July 3, 1981 is engrained in our minds forever. When The New York Times published its first article about AIDS, entitled "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals," it marked the start of an ominous and terror-filled summer. Many of us have vivid memories of reading that headline, our minds racing, panicking, thinking about the health and well-being of our friends, our family, and ourselves.
Those early days of the epidemic were the hardest and the darkest, when stigma and homophobia prevented true acknowledgement and resources from being dedicated to a disease that has killed over 650,000 people in this country alone, and infected more than 60 million people worldwide. The New York Times put these words into print for the first time, officially cementing HIV and AIDS into mainstream media. And a month later in Larry Kramer's living room, during what was one of the hardest and scariest times to be a gay man, Gay Men's Health Crisis was formed to not only be a resource to the entire LGBT community and fight to end the epidemic, but also to provide support, and advocate for all those affected.
Today, as we cross this milestone 35 years later, there have been countless articles published on HIV and AIDS. But that doesn't mean the substantial conversations around the LGBT community and the HIV and AIDS plague are happening. We are currently in a presidential election cycle where not a single question on HIV and AIDS has been asked of our candidates during debates hosted by all of the major news outlets and social media platforms. Tragically, the majority of Americans do not realize that the same hatred and stigma that existed in the early years of the epidemic still exists in 2016. Our nation just witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history, where 49 LGBT people, largely Latino Americans, and allies were targeted and murdered at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida.
Looking back on the first New York Times article on AIDS reminds us of how far we have come. We are closer than ever to actually ending the epidemic once and for all. But it also reminds us that we still have work to do. GMHC will continue being a voice for the voiceless, and we will not rest until we finally have a New York Times headline declaring the end of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.