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AIDS in New York

The First Five Years

Jean Ashton and Gerald M. Oppenheimer (Foreword)

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 935 0

    Size: 228 x 152mm / 6 x 9in.

    Binding: Paperback

    Pages: 80

    In association with:

    Date published: February, 2015

    UK £9.95 /US $12.95


  • “…brings to life a period when AIDS began to infect not just the body but the body politic.” – The New York Times, about the exhibition at the New-York Historical Society upon which the book is based
  • Offers a unique glimpse into both the AIDS crisis and the culture of the 1980s in New York City


In the early 1980s a mysterious infectious disease began to kill gays, injected drug users, and blood transfusion patients. Then unnamed, with research funding and support for the dying unavailable, the HIV/AIDS virus would eventually take nearly one hundred million lives.

With America’s largest gay population, New York was hit early and hard by AIDS. Furthermore, a silent City Hall and sensationalist tabloid headlines spread homophobia and panic. Yet within months the city’s gay community and concerned medical professionals mobilised, fighting disinformation and attacks on sufferers’ civil liberties, and lobbying for funds for medical and social outreach.

In forceful narrative and vivid images, this book, based on the acclaimed 2013 exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, recaptures the first five years of the epidemic, culminating in the widespread public awareness of its dangers following the death of movie star Rock Hudson in 1985.

Author information

Jean Ashton, PhD, MLS, curator of AIDS in New York: The First Five Years and lead author of this book, is Senior Director of Resources and Programs at the New-York Historical Society. Formerly Executive Vice President and Director of the Library, Dr. Ashton curated Breakthrough: The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of Insulin (2010–2011) and Be Sure! Be Safe! Get Vaccinated: Smallpox, Vaccination and Civil Liberties in New York (2012).

Gerald M. Oppenheimer, PhD, M.P.H, is co-author of AIDS Doctors: Voices from the Epidemic: An Oral History, 2000. He is also a professor at Brooklyn College, the Graduate Center and the School of Public Health of the City University of New York, and the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York.