The GMHC (formerly Gay Men's Health Crisis) is a New York City–based non-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based AIDS service organization that has led the United States in the fight against AIDS.
The organization was founded in January 1982 after reports began surfacing in San Francisco and New York City that a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma was affecting young gay men.
After the Centers for Disease Control declared the new disease an epidemic, Gay Men's Health Crisis was created when 80 men gathered in New York writer Larry Kramer's apartment to discuss the issue of "gay cancer" and to raise money for research. GMHC took its name from the fact that the earliest men who fell victim to AIDS in the early 1980s were gay.
The founders were Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Lawrence D. Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport and Edmund White. They organized the formal, tax-exempt entity. At the time it was the largest volunteer AIDS organization in the world. Paul Popham was chosen as the president.
Rodger McFarlane began a crisis counseling hotline that originated on his own home telephone, which ultimately became one of the organization's most effective tools for sharing information about AIDS. He was named as the director of GHMC in 1982, helping create a more formal structure for the nascent organization, which had no funding or offices when he took on the role. GMHC operated out of a couple of rooms for offices in a rooming house in Chelsea owned by Mel Cheren of West End Records.
Larry Kramer wrote that by the time of McFarlane's death, "the G.M.H.C. is essentially what he started: crisis counseling, legal aid, volunteers, the buddy system, social workers" as part of an organization that serves more than 15,000 people affected by HIV and AIDS. In an interview with The New York Times after McFarlane's death in May 2009, Kramer described how "single-handedly Rodger took this struggling ragtag group of really frightened and mostly young men, found us an office and set up all the programs."
Kramer resigned in 1983 to form the more militant ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) as a more political alternative. From that time on his public comments and posture toward GMHC were negative, if not hostile. Kramer's play The Normal Heart is a roman à clef of his involvement with the organization.
On April 30, 1983, the GMHC sponsored the first major fund-raising event for AIDS – a benefit performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
By 1984, the Centers for Disease Control had requested GMHC's assistance in planning public conferences on AIDS. That same year, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was discovered by the French Dr. Luc Montagnier. Within two years, GMHC was assisting heterosexual men and women, hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and children.
Gay Men's Health Crisis received extensive coverage in Randy Shilts' 1987 book And the Band Played On. The book described the progress of the pandemic blaming the government, especially the Reagan administration and Secretary of Health Margaret Heckler, for failing to respond. It praised GMHC for its work. Shilts was a gay man who later died of AIDS.
In 1997 the organization moved into headquarters at the nine-story Tisch Building at 119 West 24 Street in the Chelsea neighborhood. The building underwent a $12.5 Million renovation. It is named for Preston Robert Tisch and Joan Tisch. The couple donated $3.5 million for the project and Joan is on the GMHC board of directors.
In the 1990s a fundraising event on the Atlantic Ocean beach at Fire Island Pines, New York evolved into a major Circuit Party and developed a reputation for being connected with unsafe sex and recreational drug use. GMHC pulled the plug after the 1998 fundraiser after one man died on Fire Island of an overdose of the drug gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) the evening before the party and 21 revelers were arrested for drug possession.[dead link]
GMHC has received multiple grants from the Carnegie Corporation, an organization that has supported more than 550 New York City arts and social service institutions since its inception in 2002, and which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (along with 406 other arts and social service institutions).
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) has moved to a new and expanded home consisting of 165,000 square feet (15,300 m2) of redesigned and renovated space at 446 West 33rd Street in Manhattan. GMHC is expanding its wide range of services for over 100,000 New Yorkers affected by HIV/AIDS. These services include health and nutrition education, legal, housing and mental health support, vocational training and case management. With a new state-of-the-art kitchen and larger dining room, free hot meals will be served to more clients. The Keith Haring Food Pantry Program will increase its capacity to provide grocery bags and nutrition counseling to more people in need.
The new location has enabled GMHC to expand its services to meet the growing and complex needs of people affected by HIV/AIDS. In this 30th year of the epidemic, HIV continues to rise at alarming rates – locally and nationally – particularly among women, African Americans, Latinos and men who have sex with men.
The HIV prevention and testing programs are being expanded in the new GMHC Center for HIV Prevention at 224 West 29th Street in NYC which will include a new youth leadership-development program. The new Center for HIV Prevention opened May 31.
"Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals". New York Times. July 3, 1981.
Hevesi, Dennis. "Rodger McFarlane, Who Led AIDS-Related Groups, Dies at 54", The New York Times, May 18, 2009. Accessed May 19, 2009.
Building Blocks In the Battle On AIDS – New York Times – March 30, 1997
Roberts, Sam (July 6, 2005). "City Groups Get Bloomberg Gift of $20 Million". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene HIV/AIDS Information
Center for Disease Control Factsheet "HIV in the United States"