Gay History 101: November 26, 2014

The World AIDS Museum opened in Wilton Manors in 2012. It is the first Museum dedicated to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic and provides information on treatment and prevention of HIV.

The origin of the AIDS pandemic has been traced to the 1920s in the city of Kinshasa, in today's Democratic Republic of Congo. A feat of viral archeology was used to find its origins. It is a mutated version of a chimpanzee virus, which made the species-jump through contact with infected blood while handling bush meat. Roaring sex trade, population growth, unsterilized needles used in primitive clinics helped spread the virus thru the Congo. Railways had one million people flowing through the city each year, taking the virus to nearby regions, the same way as Ebola is today carried by plane from one continent to the other. HIV came to global attention in the 1980s and has infected nearly 75 million people.

1980 April 24, San Francisco resident Ken Horne, the first AIDS case in the United States to be recognized at the time, is reported to the Center for Disease Control with Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS).

October 31, French-Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas pays his first known visit to NYC bathhouses. He would later be deemed "Patient Zero" for his apparent connection to many early cases of AIDS in the United States.

December 23, Rick Wellikoff, a Brooklyn schoolteacher, dies of AIDS in NYC. He is the 4th US citizen known to die from the disease.

1986 HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is adopted as name of the retrovirus that was first proposed as the cause of AIDS by Luc Montagnier of France, who named it LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus) and Robert Gallo of the United States, who named it HTLV-III (human T-lymph tropic virus type III).

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is an advocacy group formed in 1987 working to impact the lives of people with AIDS and the AIDS pandemic, to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. ACT UP’s demonstrations in the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected the group’s outrage against a governing establishment that ignored HIV/AIDS as a national health crisis; that failed to secure funding for medical research, treatment, and education; that profited from inflated costs for therapeutic drugs; and that perpetuated homophobic misrepresentations of HIV and AIDS.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, was conceived in 1985 by AIDS activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march, in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk . For the march, Jones had people write the names of loved ones that were lost to AIDS-related causes on signs that would be taped to the San Francisco Federal Building. All the signs taped to the building looked like an enormous patchwork quilt to Jones, and he was inspired. At that time many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the deceased's remains. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones' lives. The first showing of The Quilt was 1987 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Quilt was last displayed in full on the Mall in D.C., in 1996, but it returned in July 2012 to coincide with the start of the XIX International AIDS Conference. Weighing an estimated 54 tons, it is the largest piece of community folk art in the world as of 2010.

The Red Ribbon Project was created by the New York-based Visual AIDS Artists Caucus in 1991.The artists who formed the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus wished to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their caregivers. Inspired by the yellow ribbons honoring American soldiers serving in the Gulf war, the color red was chosen for its, "connection to blood and the idea of passion -- not only anger, but love, like a valentine." First worn publicly by Jeremy Irons at the 1991 Tony Awards, the ribbon soon became renowned as an international symbol of AIDS awareness.

Randy Shilts ( 1951-1994) his investigative journalism book “And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic” published in 1987 chronicles the 1980–1985 discovery and spread of HIV/AIDS, government indifference, and political infighting in the United States to what was initially perceived as a gay disease. It won the Stonewall Book Award and brought him nationwide literary fame. “And the Band Played On” is an extensively researched account of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The book was translated into seven languages, and in 1993 was made into an HBO film starring Richard Gere, Anjelica

Huston, Phil Collins, Lily Tomlin, Ian McKellen, Steve Martin, and Alan Alda, among others. The film earned 20 nominations and 9 awards, including the 1994 Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie. Shilts himself would die of the disease on February 17, 1994.

December 1, 1993 In recognition of World AIDS Day the U.S. Postal Service issued, at the United Nations in New York City a 29-cent vertical stamp picturing the red ribbon symbolic of the movement to deal with AIDS. "For more than 60 years," Postmaster General Marvin Runyun said, the United States has issued "new stamps to help raise awareness for a variety of health and social issues. We are building on that tradition with the AIDS-awareness stamp."

2012 - WORLD AIDS MUSEUM opened in Wilton Manors. It is the first Museum dedicated to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Educational Center provides information on treatment and prevention of HIV. Its mission is to increase awareness and decrease stigma of the AIDS epidemic by documenting the history of HIV/AIDS, remembering the people who have suffered from this disease and enlightening the world to this continuing tragedy while empowering the survivors. – 1201 NE 26th St. Wilton Manors Florida – www.WorldAIDSMuseum.org.


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