This paper is an examination of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, one of the leading national nonprofit organizations to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic. I have been a volunteer at GMHC for the past two years, which has given me the opportunity to observe some of the agency's inner workings firsthand. The organization serves a growing population of individuals suffering from AIDS, as well as working to increase public awareness of the problem. It was founded by playwright Larry Kramer before the disease had been given its present name. Like many nonprofits formed to deal with urgent issues, GMHC has undergone substantial changes as the crisis itself has changed. This paper attempts to analyze the organization as it exists today.
In June 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a report documenting the case of five gay men in Los Angeles who were infected with Pneumocystis carinii, a rare strain of pneumonia. The following month, an article in the New York Times reported 41 cases of a rare cancer that had been identified in homosexuals throughout the United States. By October, the CDC had declared an epidemic, and, by December, 152 American cases were on record (Goldenberg & Wolfe, 1995, p. 2).
That summer, writer Larry Kramer gathered 80 men in his apartment for a discussion with a doctor of the growing "gay cancer." From this group, Kramer and five friends formed the Gay Men's Health Crisis the following January. By either July (Gorman, 1996-1997, December 30-January 6, p. 58) or September (Goldenberg & Wolfe, 1995, pp. 2-3) of that year, the CDC changed the name Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), acknowledging growing recognition that the disease was not restricted to gay men. By the end of 1982, 1,300 cases had been reported in the United States, and 317 of those diagnosed had died (Goldenberg & Wolfe, 1995, p. 3).
The epidemic continued to grow. By t...