August 8, 1983: Bobbi Campbell & Newsweek Magazine: “Sex, Politics, and the Impact of AIDS In America.”

Bobbi Campbell newsweek

 

Today marks the 33rd. anniversary of the day when Bobbi Campbell, and his partner Bobby Hilliard, became the AIDS cover story of Newsweek magazine.

For those who don’t know Bobbi Campbell he was originally from Seattle, became the first person living with AIDS to come out publicly after he became the 16th person to be diagnosed in San Francisco with the then still unnamed disease.

Bobbi became known as the “KS Poster Boy”  appearing with his partner on the above cover of Newsweek on August 8, 1983 and wrote a column for the San Francisco Sentinel from January 1982 describing his experiences. Campbell, who was also a registered nurse, joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the time of the health crisis in early 1982; in his “sister” persona as Sister Florence Nightmare, he co-authored the first San Francisco safer-sex manual, “Play Fair!”, written in plain sex-positive language, offering practical advice and adding an element of humour.

In 1983, Campbell and Dan Turner, who had been diagnosed in February 1982, founded the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement or PWA Movement.

For those of you too young to remember, it is almost impossible in this day and age to imagine the full extent of the fear, prejudice and misinformation that surrounded the disease in the early years. Even well into the late 1990’s, phobia against people with AIDS, along with misinformation about how AIDS is transmitted were prevalent.

In the 1980s, televangelist and fear mongers like Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham and others were spewing the belief that AIDS was “God’s punishment” against homosexuality.  People with AIDS faced ostracism from family and friends, discrimination in housing and employment. At one point even funeral directors refused to bury the bodies of those who dies from the disease. And to make matters wasn’t until 1985 that then President of the United States Ronald Reagan would mention the word AIDS,  let alone do anything to stop the disease and by this time thousands of gay Americans had already died.

On July 15th 1984, Bobbi gave a speech at the National March for Lesbian and Gay rights at the Democratic National Convention which is embedded below.

Bobby Campbell died of AIDS complications one month after making the DNC speech on August 15, 1984.

His partner Bobby Hilliard would succumb to the deadly disease not long afterwards

Both Bobbi Campbell and Bobby Hilliard  are both LGBT heroes. 

 

Bobby Hilliard

 

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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4 Responses

  1. Allegra Carson says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Bobby Hilliard? I’ve done a lot of digging, but can’t find out what happened to him after Bobbi Campbell died.

    • Will Kohler says:

      I can do some asking around

    • Will Kohler says:

      There is an AIDS Memorial Quilt panel for Bobby Hilliard so he too was a victim of the disease. And he has a remembrance in The Circle of Friends in the AIDS Memorial Grove. I cannot find the specific date of his death. But the way the plague spread then it was probably no more than 2 year after his lover.

  2. kathy rostkoski says:

    It is amazing to look back at the 1980’s to see how things were back than for people who aids. My brother died of aids back in 1992. He was diagnosed with pcp in 1989. He wrote a column in the Seattle Times, called “living with Aids”. There are so many amazing stories out there.

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