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AIDS in New York: A Biography


Playwright Sarah Schulman rages against the commodification of AIDS-related art in Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America.

New AIDS cases in NYC, 1997 and 1998: 13,060.
Deaths so far: 73,070.


February 1
Scientists trace HIV to a virus in chimpanzees, first spread to humans through chimp bites and exposure to chimp blood during hunting.

Poz publishes a cover story on “Boys Who Bareback,” about the rise of condomless sex among gay men.

February 16
In a city Health Department sex survey, 18 percent of young black men who admit to having sex with other men are infected with HIV (compared with 3 percent of white respondents). That rate would double in two years, around the time that the slang term down low—for black men who have sex with men but don’t identify as gay—goes mainstream. “When white businessmen have sex with other men, they’re in this nice quiet thing called the closet,” says Phil Reed. “But when it’s black men, we’ve got to stigmatize them and put it on Oprah.”

New AIDS cases in NYC: 5,337.
Deaths so far: 75,800.


For the first time in a decade, male-to-male sexual transmission overtakes IV drug use as the leading cause of AIDS. Researchers will soon see the results of the “instant bottom” effect of Tina, or crystal methamphetamine. Studies say that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of gay men in New York City are using the drug, which impairs decision-making about safe sex. “A sober barebacker is far less risky than a meth barebacker, who will have sex for days on end with multiple partners,” says longtime activist Peter Staley. “And the sex is rougher. There is more tissue damage.”

October 20
A federal judge in Brooklyn rules that the City Division of AIDS Services has “chronically and systematically” failed to provide services, including emergency housing, rent assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid to 25,000 New Yorkers with AIDS.


December 21
Larry Kramer survives a lifesaving liver transplant. While he’s in surgery, bloggers erroneously report the 70-year-old is dead.


March 26
FDA approves the first saliva rapid HIV test.

December 1
The CDC reports that African-Americans account for 51 percent of all new HIV infections in 32 states, but make up only 13 percent of the population in those states.


January 3
The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center begins recruiting volunteers for a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine, ADMVA, to prevent HIV infection.

December 19
“Taking a T.” An HIV drug comes out of the medicine cabinet. Whether sold in packets with Viagra and Ecstasy or prescribed by docs, tenofovir is increasingly being used by HIV-negative gay partyers in lieu of condoms, though there’s no proof it works.

February 11
A new supervirus? City Health commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden announces that a promiscuous gay crystal-meth user has been diagnosed with fast-progressing, triple-drug-resistant HIV. But when no more cases turn up—except as jokes on Saturday Night Live (“ˇSIDA fantástico!”)—Frieden backs away from the theory. The patient has since returned to work.

Theater begins catching up with the worldwide pandemic with In the Continuum, a play at the Perry Street Theater, about two black women with HIV—one from Zimbabwe, one from L.A.

AIDS Walk, 2006.  


May 20
The e-invitation for a condom-free sex party in Harlem—the night before GMHC’s 21st annual AIDS Walk—includes this rule: “Anyone caught using jimmies will be asked to leave with no refund given!!”

June 5
AIDS groups mark 25-year anniversary of the CDC’s first report on the AIDS virus, which has since killed 25 million worldwide and now infects 40 million.

The Coming Out of Regan Hofmann
White, single, and from Princeton, she was terrified to tell anyone she had HIV. Until she announced it on the cover of a magazine.


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