Today we are all living with AIDS. But circa 1981 a mysterious disease afflicted just a handful of disparate populations on the East and West Coasts in the United States, among other countries. It wasn't yet known as AIDS, and it wasn't yet something that could be tested for, but over time it was used to evict, ostracize, exclude, alienate, fire, harass, and discriminate. It was also used to galvanize, spur, radicalize, create community, instigate change, and cement bonds.
AIDS in New York: The First Five Years at the New-York Historical Society explores this early history, as well as the impact and legacy of the disease on individuals, institutions, and, ultimately, a city, through newspaper articles, diaries, letters, photographs, videos, research papers, public health posters put up in hotels and bathhouses, medical equipment, transcriptions, and other artifacts. The excellent exhibit offers a chance to reflect on a past many of us don't know or don't remember, but which continues to reverberate into the present.