June 6, 2012
As AID Atlanta celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, some of its founding members are recalling its early days as a grassroots awareness organization.
One summer day in 1982, a group of friends that normally met for cocktails or card games discussed the informal reports they were hearing from New York and San Francisco about gays dying of a mysterious disease. "I'll never forget that day because it was the day that everything changed,' said Peter Aliberti.
"The initial conversation was kind of disbelief: 'There's no such thing as gay cancer, it's not possible,'" Aliberti said. "It was pretty much decided that afternoon that we needed to do something."
The group moved to produce their own brochure, basing it on one used in San Francisco, and decided it should promote condom use. "That was quite controversial," Aliberti noted. "No one had ever heard of safe sex." Members met with several gay bar owners to discuss the new group's goals. "It basically was yelling and screaming at us because they told us, 'You can't tell people to have safe sex, you can't tell people how to lead their lives.'"
The brochures began printing in early 1983 and were placed at gay clubs and bars. In many cases, the message was either ignored or sabotaged. "The stands started disappearing," said Aliberti. However, others came forward to help, including some club owners, entertainers, and many in the lesbian community.
Founders like Aliberti will be among those honored at the June 17 AID Atlanta Honors party at Schwartz-Goldstein Hall at The Temple. The group also plans to recognize the contributions of Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention; Tom Roeck, former CFO of Delta; and employees of Gap Inc. and Autotrader.com. For ticket prices and information, visit www.aidatlanta.org/honors.