October 23, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Part One of a brief history of AIDS in L.A.

Second vigil at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Hospital, July 9, 1988. ACT UP/Los Angeles Records, 1987-1997
Second vigil at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Hospital, July 9, 1988. ACT UP/Los Angeles Records, 1987-1997

BY WES JOE  |  December 2nd.  World AIDS Day.  Thirty-four years of epidemic.

In 1981 Michael Gottlieb was a young immunologist at the UCLA Medical Center.  He noticed the unusual incidence of an odd strain of pneumonia among gay men receiving care at the hospital.  He and his colleagues published an account in a medical journal that spring, which was largely ignored.   But weeks later, doctors in New York announced the bizarre outbreak of a rare cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, in that city’s gay community.  And Gottlieb’s phone was ringing off the hook.  Though we now know that HIV made the jump to our species decades before, 1981 is generally considered the year it was “discovered,” and Gottlieb credited as discoverer.

He was ultimately denied tenure – according to some because the hospital sought to become a transplant center, rendering any association with AIDS undesirable.  Gottlieb went on to start his own practice, which counted many PWA’s — including Rock Hudson, among its patients.  In 1985 he co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research with Elizabeth Taylor.  Joel Weisman, one of his UCLA colleagues and an openly gay man, co-founded AIDS Project Los Angeles in 1982 and was an original co-chair along with Diane Abbitt.  In the early days APLA operated its hotline out of a closet at the Los Angeles Lesbian and Gay Center

APLA was just the beginning.  A rainbow of activity emerged.  Rev. Carl Bean founded the Minority AIDS Project in 1985 to serve the African-American community.  That year also saw Ron Rose start Being Alive, People with AIDS Coalition.  In 1986 members of the lesbian and gay temple, Beth Chayim Chadashim, founded Project Nechama.  The following year Asian Pacific Lesbians and Gays helped form the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team.  And Bienestar, which was to become the largest by far of any of these groups, was founded in 1989 by members of Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos.  Emotional and spiritual needs were also met by groups that included Northern Lights Alternatives, Shanti, the Center for Living and Louise Hay’s Hay Rides at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium.

In 1985 APLA staged its first AIDS Walk in West Hollywood, a community that had won cityhood the previous November.  1985 was also the year Rock Hudson announced that he had AIDS.  Just another person among hundreds of thousands – but his disclosure brought the epidemic home to mainstream America.  And diminished some of the estrangement experienced by those afflicted.

But  Lyndon LaRouche’s Proposition 64 still made it onto the California ballot in 1986.  Among its provisions – mandatory HIV testing and the potential for opening quarantine relocation camps.  The community mobilized, the suits of the Municipal Elections Committee cooperating with the No on 64 and “Stop the AIDS Quarantine” activists who organized a 4,000 person march past LaRouche’s offices in Atwater.  With initial polls indicating easy passage, the measure was defeated with a No vote of 71%.

Many LA residents participated in the 1987 LGBT March on Washington, where they met the New York activists who had formed the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power in March that year.  ACT-UP LA was formed in December. Meetings were held in Plummer Park, with offices eventually established above what’s now Intelligentsia in Sunset Junction.  The group conducted numerous actions.  Perhaps the most significant were a series of protests and vigils at County Hospital.

Related Posts

AIDS Memorial Quilt Virtual Exhibition

October 15, 2020

October 15, 2020

The National AIDS Memorial is announcing a virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (the Quilt) that will feature more...

AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2020

August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) is the world’s first walk to fight HIV and AIDS. 35 years ago, a group...

Honoring National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at the ONE Archive

February 4, 2020

February 4, 2020

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is on Friday, February 7. In the LGBTQ+ community, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects gay black men...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

Public Outcry Temporarily Saves Los Angeles LGBT Center’s STD, HIV Services

January 28, 2020

January 28, 2020

The temporary agreement restores funding through the end of March. The Los Angeles LGBT Center announced today that it has...

VIDEO: South Coast Chorale’s Tribute to Gay & Civil Rights Activist

January 24, 2020

January 24, 2020

67 years ago, openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay “lewd conduct” charge for...

Honoring Gay Rights & Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

January 21, 2020

January 21, 2020

On this day in history 67 years ago, gay civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay...

New CA Bill to End the Epidemics of HIV, Hepatitis C and Other STDs in LGBTQ+ Community

January 18, 2020

January 18, 2020

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) recently introduced a bill that would require state agencies to create and enforce a master...

VIDEO: Grand Opening of Los Angeles LGBT Center’s New Campus in South LA

January 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

‘Center South’ will provide HIV testing; access to PrEP and PEP services; housing case management; mental health services; a computer lab; and...

Open Letter to FB Demands Removal of “Factually Inaccurate” Lawsuit Ads Attacking HIV Medication

December 14, 2019

December 14, 2019

Dozens of LGBTQ+, HIV and public health organizations have signed an open letter calling on Facebook to remove law firm...

City of WeHo Survey Seeks Public Feedback to End HIV Stigma

November 16, 2019

November 16, 2019

The City of West Hollywood needs the public’s health recording data on HIV stigmatization.  “Stigma and discrimination are potentially the...

GAY LA: When Catherine Opie Ruled LA

November 14, 2019

November 14, 2019

By Henry Giardina In the first season of the original “L Word,” art plays a bizarrely large role. For a...

Documentary Honors Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets for Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

Walking for a Cure

October 17, 2019

October 17, 2019

Lace up your sneakers, Los Angles. The annual AIDS Walk is back and ready to get some steps in. The...

PrEP Now Available Without Prescription in CA

October 14, 2019

October 14, 2019

Access to HIV prevention medications got a little easier. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would allow...