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Explore the history of HIV/AIDS in Kansas City and its lifelong impact on survivors, caregivers and the community.

AIDS in KC: Facing the Challenge

This follow-up to AIDS in KC: The Early Days focuses on the next phase as community members who, in the absence of cohesive intervention from state and federal government, rallied to organize and support those affected by the epidemic in the mid-1908s and 90s.

AIDS in KCAIDS in KC: Facing The Challenge

AIDS in KC: The Early Days

In the 1980s and early 90s, the LGBTQ community nationwide found itself rocked by a new virus that few understood, with little support or acknowledgment from society or elected leaders. Though Washington D.C. and the nation at large were mostly silent, Kansas City was not. Local members of the community and allies recognized the injustice of turning the other way. They began a grassroots movement to shine a spotlight on the epidemic and rally support for those affected.

AIDS in KCAIDS in KC: The Early Days

At the time, women were often the main caretakers for their friends and neighbors who were ill —  often gay men who were dying in their own homes. Social workers, nurses, doctors and heads of community organizations, including bars and churches, formed alliances and held fundraisers, building a grassroots social safety net for queer people abandoned by those in power.

Even in 2022, the survivors and those who stepped up to provide support during the height of the crisis have gone largely unrecognized. Many have not spoken of the horrors of the first days of the virus, the feelings of attending multiple funerals a month or losing all of their best friends within weeks of a diagnosis. Today, some are still haunted by memories of the time, but all have a story to tell.

Support for long-term survivors remains critical, even as new preventative medications have been developed. Most assume the AIDS crisis ended in the 90s, eradicated by education and awareness. But it continues, with those suffering, still, often alone.

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  • Nick Haines, smiling. Week in Review
  • D. Rashaan Gilmore smiling, Flatland in Focus with D. Rashaan Gilmore
  • Nichols Folly, A Century of the Country Club Plaza, plaza fountain
  • Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, art car, Salvation Mountain
  • Flatland Presents Passing the Baton, Black fist clenching words like Black Lives Matter
  • Age-Old Questions, A Revealing Look at the State of Aging, image of older woman looking out window
  • We Are Latinos, Discovering the Latino Community of Kansas City, portion of mural
  • 19L (One Nine Left), image of air traffic control tower
  • The Gun Conundrum, image of gun
  • A Flatland Original, Art House, KC Conversations About the Art of Film, image of old projector
  • Get Lost! Kansas City PBS logo, Michael and Lonita
  • Womontown, two women embrace