In the comments section of Karen Ocamb's deeply moving post, "AIDS at 30: Birthdays & Dead Friends," Project Eric Payne directs our attention to this reprint of the first article published about AIDS. The New York Times article from 1981 sent shockwaves through the gay community and led the media to dub the disease "gay cancer."
The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.
The sudden appearance of the cancer, called Kaposi's Sarcoma, has prompted a medical investigation that experts say could have as much scientific as public health importance because of what it may teach about determining the causes of more common types of cancer.
Kaposi's Sarcoma later became an almost scarlet letter among gay men, branding the skin with an easily recognizable mark of a person with AIDS. While we eventually rallied to save our own, I can't forget how many queers were too worried about saving themselves to realize they were drowning their friends in a desperate attempt to stay afloat in a flood of bodies.
This article precipitated a sea change in LGBT politics, community building, and organizing.
As we start Pride month this year, take a moment to reflect on just how fucking lucky you are to be here to see it. A lot of our elders and friends weren't so lucky and their deaths paved the way for today's civil rights advances.