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The Bisexual History of HIV/AIDS, in Photos

“And I just want it known that there is someone out here remembering him with tenderness in my heart and tears in my eyes.”

– Iris De La Cruz, Kool-AIDS On Ice


Dr. David Lourea, a co-director of The Bisexual Center (founded in 1976), was also a pioneer in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. In 1981, Dr. Lourea and bisexual / leather icon Cynthia Slater presented safer-sex education workshops in bathhouses and BDSM clubs in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog


Former BiNet USA President Alexei Guren helps co-found the Health Crisis Network (now CareResource) in Miami, and begins outreach and advocacy for Latino married men who have sex with men.


BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization, was founded in San Francisco by bisexual activists Autumn Courtney, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Arlene Krantz, Dr. David Lourea, Bill Mack, Alan Rockway, and Maggi Rubenstein. BiPol launches demonstrations against “anti-gay/bisexual raids in Haiti and U.S.” Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog


Black bisexual LGBT icon ABilly S. Jones (with G. Gerald and Craig Harris) organizes first federally funded national “AIDS in the Black Community Conference” in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: BiCities TV @ BECAUSE Conference
After a two year battle, BiPOL activist, AIDS educator, and therapist Dr. David Lourea persuades the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in a weekly “New AIDS cases and mortality statistics” report. This model is then used by other department of public health offices around the country. Dr. Lourea went on to criticize the Department of Public Health for closures of bathhouses and sex clubs in a March 1984 letter.



Cynthia Slater (1945-1989), early outspoken HIV positive woman, organizes first Women’s HIV/AIDS Information Switchboard. Slater (right) is also considered a co-founder of the Leather community. Photo Credit: Dorian Katz and Cynthia Slater, “LINEAGE Portraits by E.G. Crichton


Current American Institute of Bisexuality board member and former BiNet USA President Denise Penn M.S.W. co-founds AIDS Walk Orange County, in a California conservative stronghold represented by Sen. William Dannemeyer. Sen. Dannemeyer sent letters to editors and elected officials demanding they pull support for the walk, but the walk continued. AIDS Walk Orange County celebrates its 29th year of existence this May. Denise Penn is pictured above with Jeff LeTourneau at a 2013 Orange County Democrats event. Photo Credit: The 


In a devastating October 1987 article, Newsweek portrays bisexual men as “the ultimate pariahs” of AIDS epidemic. Bi activist and person with AIDS, Dr. Alan Rockway of BiPOL is quoted speaking against the stereotype. Dr. Rockway (above) was also a pioneering psychologist who helped write and defend the first LGBT employment non-discrimination ordinance to be approved in a major city. Despite brilliant ideas like introducing a boycott of Florida orange juice, Dr. Rockway’s contributions are often “bisexually erased” and he is often “misoriented” as a gay man instead of being properly identified as bisexual. Photo Credit: WYPR News
Dr. Rockway started two of the nation’s first LGBT mental health programs and Alliant University’s Rockway Institute is named in his memory. Dr. Rockway’s AIDS Quilt panel was included as part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt when he passed away in November of 1987, however his obituary erased his bisexuality. Photo Credit: AIDS Quilt Touch Project


At the beginning of 1988, the bisexual community continued to defend itself after being labeled “time bombs” by Newsweek. In January 1988, the Bay Area Bisexual Network held an afternoon workshop on “Bisexuals and AIDS” at the San Francisco UC Extension Center. Check out that $2 parking! Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog
In 1988, Veneita Porter (former executive director of both BiNet USA and the Bisexual Resource Center) published “Minorities and HIV” in The New England Journal of Public Policy. Porter had previously worked with the Prostitute’s Union of Massachusetts and COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) to advocate for women, transgender people, and injection drug users with AIDS. Porter also went on to become the director of the New York State Office of AIDS Discrimination where she helped design the first educational projects and trainings for state workers, hearing judges and legal staff. Porter’s portrait was taken by famed photographer Robert Giard but unfortunately Porter has also been “bisexually erased” by both The New York Public Library Digital Collections and Yale University.
Photo Credit: “Veneita Porter”, photographed by Robert Giard. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library


An October 1989 Cosmopolitan magazine article stereotypes bisexual men as dishonest spreaders of AIDS and leads to a letter-writing campaign by the New York Area Bisexual Network (NYABN). Cosmopolitan has printed no articles defaming bisexuals since the campaign.
Also in 1989, Cliff Arnesen became the first openly bisexual veteran to testify before members of the Unites States Congress during formal hearings held before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Arnesen addressed lesbian, gay and bisexual veteran’s health issues including HIV/AIDS, Agent Orange, post-traumatic stress and homelessness. Photo Credit: GLAAD


BiPOL San Francisco produces the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, with bisexual health as one of eight workshop tracks. “NAMES Project” AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed with bisexual quilt pieces; 465 people attend representing 20 states and five countries. Note the special place Dr. Alan Rockway’s quilt has in the photo above. Photo Credit: Efrain Gonzalez, Facebook Bi History Group – 1990 1st National Bisexual Conference


In honor of the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, the City of San Francisco proclaimed the first ever “Bi Pride Day” (check out the dot matrix copy of the proclamation above). As part of the acknowledgement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also proclaimed:…Whereas, The contributions of bisexuals in developing AIDS service projects, combating discrimination, and advocating for social justice have long been undervalued or discounted by most of society; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference offers the bisexual community an opportunity to showcase some of its extraordinary work and leadership in establishing model AIDS programs, and working to build a society free of discrimination and injustice; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference gives all people the occasion to finally end the silence about the numbers of bisexual persons who have died of AIDS, and to recognize the tremendous leadership contributions of bisexual activists in the fight against the killer disease…




Also in 1990, bisexual activist Carol Leigh, “a.k.a. Scarlot Harlot, is arrested at 6th International AIDS Conference in full flag regalia during women’s protest against scapegoating of prostitutes in AIDS crisis. Leigh would also go on to coin the term “sex worker” and be featured in a 2012 documentary, “My Friend Scarlot Harlot”. Photo Credit: “My Friend Scarlot Harlot” Facebook Page
Bisexuals were out in full force at the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco. Bisexual activist Rebecca Hensler (third from right) is pictured above protesting with other women from ACT UP. Photo Credit: Liz Highleyman


In 1991, Iris De La Cruz, bisexual AIDS activist, writer and performer died. De La Cruz wrote the popular news column “Kool AIDS on Ice” until her death. Iris’s House was founded in 1992 as the “nation’s first HIV/AIDS agency to provide family focused services to women of color infected and affected by HIV”. Named in honor of Iris De La Cruz, the agency currently erases De La Cruz’s bisexuality from her bio. Noted sex educator Annie Sprinkle and sexuality writer Veronica Vera join Iris De La Cruz in the undated photo above. Photo Credit: Efrain Gonzalez, Facebook Bi History Group


Liz Highleyman (left) and other contributors to the Bi Any Other Name anthology, Cliff Arnesen, Robyn Ochs, and Bobbie Keppel. In 1992, Liz Highleyman co-founded the ACT UP/Boston IV League needle exchange, one of the first in United States. Highleyman would go on to become a prolific writer, editor and influencer in the HIV/AIDS community and is editor-in-chief and publisher of Photo Credit: Courtesy of Liz Highleyman
Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé founds Moving Violations, a men of color HIV/ AIDS focused direct political action group, in Washington, D.C. In 1991, working with ACT UP/D.C., Farajajé led a sit-in occupying the D.C. mayor’s office when no action was taken after meetings and reassurances with the mayor on D.C. and federal HIV/AIDS funding issues. Dr. Farajaje now serves as the current Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies at the Starr King School for the Ministry. Photo Credit: Unitarian Universalist Society: East


Lani Ka’ahumanu serves as project coordinator for an American Foundation for AIDS Research grant awarded to Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Services. This is the first grant in U.S. to target young high risk lesbian and bi women for HIV/AIDS prevention/education research. She creates “Peer Safer Sex Slut Team” with Cianna Stewart. Ka‘ahumanu is pictured above marching in San Francisco Pride. Photo Credit: Biconic Flashpoints Exhibit, GLBT History Museum
Also in 1993, Hap Stewart, M.S.W. (1934-1996), early outspoken advocate for alternative holistic HIV/AIDS care and treatment with ACT UP/San Francisco, is appointed to Marin County (California) AIDS Commission. Before his passing Stewart would contribute a piece to “Bi Any Other Name” the seminal work on bisexual communities edited by Lani Ka’ahumanu and Loraine Hutchins. Photo Credit: My House Rainbow Resources


Dr. Farajaje, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Laura Perez (pictured above) and Victor Raymond, The Indigenous Queers/Bisexual Caucus, present “Preaching to the Perverted or Fluid Desire” at the National HIV Prevention/Education Summit held by the Association of Physicians for Human Rights (now the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association). Photo Credit: BiNet USA


Cianna Stewart, of the Living Well Project and San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander AIDS Services, develops sexual/gender diversity and HIV/AIDS awareness handbook and videos in five languages. Stewart would also co-produce and co-direct “There’s No Name For This” (still from the film is above), one of the first documentaries exploring the lives of Chinese and Chinese-American lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Photo Credit: There’s No Name For This, Vimeo


In 1996, Angel Fabian co-organizes National Task Force on AIDS Prevention’s first Gay/Bisexual Young Men of Color Summit at Gay Men of Color Conference, Miami Fla. Fabian is the Coordinator of Gay and Bisexual Men’s Services at the Hispanic AIDS Forum in New York and is pictured above being interviewed at a vigil for Islan Nettles, a young Black transgender woman who was murdered in front of a New York City police station in 2013. Watch the full interview here.


The Fourth Annual Southern California Conference on Bisexuality features “how to” demonstration from Safe Sex Sluts. Photo Credit: Kyle Schickner, Facebook Bi History Group


BiNet USA hosts National Institute on Bisexuality HIV/AIDS Summit with the National Gay Lesbian Health Association Conference, Lynda Doll of the Center for Disease Control, with Elias Farajaje-Jones, Luigi Ferrer, Ron Fox, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Fritz Klein, Marshall Miller, Cianna Stewart and Joe Wright. Dr. Fritz Klein (pictured above) is often considered one of the founding fathers of bisexuality and co-founded the American Institute of Bisexuality. Dr. Klein passed away from cancer in 2006 and was survived by his life partner Tom Reise.


The nation’s first federal civil law addressing sexual violence in detention, The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is passed. Just Detention International (JDI) was instrumental in securing passage of the bill and continues to play a key role in PREA’s implementation at the federal, state and local levels. One of JDI’s earliest leaders was bisexual activist Stephen “Donny the Punk” Donaldson (pictured above). In 1966, Donaldson co-founded the country’s first gay student group but later felt forced out of the gay rights movement after a torrid affair with one of the leaders of the earliest lesbian civil rights group. Donaldson was later jailed for protesting his lack of treatment for an STI and contracted HIV as a result of being raped in prison. Donaldson died in 1996, and like many other bisexual activists who died of AIDS, he left an incredible legacy of working with many different types of communities in the pursuit of justice for all, with no one left behind.

Special thanks to:

Bisexual Health History Page,

New York Area Bisexual Network,

Liz Highleyman,