The beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States could be traced back to a Centers for Disease Control report in July of 1981, identifying a mysterious disease attacking the immune systems of five otherwise healthy, young, gay men in Los Angeles. It would not take long for the disease to emerge in Minnesota when in May of 1982, Bruce Brockway (gay rights activist and former publisher of the St. Paul Positively Gay newspaper) became the first person in Minnesota to be diagnosed with HIV.
Throughout the 1980s, the medical community would struggle to understand and treat this disease as infections spread to epidemic proportions. Fear and political indifference lead to isolation of AIDS patients as well as discrimination in education, employment, and housing. Non-profit organizations such as the Minnesota AIDS project and the state Department of Health lead public education campaigns on how to prevent infections and also treatment and compassionate care for AIDS patients and caregivers. Controversy arose in terms of how prevention efforts should be handled, particularly in regards to the privacy of infected patients' identities as well as safe sex versus abstinence messages in public education materials.
In the latter half of the 1990s and early 2000s, new infection rates for HIV were dropping in Minnesota and the United States in general. Existing patients were living longer, healthier lives thanks to the availability of new and improved drug treatments. However, AIDS continues to spread throughout the world disproportionately affecting less economically developed countries and communities of color. There is still no cure.
Gale Family Library
Minnesota Historical Society Library
Located on the Second Floor of the Minnesota History Center
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 4pm
Sunday to Wednesday: Closed