The Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), America's oldest AIDS organization, formed in 1982, serves to educate the public about HIV/AIDS, provide care services for People with AIDS (PWAs), and advocate at all levels of government for fair AIDS policies. It is a volunteer-supported, community-based organization that provides programs to clients and members of the general public regardless of HIV status, gender, or sexual orientation. The records document the three aspects of GMHC's activities and contain correspondence, memoranda, minutes, pamphlets, photographs, posters, questionnaires, reports, surveys, video recordings, and other material. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports regarding GMHC's safe sex education programs and client services. The collection contains electronic records.
Biographical/historical: The Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), America's oldest AIDS organization, organized in 1982, serves to educate the public about HIV/AIDS, provide care services for People with AIDS (PWAs), and advocate at all levels of government for fair AIDS policies. It is a volunteer-supported, community-based organization that provides programs to clients and members of the general public regardless of HIV status, gender, or sexual orientation.
GMHC was founded by six gay men, Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Lawrence Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White, at Kramer's Manhattan apartment on January 4, 1982.
At the time of this writing (2009), GMHC still provides many of the services for which it was created; but as AIDS has changed, so have its programs. The organization was created at a time when no one knew what AIDS was or how it was spread and it responded to the needs of its clients as they arose. In the beginning, GMHC provided hands-on, intensive care for PWAs in hospitals and their homes, disseminated timely and available information about AIDS to the affected populations, and provided legal advice. GMHC still provides these services, but now focuses on helping PWAs and HIV positive people to live healthy and productive lives; advocating government for fair policies and scientifically sound public health programs; and solving the legal, financial, and many other issues facing its clients.
Content: The records of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) document the three aspects of the organization's activities and contain brochures, correspondence, memoranda, minutes, pamphlets, photographs, posters, questionnaires, reports, sound recordings, surveys, video recordings, and other material. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports regarding GMHC's safe sex education programs and client services.
The collection is arranged by the departments of the organization, beginning with the Executive Director and then continuing alphabetically from the Board of Directors through Women's Education Services. The largest series is the Education Department which contains material on GMHC's groundbreaking safe sex and AIDS prevention programs, dissemination of AIDS information, and training programs for health care workers. The Client Services records contain minutes of Buddy Teams, Crisis Intervention Workers, and Crisis Management Partners meetings. These minutes contain detailed information on how the volunteers assisted PWAs, the rapid spread of AIDS in the early days of the epidemic, and the physical and emotional toll these had on the PWAs and the volunteers. More information about each department can be found in the series notes.
Electronic records can be found throughout the collection, though the bulk of the computer files represent the work of the Education Department's various units. Of note are the files of Franklin Carson, the interim director for the department in the early 1990s. His electronic files fill in a gap in the paper records of his predecessor and successor. The files of this department also include components of the Hotline's database, which can emulate the database used by hotline counselors when answering caller's questions and directing them to services. The database contains information regarding doctors, social services, and businesses that supported or served PWAs. The electronic records also document GMHC's efforts to disseminate information through issues of the organization's newsletters AIDS Clinical Update and Treatment Issues.
The records as a whole reflect the explosive growth of GMHC and often contain overlapping or similar material within and across departments. During the first ten years of its existence, the organization had to react quickly to the changing needs of its clients by expanding and creating departments, new programs, and positions. As a result of this, some series may contain material similar to another series. For example, GMHC's work with specific populations, such as prisoners, intravenous drug users, or the hearing impaired may be found across the collection as their needs were addressed through public policy, direct services, topical broadcast television productions, and discussed in administrative correspondence and board meeting minutes. Also, one unit may contain material relating to another unit due to GMHC's restructuring of departments. Occurrences of significant overlap between departments are described at the series or subseries levels.