“We are fighting a disease -- not people”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published the first official report of an unusual illness in five young “active homosexuals” in Los Angeles on June 5,1981. Congressman Waxman was instrumental in getting the first congressional hearing on AIDS in 1982, but the Reagan Administration viewed AIDS as a “gay disease” and a “lifestyle issue” -- not a public health crisis. A grassroots effort mobilized and partnered with the City and County of San Francisco, UCSF, SF General Hospital and local organizations to develop the “San Francisco Model of Care” which relied upon the active involvement of thousands of gay and lesbian activists, volunteers and people with AIDS. In 1986, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stated it is time to “recognize that we are fighting a disease--not people, we must control the spread of AIDS, and at the same time offer the best we can to care for those who are sick.” HIV/AIDS devastated the LGBTQ community and continues to disproportionately affect Black lives. The persistence of proactive engagement with the epidemic opened a public dialogue on sex and sexuality, impacting national and international health policies.