On This Gay Day: In 1982 the fight against HIV begins

The formation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Inc.

It was on this day, January 4th, in 1982 that the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Inc. was formed in New York. It was the first community organisation created to tackle the emergence of what would later be identified as HIV.

Reports of a ‘gay cancer’ began appearing in the media, and the USA’s Centre for Disease Control there was an epidemic of gay men being affected by diseases and cancers that the body would normally not be susceptible to. The condition was named Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).

To tackle the health crisis over 80 members of New York’s queer community met in the apartment of author Larry Kramer.  Founding members of the group alongside Kramer included Edmund White, Nathan Fain, Lawrence D. Mass, Paul Popham, and Paul Rapoport.

Group member Roger McFarlane set up a crisis hotline in his own home, and within a few months the group had found some office space in the building of a dance record company. THeir work is credited with mobilising communities and the medical profession into action.

Five months after the group formed scientists recognised that the condition did not only affect gay men, it was detected in many areas of the wider population. It was given a new name Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).  A year later, in 1983, scientist would discover the cause of the condition was a virus, HIV.

The organization’s mission statement was “end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected”. They served as a template for the creation of AIDS organisations around the globe.

Author Larry Kramer became frustrated with the bureaucracy of the group, and the apathy he found many gay men had to the disease, he resigned from the organisation in 1983.

He went on to write the award winning play The Normal Heart, which gave a fictionalised account of the formation of the group. The play was later adapted into a film starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Taylor Kitsch.

In 1987 Kramer formed the more politically focussed group Act-Up. Today the GHMC still provides essential testing, education and leadership programs in New York. He passed away in 2020.

Author Christopher Isherwood dies

Author Christopher Isherwood passed away on this day in 1986,aged 81. He was survived by his partner of 32 years, artist Don Bachardy.

He is most well known for penning the book The Berlin Stories, which was adapted into the musical Cabaret, and film A Single Man.

Isherwood came from an upper middle class background and was born on his family’s estate in England. He studied at Cambridge but left without completing a degree. In his 20’s he became friends with the poet W.H Auden and the two were romantically involved.

Isherwood based The Berlin Stories on his own experiences of living in Germany’s Weimar Republic in the 1930s. Here he indulged his love for other young men and met a German named Heinz Neddermeyer, who became his first great love.

Isherwood’s time in Berlin was dramatised in the biopic Christopher and his Kind with Doctor Who and The Crown actor Matt Smith portraying the writer.

Isherwood was close friends with the author E.M. Forster who served as his literary mentor. The story of A Single Man was also largely autobiographical; Isherwood immigrated to the United States before the outbreak of World War Two from the United Kingdom and lectured at a Los Angeles university and he also had an affinity for younger men.

In the USA he became friends with the writer Aldous Huxley, Truman Capote was also a close friend who admired Isherwood’s work, many people note that Capote’s most famous character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s shares many attributed with Sally Bowles from ‘The Berlin Stories’.

Also on this day in history

Also on this day in history, in 1750 two French men Bruno Lenoir and Jean Diot were caught having sex in public. Both men were convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, they were the last execution in France for consensual sodomy.

Graeme Watson, with Joe Cassidy. This post was first published on 4th January 2020. This article utilises previously published content.  

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