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D'Emilio looks back at '80s AIDS Crisis
by Matt Simonette
2019-02-24

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Scholar and author John D'Emilio spoke Feb. 21 at Gerber/Hart Library and Archive about AIDS activism in the '80s and '90s.

The talk, AIDS and Its Impact: 1981-1992, was third in a four-part history lecture series that D'Emilio has been presenting at the library, where he serves as board president.

He recapped how politics shifted towards the right in the late '70s and '80s, fueled both by a surge in evangelical Christianity and a mistrust of big government. As a result, the AIDS crisis was largely met with ambivalence, if not outright hostility from the government, media and general public as it came to the fore in the LGBT community in the '80s.

Among topics D'Emilio additionally touched upon in his discussion were actor Rock Hudson's disclosure that he had AIDS; right-wing efforts to isolate persons with the infection; widespread mobilization by the lesbian community; and the rise of ACT UP.

"Today it's hard to remember and completely grasp that there was a time when AIDS was new and almost completely unknown," he said.

D'Emilio's lecture series, LGBTQ Activism Through the Years, concludes Thursday, Feb. 28, at Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, 6500 N. Clark St., at 6:30 p.m. For more information, see gerberhart.org .


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