About the Archive
"I created this archive to connect the fighters of the AIDS era with the activists today, to show the continuity and change of an epidemic that still has not been cured, and to record the work of a groundbreaking organization."
In 2012, inspired by his time as a GHAP advocate and the stories he heard from co-founder Laura Pinsky and others, Will Hughes, an undergraduate at Columbia College, took on the task of creating this archive before he graduated. In 2018, current GHAP Director Daniel Chiarilli wanted to ensure that the archive continued to be modernized and updated. He partnered with Columbia's department of Strategic Communications and this new site was born.
Many thanks to Will for creating the archive. Much of the content featured was collected by Will for his initial project. Will also wrote a very impactful piece for the Columbia Spectator, which ran in 2012, entitled Fight On: The Story of AIDS at Columbia.
Below is Will's original text from the About Us section of the previous archive site.
For the last 30 years, The Gay Health Advocacy Project has been providing free and confidential HIV testing and counseling to the Columbia community. This archive, primarily completed during the summer of 2012, seeks to record the work of GHAP. It is updated as new interviews are conducted and the group continues its work. In addition to this website, an article describing the group as well as the current experience of an HIV positive graduate student appeared in the Eye, the magazine of the Columbia Spectator.
I designed this archive while an undergraduate in Columbia College and an advocate at GHAP. Its genesis can be traced back to a conversation with Laura Pinsky, as she recounted stories about the positive support groups and the floor raps while we were in the GHAP office together. The stories stuck in my head, and eventually percolated into this project. I wanted to preserve this history: while it will be most obviously of interest to other GHAP advocates and Columbia affiliates, it also can speak to anyone interested in broader themes of communities fighting injustice and caring for those in need.
Narratives of LGBTQ history have long been influenced by ideas of chosen families and focus on the process of creating a community. The AIDS crisis imbued this creation with urgency, particularly in New York City, and queer people of all stripes reacted with courage and compassion. This history is something that deserves to be preserved and passed on, for the next generation of LGBTQ people to be able to understand the foundation upon which they stand. I created this archive to connect the fighters of the AIDS era with the activists today, to show the continuity and change of an epidemic that still has not been cured, and to record the work of a groundbreaking organization. To quote Ms. Laura Pinsky: “We appeal to you: first, work to stay healthy; then, join the thousands of people of every description who call themselves AIDS activists.”
The archive owes deep thanks (and its existence) to Michael Becker, Bruce Francis, Kevin Hall, Tee Scatuorchio, and Ian Tattenbaum for their support. Thanks also to those that were interviewed, for their time and willingness to share their stories; Stephen Davis, Jocelyn Wilk, Kristen La Follette, and other members of the Columbia Libraries, for your guidance in putting together an archive; and Yanyi Luo, the developer who helped created this website. Most of all, I thank Laura Pinsky and Daniel Chiarilli for their support, guidance, and patience.