month before his death, he led the San Francisco Freedom Day Parade as the Grand Marshall.  In April, at the Mr. San Francisco Leather competition, San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos honored Long’s many accomplishments by proclaiming April 20 to be “Zach Long Day.”

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Long graduated from Davidson College with a Bachelor’s in Economics and then the University of North Carolina with a Master’s in Business Administration.  He served in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in the Signal Corps, and was posted in Seoul, Korea.