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AIDS ARRIVES

It started out fairly quietly, with a page 20 article in the New York Times on July 3, 1981. "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals"...."Outbreak Occurs Among Men in New York and California -- 8 Died Inside Two Years"..."the cause of the outbreak is unknown." For many local Texas readers the story made the July 24 edition of "This Week in Texas (TWT)." And the news was slow; in the next nine months only five additional articles on the subject appeared. Then, in the March 12, 1982 issue the first Texas death was reported: a local business owner, Clint Moncrief, died of pneumocystis pneumonia. He was active in the community and was leader of the Montrose Marching Band. It was just the beginning of a crisis that affected many aspects of our community.

Various groups were already starting to react. The Gay Political Caucus hosted an education forum in January 1982, with doctors explaining the background and causes (as they were known then) of the disease, and a lengthy article on these findings appeared in the February 5, 1982, issue of TWT. The Karposi's Sarcoma Committee (KSC) was formed in June and in July, along with the Citizens for Human Equality, they issued a booklet, "Towards a Healthier Gay Lifestyle." The early name, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) would evolve into just AIDS, as also KSC would evolve into the KS/AIDS Foundation and later, April 1986, the AIDS Foundation Houston.

As the crisis exploded efforts to assist were created or broadened in almost every area, including medical, educational, spiritual, political, and support.
In fact, in 1993 the Harris County Health Department published a 30-page booklet just listing the different resources available. We will just scratch the surface by mentioning the efforts of the Montrose Clinic, Bering Care Center, Bering Dental Center, Montrose Counseling Center, Body Positive Wellness Center, Stone Soup, Omega House, McAdory House, Pet Patrol, People With AIDS Coalition, The Assistance Fund, Amigos Volunteers in Education & Services (AVES), Colt 45s AIDS Trouble Fund, Names Project, DIFFA, various churches, and ACT UP. Near the top of every effort was the community itself, with its support of the seemingly continual fundraisers, drag shows and benefits...they never seemed to end, but they were and continue to be needed.

What is missing from the prior text is the human aspect of the crisis. An analogy may be that of holding a camera, continually pulling it back, to include more in the image. Countless individuals suffered through the loss of a partner and of many, many, friends and acquaintances during the late 80s and early 90s. During the worst years there were funerals every day. These were the personal losses but these losses extended to the greater community. We lost the talent and wit, the creativity, humanity and leadership of these individuals. We lost what they could have created for our culture, and the world. It is impossible to take in all the elements of grief, anger, sympathy, activism, education and hope, and how all of our lives are forever changed.

          

Obituary for Clint Moncrief

See extensive coverage of the
AIDS crisis in Houston