AIDS at the University

HIV/AIDS ravaged gay communities nationally and locally during the 1980s. Drew Feraios (AB 1981) remembers that the threat of AIDS and the climate of homophobia it fostered politicized gay men on campus and "contributed to the coming out process of my more closeted friends." The objects in this case point to some of the different strategies community members used to respond to AIDS.

David Ostrow (SB 1969, MD 1974, PhD 1975) co-founded the Gay Medical Students Organization for medical students across Chicago which began confidential STD testing for gay and bisexual men in the 1970s. This early experience in community-based medicine put Ostrow in place to become a lead researcher on the Multisite AIDS Cohort Study beginning in 1984. Still running today, the MACS is the first and largest study on the natural history of AIDS. Ostrow was invited back to campus to speak to medical students in 1985.

Direct-action organizing also provided an outlet for anger at a society that did not care about those who were dying. Debbie Gould (AM 1990, PhD 2000) began working with ACT UP/Chicago (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) while still a student, left the University after earning her AM in order to spend more time on activism, and returned years later to write her dissertation on the movement. This case displays archived photos that Scott Mendel (AM 1995) took at ACT UP demonstrations in Chicago.

Brent Housekeeping, April 1989

On loan from the Diocese of Chicago Archives

Sam Portaro, chaplain of Brent House, hosted discussions about AIDS, wrote about the epidemic in his monthly newsletter, and provided a home in Brent's guest house for Joey Fairclough, a South Side resident living with HIV/AIDS. Portaro recollects this as "a valuable learning experience... I really had to work hard at impressing upon all of these wonderful helpers that Joey... needed to be treated as an independent person capable of doing a lot of things for himself and not treated as our pet case." Fairclough's ashes are interred on the grounds of Brent House.

Brent Housekeeping, June 1989

On loan from the Diocese of Chicago Archives

UChicago square of the AIDS Quilt, Block #753

On loan from the NAMES Project Foundation

The NAMES Project AIDS quilt square lists some of the students and faculty lost to the epidemic. Photographs show a quilting bee and a "chalk quilt" created in the 1990s. Community members from Brent House also created quilt squares.