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Three Decades of HIV/AIDS, Part Two

Ignorance, Fear and Hysteria (1985-1990) and Activism (1990-1995)

By Bob Frascino, M.D.

June 30, 2011

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Activism (1990-1995)

Following Liz's lead other celebrities jumped on the bandwagon and formed AIDS charities and foundations, staged benefit concerts, organized AIDS awareness rallies and marches, and recorded public service announcements.

In 1991 Magic Johnson was declared a brave hero for publicly disclosing his infection and retiring from professional basketball. The death of Queen's Freddie Mercury, also in 1991, was seen as a cultural tragedy.

Freddie Mercury.

The red AIDS ribbon campaign began this year. 1991 holds particular significance for me, as it is the year the virus found me. I seroconverted to HIV positive in January 1991 following a severe hollow-bore needle-stick and laceration sustained while performing a procedure on a patient with advanced-stage AIDS. I have discussed at length the consequences of this fateful day in my life in previous blogs and elsewhere on this site. Suffice it to say I now had a unique and privileged view of the evolving pandemic. Unique because I was able to witness HIV from both sides of the examination table. Privileged because I had the knowledge and authority of an HIV physician specialist, but also the eyes, heart and soul of an HIV-positive patient.

Occupationally Infected Physician Describes Life With HIV.

1992 saw ACT UP push the FDA to accelerate the approval process for HIV drugs.


Their unconventional tactics, such as naked body painting, gained media attention. (This photo is a bit amusing if you happen to notice the one naked guy checking out the equipment on the guy next door. Even in the midst of AIDS activism, boys will be boys.)

Also noteworthy for 1992, Mary Fisher

Mary Fisher.

and Bob Hattoy, both HIV positive, addressed the Republican and Democratic National Conventions respectively. Meanwhile Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov.

and Peter Allen

Peter Allen.

and Anthony Perkins

Anthony Perkins.

died. The word was getting out and AIDS had become the "cause célèbre." The number of deaths continued to skyrocket. Many, like Olympic Gold medalist Greg Louganis, continued to suffer in silence.

The death march continued in 1993 with the demise of Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe.

and Rudolph Nureyev.

Rudolf Nureyev.

Rudolf Nureyev.

The Real World brought the death of AIDS patient Pedro Zamora into every 15-year-old's living room.

Pedro Zamora.

People were finally listening as Time Magazine's cover story reported we were "Losing the Battle."

Time Magazine.

AIDS had become the number one killer of young Americans.

New York Times Article 'AIDS Is No. 1 Killer of Young Americans.'

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See Also
Three Decades of HIV/AIDS: Are You Ready to Dance?
Three Decades of HIV/AIDS, Part Three
20 Years of Magic: How One Man's HIV Disclosure Inspired Others
More on the 30th Anniversary of AIDS


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Life, Love, Sex, HIV and Other Unscheduled Events

Bob Frascino, M.D., was President and Founder of The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation. He had been an outspoken, popular expert in's "Ask the Experts" forums on safe sex and fatigue/anemia since 2000. Once a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Frascino served as Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, and Allergy, at Stanford University Medical Center from 1983 until 2001. He was a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and had also been a distinguished member of the executive boards of numerous state and regional associations.

We're inexpressibly saddened to share the news that Dr. Frascino passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. Click here to read more and to share your thoughts.

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