IT BEGAN IN 1981
AS A MEDICAL MYSTERY.
There was no official name, no known cause, and no hope for a cure. At first, it mostly showed up in gay men—some of the most marginalized people in the United States at that time. At its worst it killed more than fifty thousand Americans in a single year.
IT WAS AIDS.
In what turned out to be an era of denial, fear, and unimaginable loss, countless brave activists confronted this devastating syndrome. They organized and protested for recognition, for life-saving research funding, and for the basic civil rights of people with AIDS. An HIV/AIDS diagnosis is no longer considered a death sentence in the United States. VIRAL tells the searing story of how that came to be.
The Fight Against AIDS in America
Available as a program for teens and adults
By Ann Bausum
We've hidden the scourge of AIDS behind drug cocktails and prevention regimens, but in the 1980s and early 1990s the ravages of HIV/AIDS haunted Americans, particularly gay males in coastal urban centers. Largely abandoned by their government, these men and their allies mounted a social justice fight of epic dimensions and with enduring results.
This program captures the fear, horror, and sorrow of living during the unchecked spread of HIV/AIDS, and it portrays how individuals channeled their resulting fury into a fight for medical rights that revolutionized the delivery of healthcare in America. Heavily illustrated and packed with compelling stories, this presentation humanizes the statistics behind a plague that has killed more than 700,000 Americans.
Because HIV continues to spread and to kill, related contemporary issues are addressed, as well. More than 1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and the worldwide tally of infected individuals tops 35 million. Prevention and treatment programs are essential to containing the virus's spread, with cures remaining an elusive hope.
Length: 45 minutes for program, 10-15 minutes for questions
Technical requirements: LCD projector and projection screen
"…When this mysterious illness struck a handful of gay American men in 1980-1981, nobody could know that the AIDS epidemic would ultimately kill more than 700,000 people before, in the late 1990s, medical advances made the dreaded disease something other than an automatic death sentence.…In a tightly written chronological narrative focusing on the bleakest years of the pandemic, Bausum writes compellingly, heartbreakingly, about the earliest days of panic in the gay community, the swiftness and relentlessness of the disease's progression, disturbing federal government inaction and indifference, grassroots AIDS research and activism, the poignant legacy of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and breakthrough scientific research. While the narrative is chock-full of information—names, dates, acronyms—Bausum never allows these details to obscure or overwhelm the humanity of the story. Interspersed captioned black-and-white photographs, too, underscore the story's emotional impact. With Stonewall (rev. 7/15) and now Viral, Bausum has proven to be an impassioned and empathetic historian of gay rights for young adults A moving author's note, a timeline, a resource list, thorough source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended."
—The Horn Book, starred review
"AIDS arrived in 1981 like a thief in the night, robbing people first of their health and then, inevitably, of their lives as the fatal epidemic blossomed into a global pandemic. Since then, as revealed in this well-researched book, some 700,000 Americans have died from HIV/AIDS and more than one million are living with the disease, many of them teenagers and young adults.…Unfortunately, there has been little current information about this crisis available until the welcome arrival of Bausum's offering. The whole story is here: not only current conditions but also the history and evolution of the plague…Activism continues today, though its presence remains largely unremarked, which is why Bausum's books is so important: it is imperative that teens and young adults be made aware of the continuing dangers of unprotected sex and the misguided notion that AIDS could never happen to them. Bausum's work provides an essential corrective. It is not to be missed."
—Booklist, starred review
May 1, 2019
"…Bausum details the revolution while honoring some of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Expertly interweaving quotes from a variety of firsthand sources (medical professionals, writers, activists, etc.), Bausum's precise journalism takes on an engaging narrative quality…The structure paves the way for plenty of dramatic tension, resulting in a rousing, sympathetic account of a community's pain, fear, rage, and resiliency. A time line, source notes, and bibliography are appended. VERDICT Well-researched and expertly paced, this compelling title deserves a place in all teen collections."
—School Library Journal, starred review
"From the front lines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the front lawn of the White House, how the reaction to an epidemic evolved from mystery and ignorance to knowledge, bravery, and activism…Bausum's (The March Against Fear, 2017, etc.) journalized account is divided into three sections: 1969-1983, 1983-1992, and 1992-today. The objectivity of her research is colored by the kind of compassion that can only come from having lived through a dark era and fully recognizing the breadth of tragedy. As frustrating and frightening as this political and social timeline is, and susceptible though we all are to this disease, we're also all able to do something that unites rather than separates in a time of tragedy: love. A critical account for today's youth. Read to remember, remember to fight, fight together. (author's note, timeline, resources, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18) "
April 1, 2019
"Bausum (The March Against Fear) commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots with this powerful history of AIDS in America, from its first appearance in the U.S. to the present…Interweaving stories of individuals, activism, and medical research, Bausum illuminates the epidemic's tragic scale as well as the effort required to survive an HIV-positive diagnosis—despite continuing medical advances, some American groups retain the world's highest risk of infection. Bausum writes with frank clarity, humanizing the urgent, ongoing crisis with great sensitivity. Photographs, a summary of key events, and additional resources close this moving, essential account. Ages 12-up."
May 13, 2019
"Part medical mystery and part indictment of the U.S. government's virtual abandonment of first-generation AIDS sufferers, Bausum's history focuses on "the bleakest years of the American struggle, 1981 to 1996," with contextualization of the baffling disease's arrival in the late 1960s, its current treatment, and the pivot in attitudes toward those who now manage HIV and strive to keep AIDS at bay. Bausum devotes a generous amount of chapter space to both activism and resistance in the gay community…Readers also learn how President Reagan's look-the-other-way response to the epidemic and the broader public's tendency to blame the censured victim contributed to a delay in research that would likely have hastened discovery of the culpable virus and its effective treatment, condemning thousands to a wasting death. Bausum writes with controlled passion, emphasizing the suffering of loved ones left behind and the decimation of swaths of creative cultural communities. Black and white photographs, source notes, bibliography formatted by media type, author note, timeline, and index are included."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"AIDS can be a difficult subject to discuss with young people, but Ann Bausum's informative primer presents it with empathy and care. Although AIDS continues to be a global health threat, "Viral" (Viking, Ages 12 and up) focuses on the 17 years (1980-1997) when the virus first struck the U.S. and was at its deadliest here. In addition [to] laying out the facts, myths and stigmas surrounding AIDS, Bausum. . . .recounts the experiences of individual gay men who suffered through the first wave of the mysterious epidemic. . . .She shows that many were compelled to become activists, and she explains how that activism saved countless lives. The book also points out the lack of courage of many national leaders who were unwilling to implement measures that might have contained the outbreak. Bausum makes a strong case that by banding together against AIDS, the LGBTQ community helped to establish breakthrough medical treatment, the patients' rights movement, and marriage equality. Most of all, she brings lost lives into focus with great respect and feeling."
—The Washington Post
July 8, 2019
"After the Stonewall uprising of 1969, the LGBTQ community enjoyed a sense of newfound visibility and freedom and entered a period of sexual liberation. When an unknown disease made its way to the United States, thousands of gay men contracted it, and the death toll rose alarmingly quickly. . . .This compassionate account starts in 1969 and continues to present day. . . .It debunks myths, discusses past and current methods of prevention and treatment, and looks back on what has been learned about this devastating disease, which killed nearly half a million people between 1981 and 2001. But a country mired in anger and grief nonetheless finds some hope and comfort in community and love."
—CCBC Choices 2020
"This is a comprehensive historical introduction to the social, medical, and political aspects of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Reading the stories of activists, sufferers, friends, the medical community, and government entities, Vikas Adam beautifully conveys the emotions of those affected."
—School Library Journal (review of audiobook edition)
The Horn Book
School Library Journal
Selection of the Junior Library Guild
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2019
Top Ten Audiobooks, 2019
School Library Journal
Jefferson Cup Award, 2020
Virginia Library Association
Outstanding Books by Wisconsin Authors and Illustrators, 2020
Wisconsin Library Association
Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin
Texas Topaz Reading List, 2021
Texas Library Association
ACT UP Oral History Project
Interviews with veterans from the front lines of the fight for HIV/AIDS treatment and care.
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)
Archival material, videos, and more from this pioneering organization for AIDS activism.
amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research
Timeline charting the first thirty years of HIV/AIDS history.
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
This organization supports children living with HIV/AIDS, in honor of the mother and daughter who died from the syndrome.
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
This pioneering organization continues to fulfill its mission in HIV/AIDS prevention and care from its base in New York City.
The Global Fund
Unites government, civic, and private partners in the 21st-century fight to end epidemics, including HIV/AIDS.
The federal government's informational site about prevention, care, and treatment related to HIV/AIDS.
How to Survive a Plague
Recommended resources from the creators of the acclaimed documentary film as well as the published history that shares its title.
Magic Johnson Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiatives
Resources for prevention and care hosted by the foundation of basketball legend Magic Johnson.
The dynamic website companion for the magazine that serves the HIV-positive community.
Established by children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS.
The Sero Project
Advocates for the ending of HIV criminalization in state and federal statutes.
The Stigma Project
Fights the stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Treatment Action Group (TAG)
Continuing advocacy for research and treatment related to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
Global advocates for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
This list includes entries deleted from the published book because of space limitations.
Always Remember: The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, A Selection of Panels Created by and for International Fashion Designers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Ashe, Arthur and Arnold Rampersad. Days of Grace: A Memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
Bolerjack, Steve. Pride, Politics & Plague: Gay Life in Millennial New York City, collection of columns published in the New York Blade 1998–2002. Lulu, 2011.
Faderman, Lillian. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.
France, David. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.
Harden, Victoria A. AIDS at 30: A History. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012.
Hirshman, Linda. Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.
Johnson, Earvin "Magic" with William Novak. My Life. New York: Fawcett Books, Random House, Inc., 1992.
Jones, Cleve with Jeff Dawson. Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist. New York: HarperCollins and HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.
Jones, Cleve. When We Rise: My Life in the Movement. New York: Hachette Books, 2016.
McDarrah, Fred W. and Timothy S. McDarrah. Gay Pride: Photographs from Stonewall to Today. Chicago: a cappella books, 1994.
Morris III, Charles E., ed. Remembering the AIDS Quilt. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011.
Quammen, David. The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest. New York: W. W. Norton, 2015.
Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987; twentieth anniversary edition, 2007.
Strub, Sean. Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival. New York: Scribner, 2014.
Weinstein, Steve. The Q Guide to Fire Island. New York: Alyson Books, 2007.
Documentaries, Films, and Plays
Absolutely Positive. Documentary film written and directed by Peter Adair. Adair & Armstrong Productions, 1991.
After Stonewall. Documentary film directed by John Scagliotti. First Run Features, 1999.
The Age of AIDS. A Frontline documentary series produced and reported by Renata Simone. WGBH/Frontline, 2006.
Angels in America. HBO miniseries of Tony Kushner's screenplay adaptation of his stage play Angels in America directed by Michael Nichols, 2003.
Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP. Documentary by James Wentzy, 2002. Online supporting material at http://www.actupny.org/video/.
Gay Sex in the 70s. Documentary film produced and directed by Joseph Lovett. Wolfe Video LLC, 2006.
How to Survive a Plague. Documentary directed by David France. Public Square Films, 2012.
Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes ("Part One: "Millennium Approaches"; "Part Two: Perestroika"). New York: Theatre Communications Group, Inc., 1992, 1993 (Part One) and 1992, 1994 (Part Two).
Living with AIDS. Documentary film produced and directed by Tina DiFeliciantonio. Naked Eye Productions, 1986.
Tongues Untied. Documentary film directed by Marlon Riggs. Signifyin' Works, 1989.
Vito. Produced and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz. Automat Pictures with HBO Documentary Films, 2011.
Primary Source Documents
ACT UP New York. http://www.actupny.org.,Bolerjack, Steve. Author interview (telephone), March 3, 2017.
———. Author interview, Palm Springs, California, March 25, 2017.
Byron, Peg. Women Need to Know About AIDS. New York: Gay Men's Health Crisis, Inc., 1986.
Craig Rodwell Papers. Manuscripts and Archives Division, the New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
Gay Men's Health Crisis, Inc. Medical Answers About AIDS, Prepared by Lawrence Mass, M.D. New York: Gay Men's Health Crisis, Inc., June 1987.
Goldberg, Ronald. Interview conducted by the Center for Artistic Activism, April 2016. https://artisticactivism.org/2016/04/ron-goldberg/.
Heritage of Pride Records. National History Archive, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York City.
Lester Q. Strong Papers. Manuscripts and Archives Division, the New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
Marty Robinson Collection. National History Archive, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York City.
Osmond, Dennis H. "Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in the United States," HIV InSite Knowledge Base Chapter, March 2003. Data shared online at http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=kb-01-03
Rhoad, Julie. Author interview, Atlanta, Georgia, January 23, 2017.
Riesenberg, Michael. Personal correspondence with the author, 1993.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Public Papers of the President.
Russo, Vito. "Why We Fight" speech, delivered May 9, 1988, Albany, New York.
Scholastic. AIDS: Working Together to Meet the Crisis. New York: Scholastic, October 16, 1987.
———. Scholastic AIDS Resource Guide for Teachers. New York: Scholastic, October 1987.
Serko, David. The David Serko Project: Activist Ron Goldberg Recalls the Act Up 1988 Wall Street II Action. Online video at https://vimeo.com/41273190.
Steven J. Powsner Papers. National History Archive, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York City.
Summers, Todd and Jennifer Kates. "Trends in U.S. Government Funding for HIV/AIDS Fiscal Years 1981 to 2004." The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2004. Publication shared online at https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/issue-brief-trends-in-u-s-government-funding-for-hiv-aids-fiscal-years-1981-to-2004.pdf.
Treatment Action Group (TAG). http://www.treatmentactiongroup.org/history
"Understanding AIDS." Educational brochure published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, 1988.
Winterhalter III, Sterling A., editor and developer with art director Larry Stinson. Risky Business (comic book), San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1988.
Media Reports and Newspaper, Magazine, and Journal Articles
"The 1992 Campaign: Verbatim; Heckler Stirs Clinton Anger: Excerpts From the Exchange." New York Times, March 28, 1992.
Ain, Morty. " ‘I Didn't Think I'd See 30,' Says Greg Louganis." ESPN The Magazine, the Body Issue, 2016.
Altman, Lawrence K. "In Philadelphia 30 Years Ago, an Eruption of Illness and Fear," New York Times, August 1, 2006.
———. "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals." New York Times, July 3, 1981.
Barnes, Edward and Anne Hollister. "Now No One is Safe From AIDS." LIFE, July 1985.
Barron, James. "Liberace, Flamboyant Pianist, Is Dead." New York Times, February 5, 1987.
Bernstein, Lenny. "The Graying of HIV: 1 in 6 New U.S. Cases Are People Older Than 50." Washington Post, April 16, 2016.
———. " ‘I Don't Feel Like I'm a Threat Anymore.' New HIV Guidelines Are Changing Lives." Washington Post, November 24, 2017.
Blair, Thomas R. "Safe Sex in the 1970s: Community Practitioners on the Eve of AIDS." American Journal of Public Health, June 2017.
Boynton, Andrew. "Remembering St. Vincent." New Yorker, May 16, 2013.
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Callen, Michael and Richard Berkowitz (with Richard Dworkin). "We Know Who We Are: Two Gay Men Declare War on Promiscuity." New York Native, November 8–21, 1982.
Cohen, Jon. "At Gathering of HIV/AIDS Pioneers, Raw Memories Mix with Current Conflicts." Science, October 2016.
———. " ‘We're in a mess.' Why Florida is struggling with an unusually severe HIV/AIDS problem." Science, June 13, 2018.
Crimp, Douglas. "Before Occupy: How AIDS Activists Seized Control of the FDA in 1988." Atlantic, December 6, 2011.
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———. "Michael Callen, Singer and Expert On Coping With AIDS, Dies at 38." New York Times, December 29, 1993.
———. "Peter Adair, 53, Director, Dies; Made Films With Gay Themes." New York Times, June 30, 1996.
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———. "Pictures from a Battlefield." New York, March 25, 2012.
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• VIRAL: The Fight Against AIDS in America
• Publication date: June 4, 2019
• Viking Books for Young Readers
• 168 Pages, hardcover
• Ages 12 and up
• Illustrated with iconic and evocative imagery from diverse archival and individual sources
• Back matter includes a note from the author, bibliography, citations, and index
• ISBN 978-0-425-28720-0
• Reinforced binding
• Audio edition available from Listening Library