The Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is a non-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based AIDS service organization that has led the United States in the fight against AIDS. It was founded by six gay men - Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport and Edmund White. They decided to organize as a formal, tax-exempt entity, and this was the beginning of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the first - and in its glory days, the largest - volunteer AIDS organization in the United States and the world. Paul Popham was chosen as the president.
The organization was founded in January, 1982 after reports began surfacing in San Francisco and New York City that a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma was affecting young gay men. After the Centers for Disease Control declared the new disease an epidemic, GMHC was created when 80 men gathered in New York writer Larry Kramer's apartment discuss the issue of "gay cancer" and raise money for research. GMHC took its name from the fact that the earliest men who fell victim to AIDS during the epidemic's early Eighties were homosexual.
GMHC was offered a couple of rooms for offices in a rooming house in Chelsea owned by Mel Cheren of West End Records. GMHC would go on to raise money for various services for persons with AIDS and educational material for the public, and it provided daily assistance to people with AIDS through a large network of volunteers.
Larry Kramer had a disagreement with other founding members of GMHC in 1983 and resigned from the organization. He helped found ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) as a more political alternative. From that time on his public comments and posture toward GMHC were negative, if not hostile. Kramer's play The Normal Heart is a roman à clef of his involvement with the organization.
By 1984, the Centers for Disease Control had requested GMHC's assistance in planning public conferences on AIDS. That same year, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was discovered by the French Dr. Luc Montagnier. Within two years, GMHC was assisting heterosexual men and women, hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and children.
Gay Men's Health Crisis received extensive coverage in Randy Shilts' 1987 book And the Band Played On. The book described the progress of the pandemic blaming the government, especially the Reagan administration and Secretary of Health Margaret Heckler, for failing to respond. It praised GMHC for its work. Shilts was a gay man who later died of AIDS.
The mission of Gay Men's Health Crisis is, according to its website,:
"...to reduce the spread of HIV disease, help people with HIV maintain and improve their health and independence, and keep the prevention, treatment and cure of HIV an urgent national and local priority. In fulfilling this mission, we will remain true to our heritage by fighting homophobia and affirming the individual dignity of all gay men and lesbians." .
It has received multiple grants from the Carnegie Corporation, an organization that has supported more than 550 New York City arts and social service institutions since its inception in 2002, and which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (along with 406 other arts and social service institutions).
The hotline was the organization's first service to the community terrified by the epidemic that was threatening their lives.
Since 1981, GMHC has provided the hotline to allow members of the community to learn about HIV transmission, prevention, and to serve as an information clearinghouse for those personally affected by the epidemic. The hotline, begun by volunteers, continues to be staffed by well trained volunteers who provide information in a supportive, sex positive, life affirming way.
The hotline maintains an inclusive community approach inviting all members of the public to call regardless of sexual orientation, political affliliations, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and gender.
The hotline operates anonymously and may be reached at 1-800-AIDS-NYC (1-800-243-7692) or 212-807-6655. The hotline also answers emails about HIV at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hours: Open Monday through Friday, 10 am to 9pm, Saturday, 12pm to 3pm (Eastern Standard Time - GMT minus 5 hours).
LGBT and Queer studies