A new history of AIDS activism during the plague years
I still remember reading the article that appeared in the New York Times in July 1981: "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals." I also remember thinking, What kind of sick joke is this? "Gay" cancer?
Writer Larry Kramer, however, immediately made an appointment for a checkup. In his doctor's waiting room, he ran into a friend, Donald Krintzman, who told him he'd been diagnosed with the cancer in question, Kaposi's sarcoma. KS manifested on the skin in purple lesions, usually appeared only among elderly men of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent, and normally progressed so slowly that there was no need for treatment. Yet Krintzman would be dead by the end of the year.
Kramer was found to be cancer-free but set out to lead a response, trying to raise money for research and get the few known facts out. He would prove to be ineffective as a town crier. After the publication of his 1978 novel, Faggots, a critique of gay-male promiscuity, he was widely regarded in his own community as a doomsayer and scold. But he persisted. Early in 1982, almost six months to the day after the "rare cancer" article appeared, six men met at Kramer's apartment and created an organization called Gay Men's Health Crisis to address what was then being called GRID, "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency." Rodger McFarlane, who was dating Kramer at the time, offered to list his home phone number as the GRID hotline. On day one, he got a hundred calls—from men in hospitals lying in their own shit because nurses were afraid to touch them, men at home who didn't have the strength to shop for groceries, men who
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