Gay Men’s Health Crisis: An Early Haven for People with AIDS

Prior, a character from Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1993) suffers from HIV/AIDS. His story was common among many young gay men in NYC at that time.[1] For many, AIDS was a scary and difficult subject to discuss.  In the play, Prior was scared to tell Louis, his partner that he became infected with the disease and Louis, on his part was scared to face the reality of his partner having HIV/AIDS. This got me thinking what options that these two characters, especially Prior, had in the early 1990s. What kind of support system, outside their friends, could they seek in NYC?

The Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) probably provided that support system for gay men in the eighties and early nineties. The organization got its start in 1981 when a group of men met at Larry Kramer’s apartment to talk how they can raise funds to research a cure for the disease. Larry Kramer, Edmund White, Lawrence D. Mass, Paul Popham, and Paul Rapoport, went on to establish the GMHC a year later. Their first event, “Showers” on April 8, 1982 managed to bring in $50,000 to help support the organization, it was decided later by the group that they can do more to help People with AIDS (PWA’s).

The organization was the largest volunteer AIDS organization and the first to address the issue of helping People with AIDS and funding research for a cure.[2] The organization offered many services early in its existence, such as a buddy organization, a hotline, legal aid, crisis counseling and more. The buddy organization, were a group of trained volunteers who would be on call for 24 hours for the organization’s clients. Often these “buddies” would help various people with daily activities such as getting them bathed, accompanying them to the hospital or to an outing. The buddies sometimes would served as someone who would advocate on the PWA’s behalf when it came to talking with doctors. The purpose of the buddy system was to give PWA’s a caregiver if they did not have one, especially during a time when most hospitals would refuse to treat people who have HIV/AIDS. Another component, of the organization that is important to note is that they were one of the first to have a hotline that addressed people’s questions about the disease.

In the nineties the organization expanded their clientele from just being gay men to include straight men, women, and children as more AIDS related organization began to serve anyone who was afflicted with virus or the full blown disease.[3] GMHC continues to offer many of the services they had in early on while also providing workshops and programs for the purpose of sharing new information on HIV/AIDS. Their website, , which is easy to navigate, has up to date information on the disease if anyone is interesting in knowing the latest information.





[1] Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Theater Communications Group Inc,  New York, NY: 1993 21.




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