AIDS had begun to be recognized as a public-health crisis during the early s, but the general public had relatively little knowledge about it. Little knowledge, but plenty of suspicion and fear. Despite a small, vocal community of activists calling for a government response to the crisis, AIDS was a deeply stigmatizing burden. Most Americans believed the complex disease affected only gay men; it was some time before it became known that intravenous drug users, those who received blood transfusions containing the HIV virus and other groups also were at risk. President Ronald Reagan would not speak publicly about AIDS and the need to combat the disease for years after he took office in
The short, monumental existence of a queer rock star and the history of HIV are all wrapped up in one fascinating new rock biography. As the singer lay in what would become his deathbed, medication coursed through his veins, introduced into his bloodstream via an expensive Hickman catheter implanted in his neck. The drugs and a faithful servant would stave off pain and nausea so he could enjoy his elaborate Japanese gardens and lovingly curated London home a bit longer. By the time he decided to go off of AZT, a gaggle of paparazzi and celebrity watchers were stationed outside his home, each trying to get a glimpse of the much-loved man as he withered away.
He did. What it did do is usher in a greater focus on fundraising for AIDS charities and government funding for research. Comedienne Joan Rivers , who, like Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler, owes her widespread popularity to early gay support, has lost several friends to the disease.