The Man who changed the face of the AIDS epidemic

David Kirby: The Man Who Changed The Face Of AIDS

A Rhetorical Analysis on the play Angels in America and how David Kirby contrasts with Roy Cohn.


We have come a long way since the 1970s in the United States in terms of the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. No longer is same-sex marriage illegal, or even just the simple fact of being gay, but welcomed with open arms and celebrated in more states than not.

Stigmas onhomosexual men and AIDS are less worried about because the United States now has a community of those who not only support care for those with AIDS, but vocalizing the importance of continuing to find a cure for the horrendous disease that is killing people every year. With progress, however, comes history, and it is important to acknowledge those who used their voice to help shape the future.

On December 6, 1957, the man who became famous for a photo taken during his last few days was brought into this world. David Kirby was raised in a small Ohio town where being gay was seen as wrong, which led him to move away from his family, who at first were not keen on the idea of having a homosexual son.

In the 1970s and '80s, homosexual behavior was still illegal in most states. Normal adult relationships for gays carried the risk of arrest and prosecution as sex offenders. Kirby then moved from his Ohio home to California where he lived in the secretive gay scene in Los Angeles. Realizing that he was doing very well in the area in terms of support from the LGBTQ+ community, Kirby became more vocal for the cause and soon became an activist for the gay community.

One event in particular that sparked attention was in 1978 when the Briggs Initiative tried to ban openly-gay residents from working with children at a nearby public school.This event not only showed many people that the gay community was not going anywhere anytime soon, but gave Kirby the platform to gain attention from not just the public but important figures as well. Kirby quickly gained access to a list of contacts that would later on help raise awareness towards the deadly epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

Up until the 80s, the United States was completely unaware of the poison that was creeping into the continent of North America. The discovery of AIDS did not happen until 1981 when case after case was flooded with homosexual men and drug users, all suffering with PCP with no known impaired immunity.

The diagnosis of Pneumocystis pneumonia was confirmed for all 5 patients antemortem by closed or open lung biopsy. The patients did not know each other and had no known common contacts or knowledge of sexual partners who had had similar illnesses. Two of the 5 reported having frequent homosexual contacts with various partners. All 5 reported using inhalant drugs, and 1 reported parenteral drug abuse. Three patients had profoundly depressed in vitro proliferative responses to mitogens and antigens. Lymphocyte studies were not performed on the other 2 patientswere not performed on the other 2 patients.

This not only sparked attention from the CDC but changed the nation as we know it. America now had a problem that they had no idea existed up until then and when word got out that there was a new epidemic, the public freaked out.

Due to the lack of knowledge on HIV/AIDS, families and friends turned away when finding out that someone they knew were carrying the deadly disease. While the majority of the people hid from the disease, David Kirby stood proud and did all that he could to help…raising awareness and spreading knowledge to others on the topic. Everything changed, however, when Kirby, himself, was diagnosed with AIDS.

In 1987, at the age of 29, David Kirby was diagnosed with AIDS. Unfortunately, during this time, since the disease was so new, there was not any effective treatment, let alone find a cure. Having AIDS during the 20th century was considered a death sentence. Most people who contracted AIDS found themselves having anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to left.

So, with that in mind, Kirby decided that he wanted to do as much as he could during this time, before he had passed on. Despite his estrangement from his family, his request to come home and die around his family was granted, and his family welcomed him home with open arms. As Kirby grew closer to death, his family became unable to take care of him, making Kirby check into an AIDS hospice care unit by 1989. From there, he became close with one of his caregivers, an HIV-positive transgender male by the name of Peta.

Time went on and Kirby's condition only grew worse. At this time, Peta had begun to bring in one of his friends, a graduate journalism student, Therese Frare. With the permission from Kirby's family, Frare began to photograph Kirby and his condition at the end of his life, thus creating the famous photo of him lying in bed dying with his family surrounding him, the picture that shaped AIDS into what we know it as today, ridding of all the myths that people so strongly believed it.

In Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America, the theme of HIV/AIDS is talked about greatly due to some of the characters, Roy Cohn and Prior Walter, to name a few, who are suffering from the disease. While Prior Walter is a good example of a character who compares to David Kirby greatly, Roy Cohn is the exact opposite of Kirby. Kirby was a man who was not necessarily proud of what happened to him, but he acknowledged it and he did something good with it.

Kirby used his voice and knowledge to raise awareness to the cause, not hiding in the shadows being ashamed of who he was – while on the other hand, Roy Cohn was the exact opposite. Cohn was a very powerful man, being a big New York lawyer, could not risk having his personal life get in the way of his career.

So, like any other man who was ashamed at the time to be homosexual, he denied it all. "Because what I am is defined entirely by who I am. Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who fucks around with guys…No, Henry, no. AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer" (Kushner, Angels in America, 37; act one).

Roy Cohn, unlike Kirby, would much rather deny, deny, and deny to save his career rather than do something good with it. Unfortunately, this was very common with men who were not "out" so to speak, and with the rise in HIV/AIDS, fewer people came forward to help educate people and make a difference, like Kirby.

We have come a long way since the 1980s in the United States in terms of AIDS. People are no longer living in fear because their friend or family member has AIDS but staying by their side. While the rate of those carrying HIV/AIDS has not gone down, deaths on the other hand have.

We now have the medicine and proper care to help slow the process down, because unfortunately we still do not have a cure. Times have changed drastically in just under 40 years that the United States has known about this disease.

If people continued to stay silent, much like Roy Cohn, the rate that we would have been going at would have been much slower. But thanks to activists like David Kirby, using their voice to express how important this disease is and debunking myths, we no longer see it as "disgusting" or "bad." Yes, it is still a very deadly disease that nobody wants to have, but the amount of support for those who are carrying AIDS has only increased.

David Kirby was not just a homosexual man who died from AIDS. David Kirby was an important AIDS activist who helped change the AIDS culture as we know it to be. If the world had more Roy Cohn's than David Kirby's, perhaps the world would never push further on, and we would be stuck in a never-ending cycle of brushing things under the rug.

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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