Gay Power


Reprinted with permission from the Rochester DAILY PLANET, Dec. 21, 197X). Watch for its ‘Gay Scenes’ column.

by Bob Osborn

There is now a Rochester Gay Liberation Front, headquartered at

the University of Rochester as an official student organization with an office in 202-D Todd Union, a loosely knit “membership” of a couple hundred men and women, and a monthly magazine. Its meetings have featured guest speakers ranging from A.C.L.U. representatives to national movement leaders, and it has held a public dance.  Don’t be surprised that you hadn’t heard the news, because the organization sprang into existence just last October with little advance notice.  And don’t be surprised at its achievements in two short months, because it is simply a response to the awakening needs of an extremely large oppressed group .  It is one of many such groups.

The last ten years has seen the growth of a strong humanist movement in this country to right the wrongs of centuries. It is tedious to speculate on the source of its strength or the direction of movement, but a lot of articulate people in this country and elsewhere have become personally involved in trying to redirect an essentially oppressive and exploitative WASP culture to fulfilling some goals it has only given lip service to.

Many groups have been conceived in desperation and ”dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights—that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It is an international movement, since the Black people in the U.S. are tied to the Black world, the workers here a r e exploited the same as workers everywhere, people everywhere are suffering from industrial pollution; the Koreans and the Vietnamese are simply the most glaring examples of the vengeance of our “system” against a rebellious third world. Women, too, are beginning to have new hope that the “system” may fall, and now the international homosexual community is awakening to its place in the movement. Since the groups overlap (there probably are Black lesbian handicapped factory workers) it can be hoped that a truly international brotherhood can be developed to bring from the present chaos a truly human world.

So much for speculation. In this country, following the organization of the first Mattachine Society in San Fransisco in 1950, the gay world has begun getting itself together. And now, from Talahassee, Florida to Butte, Montana, gay liberation groups are assessing their strength and flexing their muscles.  Oppressive laws can be removed, as they have in many European countries, Canada, and even partially in Illinois and Connecticut, but the struggle goes far deeper than that. The prejudice against homosexuality in the contemporary western culture has existed for centuries and a hatred for (or fear about?) homosexuality is more intense that that against liberated women. Communists, beatniks, orientals or Blacks.

A million homosexuals have been tortured, condemned to death and burned at the stake for their “crimes” against the church or the state.  The last official death sentence was over 80 years ago but there are still 48 states which consider sodomy a “crime against nature,” and 5 prescribing life imprisonment for this heresy.

But why ? Is the church’s influence so strong that they may legislate “morality” at will? Or does the “heterosexual” hate and fear the homosexual so much because he is unsure of his own sexual orientation?

And on other levels, more questions. Should psychiatrists be allowed to pratter about the sickness of homosexuality when every strata of our entire “system” is full of normal well-adjusted homosexuals? Indeed, why is the word “homosexual” used so much as a noun when most people have had enjoyable experiences with people of both sexes? Why does a sincere love between two people become evil when they happen to be

of the same sex? Is not overpopulation an evil “crime against nature?”  Can it ever happen that economic and social discrimination be eliminated for all people regardless of race, creed, sex or sexual orientation?

There are no easy answers to these questions, and this column will never attempt to supply any. But some thinking must be done if gay liberation is to happen and the awakening humanist movement is to fully reflect the human condition.  The first step in consciousness-raising.

You, dear Reader, are not alone. Most of your friends have had homosexual experiences , too, and they have the same hangups you do about them. In answering the above questions, maybe you can see yourself as part of an expanding movement that is asking a lot of questions about a lot of established norms. And maybe you’ll want to join the G.L.F. or other movement groups who are desperately searching for a better world.

On Norms And Nature

On Norms and Nature

TO THE EDITOR:  (reprinted with permission from the UR CAMPUS TIMES)

What happened in the MDC lounge Saturday, December 5th? I was there; let me tell you a little about it. There were male homosexuals, female homosexuals, heterosexual women, heterosexual men, blacks and whites. What was such an unusual conglomeration of people doing in the lounge?

They were participating in the most progressive and beautiful activity I’ve ever seen on this campus.  It was the Liberation Dance sponsored by the UR Gay Liberation Front and UR Women’s Liberation. But more than a dance, it was a unique experience in human interaction, free from the rules and regulations of a society that dictates to its people what is and is not natural for them. I believe the people in attendance found out more about human nature than they ever could from one of our current textbooks.

What’s more, perhaps for the first time in their lives, these people found out what homosexuals are: a group of people who are in no other way but their sexual orientation different from any otiier group of people; people who enjoy each other’s company and who interact with each other with warmth and sincerity.

I hope to see activities like this dance continue because they are essential for the realization of liberation. Only by giving people of different backgrounds opportunities to interact with each other in settings that they mutually find natural can they see that their differences are not so great after all.

Patricia Evers

Reflections I

Thoughts on Gay Liberation

By Bob Osborn

Taken from EC January, 1971

1 grew up in the “South”, and went to the deep south on civil rights projects. Ten years ago people were assuring me that the “Nigras” were happy in their place and didn’t want northern-style “liberation.”  They had jobs and schools and anyway there weren’t so many of them that people should worry about their economic problems or their selfrespect too.

I’m telling this because 1 see the Gay world in that light. The straight world thinks of the homosexual as a substandard person but a member of an insignificant minority group. There are two major differences, however.  First, it was not a crime to be black and to act the part.  The church has decreed that it is a crime to commit homosexual acts, and the state has written this discrimination into the legal system. Secondly, it was generally impossible for the Negro to conceal his minority membership-his black face gave him away. He had to accept the life the world planned for him or change it – there was no middle ground. The homosexual, on the other hand, can easily hide in the straight world and live a double life in secret. He or she actually has something to risk by working as part of an oppressed group for liberation,

The Gay Liberation Front exists to create a human world; a place where people are respected because they are human beings, not because they are indistinguishable from the majority or are a part of the “system.” In realizing this we realize that our struggle is no different from the struggle

other oppressed peoples, and that none shall be free until all are free.

To borrow another example from the black civil rights struggle; the laws must be changed, and they can be. But this is not enough; attitudes must also change, both inside and outside the oppressed group. A black faniilv may not be legally restricted from moving to a house in the white suburbs- but there are still things that prevent him.  Similarly, repeal of the sodomy statutes in Illinois and Connecticut has not turned Chicago and Hartford into gay sanctuaries.

I.ike Martin Luther King, I have

  • And in this dream I see a world where there are constitutional guarantees of protection against discrimination not only by race, creed, national origin, or sex, but also by sexual orientation. . .
  • I dream of a world of love in which it will be perfectly natural to see gay men and women holding hands and kissing on the main street of Rochester and dancing along with straight couples at public dances. . .
  • A world where a person may share love with a person of the same sex without fear that he is locked into homosexuality, or that his whole life may be ruined thereby. . ,
  • A world in which the words “queer” and “faggot” have disappeared from the language along with the other words of oppression like “nigger,” “’kike,” “broad,” and “gook.”
  • I have a dream that there will come a time when a person is judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin – or his sexual orientation.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And freedom from fear is liberation.

The things in my dream are real – they do exist in parts of the world. Let us work together to make them happen here.

This is the revolution!


Rochester AIDS History Chapter 24

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC April Issue 2016

The Long Road To Wellness – Jesse Helms Roadblock

In 1988, research was underway to find an AIDS vaccine.  It soon became clear that even though money was beginning to flow through the pipeline for research, there would be no quick fix for this problem.  Government agencies, LGBT organizations and the medical profession became acutely aware of the complexity of HIV, the time consuming research process, and the slowness of FDA approval of new drugs.  They realized that in order to keep AIDS from spreading huge changes in behavior and in society’s attitude toward this disease had to take place.

In January, 1988 New York City health officials were given permission by state authorities to distribute free hypodermic syringes to drug addicts in an effort to combat the spread of AIDS.  According to to the New York State AIDS Advisory Council report in 1996 on  NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

AND DEREGULATION OF NEEDLES AND SYRINGES. The interdependence of the HIV and drug use epidemics has been recognized since the early years of AIDS case reporting, and New York has long been recognized as an epicenter of both.  By 1988, injecting drug use had surpassed all other risk factors as a cause of new cases of AIDS in New York State, and it continues to be the single most important cause of HIV infection.  It would be years later that AIDS Rochester would put a needle exchange program in place.

In February, 1988 James Watkins, Chair of President Reagan’s AIS commission, recommended a 10 year $15 billion expansion of rehabilitative treatment for IV drug abuse, including the establishment of 3300 new drug abuse clinics, and hiring 32,000 specialists to staff them in an effort to control the spread of AIDS.  At that time there was a growing scientific consensus that IV drug users were the main source of new AIDS infections.  According to an article published in the journal Science, Feb. 12, 1988, drug addicts accounted for 53% of all deaths due to AIDS in New York City from  1978 to 1986.  In Washington, DChealth officials began giving drug addicts vials of bleach to clean hypodermic needles.  During April and May the District of Columbia distributed over 2,000 vials of bleach.  In June, a community health clinic in Portland, Oregon began distributing clean hypodermic needles.  In October, 1988, New York City Health Comminioner Stephen Joseph announced that testing  a program to distribute free needles to 200 intravebous drug users would begin.  The program met with significant resistance from opponents who contended that this give away program would promote the abuse of drugs.  In September, 1988 New York State governor Mario Cuomo signed a bill that allowed physicians to warn needle-sharing or sex partners of people infected with HIV that they may be in danger of contracting the disease.  It is very difficult for this writer to consider that physicians in New York State would not be able to do this prior to this legislation.

Educating the general population including drug users, those who live in poverty, and those whose access to medical services is limitted to prevent them from contracting AIDS was very challenging for many communities.  This was made more difficult by the passage of the “Helms Amendment” in October, 1987 which prevented federal funding of any AIDS education effort under the premise that this education would “encourage or promote homosexual activity.  In November, 1987, Mayor Koch of New York City wrote:  Mr. Helms introduced it (amendment to the fiscal 1988 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education) because he’s upset with New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Koch further wrote: The organization has established a brilliant reputation in caring for and counseling those with AIDS and in educating others on how to prevent the spread of AIDS.

This small piece of legislative verbiage had an enormous impact on the American AIDS scene. The Department of Health and Human Services not only published a great deal of AIDS prevention literature itself, but also funded much of what came from state and local health departments. The Helms amendment effectively censored the large majority of publicly funded AIDS prevention literature throughout the United States, and its language was so broad that it was not just homoerotic pieces like “After the Gym” that were banned: even a mention of anal intercourse, for example, could be seen as violating the federal mandate, despite the fact that anal intercourse was one of the primary routes of transmission for HIV.

The action was opposed by the U.S. Public Health Service. Congress restored the executive authority to remove HIV from the list of excludable conditions in the 1990 Immigration Reform Act, and in January 1991, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan announced he would delete HIV from the list of excludable conditions. A letter-writing campaign headed by Helms ultimately convinced President Bush not to lift the ban, and left the United States the only industrialized nation in the world to prohibit travel based on HIV status.  The travel ban was also responsible for the cancellation of the 1992 International AIDS Conference in Boston.  On January 5, 2010, the 22-year-old ban was lifted after having been signed by President Barack Obama on October 30, 2009.

In response to this federal legislation, the Monroe County Legislature began approval of $100,000 to fund community based programs.  In July, 1988 Monroe County funded three community based organizations and an AIDS Research Library to provide prevention education.  Action for a Better Community (ABC), Baden Street Settlement and Puerto Rican Youth Development and Resource Center began to develop comprehensive services which are still in operation today.   ABC’s  Action Front Center’s mission is to empower people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the greater Rochester area. They provide prevention and education, mobilize the community to use its resources and celebrate human value.  Baden Street Settlement is the host agency for the Metro Council for Teen Potential (MCTP); a coalition of youth-serving organizations that promote youth development and youth health in the City’s most stressed neighborhoods.  MCTP includes HIV education and prevention.  Ibero American Action League’s Youth Services program THRIVE 2 provides evidence based workshops on the topic of HIV/STD and teen pregnancy to youth. The primary objective is to increase awareness, decrease HIV/STD and teen pregnancy prevalence and increase access to reproductive health care centers.  IBERO’s Family Service Program Beacon of Life provides education and outreach services to assist in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.  What the Monroe County legislature began in 1988 continues to present day.

In October, 1988 the AIDS epidemic was dealt another blow when Sen. Jesse Helms amended a drug and alcohol bill to prevent the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs or the distribution of bleach for addicts.  One could ask what is behind Jesse Helms’ war on AIDS funding.  The New York Times stated that Helms was “bitterly opposed” to federal financing for research and treatment of AIDS, which he believed was God’s punishment for homosexuals. Opposing the KennedyHatch AIDS bill in 1988, Helms stated, “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy“. When Ryan White died in 1990, his mother went to Congress to speak to politicians on behalf of people with AIDS. She spoke to 23 representatives; Helms refused to speak to Jeanne White, even when she was alone with him in an elevator.  Despite opposition by Helms, the Ryan White Care Act passed in 1990.

The Road to Wellness was rocky and full of setbacks.  Shoulders To Stand On would like to thank the Monroe county legislature, and the then Governor of New York Mario Cuomo for their clear headedness and willingness to stand for People with AIDS (PWAs).  Today more than ever before we need to find common ground for the health and well being of all American citizens.  Grateful to live in New York we must continue to raise our voices for those who do not have the benefits of legal protection, and health care.  Shoulders To Stand On challenges the LGBT Rochester community to continue to “fiercely and passionately” fight for equality and justice for all Rochestarians, New Yorkers and Americans


Rochester AIDS History Chapter 23

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC March Issue 2017

The Long Road To Wellness (cont’d)

Last month we looked at AIDS curriculum in Monroe County, expansion of rehabilitative treatment for IV drug abuse and the beginning conversations on needle exchange programs, and the recognition that AIDS had spread into the heterosexual community.  It seems historically, that 1988 was a pivotal year on many fronts of the Road To Wellness.  HIV-AIDS work culminated in 1988 in increased awareness including the dissemination of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s Report on AIDs in America and federal legislation, and the accomplishments of the AIDS Institute in New York State.  Both of these had a “trickle down” effect in Rochester to be felt in subsequent years.

Awareness is a complicated aspect of the AIDS Epidemic.  By 1988 there were many avenues of communication being used – doctors, school curriculums, public health warnings, the radio, television, and to some extent the internet.  Early AIDs organizations, the NYS Health Department, the NYS AIDS Institute, and the Rochester Area Task Force on AIDS were all trying to stay ahead of the curve in trying to deal with the fear, confusion, mistrust of governmental systems, and shear denial. One of the key components of awareness however, is the willingness and ability to hear.  In 1988 the first treatments for AIDS were available, concrete knowledge about the disease, its causes and how it was transmitted from person to person were known but with many fears and inaccuracies attached to the information by those communicating it.  That is one reason why in May, 1988 the Surgeon General of the United states C. Everett Koop mailed a congressionally-mandated eight-page, condensed version of his 1986 Surgeon General’s Report on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome report named Understanding AIDS to all 107,000,000 households in the United States, becoming the first federal authority to provide explicit advice to US citizens on how to protect themselves from AIDS.

Prior to this mailing in February 1986, nearly five years after the outbreak of the epidemic, President Reagan instructed his Surgeon General to prepare a report on AIDS. Koop went to work with dispatch. During the next several months he met with numerous groups and experts involved in the fight against AIDS, from the National Hemophilia Foundation to the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, from Christian fundamentalists to scientists such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, leader of AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to AIDS patients themselves whom he visited in hospitals around Washington, D.C. Throughout he remained careful to treat AIDS not as a moral but as a public health issue, and to preserve his independence from any of the groups he consulted–as well as from the White House. Koop drafted the report himself at a stand-up desk in the basement of his home on the NIH campus, with only a handful of trusted staff members as advisers, including Fauci. Concerned that an in-depth review by Reagan’s domestic policy advisers would lead to the removal of crucial public health information from the report, such as on condom use, Koop submitted numbered copies of the final draft to the Domestic Policy Council, which he collected at the end of the meeting with the explanation that he sought to prevent leaks of the report to the media. The stratagem was successful: after little debate and without further revision Koop released the report at a press conference on October 22, 1986. Twenty million copies were eventually distributed to the public by members of Congress, public health organizations, and Parent-Teacher Associations. In plain language the 36-page report discussed the nature of AIDS, its modes of transmission, risk factors for contracting the disease, and ways in which people could protect themselves, including use of condoms. It projected that in 1991, 270,000 cases of AIDS would have occurred. The prediction was too pessimistic, as the total reported cases of AIDS in the U.S. through 1991 turned out to be 206,000, a measure of the effectiveness of Koop’s AIDS education campaign. In his remarks Koop emphasized that since education was the best and only strategy of prevention against AIDS, and since AIDS was spread primarily through sex, school children from grade three onward should receive sex education.

In his many speeches on AIDS over the next two years Koop emphasized that the best protection against the disease was provided by sexual abstinence and monogamy. Koop pointed out to conservatives reluctant to address AIDS, science and traditional morality reinforced one another in the prevention of AIDS. He insisted that in order to stop the spread of the disease he had to dispense health advice to all Americans, including those who engaged in behavior that was in conflict with his personal moral values, namely extramarital, promiscuous, and homosexual sex, and drug use. He appealed to Americans to remain true to their ethic of care and compassion while decrying discrimination against AIDS carriers in the workplace, in schools, in housing, and in insurance policies. He argued for voluntary, confidential testing because it would encourage those at greatest risk to seek medical care, while mandatory testing would drive them underground, would produce many false positives, and would serve no purpose in the absence of a vaccine or cure. He considered quarantine of AIDS carriers unconstitutional and unnecessary from an epidemiological standpoint. Finally, Koop drew attention to the plight of the growing number of children who had acquired AIDS from their mothers or through blood transfusions, as well as to the effect their disease had on their families.

With no cure and no vaccine, educating the public on how AIDS was transmitted, who was at risk, and how to protect oneself was the only way left to slow the spread of the disease. Since this task fell under the mandate of his office, Koop concluded that “if ever there was a disease made for a Surgeon General, it was AIDS.”  His report, speeches, and television appearances did much to change the public debate on AIDS in the United States and, along with it, attitudes towards public discussion of sexuality. In April of 1988, the first condom ad appeared on national television. By then, analogies between AIDS and the great epidemic scourges of the past were heard less often; so were calls for mandatory testing and quarantine of AIDS carriers, the most rigorous public health measures employed during past epidemics. Instead, following the lead of the Surgeon General, physicians, government officials, politicians, and the public were coming to view AIDS as a preventable and manageable disease, even if it was not curable. With the advent of AZT (zidovudine, formerly called azidothymidine) in 1986, and especially with the development of a more effective combination of antiretroviral drugs in the mid-1990s, AIDS in the United States changed from an epidemic to a chronic disease, with the focus as much on the long-term medical care and medical costs, employment opportunities, and civil rights of AIDS patients as on AIDS education and prevention.

In his papers, Koop recollected, during this period “AIDS took over my life.” Through his report and his many speeches and interviews on AIDS Koop did more than any other public official to shift the terms of the public debate over AIDS from the moral politics of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use, practices through which AIDS was spread, to concern with the medical care, economic position, and civil rights of AIDS sufferers. Similarly, Koop promoted redefining the prevalent scientific model of the disease, from a contagion akin to bubonic plague, yellow fever, and other deadly historic epidemics that required the strongest public health measures–mandatory testing and quarantine of carriers–to a chronic disease that was amenable to long-term management with drugs and behavioral changes.

Koop has been viewed in the light of the Reagan Administration.  In the course of doing research on this article, your author has come to recognize the contribution C. Everett Koop made in the awareness of AIDS to the citizens of the united States including those in Rochester, NY.  Shoulders To Stand On is proud of the down to earth, straightforward talk C. Everett Koop gave New Yorkers and the world.  Next month we will look at legislative action and the role of New York’s AIDS Institute.






Rochester AIDS History Chapter 22

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC February Issue 2017

The Long Road To Wellness (cont’d)

The Road To Wellness has many twists and turns.  For every two steps forward there seems to be one step back.  Such is the history of many movements, progress and our own growth and development.  Much is learned from our failures as well as our successes.  In this month’s History of AID – The Road to Wellness, I want to look at the year 1988 in 3 areas related to creating a healthy Rochester community: Rochester’s  response to AIDS; drug users; and the rise of AIDS in the heterosexual community.

First in 1988 Monroe County school districts implement an AIDS curriculum.  In 1988 the curriculum would have informed students and parents about AIDS, how to prevent it – sexually and through drug use.  Information on treatment would have been limited to AZT, and a few other potentially effective drugs.  Today Monroe County School Districts must follow the New York Sexuality Education Law and Policy which states:

Health education is required for all students in kindergarten through twelfth grade in New York. This instruction must provide information about HIV/AIDS. Health education is taught by classroom teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade; in seventh through twelfth grades, HIV/AIDS instruction must be taught by teachers who have been given appropriate training and curriculum materials by the board of education or trustees.

All HIV/AIDS education must “provide accurate information to pupils concerning the nature of the disease, methods of transmission, and methods of prevention.” This instruction must be age-appropriate and consistent with community values and “shall stress abstinence as the most appropriate and effective premarital protection against AIDS.”

Each local school board must establish an advisory council to make recommendations on HIV/AIDS instruction. The state does not require or suggest a specific curriculum, but does provide a curriculum framework, the Learning Standards for Health, Physical Education, and Family and Consumer Sciences. The framework does not specifically mention sexuality education though certain topics within sexuality education are included, such as “understanding of the changes that accompany puberty.”

Parents may exempt their children from HIV/AIDS classes as long as the school is given “assurance that the pupil will receive such instruction at home.” This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.

To assist implementation of the AIDS curriculum in 1988, Monroe county funded 3 community basedorganizations and and AIDS Resource Library to provide prevention education.  As a result Action for a Better Community, Baden Street Settlement and the Puerto Rican Ypouth Development and resource Center began developing comprehensive services.

Second in February, 1988 Jesse Watkins, chairman of Pres. Reagan’s AIDS Commision, recommended a 10 yr., $15 billion expansion of rehabilitative treatment for IV drug abuse, including estahlishment of 3300 new drug abuse clinics and hiring 32,000 specialists to staff them in an effort to help control the spread of AIDS.  At that time there was a growing scientific consensus that IV drug users were the main source of new AIDS infections.  Drug addicts accounted for 53% of all deaths due to AIDS in New York City from 1978 to 1986 according to an article published in the journal, Science, Feb 12,1988.  In New York City, new AIDS cases that result from shared needles exceed those attributable to sexual contact, and in November, 1988 the city’s Health Department begins an experimental needle exchange program.  Rochester would wait until AIDS Rochester began a needle exchange program in 1994.

People who inject drugs (also known as PWID) are among the group most vulnerable to HIV infection. HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is 28 times higher than among the rest of the population.  Drug use now accounts for an ever growing proportion of those living with HIV. On average one in ten new HIV infections are caused by the sharing of needles.   Moreover, almost one third of global HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa are caused by injecting drugs.

Third in March, 1988 according to a study by sex t6herapists Dr. William H. Masters, Virginia E. Johnson, and collaborator Dr. Rocbert c. Kolody, ‘the aids virus is now running rampant in the heterosexual community.’  Their findings, reported in the book Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS, were met with criticism from other AIDS researchers and public health officials.  In April, a report in the Journal of the American medical Association states that the risk of exposure to AIDS through heterosexual intercourse is low. The degree of risk, according to the study, is determined bywhether one’s sexual partneris from a high risk group (bisexual males, prostitutes or IV drug abusers), whether condoms are used,and abstinence from high-risk sexual behaviors.

According to the CDC in September, 2016 around 1 in 4 people living with HIV in the United States are women, and most new HIV diagnoses in women are attributed to heterosexual sex. Women made up 19% (8,328) of the estimated 44,073 new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2014. Of these, 87% (7,242) were attributed to heterosexual sex,e and 13% (1,045) were attributed to injection drug use.  Among all women diagnosed with HIV in 2014, an estimated 62% (5,128) were African American, 18% (1,483) were white, and 16% (1,350) were Hispanic/Latina.  Women accounted for 25% (5,168) of the estimated 20,792 AIDS diagnoses among adults and adolescents in 2014 and represent 20% (246,372) of the estimated 1,210,835 cumulative AIDS diagnoses in the United States from the beginning of the epidemic through the end of 2014.  Of the total estimated number of womenc living with diagnosed HIV at the end of 2013, 61% (137,504) were African American, 17% (39,177) were white, and 17% (38,664) were Hispanics/Latinas.  Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with mena made up an estimated 2% of the population but 55% of people living with HIV in the United States in 2013. The CDC also reported that in 2014 gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the estimated new HIV diagnoses among all males aged 13 and older and 67% of the total estimated new diagnoses in the United States; gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 accounted for an estimated 92% of new HIV diagnoses among all men in their age group and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men; gay and bisexual men accounted for an estimated 54% (11,277) of people diagnosed with AIDS and of those men, 39% were African American, 32% were white, and 24% were Hispanic/Latino.

We will continue to document the Rochester community’s response to AIDS.  Even though todays treatments are much more effective than in the past, we have a long way to go in changing at risk behaviors that increase the number of those diagnosed with AIDS.  Shoulders To Stand On recognizes the energy and work required to make change happen, and is proud of the Rochester community and its continued response to the AIDS epidemic.

Rochester AIDs History Chapter 21

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC Dec – Jan Issue 2016

The Long Road To Wellness (cont’d)

Prior to the approval of AZT by the FDA, in 1986 NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) established the Division of AIDS.  The Division of AIDS (DAIDS) was formed to develop and implement the national research agenda to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Toward that end, the division supports a global research portfolio to advance biological knowledge of HIV/AIDS, its related co-infections, and co-morbidities. With the ultimate goal of creating an “AIDS-Free Generation,” the division develops and supports the infrastructure and biomedical research needed to: 1) halt the spread of HIV through the development of an effective vaccine and biomedical prevention strategies that are safe and desirable; 2) develop novel approaches for the treatment and cure of HIV infection; 3) treat and/or prevent HIV co-infections and co-morbidities of greatest significance; and 4) partner with scientific and community stakeholders to efficiently implement effective interventions.   Well before 1986, the New York State Department of Health established the AIDS Institute.  The AIDS Institute, still in existence today, protects and promotes the health of New York State’s diverse population through disease surveillance and the provision of quality prevention, health care and support services for those impacted by HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, viral hepatitis and related health concerns.  In addition, the Institute promotes the health of LGBT populations, substance users, and the sexual health of all New Yorkers.

In 1986 and 1987 a clinical research site for HIV treatment (ATCG) and vaccines (HVTN) was established at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).  In 1987 the first identified HIV clinic in Rochester was established at URMC by Bill Valenti.  By November, 1987 there were at least 40 products being researched by various companies hoping to find vaccines or therapeutic treatments for AIDS.  In 1988 URMC was among the first established Centers for AIDS Research by the NIH.  In 1988, URMC was identified as one of six university medical centers to conduct clinical trials of  the first experimental AIDS vaccine approved for testing in humans.  This new genetically engineered AIDS vaccine was made with the virus used to inoculate humans against smallpox.

In March, 1987 AZT was approved by the FDA as the first treatment for AIDS.  Burroughs Wellcome Co. changed the name to Retrovir so that it could be trademarked throughout the world.  A total of 4000 clinical trial patients received the drug at a cost of  $10 million to the developer/manufacturer.  The plan at the time of approval was to provide Retrovir to the most seriously ill and to trial patients already using it.  In May, 1988 Burroughs Wellcome Co. reported to the FDA that in human clinical trials of 144 persons with AIDS or ARC, nearly 85% are still alive after one year of treatment.  All patients in the trials given the placebo died.  In September, 1988 the British pharmaceutical corporation, Wellcome PLC offered a grant of $5 million to the US Congress for the provision of the anti-AIDS drug AZT to the medically indigent, provided Congress extend a program supplying the life-prolonging drug to low income AIDS patients.  The program extension was expected to cost $10 million.  A year’s treatment with AZT costs approximately $10,000.  The original congressional program, set to expire Sept. 30, was sponsored by Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-CT) in response to protests from advocates for AIDS patients over the high cost of AZT treatments.  The Senate approved a six-month extension of a program providing AZT to medically indigent AIDS patients.  On September 14, 1989 seven ACT UP members infiltrated the New York Stock Exchange and chained themselves to the VIP balcony to protest the high price of the only approved AIDS drug, AZT.  The group displayed a banner that said “SELL WELLCOME”  the pharmaceutical sponsor of AZT.  Several days following the demonstration Burroughs Wellcome lowered the price of AZT from $10,000  to $6,400 per patient per year.

In February of 1988, Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director, stated the final testing of any AIDS Vaccine may have to be done in Africa rather than is the US because the US AIDS infection rate is not high enough to determine whether a vaccine is working.  In March, Fauci reported that human clinical trials of  experimental AIDS drugs have been delayed due to insufficient staffing to direct the drugs through the clinical testing process.  In April, 1988 the Office of AIDS Research is created by the NIH in an effort to centralize and coordinate national AIDS research activities.

In May, 1988 AZT manufacturer Burroughs Wellcome Co. reported to the FDA that in human clinical trials of 144 persons with AIDS or ARC, nearly 85% are still alive after one year of treatment.  All patients in the trials given a placebo were dead.  In June, 1988 pharmaceutical manufacturer Ciba-Geigy Corp announced it would soon begin human tests on a vaccine against HIV.  Also in June NIH AIDS researchers announced at the Fourth International conference on AIDS the results of their tests with a genetically engineered vaccine developed from the AIDS causing virus HIV.  Dr. Jonas Salk, known for his work on the polio vaccine, suggested  that whole, dead HIV cells be used as a vaccine.  In July, 1988 federally sponsored human clinical trials of the anti-AIDS drug dextran sulfate began.

By 1988 frustration was growing over the length of time it had taken to approve AZT and the FDA’s slow progress in improving access to other experimental AIDS drugs. On 11th October 1988 more than a thousand ACT UP demonstrators descended on the FDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, demanding quicker and more efficient drug approval. Eight days later the FDA announced regulations to cut the time it took for drugs to be approved.

By the end of 1988 women were named the fastest growing group with AIDS.  The FDA did speed up the approval process for experimental drugs.  The First World AIDS Day was held in 1988 after health ministers from around the world met in London, England and agreed to such a day as a way of highlighting the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and nations’ responsibility to ensure universal treatment, care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.  In December, 1988 a report in the journal, Proceedings of the Natioanl Academy of Sciences, a serum from healthy carriers of HIV was shown to remove the virus from the blood of patients with AIDS.  At the end of 1988 there were 89,864 cases of AIDS nationwide, and 46,134 people who had died.  There were 167 AIDS cases in Monroe County and 37 in eight rural counties.

Shoulders To Stand On recognizes the monumental work done by those early researchers who identified drugs and treatment for a disease that appeared to be unstoppable,  In 2017 we will continue the History of AIDS as we continue to walk The Long Road To Wellness.


Rochester AIDS History Chapter 20

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC November Issue 2016

The Long Road To Wellness

Once Michael Gottlieb in 1981 identified the virus which would be called gay cancer, grid, gay compromise syndrome, HIV and finally AIDS, it took the government, the medical establishment and society a few years to move beyond shock, fear and denial to finally begin to deal with this deadly disease.

The first phase of research focused on identifying what the cause of AIDS was.  To this end research into the groups of people who contracted AIDS was focused on as well as how the disease was transmitted.   In September, 1882 the CDC defined a case of AIDS as a disease, at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known cause for diminished resistance to that disease. Such diseases included KS, PCP, and serious OI. Diagnoses were considered to fit the case definition only if based on sufficiently reliable methods (generally histology or culture). Some patients who were considered AIDS cases on the basis of diseases only moderately predictive of cellular immunodeficiency may not actually be immunodeficient and may not be part of the current epidemic.

By the end of 1982, a number of AIDS-specific organizations had been set up including Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City founded in 1981,  the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) in the USA and The Terry Higgins Trust (later known as the Terrence Higgins Trust) in the UK, to provide safer sex advice to gay men.  In 1982 in Rochester Drs. Roy Steigbigel and Tom Rush held  clinics on AIDS in conjunction with Sue Cowell at the University Health Services at the U of R to provide information and allay fears of the growing epidemic.  In November , 1982 an ad hoc group of volunteers met to address the the needs of local perswons with AIDS.  This group would later form AIDS Rochester.  In 1983 the AIDS Institute was created within the NYSDOH to coordinate the state’s policies and response to the growing AIDS epidemic.  In November, 1983 the Rochester Area Task force on AIDS was formed.  These organizations and efforts took place within a relatively short period of time from when the AIDS virus was identified, and provided researchers with valuable information on who, how, and the symptomlogy of the disease.

In May, 1983 doctors at the Pasteur Institute in France reported the discovery of a new retrovirus called Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus (or LAV) that could be the cause of AIDS.  By September, the CDC identified all major routes of transmission and ruled out transmission by casual contact, food, water, air or surfaces.  Then a giant leap forward.  In April 1984, the National Cancer Institute announced they had found the cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HTLV-III. In a joint conference with the Pasteur Institute they announced that LAV and HTLV-III are identical and the likely cause of AIDS.  In March, 1985 the HIV antibody test is licensed and use begins in blood banks.  N.Y.S. established an “alternate testing program” later known as as the anonymous HIV Counseling and Testing program.  Official statements discouraged testing of persons at high risk because it offered ‘no definitive” medical information.  Now, with the cause of AIDS being known, the focus would shift to prevention, treatment with the hope that a vaccine would be developed in 2 years.

On 17th September 1985 President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS for the first time, when he was asked about AIDS funding at a press conference.  “I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing”.

On 2nd October 1985, the actor Rock Hudson died of AIDS. He was the first major public figure known to have died from an AIDS-related illness. 36

In January, 1986 a Japanese researcher said that a new drug treatment for AIDS tested on 15 patients in the US proved effective in keeping the virus frommultiplying but cannot be considered a cure.  Research scientists at the CDC discovered the way the AIDS virus zeroes in on its target in the body’s immune system.  Dr. Steven J. McDougal says finding suggests new ways of stopping or preventing AIDS infection.  In Febraury, 1986, AZT Phase II testing begins with 300 patients.  Placebo control group was used initially, but dropped quickly when 16 on placebo die as opposed to one on AZT.  The FDA challenged Newport Pharmaceuticals Inc’s report that it had some success treating AIDS with Isoprinosine.  In March, 1986 scientists at NCI identified and produced in pure form the enzyme that is key to ability of AIDS virus to infect human cells.  Scientist led by Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal, and a team at Harvard Univ’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute, led by Dr. William A Haseltine, found a way to make the AIDS virus harmless by inactivating one of its genes in laboratory in laboratory experiments.

In May, 1986 researchers for the first time grew the AIDs virus in animal tissues.  Researchers also discover a seventh gene that makes the AIDS virus the most complex of any of the retroviruses.  In 1986 the Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS was published.

In March 1987 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AZT as the first antiretroviral drug to be used as a treatment for AIDS.  By 1988 frustration was growing over the length of time it had taken to approve AZT and the FDA’s slow progress in improving access to other experimental AIDS drugs. On 11th October 1988 more than a thousand ACT UP demonstrators descended on the FDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, demanding quicker and more efficient drug approval. Eight days later the FDA announced regulations to cut the time it took for drugs to be approved.

In 1989 results from a major drug trial know as ACTG019 were announced. The trial showed that AZT could slow progression to AIDS in HIV-positive individuals with no symptoms. These findings were thought to be extremely positive; on August 17th a press conference was held, at which the Health Secretary, Louis Sullivan said: “Today we are witnessing a turning point in the battle to change AIDS from a fatal disease to a treatable one.”

The initial optimism was short-lived when the price of the drug was revealed. A year’s supply for one person would cost around $7,000, and many Americans did not have adequate health insurance to cover the cost. Burroughs Wellcome, the makers of AZT, were accused of ‘price gouging and profiteering’. In September, the cost of the drug was cut by 20 percent.

Shoulders To Stand On recognizes the challenges faced in AIDS research – financially, technologically, governmentally, and societally.  We also recognize the accomplishments and achievements of those in research, treatment and direct care.  As we move through the intervening years between 1986 and the present,  Shoulders To Stand On recognizes the cyclical movement that brings success, and applauds the perseverance, commitment and dedication of those who have experienced the small steps forward and the steps backward.   Next month. The Long Road To Wellness will look at the “cocktail.”

Rochester AIDS History Chapter 19

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC October Issue 2016

AIDs Research and Treatment

Research and treatment of a disease ultimately begin with its identification.  The next task is to determine cause and then how it is transmitted.  Once these are determined, and only then can you do the research to find effective treatments.  Unlike many diseases but similar to STD’s, AIDS is transmitted by sexual behaviors.  It is not air born, carried by insects, or transmitted             through foods and/or the water supply.  It is carried by human beings and transmitted by human sexual contact and by sharing needles.  Determining the cause and the modes of transmission took time.  However it only after these are determined that you can begin to research treatment through medicines and behavioral changes.  Over the next few months we will look at each of these components.  We will review how AIDS was identified, and the cause,  Then we will look at the research and treatments to find effective ways to provide quality of life for those infected and the vision for a cure.

The AIDS epidemic in the United states Officially began with the publication in the June 8, 1981 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the bulletin of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of a report of five cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center.  Dr. Michael Gottlieb, graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1973, was the first to identify the disease in 1981, and wrote the CDC about five patients which resulted in the CDC bulletin.  When AIDs turned 20, Dr. Michael Gottlieb wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, June 7, 2001, the following: ”Since June 5, 1981 AIDS has claimed more than 21 million lives, including more that 438,000 in the United States.  Gottlieb refers to Susan Sontag, a cancer patient, who pointed out that AIDS carried a greater social stigma than cancer in her 1989 book AIDS and Its Metaphors, an extension of her 1978 book Illness as Metaphor. Susan noticed in 1978 that the cultural myths surrounding cancer negatively impacted her as a patient.  Susan found that a decade later in 1989 cancer was no longer swathed in secrecy and shame, but had been replaced by AIDS as the disease most demonized by society. Susan sontag theorized that the metaphors associated with disease contribute not only to stigmatizing the disease, but also stigmatizing those who are ill. She believed that the distractions of metaphors and myths ultimately cause more fatalities.  Michael Gottlieb in this article follows by stating that from the very first days, AIDS was a polarizing issue, and one that society and its institutions – including academic medicine – were reluctant to take up.  The neglect of the disease and the patients it attackedwas sadly predictable; after all, this epidemic was linked to sexual behavior and intravenous drug use and affected groups that were already marginalized.  Discussions of public health strategies to contain the disease aroused anxiety in the homosexual population about possible draconian measures.  These understandable fears contributed to the difficulty of striking a balance between the civil rights of infected persons and the right of other members of society to be protected from a fatal disease.

Gottlieb goes on to state that at teaching hospitals (University of Rochester, and others), the directors of residency programs worried that having large numbers of patients with AIDS on their wards would make it more difficult to recruit the best applicants.  Some clinicians feared  for their own safety in caring for patients with AIDS;  indeed, the denial of care was not unusual.  Over the years, however, this inglorious anxiety was difused by the adoption of universal precautions for the handling of blod.  By now in 2001, most physicians, including many who were trained during the early 1980’s are accustomed to caring for HIV infected patients with concern and compassion.

The stigma and fear of AIDS was, and still is, in part based on the fact that HIV in its earlier years in the United States was marked by an affliction of very specific risk groups – homosexual men and intravenous drug users – groups that society shunned, de-valued as human beings, and scape goated for societal ills.   The patient with HIV was perceived to be responsible for his own illness because of the unsafe habits that one seemingly had to pursue to contract it – “indulgence, delinquency – addictions to chemicals that are illegal and to sex regarded as deviant.” Having these defined subgroups created a distinction between the ill and potentially ill, and the general population.

AIDS was seen as a plague and as a judgment on the individuals suffering from it. Despite the fact that it is a heterosexual disease as well as a global issue, it is still often discussed as a consequence of decadence and a punishment for “deviant” sexual behavior.

Although HIV was likely not a new virus, its emergence changed attitudes towards illness and medicine. Infectious diseases have clearly not been as summarily defeated as society would have preferred to believe.

These societal attitudes were a major reason why services and financial resources were slow to come.  The judgments on the illness and the patients are still implicit in any discussion today.  Attitudes and perceptions do not change that much over time.  Certainly the number of visible well known celebrities, activists, and political figures who are gay and/or HIV positive have altered to some degree those pre-conceived visceral reactions and attitudes.  Today, the fear and stigma of HIV positive people is less because of treatments that allow you to live with this disease, and the invisibleness that comes with successful treatment.  In the 1980’s this fear and stigma were a major barrier in determining the cause.  There were numerous theories regarding the cause of AIDS, many of which now seem eccentric.  We will look at these, the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS and the first FDA approved drug for treatment in future issues.

Shoulders To Stand On would like to recognize Susan Sontag for the work she and others did to deconstruct the fearmongering, stigmatizing, and dehumanizing attitudes toward cancer and AIDS.  We all must carry on this work of deconstructing the attitudes of oppression and prejudice within ourselves and those we know.  Shoulders To Stand On is grateful for all of those who have and continue to raise their voices in our struggle to be free and proud of who we are as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender variant men and women.

Rochester AIDS History Chapter 18

Shoulders To Stand On                                                                           EC September Issue 2016

Impact of AIDs on Students in American Schools

In 1985 AIDS cases were reported in 51 countires.  Here in the United States at the end of 1985 there were 20,740 AIDS cases nationwide.  There are24 cases in Monroe County, and the first 4 cases are reported in 8 non-urban counties.  In November of 1985 five of the 93 tests done so far in 1985 were positive.  In August of 1985, now four years after HIV/AIDS was identified,  the CDC reported that the results of two Gallup Polls on AIDS indicated that 95% of the US population had heard of AIDS.

In August, 1985 the Center for Disease control (CDC) issued guidelines indicating school-aged children infected with the AIDS virus should be allowed to attend school, and school officials should do their best to protect pupils’ privacy.  The CDC guidelines did say each case should be decided on an individual basis.  It also said there appeared to be no danger of infection from casual contact.  However, the guidelines recommended that that children with AIDS not attend kindergarten or day-care centers because children of that age sometimes bite each other, and that preschoolers and handicapped children be kept out of the school until more is known about how the disease is transmitted.  The CDC also recommended that adoption and foster care agencies administer AIDS antibody tests to children whose parents were in high-risk groups, or whose parents’ histories were not known.

In September, 1985 in Queens, NY parents in two community school districts organized a boycott to protest the city’s decision to allow a second grader with AIDS to attend regular classes.  11,000 students stayed home on the first day; 9,000 did so on the second day.  On September 8, 1985 the Orlando Sentinel reported the question of whether children who have AIDS should be allowed to attend public schools had sparked heated debate in some states.  At the same time Orange County, Florida barred a 5 yr. old with AIDS from kindergarten despite the recommendation by the Florida Medical Assn that students and teachers who have AIDS should not be denied access to public schools.  The Orlando Sentinel also reported that until Swansea, Mass.,had  admitted an AIDS victim recently, no public school system had done so. Parents were fearful of infection and skeptical of the reassurances of medical experts.  Also in September, 1985 in Los Angeles a 3-year-old boywith AIDS was barred from class for handicapped children.  It was decided that he would receive private instruction at home if he was accepted into the county special education program.

In October, 1985 New York City Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones reveals that 3 children were removed from classes because their mothers’ boyfriends were suspected of having AIDS.  The national education Assn suggested that districts decide on a case-by-case basis whether children with AIDS should attend regular classes.  In December, 1985 a school district in Hazelwood, MO dropped training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation because of fear that high school students might be exposed to AIDS.  In August 1986 6 of 13 children in New York City known to have AIDS or AIDS-related complex were allowed to attend public schools.  In March, 1987 many schools throughout New York’s metropolitan region begin to teach students about AIDS, its transmission and methods of prevention.

In June, 1986 the American Medical Association maintains public schools should be open to children with AIDS, except for pre-schoolers and handicapped children.  In August, 1986 New York City officials allowed 6 of 13 children known to have AIDS, or a less severe disorder, IDS-related complex will be allowed to attend public schools.  The identities of the children and schools were not disclosed.

In February, 1987 the Reagan administration issued an AIDS education plan that called for specific information to be made available to Americans on how to prevent the spread of the disease, and included the use of condoms for sexually active people.  California approved AIDS education in high school.  At the same time, throughout New York metropolitan region, many school began to teach students about AIDS, its transmission, and methods of prevention.

In April, 1987 ronald Reagan announced “We have declared AIDS public health enemy number one.”  Due to the passage of the “Helms amendment” which prevented federal funding of any AIDS education efforts that “encouraged or promoted homos4exual activity”. The Monroe County legislature approved $100,000 for funding community based programs and in February, 1988 Monroe county school districts began implementing the AIDS curriculum developed by the “Minority Committee” in December, 1986.  AIDS and the Education of Our Children: A Guide for Parents and Children written in October 1987 primarily by Education Secretary William J. Bennett, urged all parents and teachers to stress ‘appropriate moral and social conduct’ as the first line of defense against the spread of the AIDS virus.

As of last October, 2015, the US Dept. of Ed. policy on the placement of children with AIDS attending school comes from policies developed in 1991 and updated on a regular basis  The law of which Section 504 is a part defines a handicapped person as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is perceived as having such an impairment. For example, while some individuals with AIDS are substantially impaired physically, virtually all individuals with AIDS are regarded as having an impairment.  Children with AIDS are identified as qualified handicapped persons, and therefore are eligible to receive any and all benefits allowed under law.

In terms of AIDs education All states are somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren.  As of March 1, 2016:

– 24 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (21 of which

mandate sex education and HIV education).

– 33 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about HIV/AIDS.

– 20 states require that if provided, sex and/or HIV education must be medically, factually or

technically accurate.

Many states define parents’ rights concerning sexual education:

– 38 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to allow parental involvement in

sexual education programs.

– Four states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction.

– 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children.

Shoulders To Stand On is in awe of all of school aged children who have AIDS.  Attitudes toward “handicapped” persons has changed, but they are still not embraced with openness and acceptance.  STSO is proud of all those students who stand tall with dignity and pride.


Next month we will begin to look at AIDS research and treatment.