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The first fifteen years of the AIDS Crisis (1981-1996) were characterized by an immense need by those impacted both for legitimization of diagnoses and access to treatments which targeted both the HIV virus itself and resulting opportunistic infections (OIs). However, early epidemiological trends and the social perception that AIDS was a disease of white gay men resulted in much of the initial focus to center this population and their experience of the disease. This contributed to an incomplete understanding of the natural history of the virus, a failure to identify OIs more common in women and IV drug users (IVDUs), and barriers to vital services. In addition, most clinical trials, which were the only legal avenue to experimental treatments before 1989, excluded or limited the participation of diverse populations. Among those who did have access to clinical trials, as well as many others whose lives were directly affected by the epidemic, the cycles of hope (as treatments emerged) and despair (as their ineffectiveness and toxicities were revealed) was mentally and physically taxing, and in many cases fatal due to the limits of the therapy. The current investigation involves archival materials related to Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) available in the NYPL Special Collections and other historical archives. In addition, oral history interviews with GMHC staff and volunteers were analyzed from the archives or conducted as part of this project. Together these materials help shed light on the difficulties surrounding education, diagnosis and treatment access by differing demographics of people with AIDS (PWAs).



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Sociocultural Impact of AIDS Understanding on Prevention Education and Treatment Accessibility