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6.0: Prelude to the AIDS Era

  • Page ID
    68373
  • Personal Story

    I remember specifically when my sister called to tell me about that Enrique, someone I had dated while living in Wisconsin, had died from AIDS-related complications. It was October of 1985.

    She said “They wouldn’t enter his room with the food trays—left them outside even when he couldn’t walk. One day a candy striper was about to go in— Enrique was waving a dollar bill at her through the glass window; he wanted a candy bar. Well, a nurse ran over to the striper, whispered something, and moments later the girl pushed her cart quickly down the hall.”

    “Enrique never got to tell his mother he was dying—who knows if he even knew he was dying?” my sister went on. “He phoned his mother to say that he had a bad flu and was going in to the hospital to rest for a few days. He had even promised to come to San Juan to see her for Thanksgiving.”

    clipboard_e0d904b5971406f2f641a278e7223c93b.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): I moved to Los Angeles in early 1985 from Wisconsin; 4 years into the epidemic I did not know a person with HIV or AIDS. Soon, I was thrust into the world of hearing terms on a daily basis, from friends and patients alike, such as “I’ve been diagnosed,” or “He’s got the pneumonia,” and seeing purplish Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions everywhere I went in Los Angeles.

    I remembered that last phone call Enrique and I had exchanged the previous December, just before I ha moved. He had asked me if I thought all the diarrhea and weight loss he was experiencing could be due to “that new awful AIDS I’ve been hearing about.”

    “Come on, Enrique. I’m sure it’ll pass. You’re fine, just a bug or something. I’ll call you in a few weeks after I’m settled.”

    I never did. And now I never could. And now I was left to wonder if I, too, was infected.
    – Dr. Mark Katz

    DEFINITION OF TERMS

    Although the term LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) has been used throughout the text, it is not a term people used in the 1980s. Queer remained a derogatory term, although the term had started to be reclaimed by the LGBTQ community by the end of the decade. The rise of GLB or LGB acronyms at the end of this era signaled bisexuals as an increasing part of the gay and lesbian coalition. Transgender activism was not prominent in the 1980s and transgender people still struggled for acceptance within the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. Transgender activism would not emerge as a force and enter into broader coalition until later in the 1990s.

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