The widely accepted narrative around the 1980s AIDS crisis creates the impression that the gay community lacked any capacity to address AIDS. Author and historian Katie Batza challenges this misconception with Before AIDS, documenting a well-developed network of gay health clinics in American cities when the epidemic struck and how these clinics served as the first responders to the disease. Before AIDS focuses on gay health institutions in Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles, placing them in a larger political context and following them into the first five years of the AIDS crisis. Like many other minority communities in the 1970s, gay men faced public health challenges that resulted as much from their political marginalization and social stigmatization as from any disease. Taking inspiration from rhetoric employed by the Black Panther, feminist, and anti-urban renewal movements, and putting government funding to new and often unintended uses, gay health activists of the 1970s changed the medical and political understandings of sexuality and health to reflect the new realities of their own sexual revolution.
Katie Batza graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a PhD in history and a graduate certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies and is now an assistant professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas. Her work has won numerous awards, including a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.