Only Your Calamity: The Beginnings of Activism by and for People With AIDS

Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103(10):1788-98. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301381. Epub 2013 Aug 15.


The invention of AIDS activism came soon after the AIDS epidemic emerged in gay communities in the United States in the early 1980s. AIDS activism by and for people with AIDS, distinct from gay activism responding to the threat of AIDS on the behalf of the whole community, started as a way of resisting the phenomenon of social death. Social death, in which people are considered "as good as dead" and denied roles in community life, posed a unique threat to people with AIDS. An organized political response to AIDS began among gay men with AIDS in San Francisco, California, and New York, New York, formalized in a foundational document later called the Denver Principles. The ideas and language of these first people with AIDS influenced later AIDS activism movements. They also help to illustrate the importance of considering an epidemic from the point of view of people with the disease.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Advocacy / history*
  • Social Discrimination / history*
  • Social Discrimination / prevention & control
  • United States