I don't think anyone can reasonably claim that the gay community (to the extent that gays even had the comfort of a community; presumably many didn't, especially those living in small towns) weren't beleaguered at that time, or that they were not disproportionately affected by the AIDS crisis. — Arkady
Oh, well... gays have been lamenting for decades that "the gay community" is more a figure of speech than anything else. A few parts of the gay population form community in large cities, but large parts of the gay population are not part of a gay community. There is less sense of community now than previously.
I've heard some commentators refer to this period as a gay "genocide," which strikes me as extremely wrongheaded. — Arkady
Yes, totally wrongheaded. Some people were convinced that AIDS was invented (maybe at Ft. Detrick in Maryland) for the purpose of getting rid of homosexuals (or blacks). Some people were convinced that HIV didn't cause AIDS (and not just in the first 2 or 3 years of the epidemic, either.) Some people were convinced that the U. S. Government did absolutely nothing on their behalf; that the science establishment dragged its feet; nobody cared; pharmaceutical companies were cashing in. and so on. All lies, except that Big Pharma was cashing in. Big Pharma is always cashing in. It's what they do. That's why they're Big Pharma and not Little Pharma.
The HIV virus is a naturally-occurring phenomenon, and one which disproportionately affected gay men as a result of their sexual behavior. The outbreak was to a certain extent self-inflicted. — Arkady
Had HIV 'landed' someplace else, it would have been a different epidemic, true enough.
As it happened, HIV landed in the middle of a pool of professionally successful, culturally sophisticated, highly promiscuous, gay party-circuit travelers. Quite a few of these people were members of the artistic elite, and were interconnected with people all over the country. They networked. Had it landed in the middle of some gay cowboys in Montana, it wouldn't have amounted to much.
There were clues before HIV landed that some gay guys were going overboard on sexual exuberance. Intestinal parasites, various odd infections resulting from too much penetrating, and so on were booming in the late 1970s. But... nothing incurable, nothing too debilitating. Most people got over hepatitis infections, syphilis, and gonorrhea; and parasiticides cleared out the can of worms some guys were carting around. (That kind of worm problem is much more common in Africa.)
My guess is that the elite gay men's lifestyles in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and so on were everything I imagined them to be, anchored as I was in the boring Sodom on the Upper Mississippi of Minneapolis. On the one hand, I longed for that kind of exhilarating life; on the other hand, that's one of the reasons I'm here and they are not. That and luck.