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Gay Men's Health Crisis Mourns the Passing of Co-Founder Larry Kramer

5.26.2020

Media Contacts:
Poul Olson I
646-784-2533 I PoulO@gmhc.org
Krishna Stone
I 917-774-3621 I KrishnaS@gmhc.org

 New York, NY--Today, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) lost one of our six heroic founders, Larry Kramer. An activist and writer, Kramer helped start the world’s first HIV service organization in 1981 at the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in response to the lack of government action to a disease that was primarily affecting gay men.

“Larry was a revolutionary challenging the authority of the status quo, a force to be reckoned with,” said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. “He was a person who made it difficult to be on the other side of his rage, a general who marshaled the troops of our communities, and a passionate, brilliant, and wildly brave gay man. Yet when he visited GMHC’s dining room or attended one of our fundraisers, Larry moved gently throughout the venue, speaking quietly to clients or donors, even offering a wink or a hug if you were lucky.”

Larry responded to the start of AIDS in the early 1980s even before there was a name to the disease. On Tuesday, Aug. 11, 1981, Larry, Nathan Fain, Larry Mass, MD, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White (and their friends) gathered in Larry's living room in Greenwich Village. They passed around a hat and raised $7,000—seed money to build what would become the first AIDS service organization in the world, Gay Men's Health Crisis. This new family of men bravely struggled to piece together a response to the developing plague when very little response was coming from government officials and elsewhere. It was clear they needed each other as increasing numbers of gay men continued to senselessly die all around them. 

A few years later, Larry and the GMHC board of directors had different ideas about the organization’s newly developing services: he wanted more direct action and less working within the system. His passion, as always, could not be contained. He was asked to leave GMHC, which prompted him to write the award-winning play The Normal Heart, first produced in 1985 at the Public Theater.   

Following his departure from GMHC, Larry became one of the founders of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACTUP) in 1987. This group and others like it pushed the pharmaceutical industry to develop new treatments for HIV, moving them from experimental trials to patients often in record time. 

As the years went on, GMHC’s family of clients, volunteers, supporters, board members, and staff expanded. Larry remained in touch with GMHC. But like family, there were disagreements. Yet we never forgot Larry’s historic contributions to the organization. 

During our 38 years, GMHC has been able to see further and do more by standing on the shoulders of giants: our steadfast supporters, those who have died of AIDS, fellow veterans in the AIDS response, our hardworking staff, and, of course, along with our five other founders, Larry Kramer. 

Thank you, Larry. Your vision, passion and leadership will continue to guide and inspire us. We will forever love you.

  Larry Kramer  
  Photo: Matthew McDermott  

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 10,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health, and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state, and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.