It s been likened to a plague, but AIDS was never just a health crisis. The second of a series on grieving the death of a friend, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, revisits a time when people with AIDS were also targets of bigotry and discrimination. In stories about Ryan White, ACT UP, the Names Project, red ribbons and more, you ll learn why friends made all the difference: not just caregiving or memorializing, but changing the way society confronts the medical establishment and government to demand action.
When I started writing about friend grief, I always knew that I would have to write about AIDS.
I was working in theatre when the epidemic began, and by the late 1980s I was fundraising for AIDS service organizations. Not unlike the beginning of COVID, friends simply disappeared, only to appear in the obituaries of the weekly LGBT papers. They died horrific deaths, often alone and stigmatized, abandoned by their families and kicked out of their homes.
From the beginning, it was clear to me that AIDS was not a 'gay disease'. Viruses can't discriminate like that, so we were all at risk. As a straight woman, I wasn't always welcomed into the AIDS community, but I kept at it because I wanted to help.
Writing this book brought me back to that community after a long absence. And it led to me writing another book, about the contributions of straight women during the still on-going epidemic. It has enriched my life in ways I did not know were possible, and it also helped me deal with COVID.