TimeLine on AIDS

April 18, 2004

1981:The press reports that “an unusual cancer,” probably transmitted sexually, is killing homosexual men. Larry Kramer and five others in his living room create the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Ronald Reagan begins first of two terms in the White House, with George H.W. Bush as vice president. In eight years, AIDS is seldom officially mentioned.

1983: Congress holds its first hearings on AIDS. After more than 1,500 U.S. cases have been diagnosed, the National Institutes of Health begin their first major study of the virus.

1985: Actor Rock Hudson dies at 59.

The first AIDS benefit, organized by members of Actors Equity, stars Bette Midler, Christopher Reeve, Lily Tomlin and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The night is the beginning of Equity Fights AIDS, which later merges with the Actors Fund into the ongoing fund-raising organization, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“The Normal Heart” and “As Is,” the first two major AIDS plays, open in New York.

1987: Michael Bennett, director of “A Chorus Line,” dies at 44.

Pianist Liberace dies at 67.

Kramer founds ACT-UP, a guerrilla activist group. Demonstrators dress up as Wall Street traders and chain themselves to a banister overlooking the New York Stock Exchange floor to protest the cost of AZT, then the only FDA-approved AIDS drug.

1989: Columnist William F. Buckley suggests that people with AIDS be tattooed on their buttocks.

Senate protests use of public money to institutions showing homoerotic photos by Robert Mapplethorpe.

The first “Day Without Art: A National Day of Action and Mourning” is organized. On that day, for the first time, proceeds of an AIDS benefit auction go to the militant ACT-UP instead of medical care; Paul Newman donates his car-racing jacket.

1990: Photographer Mapplethorpe dies at 42.

Theater artist Charles Ludlam dies at 47.

Artist Keith Haring dies at 31.

1991: NBA star Magic Johnson announces he is HIV-positive.

1993: Hollywood finally makes a mainstream movie about a gay man with AIDS, “Philadelphia,” for which Tom Hanks wins an Oscar.

2003: Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” is a hit on HBO.

2004: Variety runs a story headlined “It’s a Queer Eye for the Straight Thesp: Playing Gay Loses Stigma Among Hollywood Actors.”

Seventy million AIDS cases are diagnosed worldwide.

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