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.
Acclaimed writer and film producer Larry Kramer holds a meeting of over 80 gay men in his New York City apartment.Learn More.
Invited speaker Dr. Friedman-Kien asks the attendees to contribute money to support his research, because he has no access to rapid funding. The plea raises $6,635 — essentially the only new money, public or private, that will be raised to fight the epidemic for the remainder of the year.
Bobbi Campbell, a San Francisco nurse, becomes the first Kaposi’s Sarcoma patient to go public with his diagnosis, sharing his story & photos in the San Francisco Sentinel.Learn More.
Calling himself the “KS Poster Boy,” Campbell started his column “Gay Cancer Journal” in December 1981 to describe his experiences living with KS and to urge gay men experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention.
Kenneth Schnorr, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.Learn More.
Schnorr would be among the first in the U.S. to die of AIDS. After being found unconscious in his car in December 1981, he would remain hospitalized with a life-threatening illness that perplexed Cedars-Sinai’s top-notch medical team.
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 recalls receiving a phone call from Schnorr’s mother, who was sitting bedside with him.
“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 Dottie Wine (Bottini’s girlfriend) 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.
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC ) becomes the first community-based AIDS service provider in the U.S.Learn More.
A few months later, GMHC volunteer Rodger McFarlane sets up an information and counseling hotline on his home phone — and receives 100 phone calls the first night.
Lesbian feminist Ivy Bottini, upset by the January AIDS-related death of her friend, Stonewall Democratic Club President Ken Schnorr, starts asking questions, which lead her to found the AIDS Informational Network in Los Angeles.Learn More.
Bottini calls the CDC to ask about the black and blue bruises which covered Schnorr’s body. The CDC refers Bottini, an LA real estate agent, 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 become friends and meet every Friday at Crest Coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake to discuss AIDS. Fueled with trustworthy information, Bottini forms what would become to be known as the AIDS Informational Network, an informal group of leaders who discuss the crisis.
She organizes a community town hall at Fiesta Hall in West Hollywood with Dr. Joel Weisman, Schnorr’s physician. More than 300 gay men attend (Bottini and her friend Dottie Wine are the only women in the packed hall), and for years afterward, Bottini hears from men who claim that this event saved their life.
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 is to provide information on Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) to local gay men. 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.
The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence creates Play Fair!, the first “safer sex” pamphlet to use sex-positive language, practical advice, and humor in its approach to staying safe during the growing AIDS epidemic.Learn More.
The Sisters distribute 16,000 copies of Play Fair! during the San Francisco Gay & Lesbian parade in June 1982.
After Los Angeles activists Nancy Cole Sawaya, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro attend a community meeting featuring a speaker from the Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, they create a hotline to serve the panicked community.Learn More.
The emergency meeting with the representative from San Francisco is held at the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now called the Los Angeles LGBT Center). The four activists decide to set up the telephone hotline in a Center closet.
Sawaya, Drew, Redman and Munro, along with eight additional volunteers, would undergo training by Dr. Joel Weisman and then take turns answering the telephone and reading information from a carefully prepared fact sheet. Word quickly gets out about the hotline, which would start to receive more than 20 calls a day.
In December 1982, the Los Angeles chapter of the Kaposi Sarcoma Foundation would host “Christmas Present,” a $25 event at a private home in Bel-Air to raise money for the hotline. Music is provided by Mother Lode DJ Stewart Barkal, and refreshments are donated by local restaurants, coordinated by Truffles owner Steve Wilson.
Sawaya, Drew, Redman and Munro would go on to found AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), which would become the oldest and largest organization in Southern California providing educational and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
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.
An AIDS briefing hosted by the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles draws hundreds eager for more information on the epidemic. Speakers include Rep. Henry Waxman, who tells attendees, ““I believe that much of the lack of federal research on AIDS has arisen from discrimination intent and self-righteous neglect.”Learn More.
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.
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.
Richart Berkowitz and Michael Callen publish “How to Have Sex in an Empidemic: One Approach.”Learn More.
Written by Berkowitz and Callen, both gay men living with AIDS, the pamphlet offers pointed advice on condom use and promotes self-empowerment for those diagnosed with AIDS.
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.
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.”
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 becomes a leader in quality volunteer-driven programs that provide information and emotional support using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.
Warner serves as the organization’s first Executive Director.
“I have committed myself to helping the fight against the misconceptions and prejudices, which can overwhelm a person with this infection, by working as a health educator for the city of West Hollywood,” Warner would write to the Los Angeles Times in 1988.
A Candlelight March in Los Angeles brings 3,000 activists into the streets, reports the Los Angeles Times. As reported cases in LA County jump from 19 in April 1982 to 81 in May 1983, activists mobilize to demand more AIDS research.
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, the activists issued a statement on the rights of people living with AIDS to be at the table when policy is made, to be treated with dignity, and to be called “people with AIDS,” not “AIDS victims.”
The statement becomes known as The Denver Principles, and it serves as the charter for the founding of the National Association of People with AIDS.
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.
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 in two months at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Reynolds was known to always be available, without perks, to lend her name and talent to fighting the AIDS epidemic,” writes journalist Karen Ocamb. “And her fondness for the gays never disappeared either, landing the role as Kevin Kline’s mother in the satirical 1997 film In & Out, and playing her Emmy-nominated role as Deborah Messing’s eccentric mother in NBC’s Will & Grace.”
Reynolds last role would be Liberace’s mother in the 2013 HBO movie Behind the Candelabra.
In 1984, Kaposi Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation would be renamed the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Film star Debbie Reynolds appears with comic performer Rip Taylor at the first public AIDS benefit in Los Angeles, which takes place at the Hollywood Bowl.Learn More.
The benefit for the Kaposi Sarcoma Foundation is technically the “second annual” fundraiser in Los Angeles, but it is the first to be held in a public venue.
As the featured star of the event, Reynolds is already an arden AIDS activist — long before Elizabeth Taylor becomes an advocate, journalist Karen Ocamb writes in The Pride LA.
Along with comedian Joan Rivers, singer-actress Rita Moreno, and actor Robert Guillaume, Reynolds is among the first Hollywood celebrities to appear in AIDS fundraisers at a time when HIV/AIDS is still a topic shunned by many.
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.”Learn More.
“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.
Gay activist Morris Kight and a small group of friends create Aid for AIDS to help those devastated by AIDS who have been evicted, fired or unable to pay for food, rent or utility bills.Learn More.
As AFA’s Director in the early years, Knight set ambitious goals, ensuring assistance was allocated to those who needed it most.
In the 1980s, most people who developed full-blown AIDS would die within a short time, and AFA prioritized the need for people to die with dignity in their own homes. In the coming years, AFA would go on to help more than 16,000 men, women, and children.
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.Learn More.
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 dosages 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.
AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell dies of AIDS-related illness at age 32.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
“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.
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.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
The quilt panel measures three feet wide by six feet long — the size and shape of a typical grave plot.
The idea of the quilt comes to Jones in November 1985 while he’s planning the annual candlelight march honoring the 1978 assassinations of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
While planning the march, Jones learns that over 1,000 San Franciscans have been lost already to AIDS. He asks each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of loved ones who have died of AIDS, and at the end of the march, Jones and others stand on ladders taping the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. Jones notes that the wall of names look like a patchwork quilt, and an idea is born.
Activist Larry Kramer founds the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP ) at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City.Learn More.
Kramer’s goal is to create a political direct-action group that will force governments, elected officials, public health agencies, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and religious institutions to act to protect those at risk of HIV, and those who are sick with AIDS. The organization was founded in response to the U.S. government’s lack of action on the growing number of deaths from HIV infection and AIDS.
ACT UP quickly made its name with tactics that were unapologetically confrontational, says David France, the author of a history of AIDS activism called How to Survive a Plague, as well as a 2012 documentary by the same name.
Time magazine calls ACT UP “the most effective health activist [group] in history ” for “pressuring drug companies, government agencies and other powers that stood in their way to find better treatments for people with AIDS — and, in the process, improving the way drugs are tested and approved in the U.S.”
The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) stages its first protest on Wall Street, bringing widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic.Learn More.
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.
Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 49.Learn More.
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.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
Debra Fraser-Howze , director of teenage services at the Urban League of New York, founds the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS .Learn More.
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.
Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.”
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.Learn More.
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.
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 .Learn More.
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.”
Rodney Price, co-founder of the wildly creative Angels of Light performance troupe in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
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.Learn More.
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.
Elizabeth Glaser, an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-positive children, forms the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.Learn More.
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.
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.”Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
The clinic was forced to shut down in December 1988 when Boston-based Lexington Insurance Co. pulled its coverage.
About 150 protesters hold a weeklong vigil in front of Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, which hospitalizes an average of 50-60 persons with AIDS at any given time and has a reported caseload of 6,240 PWAs.Learn More.
Demontrators blast the facility’s inadequate care and treatment of PWAs, including misdiagnosis, miscalculated prescriptions, and insufficent capacity.
Demanding that the center create a 50-bed AIDS ward within six months, the activists stage a mock AIDS ward with cots and a soup kitchen, and then hold candlelight vigils at sunset.
In response, an aide to LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich tells the Los Angeles Times that the County does not have enough money for expanded AIDS services.
On the seventh day of the protest, LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents West Hollywood and the Westside’s Third District, would come to the event and demand that the County begin to provide “necessary care” for people with AIDS.
Calling the revelation that LA County has more than $8 million of unspent AIDS funding “intolerable,” Supervisor Edelman promises to meet with ACT UP/LA and county officials.
“We can’t afford to keep the status quo,” he says.
But when he’s jeered by some in the crowd, he says, “It’s not just up to me,” and abruptly leaves.
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.Learn More.
“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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
“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.”
Cookie Mueller, a key member of film director John Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble, dies from AIDS-related causes in New York City at age 40.Learn More.
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.”
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.”Learn More.
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.
Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31 at his LaGuardia Place apartment in Greenwich Village.Learn More.
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.
Ryan White dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 18.Learn More.
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.
John “Jack” Winkler, who taught classics at Yale and Stanford, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
“For me, the single most moving episode of the week took place at the conference, when a huge number of the delegates stood up and turned their back on [US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary] Louis Sullivan as he was speaking,” journalist Tim Kingston recalls in an interview with 48 Hills.
For the first time in history, a major policy address got hijacked at an International AIDS Conference.
“Then, all at once, they marched out of the Moscone Center and joined the Pride parade,” Kingston says. “That was such a powerful statement.”
Many of the demonstrations during the conference are organized by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and bring attention to issues the conference fails to address, like the growing infection rate and the lack of treatment programs for women, people of color, and intravenous drug users.
Activists also protest laws against needle exchanges and the federal law forbidding HIV-positive people from entering the country.
For five days, ACT UP stopped business as usual, reported CBS. Members clogged downtown San Francisco, marching to the Immigration and Naturalization building at 630 Sansome Street to protest the travel and immigration ban for HIV-positive people. Activists crashed convention events and disrupted speakers. About 100 protesters were arrested outside the Marscone Center on the first day of the conference.
Even the co-chairman of the conference, John Ziegler, wore a red armband in solidarity with activists and held a moment of silence in support of those who boycotted the conference because of the travel ban.
Jim Samuels, winner of the 1982 San Francisco Comedy Competition, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.Learn More.
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.
Brazilian rock legend and heartthrob Cazuza dies from AIDS-related illness at his parents’ Ipanema home at the age of 32.Learn More.
“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.
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.
Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.Learn More.
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.”
DIVA TV founder and Chicano activist Ray Navarro dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 26.Learn More.
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.
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.Learn More.
“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.
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.Learn More.
Mendez was also Director of the Redwood Empire Ballet.
Lou Graydon Sullivan dies at the age of 39, the first transgender man to die of AIDS-related illness.Learn More.
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.
The National Minority AIDS Council, in cooperation with the National Association of People With AIDS and the National AIDS Interfaith Network, holds the National Skills Building Conference, which will later become the United States Conference on AIDS.Learn More.
As the largest AIDS-related gathering in the country, the United States Conference on AIDS would draw thousands of attendees annually to share information, create new networks, and learn about the latest tools being used to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC, planned and implemented the first three conferences, considered to be the first national HIV treatment education programs in the U.S. Annual conference participants include healthcare and service providers, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS, and policymakers.
Belinda Mason, the only AIDS-infected member of the National Commission on AIDS and a critic of President George H.W. Bush, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33.Learn More.
Infected with the AIDS virus in 1987 from a blood transfusion during the birth of her second child, Mason is known for being the commission member most unafraid to speak out against the Bush administration for treating AIDS as a moral issue rather than as a public-health issue.
She is also known as a strong voice among people with AIDS who are angry that AZT is the only AIDS drug approved by the U.S.
Mason refused to distinguish between what sanctimonious politicians called the “innocent victims” of HIV and the rest of those living with the disease. Yet she was aware of her priviledge, telling the press that Bush appointed her because, ″I was perfect. I was Southern, I was white, I was articulate and I got AIDS in a nice way.″
Before becoming ill, Mason worked as a reporter for the Appalachian News Express in Pikeville and the Hartford Times News, both Kentucky weeklies. She also wrote short stories.
Mason, originally of Whitesburg, Ky., founded Kentuckiana People With AIDS, the first Kentucky-based group dedicated to fighting for a cure. She also was a member of the AIDS Action Council, a national AIDS lobbying group.
She spent untold hours with Kentuckians, listening, laughing, educating, telling stories and being a lifeline for rural HIVers, according to Kate Black in her profile on Mason in POZ magazine.
She was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when Bush appointed her in 1989 to the commission created by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.
Right before Belinda Mason died at the age of 32, she told her family, “Well, bye-bye y’all.”
In 2016, the legislature of the State of Kentucky would honor Mason with a resolution to “reflect on the many accomplishments Belinda Mason made as a notable woman in Kentucky’s history.”
“For her uncommon courage in the face of death, for all that she accomplished as an AIDS
advocate during a time in this country when it was unpopular to do so, and for being a
daughter of this great Commonwealth,” the resolution states, “this honorable body posthumously honors her for her many contributions to human rights on Women’s History Month.”
Infuriated by Gov. Pete Wilson’s veto of a major gay rights bill, California activists launch a wave of demonstrations that brand the governor “a liar” who betrayed a cause he had pledged to support.Learn More.
Demonstrators gathered at the Westwood Federal Building in Los Angeles in the morning and the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown LA in the afternoon. Protesters splattered red liquid on the state building and broke a heavy glass door before disbanding after a standoff with police. Two demonstrators were arrested.
That evening, about 2,000 whistle-blowing, chanting demonstrators gathered in West Hollywood, where they torched a California state flag and burned Wilson in effigy. The protesters then marched from West Hollywood to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard, where Wilson was attending an event.
When the activists arrived at the museum, they shouted, “Civil rights or civil war!”
Later, about 150 demonstrators gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, where Wilson was a guest. A man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of assault after protesters rushed the hotel’s front entrance and knocked down a helmeted police officer.
In San Francisco, angry protesters marched from San Francisco’s Castro District to the State building in Civic Center, where Gov. Wilson had an office. The situation took a violent turn when the front doors were smashed and offices were set on fire. The Bay Area Reporter described protestors kicking in glass doors and causing over $150,000 in damages to the building. This would become known as the “AB 101 Veto Riot.”
The demonstrations go on for about three weeks, and transformed thousands of people into activists. Some people were out every night.
“Probably the biggest demonstration started at San Vicente and went west on Sunset to UCLA, where we disrupted an outdoor speech being given by Wilson,” recalled Steve Martin, who was President of the Stonewall Democratic Club at the time. “The police said there were 5,000 in the streets; it looked closer to 10,000 to me. As we marched back to West Hollywood, Sunset looked like a river of demonstrators.”
AB 101 would have prevented job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gov. Wilson, a moderate Republican, initially promised to sign such legislation into law, but reversed his decision after his office received complaints from anti-gay activists.
“We were blatantly lied to, and we are angry,” John J. Duran, co-chair of the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality, told the Los Angeles Times. Duran said Wilson promised to support anti-discrimination legislation in meetings with gay activists during his gubernatorial campaign.
About one year later, California AB 101 was passed by state legislature and signed by signed by Pete Wilson.
Stan Hadden, a senior administrative aide to California Senate President Pro Tempore David A. Roberti and one of the most influential voices on AIDS policies in Sacramento, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.Learn More.
As fierce fighter for HIV/AIDS policy for 10 years, Haddon is credited with shepharding the creation of the California AIDS Advisory Committee in 1983 and writing legislation supporting a coordinated approach to local HIV/AIDS programs and services in 1985.
Hadden was one of only a few in the 1980s Sacramento political scene who were open about their LGBT identity, journalist Karen Ocamb would later write in The Pride. Scores of administrative and political aides to California legislators remained in the closet, fearful that open knowledge of their sexual identity would end their professional careers. Elected officials and potential candidates who identify as LGBT also remained silenced by the very real fear of ruination.
In the final two weeks of his life, Hadden receives round-the-clock nursing care as part of a hospice program. Sacramento AIDS Foundation spokeswoman Patty Blomberg notes that the AIDS care Hadden received might not have existed if it were not for his influence and persistence.
Blomberg tells the Sacramento Bee that Hadden had slipped into a coma early that morning and then died at about noon at his farmhouse along the Sacramento River, surrounded by friends and family who had flown in from as far away as Michigan.
Hadden’s funeral would bring in friends and colleagues from around the state, including Ocamb and John Duran, then President of the Board of LIFE AIDS Lobby who would become Mayor of the City of West Hollywood.
“In a gesture unheard of for the suits of Sacramento, a huge rainbow flag was unfurled and solemnly marched down the street to the Capitol,” Ocamb recalled.
“Stan’s memory will go on, because he made a contribution to this state that many of us can only dream of making,” Senate President Pro Tem Roberti says during Hadden’s memorial service at St. Francis Church in midtown Sacramento.
Jewelry designer and activist Tina Chow dies of AIDS-related illness in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 41.Learn More.
Born Bettina Louise Lutz, the supermodel, jewellery designer and fashion collector, was married to restaurateur Michael Chow in 1972 and became known professionally as Tina Chow. In the 1970s, she was featured prominently in advertising campaigns for the Japanese cosmetic line Shiseido.
“Chow broke the mold of being a model with an androgynous look and a distinctly chic fashion sensibility that gave her notoriety,” writes artist Maxwell N. Burnstein in his tribute to her on the Council of Fashion Designers of America website.
Karl Lagerfeld credits Chow as the inventor of minimal chic, and Kate Moss considers her to be her style icon. Recognized as having a profound influence on the styles of her era, Chow was initiated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1985.
The same year, Helmut Newton took a portrait photograph of Chow and her husband in which their power dynamics are made evident.
“In the photograph, the two are separated, physically, by the counter of a bar,” writes Cynthia Cruz in The Critical Flame. “He standing in dark glasses, holding a glass in his hand, staring at her while she is on the other side, in a long white dress, her eyes made dark with make-up, tied to the bar with rope.”
In the mid-1980s, Chow began to find the non-stop party lifestyle tiresome, and was encouraged by artist Andy Warhol to turn her attention to jewellery design. She incorporated stones and crystals associated with healing properties into bamboo and used traditional Japanese basket weaving techniques to follow the shapes of uncut stones.
“Chow’s pieces of jewelry are unusual, neither delicate or what one might usually consider ‘beautiful,'” writes Cynthia Cruz in her tribute to Chow. “Instead, the pieces are solid, anchored.”
The piece for which Chow is best known is her Kyoto Bracelet, constructed of black bamboo with seven rose quartz pebbles inside.
Around this time, Chow also deepened her commitment to AIDS charity work. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she explained, “I lost several friends to AIDS, and I felt my life slipping away while I continued to party.”
She also separated from her husband and embarked on a series of affairs, first with a film star who introduced her to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, and later with the French aristocrat Kim D’Estainvillle.
In 1989, Chow and her husband divorced. Five months later, she learned that she was HIV positive. Chow refused to take any of the medicine her Western doctors recommended. Instead, she opted for a holistic approach, attempting to heal herself with crystals, macrobiotics, teas, and similar somatic modes of healing.
After Chow had made her illness public, she continued to work with AIDS organizations, including Project Angel Food. She ultimately lost her life from complications from AIDS at her home in Pacific Palisades on January 24, 1992.
Martin Robinson, a long-time organizer for gay-rights causes who was known for his provocative protests, died of AIDS-related illness at his Brooklyn home at the age of 49.Learn More.
Robinson was present at the 1969 police raid of the Stonewall, a Greenwich Village bar patronized by members of the LGBTQ community.
Such raids were common, but for the first time, the customers resisted and fought back. Shortly afterward, 2,000 attended a rally in Sheridan Square, where Robinson was a keynote speaker.
An early member of the Gay Activists Alliance, many activists considered Robinson a visionary during the early years of AIDS activism.
One of his mantras was, if it’s not medicine, it’s murder,” activist Bill Bahlman would tell the Act Up Oral History Project in 2010. “He taught me things like it doesn’t matter whether you’re Rock Hudson or a person living on the street, homeless. If you don’t have effective treatments for HIV, you’re going to die.”
In the early 1980s, Robinson headed GLAAD’s Swift and Terrible Retribution Committee, planning demonstrations and developing political “zaps,” chaotic and theatrical interventions intended to attract the attention of the press.
When the Centers for Disease Control planned its 1987 conference in Atlanta with a focus on mandatory testing for HIV, Robinson led activists from his group, the Lavender Hill Mob, into the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis, where a pre-conference cocktail party was being held for attendees.
Activists passed out fliers to the startled participants with the message, “What does CDC stand for? Center for Detention Camps!”
During the three days of the conference, Robinson and the Lavender Hill Mob appeared in various meeting locations with leaflets and noisy chants: “Test drugs, not people!” and “Drugs into bodies now!”
Robinson was also a founder of ACT UP, which was started in New York in the wake of the Lavender Hill Mob’s success. Modeled on the tactics of the Lavender Hill Mob, ACT UP’s approach was bold and headline-grabbing — and effective.
Perhaps one of Robinson’s most important “zaps” was the one at the National Institutes of Health in May 1990, around the time that North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was trying to block a $600 million AIDS relief bill.
ACT UP members from all over the country descended on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, setting off smoke bombs and yelling that NIH policies were killing them. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIH’s drive to end AIDS, invited several ACT UP leaders inside and listened to them. What he learned brought about the Accelerated Approval process that helped get “drugs into bodies now,” as the ACT UP slogan demanded.
The Marty Robinson Collection of papers and records are currently stored at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York.
Edward Riney, member of the East End Community Action group in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness.Learn More.
Riney was well-known in the West Hollywood community as a civically engaged resident who worked tirelessly to improve public safety in the early days of West Hollywood’s cityhood.
He served on the neighborhood watch group on the city’s east side and established himself as a commentator for the Los Angeles Times for local public safety initiatives, such as the passage of a “no camping” law for city parks and removing from Plummer Park a meal program for people experiencing homelessness.
At the April meeting of the City Council, then-Mayor Paul Koretz announced that he would adjourn the meeting in memory of Riney. A moment of silence was also held in Riney’s honor.
At the meeting, longtime resident Jeanne Dobrin spoke of Riney’s dedication to crime prevention and said she appreciated his sense of humor. In addition, resident Gloria Vassy talked about how Riney organized an annual food basket drive during the holidays.
On April 25, the community held a memorial service for Riney in Plummer Park. The following December, the holiday food basket drive was organized in memory of Riney; 150 food baskets were assembled and given out to those in need.
Randall Klose, longtime gay-rights activist and fund-raiser, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Washington, DC. He was 37.Learn More.
Klose said he had been inspired to become an activist by Larry Kramer’s essay “1,112 and Counting” in The New York Native in 1983. In that essay, Kramer demanded to know why wealthy homosexuals were not responding to the AIDS crisis.
“I read the article, and said to myself, ‘Here I am,'” Klose said.
At the time, Klose was a Beverly Hills developer with strong connections to the LGBTQ community. He started raising money for the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Los Angeles (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center) and the Triangle Institute.
On June 1, 1987, Klose was among those arrested at a White House demonstration protesting the lack of an AIDS response from President Reagan.
He then helped organize and finance lobbying efforts for the 1988 AIDS research and education law, a cornerstone of the comprehensive federal AIDS effort. He later became co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s board of directors, and helped the fund’s budget grow from $1 million to $5 million in a few years.
In 1991, Klose helped lead a U.S. contingent to the meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission in Moscow, one of the first publicized gatherings of LGBTQ people in Russia.
Klose contributed much of his own wealth to organizations conducting HIV/AIDS research and providing social services. In addition to his earnings as a developer, his wealth included an inheritance from his father, who owned Dairy Queen franchise in Texas, with 800 outlets.
Ricky Ray, the eldest of three hemophiliac brothers barred from school in Florida because they carried the AIDS virus, dies at the age of 15 at his home in Orlando.Learn More.
Ricky and and his two younger brothers, Robert and Randy, sparked a national conversation on AIDS in 1987, after their court battle to attend school led to boycotts by local residents and the torching of their home in Arcadia, Florida.
Last month, President-elect Clinton had telephoned the boy to offer his support. Bedridden with AIDS, Rick let it be known that he wanted to talk to then-President-elect Bill Clinton about the deadly disease.
When Ricky was handed the telephone in his room at All Children’s Hospital, Clinton was on the other end.
“Ricky told him, ‘I hope you do everything you said you would to make a difference,'” said Ricky’s mother, Louise. “He said that Clinton told him that he was going to do everything in his power to make things better.”
John Dorr, video artist and founder of EZTV, one of the nation’s first centers devoted to the production and exhibition of video, dies in Los Angeles of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.Learn More.
From his two-story, cluttered loft in West Hollywood, Dorr fashioned a self-contained studio with room for filming, editing and exhibiting. He was known to boast that prospective filmmakers just needed enough money for videotape and groceries for their casts.
Dorr became a pioneer in the production of full-length dramatic videos, providing a new opportunity for independent filmmakers to produce inexpensive feature-length movies on video.
Since opening his gallery in 1980, he had a hand in the production of more than 100 video films, among them the Lannen Literary Series, hourlong programs on major poets and writers, and Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place, a film recounting the Hollywood career of the writer Dorothy Parker.
Dorr was a graduate of Yale University and president of the the school’s film society. While at Yale, he provided exhibits of the films of Howard Hawks, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. After becoming a teaching assistant at UCLA, he hit upon the idea for EZTV when he found many young documentary makers using video to make inexpensive films but there was no place to show their their work.
EZTV Founder John Dorr’s openly gay status in the late ’70s and early ’80s was rare, because such a disclosure could quickly end a Hollywood career. Many of EZTV’s earliest participants from AIDS-related illnesses, including Benedict Falvo, Earl Miller, James “Dillinger” Baker, Mark Addy, Wallace Potts, and Victor Davis.
According to the EZTV Online Museum, EZTV served the West Hollywood community during the height of the AIDS pandemic as a place where the friends of those who had died of AIDS could hold memorial services and gatherings in their honor. For several years, it was common for a Saturday afternoon at EZTV to be dedicated to the remembrance of someone who could not afford a service any other way.
After Dorr’s death, EZTV somehow persevered amid seemingly impossible odds. As Michael Kearns (Hollywood’s first openly gay actor) stated, EZTV became an “AIDS survivor.” Now housed at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, EZTV continues to be a pioneer in the media arts.
Tennis star Arthur Ashe dies of complications from AIDS at the age of 49. Ashe’s body is laid in state at the governor’s mansion in Richmond, Virginia, where thousands of people line up to pay their respects to the ground-breaking athlete and social activist.Learn More.
Ashe is celebrated for being the first (and only) African American male tennis player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon singles titles.
Attending UCLA on a full scholarship in 1965, Ashe wins the individual NCAA tennis championship and helps UCLA win the team championship. He then serves in the U.S. Army for two years.
Ashe begins his career in earnest in 1968, winning the U.S. Open while still an amateur player. He becomes the first black man to win a Grand Slam event.
He becomes a trailblazer in the world of tennis, winning multiple Grand Slam titles in his career. He also becomes known for his commitment to charitable causes and humanitarian work. He establishes tennis programs for inner-city children and campaigns against apartheid in South Africa. He retires from tennis in 1980 after suffering a heart attack.
In 1988, Ashe begins experiencing paralysis in his right arm. After undergoing exploratory brain surgery and a battery of tests, doctors determine he has toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is commonly found in people infected with HIV. Another set of tests reveals he is HIV positive.
Doctors believe Arthur Ashe contracted HIV from blood transfusions during his second heart surgery. Despite that, Ashe and his wife try to keep his HIV diagnosis private. After a friend that worked at USA Today calls Ashe about his condition, he decides to go public.
Two months before his death, he founds the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery to urban minority populations. He also dedicates time in his last few months to writing “Days of Grace,” his memoir that he finishes only days before his death.
Arthur Ashe dies of AIDS-related pneumonia in New York at the age of 49. His body was laid in state at the Governor’s Mansion in his hometown of Richmond, VA. More than 5,000 people line up to walk past the casket.
His funeral is attended by nearly 6,000 people including NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and Rainbow Coalition chairman Jesse Jackson. Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who had performed Arthur’s marriage ceremony, delivers the eulogy.
On what would have been Arthur’s 53rd birthday, July 10, 1996, a statue of him was dedicated on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Before this, Monument Avenue had commemorated Confederate war heroes; in fact, as a child Arthur would not even have been able to visit Monument Avenue because of the color of his skin.
Arthur is depicted carrying books in one hand and a tennis racket in the other, symbolizing his love of knowledge and tennis.
In 1997, the USTA announced that the new center stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center would be named Arthur Ashe Stadium, commemorating the life of the first U.S. Open men’s champion in the place where all future U.S. Open champions will be determined.
Loyd Tittle, owner of Capitol Drugs in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.Learn More.
Tittle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. For four years, his sister Ruth Tittle traveled from Lexington, Kentucky to Los Angeles to help care for Loyd. In 1992, Ruth moved to West Hollywood to care for her brother full-time and to help him with running his West Hollywood businesses.
Loyd suffered from cytomegalovirus (CMV) colitis, and as a result he couldn’t absorb nutrition. As with many people with AIDS, this condition led to loss of body mass, commonly known as “wasting.” Loyd was in the hospital 11 times in the last year of his life.
A plaque remembering Loyd Tittle is on the sidewalk in front of Capitol Drugs, part of the AIDS Memorial Walk. His sister went on to become one of the founding members of the Foundation for The AIDS Monument. She also served on the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and worked on the Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing project.
The National Association of People With AIDS convenes the first “AIDSWatch,” a national advocacy effort to lobby Congress for increased funding.Learn More.
AIDSWatch would become an annual event, serving as a vehicle by which people living with and affected by HIV could speak their truth in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and demand that Congress protect their rights and honor their struggle.
Even after the National Association of People With AIDS ceases operations in 2013, AIDSWatch advocacy day would continue to be held annually under the auspices of AIDS United.
The small group of HIV advocates who met in 1993 would transform into the country’s largest annual constituent-based national HIV advocacy event. AIDSWatch 2020 becomes the largest to date, with more than 2,500 advocates joining over multiple platforms.
Daniel P. Warner, co-founder and former executive director of the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
As LA Shanti’s first Executive Director, Warner laid the groundwork for a successful volunteer-run, community-based organization that provided clients with the opportunity and resources to die with dignity. Under Warner’s leadership, LA Shanti would become a leader in quality service programs using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.
Warner also served as Program Director of the AIDS education group West Hollywood CARES, and organized the National Candlelight March in 1983 and in 1990.
As Warner stepped down from LA Shanti’s leadership team in 1991 and prepared to move to San Francisco, he received Shanti’s first Commitment to Service Award. The same year, he received LA County’s Community Service Award and a certificate of recognition from the state Senate.
Warner served as consultant to two television movies dealing with the subject of AIDS –“Our Sons” on ABC and the Emmy Award-winning “An Early Frost” on NBC.
Warner would die on his 38th birthday with his companion at his side.
Keeston Lowery, an aide to Portland Commissioner Michael Lindberg, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.Learn More.
Lowery was a tireless and supremely effective advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights from inside the Portland government. He also worked as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital and served on the Board for the Right to Privacy PAC (predecessor to Basic Rights Oregon).
In 1967-68, Lowery worked on Sen. Robert Kennedy’s campaign for President, and shortly afterward, graduated from Mississippi State University’s five-year occupational therapy program. He continued his higher education and earned another degree from the University of Arkansas. He then worked in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, Arkansas, and in the mid-1970s, he took a job with then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton.
Lowery moved to Portand, Oregon in 1977 to take a job as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital, and quickly became a leader in the local queer community. He became an aide to Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg, and immediately used his role in inter-governmental relations and film policy to cultivate advocates for equal rights in all levels of local and state government.
Lowery crafted Portland’s first civil rights ordinance, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and several other categories.
“His beaming smile, southern drawl and good will were infectious,” writes the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest in its tribute to Lowery. “He was an astute political observer who could intuitively plot winning strategies. His manifold contributions continue to this day, not only in the policies he crafted on behalf of marginalized people, but in memories of all the powerful and empowered people whose lives he touched.”
Lowery’s work on the city’s film production policies and the good will he established with film crews led to his receiving a “thank you” credit on the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, written and directed by Gus Van Sant.
When Lowery in late August of 1993, Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Vera attended his funeral, held on Sept. 2 in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park, along with numerous members and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community. Lowery’s ashes were scattered on Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.
The City of Portand’s archives store Lowery’s papers and artifacts.
Joan Baker, San Francisco’s first out HIV+ lesbian, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 27. At the time of her passing, she is in her home surrounded by loved ones and her many pets.Learn More.
In December of 1986, two days before Christmas, Joan Baker received news that she was HIV+. According to a tribute to Baker in Lady Science, she had gotten tested for HIV as an act of solidarity with a friend, not because she thought she was at risk, and her diagnosis was a shock.
The youngest of a large family, Baker was born in 1966 in Riverside, California. Her parents were originally from the U.K. and moved Baker and her siblings several times from southern California to Washington state and then to England in the late 1970s. In 1986, she left her family in England after coming out and returned to California.
She received her HIV+ diagnosis after settling in San Francisco, a city that was fast becoming a model for AIDS care to the world. Unfortunately, the city offered very few services and resources for HIV+ women at that time.
“In 1986, many HIV care providers and activists knew women could contract HIV/AIDS, but this knowledge did not translate to widespread services or research, or compassionate coverage from the media,” according to the article on Lady Science.
HIV+ women — particularly HIV+ lesbians like Baker — were virtually invisible, but Baker fought to change this during the last seven years of her life. Through a friend, she connected with several programs, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, where she attended the first ever Women with AIDS support group. Baker never intended to become known for being an HIV+ activist, but to gain access to services, she had to assert a level of visibility.
Baker appeared on local talk shows, promotional materials for pharmaceutical companies and care organizations, and spoke at public events. She attended protests organized by AIDS Action Pledge and ACT UP-San Francisco and carried the “Fighting for Our Lives” banner at the 1988 Candlelight Memorial March. And that same year, during the unfolding of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, she took part in the reading of the names of people who had died of AIDS emblazoned on the quilt.
Because she was a HIV+ lesbian, Baker was subjected to invasive questions. Some asked if she was an IV-drug user, while others wanted to know whether she had sex with men. Baker’s response to these questions was to challenge people to reimagine what an HIV+ person looks like.
“It doesn’t matter how I got it,” she said. “It’s the fact that I have been diagnosed and I am coming out as a woman with AIDS, because a lot of lesbians still think that they can’t get AIDS, and I’m here to say it can happen.”
By the last year of her life, Baker had built a strong support group and was known and admired by many in the community. After her death in early September 1993, Baker was memorialized with a political funeral and rally at Dolores Park, organized by Lesbian Avengers activist Judith Cohen.
Hundreds of people gathered for the event, including members of ACT UP-Golden Gate and ACT UP-San Francisco, and WORLD, as well as members of the Public Health Department and Lyon-Martin Health HIV Services. The crowd carried signs with images of Baker on them and marched to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro neighborhood, escorted by Dykes on Bikes.
Jenn Maeader, Joan’s partner for the last three years of her life, spoke at Milk Plaza about the importance of Baker’ activism and her visibility in the AIDS epidemic, saying, “Imagine if a woman here today who might be at risk now gets tested, and if we can tell her she has a life, she has a future, she has a community that supports her.”
AIDS movement pioneer Michael Callen dies of AIDS-related illness at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 38.Learn More.
Callen was diagnosed early in the epidemic — 1982 — and he responded by becoming involved in every way he could in promoting the self-empowerment of People With AIDS. In fact, Callen is credited with coining the term “People With AIDS,” and insisted on this term instead of the passive and negative-sounding phrase “AIDS victim” commonly used at the time.
Callen was born in Rising Sun, Indiana and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. He graduated in 1977 from Boston University, which he attended on a music scholarship, and then moved to New York, where he sang in cabarets and with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.
He grew into political advocacy after receiving a diagnosis of AIDS in 1982. He became an early proponent of safer-sex practices, writing How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach with Richard Berkowitz, Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend, and Richard Dworkin in 1983.
Among the very first publications to recommend the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs in men having sex with men, the pamphlet was distributed at gay social establishments throughout New York City — 5,000 copies in its first run.
That same year, Callen was a plaintiff in the nation’s first AIDS discrimination lawsuit, when Dr. Sonnabend, his physician, successfully fought eviction from a Greenwich Village co-op for treating people with AIDS. Also in 1983, Callen was a founding board member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in Greenwich Village.
On August 1, 1983, Callen was one of three PWAs who testified before a Congressional subcommittee examining the U.S. government’s response to the AIDS crisis. In his statement before Congress, Callen described how he began to feel ill in 1981 and then was diagnosed in the summer of 1982 after being hospitalized with cryptospordiosis.
“It is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years,” he said.
A talented writer, Callen became the first editor of the PWA Coalition Newsline and edited the two-volume set Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the Persons With AIDS Coalition in 1988. From 1988-1989, he was editor of AIDS Forum, and his book, Surviving AIDS, published by Harper/Collins in 1990, received honorable mention from the American Medical Writers Association.
Callen wrote extensively on the subject of the politics of sexuality, his essays regularly appearing in magazines, journals, books, and newspapers, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek. He was among the first to give AIDS a human face, by making courageous appearances on TV shows such as Nightline, Good Morning America and 20/20. He also appeared on the talk shows Phil Donahue and Geraldo.
Callen moved from New York to West Hollywood to keep up with his busy TV and film schedule. He can be seen in several films and documentaries, including Philadelphia, Zero Patience, and the HBO documentary Why Am I Gay?
Throughout the years of his illness, Callen had a devoted and caring partner in Richard Dworkin, whom he met in June 1982, when Dworkin answered his classified ad seeking gay musicians.
“I called and Michael answered and said, ‘I happen to be getting together with a bass player tonight, do you want to come over?’ So I said OK and went to his house on Jones Street, and there was the bass player, and Michael had made sorbet,” Dworkin told Tim Murphy of The Body. “And we fell in love that night, and I stayed over. He had a piano and books, and to me that was a draw. He moved in with me in the fall of ’82.”
“Michael accomplished so much in the 11 years between his diagnosis and his demise,” Dworkin wrote in his tribute to Callen on Callen-Lorde, the website for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City (named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde).
Dworkin listed Callen’s many achievments, including the founding of the People with AIDS Coalition, the Community Research Initiative, and the People with AIDS Health Group. He also mentioned that Callen performed with The Flirtations, “the world’s first gay male politically correct a cappella group,” plus Dworkin helped Callen record and release two solo albums.
Callen also wrote, along with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Malamet, the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason” Callen would go on to sing this at numerous events, including AIDS walkathons in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights.
Shortly before his death, Callen completed vocal tracks for 48 new songs, 29 of which were released as a double album, Legacy (winner of four Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards).
Randy Shilts, a U.S. journalist who covered the AIDS epidemic and who authored And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 42.Learn More.
Randy Shilts joined the newsroom of The San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 to report on gay politics, making him the first full-time openly gay journalist in the U.S. mainstream press. As one of the earliest people in the media to recognize the importance of AIDS as a national issue, Shilts dedicated his writing career to bringing the epidemic to the attention of the American public.
He authored three books, including The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985).
Although Shilts had been tested for HIV earlier, Shilts postponed learning the results out of fear the knowledge would compromise his objectivity. He was informed he had tested positive for the virus the day he wrote the final page of And The Band Played On.
When Shilts pitched the book to publishers, he was rejected until St. Martin’s made a modest offer with an advance of $16,000, recalls friend Michael Denneny, who edited the book. And The Band Played On would go on to sell more than 100,000 hardcover copies, and some 600,000 paperbacks.
“He worked four years on that book,” Denneny says. “He went into debt. At one point, literally to pay his rent, he had to empty this huge water jug full of pennies, nickels and dimes.”
He died while planning a fourth book examining homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church.
At his memorial service at Glide Memorial Church, his friend and assistant Linda Alband placed his press card on his casket.
Assotto Saint, a Haitian-born poet and performance artist, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 36.Learn More.
Among the first Black activists to disclose his HIV positive status, Saint was one of the first poets to include the subject of AIDS in his work. He was also a performance artist, musician, editor, human rights and AIDS activist, theatrical founder, and dancer.
After immigrating from Haiti to New York in 1970 when he was 13 years old, Saint graduated from Jamaica High School and was briefly enrolled as a pre-med student at Queens College. Soon, however, he turned his attention to theater and dance, and adopted the name Assotto Saint —“Assotto” for a ceremonial drum used in Haitian vodoo rituals and “Saint” for Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. Through the 1970s, Saint’s passions grew to include poetry, music, and fiction.
In 1980, Saint fell in love with Jaan Urban Holmgren, a Swedish-born composer, and they began to collaborate on a number of theatrical and musical projects. Their relationship would last 14 years, during which time Holmgren would write songs for Saint’s many theater pieces on gay Black life, including including Risin’ to the Love We Need and New Love Song. Saint was the founder and artistic director of Metamorphosis Theater, where many of their collaborative pieces were performed.
Saint founded the publishing house Galiens Press, which published his book of poems Stations and the anthologies Here to Dare and The Road Before Us. With Holmgren, Saint also performed as lead singer in the “techno pop duo” band Xotika, and released the dance song “Forever Gay” on the album Feeding the Flame: Songs by Men to End AIDS.
Saint was dancer with the Martha Graham company, and appeared in Marlon Riggs’ Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret).
“Assotto was always prepared to die,” writes author Victoria Brownworth for Lambda Literary. “If that makes him sound like a fatalist or a Zen master, he was neither. He was just clear about what was going to happen. And he knew the work had to be done and quickly, urgently, before time ran out.”
Here is the beginning of Saint’s final poem for his life-partner, Jan Holmgren, who was dying of AIDS:
A Lover’s Diary
monday, march 29, 1993
vigil on two chairs
iwhisper “hey, good morning”
he doesn’t respond
iwatch his labored breathings
the head nurse suctions him up
“he’s turned for the worse”
dr mcmeeking mumbles
weeks, days, just can’t tell
“hours” insists my mother
furious iescort her out
the oscars come on
the crying game stars don’t win
hoping he can hear
iremind him he’s my light
death rattles my scream for help
the nurse rushes in
mother returns with prayers
icradle him close
pleading “stay, one more day, stay”
eleven twenty, he’s gone
bathe him with my tears
parched lips thirst for a wet
istick my tongue deep
bitter taste of bloody phlegm
moans spat out ishut his eyes
Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive man appearing in MTV’s popular show The Real World, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 22.Learn More.
As one of the first openly gay men with AIDS in media, Zamora brings international attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues and prejudices through his appearance on MTV’s reality television series, The Real World: San Francisco.
Zamora’s commitment ceremony to his partner Sean Sasser, which is filmed for the show, is also the first same-sex ceremony in television history. Zamora dies just hours after the finale of The Real World: San Francisco aired on MTV.
Elizabeth Glaser, founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.Learn More.
Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She and her husband, Paul, would learn four years later that she was HIV+ and she had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that their son, Jake, had contracted the virus in utero.
The Glasers pulled their daughter out of school, fearful of media exposure and ostracism imposed by parents of other students. Newspapers in 1985 were filled with stories about the plight of Ryan White in Kokomo, Indiana, and the three Ray brothers in Arcadia, Florida — all hemophiliacs who, having been infected with the AIDS virus by blood transfusions, had been ostracized and barred from their schools.
Ariel Glaser had developed AIDS at a time when the medical community knew very little about the disease, and there were no available treatment options for children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved AZT in early 1987 as an effective drug to extend the lives of AIDS patients, but the approval only extended to adults. With their daughter’s condition rapidly deteriorating, the Glasers fought to have her treated with AZT intravenously. However, the treatment came too late, and Ariel died in the summer of 1988, shortly after her seventh birthday.
Elizabeth Glaser went to Washington to do research on AIDS at the National Institutes of Health and found that people in power were willing to listen to her story. She was able to mobilize legislators like Senators Orrin Hatch and Howard Metzenbaum to co-sponsor a fund-raising benefit in Washington for her new organization, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
With the help of her friends Susie Zeegen and Susan De Laurentis, Glaser created the foundation to raise money for basic pediatric research. The foundation also supported additional clinical tests for the medication AZT, which was prescribed for adults years before it was given to children.
In 1994, to honor Glaser’s legacy, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation was renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. EGPAF has become the leading global nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs. Another important legacy of Glaser’s is her son, Jake, who is now a healthy adult who advocates for pediatric reserach.
Paul Monette, author of the award-winning Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, dies at his home in West Hollywood of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.Learn More.
Borrowed Time chronicles Monette’s experience caring for his partner Roger Horwitz during his fight with AIDS and eventual death from AIDS. The memoir details the final nineteen months of Horwitz’s life, beginning with the day that he was first diagnosed with AIDS, which Monette describtes as “the day we began to live on the moon.”
Born in 1945 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Monette was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. Soon after graduating from Yale, he began a prolific writing career, and for eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.
After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. At around this time, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.
In 1977, the couple moved to Los Angeles, and Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982 that were enormously successful, including Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll and The Gold Diggers, and established himself as a writer of popular fiction.
“He was a capable writer, but he had not discovered his voice. When AIDS arrived, he found it,” writes Legacy Project Chicago in its tribute to Monette. “On the front lines of the epidemic he picked up his pen and began to capture the horror as it happened.
In the year following Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote Borrowed Time, and its 1988 release catapulted him into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Since very few out gay men had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements.
For Borrowed Time, Monette won PEN Center West literary award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991).
In 1992, Monette released the memoir Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, an uncompromising look at coming to terms with being a gay man. In the book, he wrote: “I can’t conceive the hidden life anymore, don’t think of it as life. When you finally come out, there’s a pain that stops, and you know it will never hurt like that again, no matter how much you lose or how bad you die.”
This would become the first LGBTQ studies title to win the 1992 National Book Award.
He followed Becoming a Man with a book of essays, Last Watch of the Night (1994), which he wrote while being treated for full-blown AIDS, hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a daily regimen of numerous oral medications. The book is a collection of essays that move through themes from the painful lives of gay priests to the unending bigotry against gay men.
Monette also wrote an episode for the popular television series Thirtysomething about an advertising executive who learns he has the AIDS virus. The show, written with Richard Kramer, a producer for the series, was one of the first prime-time network series to deal with AIDS.
The National Association of People With AIDS launches the first National HIV Testing Day.Learn More.
National HIV Testing Day is now held annually to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment.
The National Association of People With AIDS ceased operations in 2013, National HIV Testing Day continues to be observed annually.
On this day, the CDC and many other organizations distribute free HIV self-testing kits.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety for the last time; it covers the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C.Learn More.
An estimated 1.2 million people come to view it, among them President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Second Lady Tipper Gore.
The Quilt was first displayed on the National Mall on Oct. 11, 1987, during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. At that time, it consisted of 1,920 panels and covered a space roughly the size of a football field.
Today, the Quilt has grown too large to be displayed all at once on the National Mall. It is an epic 54-ton tapestry that includes nearly 50,000 panels dedicated to more than 105,000 individuals. It is the premiere symbol of the AIDS pandemic, a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS and an important HIV prevention education tool.
Each year, the National AIDS Memorial works with hundreds of partners across the country to orchestrate more than 1,000 displays in schools, universities, places of worship, corporations and community centers. On World AIDS Day, December 1st, more than half of the Quilt goes on display around the nation.
New panels are still being made.
The first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is launched as a grassroots-education effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment in communities of color.
In May, activist Phill Wilson founds the Black AIDS Institute. The Institute’s mission is “to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV.” Its motto: “Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution.”
Kiyoshi Kuromiya — who dedicated his life to LGBTQ activism, AIDS healthcare expansion, civil rights, and anti-war efforts — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 57.Learn More.
Born in 1943 in a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming known as Heart Mountain, Kuromiya would go on to devote his life to the struggle for social justice.
During the 1960s, Kuromiya became a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War. In 1967-68, he was an assistant to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he took care of King’s children following his assassination. He then moved to New York City, and in July 1969, following the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, Kuromiya was among the gays and lesbians who founded the Gay Liberation Front.
“GLF tapped into the radical sentiments brewing among young, countercultural, and political gays and lesbians in New York City — and mobilized the energy and eagerness for political action that many felt in the days following Stonewall,” according to OutHistory. In the ways that the GLF organized (patterned after the the women’s movement) and conducted meetings, the organization can be seen as a direct predecessor to ACT UP.
Kuromiya was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989 and immediately researched everything he could about HIV/AIDS. He became a self-taught AIDS expert who believed that patients fared best when they understood the disease, explored treatment options, and actively participated in medical decisions.
Kuromiya became involved in all aspects of the AIDS movement, including radical direct action with ACT UP Philadelphia and the ACT UP network, People With AIDS empowerment, national and international research advocacy, and the mentorship and care for hundreds of people living with HIV.
Kuromiya was the editor of the “ACT UP Standard of Care,” the first standard of care for people living with HIV produced by PWAs. He also ran a community medicine chest to help patients get free drugs and ran a 24-hour hotline for patients needing information — even prisoners calling collect.
Kuromiya is perhaps best known as the founder of the Critical Path Project newsletter. Published by the service organization Philadelphia FIGHT and containing information gathered by Kuromiya, the newsletter was one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information. It was routinely mailed to thousands of people living with HIV all over the world, including hundreds of incarcerated individuals.
Kuromiya understood science and was involved locally, nationally and internationally in AIDS research as both a treatment activist and clinical trials participant. He fought for research that involved the community in its design – particularly people of color, drug users, and women.
In the last years of his life, Kuromiya turned his attention to the struggle to maintain freedom of speech on the Internet, participating in the successful lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act. He was also the leading plaintiff in the 1999 Supreme Court case Kuromiya vs. The United States of America, which called for the legalization of marijuana for medical uses.
Morris Kight, longtime leader in Southern California’s gay rights movement, dies at the age of 83.Learn More.
Kight, who served for more than 20 years on the LA Human Rights Commission as its most senior member until his retirement in 2002, dies in his sleep at the Carl Bean Hospice.
He was hospitalized last month in declining health with a variety of ailments, including liver cancer, heart problems and eventually pneumonia. His health was further compromised by a series of strokes suffered late in life.
The co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Community Service Center of L.A. (now called the Los Angeles LGBT Center), Kight also was a key organizer of the West Coast’s first gay pride parade and celebration in 1970, which effectively galvanized the modern gay rights movement in Los Angeles. The parade has drawn nearly 500,000 people in recent years.
In 1983, Morris helped found Aid for AIDS, a community organization that raised money to give to people with AIDS for emergency payment of rent, mortgages and utilities to enable them to die with dignity at home.
Later a friendship developed between AIDS activist Michael Weinstein, who went on to co-found the Chris Brownlie Hospice in 1987 and subsequently, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, writes the Blade Los Angeles.
His memorial at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood would draw scores of dignitaries and old friends.
The first annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.
The William J. Clinton Foundation secures price reductions for HIV/AIDS drugs from generic manufacturers, to benefit developing nations.
Makgatho L. Mandela dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 54. On the day of his son’s death, Nelson Mandela announces the cause of the death to help raise awareness about the disease and reduce the stigma associated with it.Learn More.
Nelson Mandela holds a press conference to announce that his son had died of AIDS in a Johannesburg clinic. Makgatho Mandela had been seriously ill for more than a month, but the nature of his ailment had not been made public before his death.
The elder Mandela says he was disclosing the cause of his son’s death to focus more attention on AIDS, which is still a taboo topic among many South Africans. South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV (~6.8 million) in the world.
“That is why I have announced that my son has died of AIDS,” he says. “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary.”
This day marks the first annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the U.S.Learn More.
This day would be observed annually on May 19 to raise awareness about the impact of HIV and stigma among Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
In years to come, organizations around the country would observe the day by hosting community events. The Banyan Tree Project – a national campaign to end silence and shame about HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Islander communities — leads this day with the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in collaboration with national partners APAIT Los Angeles, Life Foundation (Honolulu) and MAP for Health (Boston). The campaign includes capacity building assistance, leadership development and HIV awareness promotional events and marketing.
HHS Secretary Sebelius hosted “Commemorating 30 Years of Leadership in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS”.
During AIDS 2012, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed in its entirety in Washington, DC, for the first time since 1996.Learn More.
Volunteers have to rotate nearly 50,000 panels to ensure that the entire work is displayed. Microsoft Research, the University of Southern California, the NAMES Project Foundation, and a handful of other institutions collaborate to create a zoomable “map” of the Quilt
The National Latino AIDS Action Network (NLAAN)—a diverse coalition of community-based organizations, national organizations, state and local health departments, researchers and concerned individuals—publishes the National Latino/Hispanic HIV/AIDS Action Agenda to raise awareness, identify priorities, and issue specific recommendations to address the impact of the epidemic in Hispanic/Latino communities.
Transgender trailblazer Alexis Arquette dies at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.Learn More.
Arquette was born into an acting family that includes siblings David, Rosanna, and Patricia, the latter who would famously memorialize her sister in a speech at the 2019 Emmy Awards.
In the earlier years of her career, Arquette primarily performed as a female impersonator, frequently under the name “Eva Destruction.” She debuted on the big screen in 1986 in an uncredited role as Alexis, the androgynous bandmate of Max Whiteman (Evan Richards) inDown and Out in Beverly Hills. Arquette would go on to star in more than 40 movies, the majority of them low-budget or independent films.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1989, Arquette chronicled her gender affirmation surgery in a 2007 documentary, Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, but returned to presenting as a man in 2013 as her health failed.
In her final hours, Arquette is surrounded by her famous brothers and sisters. Alexis had left specific instructions for her death: David Bowie’s “Starman” was to play as her final moments approached.
And when the final breath passed her lips, she asked that everyone cheer “the moment that [s]he transitioned to another dimension,” reports The Hollywood Reporter.
Her family would go on to found the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation, which works with the LA County / USC Medical Center to provide medical and mental health support to LGBTQ residents in the county.
Matt Redman, one of the cofounders of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies at the age of 66. Instrumental in spurring the LA community to action during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Redman dedicated his life to the fight against HIV.Learn More.
Redman began his HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when he helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease. In early 1983, he would found AIDS Project Los Angeles with Nancy Cole Sawaya, Max Drew, and Ervin Munro.
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. Redman served on APLA’s Board of Directors and volunteered throughout the years.
Redman also served on the Board of Directors for the Federation of AIDS-Related Organizations (later renamed AIDS United). He was honored in June 2015 by the LA City Council during LGBT Heritage Month for his work to advance equality.
Redman apparently started feeling ill in mid-December and cancelled a party planned for Dec. 18, according to journalist Karen Ocamb in The Pride. After a friend begged him to see a doctor, Redman went to the emergency room at Southern California Hospital at Culver City and was immediately rushed to Urgent Care.
An upper respiratory infection had traveled to his heart and lungs, and medical personnel determined he didn’t have enough T-cells to fight the infection. He “coded” and was placed on life support while his family and former partner were notified and flew in to be with him in his last moments.
Muslim-American organization RAHMA (Arabic for “mercy”) launches the first national Faith HIV & AIDS Awareness Day.Learn More.
The goal is to rally U.S. faith communities (including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Baha’i) to take a public stand against stigma in their congregations and raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
Atlanta performance artist, writer, and HIV educator Antron-Reshaud Olukayode dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33. Olukayode had participated in CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign.
Dr. Mathilde Krim, a geneticist and virologist who turned from studying cancer to studying AIDS, dies at age 91 . She started the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, and then became the founding chairwoman of the Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985.Learn More.
She raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, prevention, treatment, and advocacy. In announcing her passing, The New York Times calls her “America’s foremost warrior in the battle against superstitions, fears and prejudices that have stigmatized many people with AIDS.”
Dr. Krim, a geneticist and virologist, as well as an advocate, has a long history of notable contributions to science and social justice.
After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Geneva in 1953, she studied cytogenetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Six years later, she moved to New York and made a name for herself as a researcher of cancer-causing viruses. But in the early 1980s, her focus turned to a growing epidemic that almost no one else had yet sought to address.
Less than a year after the publishing of a 1982 paper in which the disease was first called by that name, Dr. Krim founded the AIDS Medical Foundation, the first privately funded AIDS research organization, which originally operated out of a storage room in her husband’s Manhattan office.
The stigma at that time was overwhelming: A former staff member recalls that “The mail guy was scared to come up to our office because it said ‘AIDS’ on our envelopes [which often contained hate mail anyway].”
AmfAR credits Dr. Krim as being a pivotal figure in moving Washington to belatedly provide significant funding for both research and treatment regarding the epidemic, after nearly a decade of neglect.
AmfAR grew out of Dr. Krim’s collaboration with Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, who in New York in the early 1980s pioneered a community-based approach to studying and responding to AIDS. With other allies, they formed the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, which two years later merged with a California-based group to form amfAR.
In addition to her scientific credentials and her impassioned advocacy, Dr. Krim also brought a connection to New York society life and its deep pockets, with her marriage to Arthur B. Krim, an entertainment lawyer who had chaired both United Artists and Orion Pictures. Dr. Krim was able to bring on board Elizabeth Taylor, who became the group’s founding international chair and lent Hollywood glamour and universal visibility to an epidemic that in its earliest years was ignored by public officials and other leading figures .
In 2006, ACT UP Founder Larry Kramer said of Dr. Krim, “One can only be filled with overpowering awe and gratitude that such a person has lived among us.”