The Stage

1980s: AIDS Crisis Emerges (cont’d)


Bruce R. Voeller, a founder of the National Gay Task Force, coined the acronym AIDS for “acquired immune deficiency syndrome,” a term he used in objection to the disease’s earlier label, GRID, or “gay-related immune disorder.” A biologist, Voeller led research on the reliability of various brands of condoms in preventing the spread of diseases. His papers are held by Cornell University.

Brad Green, photographer. Mel Boozer and Bruce Voeller at meeting discussing potential federal responses to the spread of AIDS to hemophiliacs. Washington, D.C., July 1982. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records.

As this pamphlet indicates, the gay community was already addressing issues of safe sex in the early 1980s. The community was able to mobilize effectively to address the AIDS crisis in positive and creative ways.

Health and Venereal Disease Guide for Gay Men. New York: Gay Men’s Health Project, 1980.

Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals came together along with other allies to focus attention on public health initiatives, support services for people with AIDS (PWAs), and the need for federal funding for medical research.

Here, activists Robert Garcia and Karen Ramspacher speak to a class at John Jay College in New York City about LGBT issues and AIDS.

Video clip. Garcia and a close friend, Karen Ramspacher, speaking at John Jay College, Spring 1991. Robert Garcia Papers.

In 1987 ACT UP organized a four-day, round-the-clock protest at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, one of four AIDS Treatment Evaluation Units in the city. Protesters demanded more clinical trials of promising drugs other than AZT and the inclusion in the trials of more people with AIDS.

Shown here is a short film taken by activist filmmaker Phil Zwickler of the Sloan-Kettering demonstration on July 24, 1987.

Also shown is a photograph taken by Phil Zwickler of people at a protest holding fabric banners reading “Someone with AIDS Needs a Bed,” ca. May 1988.

Phil Zwickler, videographer. Video clip. “Sloan Kettering Demo (3),” July 24, 1987. Phil Zwickler Papers.
Phil Zwickler, photographer. “Someone with AIDS Needs a Bed,” May 1988. Phil Zwickler Papers.

In the Spring 1988 Firebrand Books catalog, publisher Nancy Bereano wrote:

Because I really do believe that words can spark changes in our lives, I would like to encourage you to read a copy of Making It, A Woman’s Guide To Sex In The Age Of AIDS by Cindy Patton and Janis Kelly. Heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women need to take an active role in protecting ourselves against this dreaded disease, and Making It’s pro-sex approach to examining the options helps. In addition, Alison Bechdel’s cartoons show that an occasional laugh is possible.

Spring 1988 Firebrand Catalog. Cover. Firebrand Books Catalogs.

The AIDS crisis highlighted the ways LGBT people form families and care for each other without the standard legal protections provided to heterosexuals. LGBT people searched for ways of remembering and honoring those who died in the AIDS epidemic, such as this tribute to Robert Garcia created by his friends.

Robert Garcia Memorial Tape, made by his friends to show at his memorial service. Robert Garcia Papers.

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