During the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s, before the discovery of combination drug therapy that turned HIV/AIDS into a "manageable" disease - there were two outward manifestations of having AIDS: the wasting syndrome where once strapping gay men became walking skeletons and the appearance of purple lesions, which some Religious Right types decided was the "mark of Cain" and the supposed visible manifestation of AIDS as "God's punishment" for homosexuality. These lesions were Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), which heretofore had only been known to affect middle aged men of Mediterranean and Jewish descent. Perhaps the best known public awareness of KS came through the 1993 film Philadelphia, in which Tom Hank's character is fired after a homophobic partner in his law firm discovers a lesion on his forehead.
LA Shanti co-founder Daniel P. Warner and singer/AIDS activist Michael Callen at LA Shanti event honoring Callen's fellow composer Peter Allen (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
But writer/activist Patricia Nell Warren's recent piece "KS is back" startled the crap out of me. I thought KS had disappeared with the scientific/medical miracle of combination drug therapy. Not so, as Warren thoroughly points out. As FrontiersLA.com HIV/Health writer Alex Garner noted in his reaction to Warren's piece, we don't have to freak out over the news. With the US Conference on AIDS (USCA) which started this Thursday in Chicago (Alex is attending and covering for Frontiers), we'll no doubt find out more about what's going on.
But just for the sake of LGBT and HIV/AIDS history, I want to take a moment and note how extraordinary it was for those with KS and those of us who cared about them to live with this particular manifestation of the disease. Daniel P. Warner was the co-founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, which was initially based on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
LA Shanti co-founder Daniel P. Warner pre-KS (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Danny is an example of how gay men had to struggle not only with HIV/AIDS but also with the whole mythology around physical beauty. Danny died on his 38th birthday, on Monday, June 14, 1993.