Lost to AIDS, but Still Friended
Using technology and art, activists are helping to chronicle the life and times of those who died of HIV infection, particularly before the widespread introduction of antiretroviral drugs.
"There is a real hunger for information about this period, this history and these lost lives, said Chris Barlett, a former classics scholar in Philadelphia who has created a social network site about those who have died of AIDS. It is one of a growing number of online outlets for those who want to honor and remember lost friends:
- www.gayhistory.wikispaces.com. This site was established by Barlett to document the "histories of gay men and their allies in Philadelphia, Pa., USA between 1960 and the present."
- The ACT UP Oral History Project is a seven-year-old effort to collect and archive recollections from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Visit www.actuporalhistory.org.
- Facebook. Facebook has a "memorialization" mode that allows for the maintenance of accounts on behalf of deceased members, but it limits access to those who were friends at the time of the person's death.
- www.Tributes.com. This for-profit, well-established site has amassed some 80 million obituaries. Its focus is general, not AIDS-specific.
In addition, retrospectives of the pre-antiretrovirals era are being launched in other media:
- Harvard University's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts is displaying materials produced by the New York chapter of ACT UP between 1987 and 1993. "I was shocked when I came to Harvard to discover that no one remembered ACT UP? and that absence of knowledge seemed quite horrible to me," show curator Helen Molesworth said.
- "Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS" is an anthology published to preserve the legacy of poets such as Tim Diugos, Joe Brainard, and Gil Cuadros.
- "Last Address," which will debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, focuses on New York artists who died of AIDS, including photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and playwright Charles Ludlam.