Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 80s: AIDS (Part II)

In the 1980s the AIDS scare was becoming more powerful. Media, police, and heterosexuals began openly ostracizing members of the gay community in order to separate themselves from the 'gay plague'. Police began using gloves and safety equipment when interacting with people suspected of aids, gay men would be evicted from their home or fired from their job due to suspicion of AIDS. Government regulations began barring gays from working with or handling food, and some were even excluded from continuing education. These acts made it clear to the gay community just has vulnerable (legally) they really were.

Fight Against Aids
Early on the gay community realized they would have to be the ones to create change in the fight against AIDS. In New York, Gay Men's Health Crisis was doing everything in its power to aid in helping gay men affected by AIDS. Though it quickly became largest gay organization in the country, it could not keep up with the constant rise in HIV infections. Despite challenges the group did several great things: created an innovative Buddy Program to help AIDS patients with everyday needs, lobbied the government for AIDS funding, battled discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, created the first AIDS hotline, and worked to increase sex education for gay men. Other organizations similar to GMHC soon were formed: AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF). The arrival of AIDS also helped bring gays and lesbians together as many lesbians essentially dropped their political plans and focused on the new threat of AIDS.

Rock Hudson
AIDS did not receive the attention of American media until July of 1985 when actor Rock Hudson (pictured below) died of the disease. Rock Hudson was a beloved and closeted American actor, and his death brought Hudson's famous friends to the defense of the gay community, specifically actress Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor lent her fame to organizations to increase their donations, volunteers, and funding. She also cofounded amFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research) and founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). Similarly such stars as Elton John, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., Morgan Fairchild, and Shirley MacLaine all used their star power to raise funding for AIDS research. This public support allowed the nation to begin to view AIDS victim with concern rather than hate.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
The History of AIDS --
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 108-121
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 96-99

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