Early Days of AIDS Epidemic are in New Exhibit

Monday, June 03, 2013

The prejudice, confusion and political struggle that marked the Aids epidemic in New York in the early 80s are the subject of a new exhibit.

A show opening on Friday at the New York Historical Society on the Upper West Side features things like photographs, posters, diaries and video clips that document the first years of the disease.

An accompanying exhibit displays pictures of children with Aids. They were taken by photographer Claire Yaffa between 1990 to 2002 at Incarnation Children Center in Washington Heights. She says all but one of the children died, and she wants New Yorkers to know their story. "If I've done anything for this children, at least people know they were here, you know, they did live," she said.

Jacob Siegel is 12 years old and he was visiting the show with his mom Meg. He says he was shocked to read about the initial misinformation that marked the disease. "It's really sad that nobody did anything at first. Like this is a whole area of prejudice, silence, darkness, the dark ages of HIV. And you can really see why," he said.

The exhibit goes until September 15th.

David Emfinger
Fighting for our Lives: An AIDS Candlelight March, May 2, 1983
Mario Suriani/Associated Press
A group advocating AIDS research marches down Fifth Avenue during the 14th annual Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in New York, June 27, 1983.
Frank Fournier
Parents Protesting Board of Education, 1985
Claire Yaffa
Tracy, ca. 1990-91
Claire Yaffa
Anthony, ca. 1990-1992


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Comments [4]

Some additional quotes from Rob McGee, who says of himself, "I'm a total homo with no apologies, but please don't call me gay, because it's a stupid word and an even stupider subculture." :
( )

"Gay male culture TEACHES men that they should diligently practice and practice and practice until they start to enjoy the sensation of being anally penetrated -- and believe you me, there's quite a substantial learning curve involved! And then the culture encourages them to think that this is somehow encoded in their genes."
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"[...] it's a dubious practice at best, yet throughout the entire run of the AIDS epidemic, the promotion and glamorization of rumpy-pumpy has never ceased in the "gay community." "

"gay men who don't enjoy buggery experience relentless (albeit often subtle) peer pressure telling them that they're missing out on something incredibly fabulous and they could/should LEARN to enjoy it ("it" meaning "receptive anal sex") with a little more effort. Or, gee -- maybe they're afraid to try it because they suffer from internalized homophobia and self-loathing?"
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Jun. 04 2013 01:45 AM

It's not exactly a mystery why HIV rates among homo- and bi-sexual males are MANY times higher than those for any other segment of the population.

"For anal penetration is an exceptionally efficient mode of disease transmission, and we can be sure that pathogens will continue to find an infective niche in anal." - From the introduction by Bill Weintraub and Luke Shelton to the Man2Man Alliance ( *), an expressly PRO-homoerotic organization

(*Assume all linked content at site to contain graphic, sexually explicit (but serious and necessary) material-- not just those marked as such)

Blogger RobMcGee ( , ), another unapologetic homosexual, writes:

"By the early '90s, the language of the Dutch campaign had been changed -- totally dropping the "don't have anal sex at all" suggestion. (Which was, let's remember, MERELY a suggestion, as the libertarian Netherlands had abolished its anti-sodomy laws as of 1813 .) In place of the two-pronged approach, the revised language put all the AIDS-prevention eggs into just one basket. That basket being, of course, "Use a condom every time you have anal sex." Which in no time at all got truncated to "Use a condom every time" -- thus subtly reinforcing the highly dubious notions that breaking-and-entry through the backdoor is not only "vanilla," but also the Default Mode of male/male sex.

And why exactly was point (1) dropped from the Dutch campaign? And why was it never even given a chance by the NIH, CDC and other tax-funded government health institutions in the US? "

Excerpt from:

Jun. 04 2013 01:38 AM
Intelligent Ape from NYC

Ed, your comment has to the dumbest one I have e-v-e-r- read on wnyc's comments board - it's laughable!
You obviously have not the first clue of how this virus is spread among human beings. It's a virus dude, not a judgement call from supreme being.
Viruses mutate, they evolve, like how humans evolved from ape.

Jun. 03 2013 09:15 AM
Ed from Larchmont

In the mid to late 1980s the people in the gay movement had a choice. They could have advocated that people abstain from same-sex activity since it was killing people, and there were no medicines. Or they could claim a right to same-sex activity and demand that society find a cure and support them, in spite of the fact that the illness was a general public health threat and some innocent people died (Arthur Ashe).

They chose the second path. And many people died of AIDS before medicines were discovered.

Jun. 03 2013 08:10 AM

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