Jun 25th 2020
Heralded as “One of America’s most valuable troublemakers” Larry Kramer, essayist, playwright, was an outspoken and relentless activist for the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. His written works bled over into the public space, as he began using his literary skills and confrontational words to become a voice for the gay community in its most vulnerable times. In 1981, The National Health Organization essentially deemed AIDS as a rare form of cancer amongst exclusively gay men, a false and culture-confining ruling that vastly changed the perspective of gay culture in the US. Kramer saw this as not only an attack on a community he belonged to and cared for, but as a fear-mongering and baseless claim that was allowing the surge of millions of HIV/AIDS victims within and beyond the gay community. His response was tenacious. In 1981 he became the founder of the Gat Men’s Health Crisis, the first organization of H.I.V.-positive people, where his approach was so aggressive that his fellow directors effectively kicked him out. Later deemed a “a sad organization of sissies” after his departure, Kramer then started Act Up. This organization was a much more intensive, volume-matching coalition of activists who hit the streets to voice their demands for a more effective, informed and prioritized push for AIDS research. They also sought to dismantle the systemic discrimination against the gay and lesbian communities that most government offices dealing with the epidemic were founded on.
Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whose work is most recently recognized in the COVID-19 Pandemic, praised Kramer as an essential figure in the development of drug regimens. These new treatments and patient assessments ultimately prolonged the lives of those infected with H.I.V. Kramer’s voice sparked a development in our country’s health system that has completely changed the outlook of the disease and those who’ve contracted it. Even up to his recent death this year, Kramer continued on his path, as he was mid-way through finishing a play that was centered on the the added battle gay people must fight when it comes to infectious disease. Passed at 84, his life will be celebrated for the relentlessness and passionate voice that effectively saved millions, redefined a once “death-sentence” diagnosis and gave an otherwise hopeless body of infected individuals new life.
“Almost more than talent you need tenacity, and an
infinite capacity for rejection, if you are to succeed.” - Larry Kramer