GMHC is the world’s first AIDS service organization, and one of the largest. Since 1981, it has responded with tenacity and innovation to what was initially viewed as a gay men’s health crisis. Fighting the fear, ignorance, and prejudice that has surrounded HIV/AIDS, GMHC works to prevent new infections, assist those living with the disease, and advocate for fair and effective public health policies.
In 1986, GMHC was searching for ways to further engage the public, media, and government in the fight against the rapidly growing AIDS epidemic. The first AIDS Walk New York was created and produced by Craig R. Miller and his organization of activists, MZA Events. The 10-kilometer walkathon was designed to raise urgently needed funds for GMHC, and to battle the stigma so many associated with HIV/AIDS. The event took place on May 18, 1986 at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, Fordham University’s Robert Moses Plaza, and the streets of the Upper West Side. Today, the AIDS Walk begins and ends in Central Park.
In its 28 years, AIDS Walk New York has inspired nearly 890,000 people to walk, and millions more to donate, raising more than $128 million to combat HIV and AIDS. The funds raised at the event remain a vital lifeline that sustains GMHC’s prevention, care, and advocacy programs for the thousands of men, women, and families affected by the disease in the tri-state area. AIDS Walk New York is the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in the world. Visit gmhc.org to learn more about its life-sustaining programs and services.
Timeline of the AIDS Epidemic
1981 – The New York Times reports a “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” In New York City, six men unite to form the first AIDS hotline that was then known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
1982 – The term AIDS (“Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”) is used for the first time on July 27.
1985 – September 17: US President Ronald Reagan uses the word “AIDS” in public for the first time, nearly five years into his presidency. Film star Rock Hudson dies of AIDS.
1986 – 2,960 known deaths in the US. GMHC holds the first AIDS Walk New York.
1990 – AIDS activist Ryan White dies at the age of 18.
1991 – The red ribbon is introduced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and becomes an international symbol of AIDS awareness. Freddie Mercury dies.
1993 – The CDC, NIH, and FDA declare in a joint statement that condoms are “highly effective” for prevention of HIV infection. “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s play about AIDS, wins the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize.
1996 – Cover stories hailing HIV/AIDS treatment breakthroughs and the “end” of the epidemic appear in The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. However, the early optimism proves to be exaggerated as new infections continue to rise.
1997 – AIDS is now New York City’s leading cause of death for women ages 25 to 44.
1998 – An estimated 69,000 people in New York State have HIV but remain unaware of it.
2000 – One million Africans are newly infected with HIV this year. The UN Security Council discusses HIV/AIDS for the first time.
2002 – The FDA approves a new rapid HIV testing device.
2003 – First annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day held in the United States. Activists express deep reservations about a provision that gives abstinence programs a third of prevention funding.
2004 – GMHC launches a new Women’s Institute to explore new approaches to HIV prevention, particularly for women of color.
2006 – About 38.6 million people are estimated to be living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.
2009 – President Obama and the Office of National AIDS Policy unveil the “9 ½ Minutes” campaign. Every nine-and-a-half minutes, someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV, equaling more than 56,000 new infections each year.
2013 – AIDS Walk New York commemorates its 28th year as an event at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. 30,000 walkers raise $5.5 million for GMHC and more than 40 other tri-state area AIDS service organizations.