Sunday June 5 sees the 30th anniversary of the
first reports of the disease that later came to be known as AIDS.
At the time no one could have anticipated the scale of the epidemic
that was about to emerge, or the global significance of the cases that were
being reported among young gay men in California and New York.
The emergence of the epidemic was a shocking, epochal event, and it had a devastating impact on gay communities and injecting drug users in North America.
But it was the responses of the communities affected, and of the medical professionals who cared for the first people diagnosed with AIDS, that set the tone for the global response to AIDS for the next 30 years.
It was a response emphasising human rights, compassion, solidarity, activism and generosity, and without it, the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS might have been handled in a much more punitive and authoritarian manner.
Therefore, we have chosen to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first case report by collecting together resources that illuminate the early days of AIDS.
The links below will lead you to testimony from people
who lived through the early years of the epidemic, many of them central to the
early responses in the gay communities of North America.
first report of AIDS cases – Pneumocystis pneumonia in five young men, June 5 1981. The first case report.
Cluster of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia among Homosexual
Male Residents of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California, June 18, 1982; the first strong endorsement
for the view that AIDS was caused by a sexually transmitted agent.
We Were Here –an
award-winning documentary on the early years of AIDS in San Francisco and the
History of AIDS: Emergence and Origins of a Modern Pandemic, by Mirko
Grmek. Still the best book on the early history of the epidemic, now available
in large portions through Google Books to read online.
Men’s Health Crisis: Dr Lawrence Mass, one of the six founders of Gay Men’s
Health Crisis, New York’s first AIDS organisation, reflects on the origins of
the organisation in the activism of its six founders.
begins to emerge in new populations: Dr John G. Bartlett looks back at the
emergence of AIDS in injecting drug users in Baltimore, and his efforts to
establish a clinic to provide care at Johns Hopkins University.
to Have Sex in an Epidemic: the first safer sex advice, authored in May 1983
by New York activists Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen. The leaflet set the
tone for gay community responses to safer sex worldwide. You can also watch an
interview with Richard Berkowitz and Dr Joe Sonnabend, their medical adviser,
about the origins of safer sex advice, on YouTube from Jean
Carlomusto’s film Sex in an Epidemic.
Francisco AIDS Foundation: a video on the impact of AIDS in San Francisco
since 1981 and the civic and political response to AIDS in the city.
The San Francisco AIDS Oral History Series: a unique archive of interviews with people
involved in the early years of AIDS in San Francisco; the sequence of interviews
on the medical responses
is available here.
AIDS @ 30: Media Coverage From the Early Days: a collection of TV broadcasts from the 1980's, compiled by The Body.