Breaking Down Barriers - AIDS


In June of 1981, the U-S Center for Disease Control found that five healthy gay men had contracted peculiar infections which a functioning immune system should have easily combated. Within the year 121 gay men across the country died of what would come to be known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Support centers and groups sprung up across the country including in Champaign, Illinois. Jerry Carden was the first chairperson of the Champaign based Gay Community AIDS Project. He and his partner, Tim Temple, say GCAP helped gays deal with the fear of AIDS and human immunodeficiency virus infection…

Carden Temple 10:22 second interview
[Tim] Some of our friends,  people that we used for our hair, one of the first people locally that died of AIDS that we knew was the guy that cut my hair. [...] So it was a scary time. Being just newly in a relationship, you didn’t know what was out there, what was going to make you sick, what potentially could make you sick. Who or what?
[Tim:] There were so many unknowns about how it was transmitted, that was another fear for me. I was a health educator and I thought I should be involved in helping to educate others with what little did we know. [...] There was always this kinda fear like, “Nothing’s being done, what is happening?” And it really did make you feel very scared.

Along with fear came a greater stigma attached to homosexuality. Bob Rowe is a current board member of GCAP…
Rowe 47:20
It was bad. If you were even suspected of having AIDS or HIV, and you owned any type of business, you might as well close your doors, because they’re not going to go to you. You were a total leper. And even if you weren’t gay—if you were a hemophiliac—and you just got the HIV through a blood transfusion, your family was shunned. It was ignorance. I mean, people were just scared. Because you died.  Rowe 45:48 (EDITED)
You didn’t know if relationships were possible. You dated [...] HIV/AIDS changed things like that, people started being more monogamous and more long-term relationships came out of it.

Karen Bush served as a campus minister during the AIDS epidemic. Like Carden and Rowe, Bush worked with the Gay Community AIDS Project.

Bush 1:21:41
[...] in terms of HIV, I remember one time I invited a couple of guys who were HIV positive to come and talk to my students because they had really touched me. I remember them saying that: “Being HIV positive has been a gift in my life.” It was the first time that they had been alive when so many others had been dead at 30 and buried at 70.

And Tim Temple and Jerry Carden say AIDs made many gays rethink relationships…
Carden Temple 17:43 second interview
[Tim:] We had a number of friends die from AIDs and it just seemed like we were going to hospitals or to memorial services all the time. It was just—you’d find out someone else was sick.
[Jerry:] My closest friend outside of Tim, with our relationship, Steve, came down with HIV and eventually full blown AIDS, and I was with him when he died, and some other friends.  [...] So I’m one of those people that consider myself grateful to be alive.

Since 1996, the incidence rate of AIDs has declined significantly, and more information is available regarding the disease itself.  But news from latest International AIDS Conference says a CURE for Aids is still years away.
This is Alice Hu…..

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule later this month on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage.  Students from University Laboratory High School prepared a series of stories about the experiences of people who have fought for the right to marry. In part two of Breaking Barriers we hear how the AIDS epidemic helped galvanize gay rights activists in the United States. Series producer Alice Hu narrates the story written by herself and Uni High student Ellen Rispoli.

More on The Right to Marry


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