People with AIDS Coalition

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The People With AIDS Coalition (PWA Coalition / PWAC), was founded in New York City in 1985 by a group of some nine persons all of whom had contracted AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

The founders were inspired by the "Denver Principles", a manifesto adopted by PWAs and PWARCs at the National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference held at Denver (Colo.) in 1983 which proclaimed the need for self-empowerment and self-reliance on the part of persons diagnosed with AIDS or HIV and the necessity of their taking an active role in the formulation of decisions affecting their lives. During the almost eight years of its corporate existence PWAC became the largest self-help organization of people living with AIDS and HIV in America. Projects developed by PWAC included the Community Research Initiative (CRI), a network of medical doctors and their patients who undertook their own drug studies, the People With AIDS Health Group, a not-for-profit buyer's club set up to provide easier access to drugs and other therapeutic substances difficult to obtain, and a national telephone hotline and newletter.

From the description of People With AIDS Coalition records, 1987-1993. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122606965

The People with AIDS Coalition (PWAC), a non-profit organization incorporated in New York State, was founded in New York City in 1985 by nine individuals, all of whom had contracted AIDS. They hoped to combat the atmosphere of ignorance, fear, and hostility that had accompanied the development of the disease from its onset. They adopted the acronyms PWA for People with AIDS and PWARC for People with AIDS Related Complex to replace what they regarded as pejorative stereotypes commonly employed by the mass media: victims, sufferers, and patients.

The founders were inspired by the Denver Principles, a manifesto adopted in 1983 by PWAs and PWARCs at the National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference held in Denver. The Denver Principles proclaimed the need for self-empowerment and self-reliance by PWAs as well as the necessity of their taking an active role in the formulation of decisions affecting their lives. By taking a positive and constructive approach to the personal and social problems created by AIDS, the founders hoped to shift the emphasis from dying to living with AIDS in a dignified, purposeful, and self-fulfilling way. Their motto became "Fighting for Our Lives."

Starting on a modest budget, PWAC depended initially on unsolicited contributions and on the compassion and goodwill of community organizations. With the help of Paul Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York, PWAC established its first headquarters in a townhouse owned by St. John's in the Village at 222 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. There it created a congenial space called the Living Room where PWAs could meet one another, socialize, exchange information, and receive the comfort and support of their peers. Staffed by volunteers, the Living Room also offered free meals and a resource library.

During the first five years under its successive executive directors, Michael Hirsch, Paul Van Souder, and William S. Case, other important programs were undertaken. The Community Research Initiative (CRI) began as a sponsored project in 1986/1987; it offered, through a network of medical doctors and patients who undertook their own drug studies and experimentation, an alternative to university-based research thereby hastening the availability of new drugs and therapies for the treatment of AIDS. In 1987, CRI became incorporated as an independent organization. Then, in March of 1987, the People with AIDS Health Group, a not-for-profit buyer's club, was set up by PWAC to provide easier access to drugs and other therapeutic substances difficult to obtain. During this period PWAC also established Hotline, a national telephone helpline staffed by volunteer PWAs who disseminated up-to-date information regarding AIDS; a speaker's bureau, which sponsored public lectures on AIDS; and Newsline, a monthly newsletter written by and for PWAs. A Spanish language version, SIDAhora, was added in the fall of 1989. In 1987 and 1988, PWAC also published Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, edited by co-founder Michael Callen, a two-volume work that received wide distribution.

In September of 1988, PWAC signed a lease that enabled it to occupy more spacious headquarters in a building at 31 West 31st Street. With only a staff of six in 1988, and with funding dependent almost wholly on private donations, PWAC in the following years under the leadership of William S. Case and his successor, Christopher Babick, grew substantially in staff size, organizational complexity, and financial strength. The organization hired a director of development to oversee the raising of funds from private donors, foundations, and governmental agencies; a coordinator of volunteers to recruit and manage the ever-growing number of volunteer workers; and an editorial director to supervise the production of PWAC's newsletters. While receipts from unsolicited contributions continued to play a large role, large grants were also obtained from the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health and from the New York City Department of Health.

During the almost eight years of its corporate existence PWAC became the largest self-help organization of people living with AIDS/HIV in America and served as a leader in the PWA self-empowerment movement. As a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic organization composed largely of volunteers under the leadership of a dynamic and dedicated executive staff, it served as a model for many other groups across the country who sought to implement its philosophy of living with AIDS in a spirit of dignity and self-fulfillment.

In early 1993, PWAC suffered a financial crisis brought on by a sharp decline in contributions coupled with an inordinately high rental overhead for its headquarters. With little prospect of achieving a restoration of its funding from contributions, at least in the short term, and unable to reach an agreement with the landlord for a reduction of its rental overhead, PWAC's board of directors voted on June 9th to dissolve the corporation.

Another organization, the People with AIDS Coalition of New York (PWAC/NY), was subsequently founded for the purpose of carrying on the mission of the original People with AIDS Coalition, which, in June 1999, was assumed by Body Positive Incorporated.

From the guide to the People With AIDS Coalition records, 1986-1993, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Group Material Archive, Bulk, 1979-1996, 1976-2009 Fales Library & Special Collections
creatorOf Testing the Limits (Firm). Testing the Limits records, 1987-1995 (bulk 1988-1990). New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Testing the Limits records, 1987-1995, 1988-1990 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf People With AIDS Coalition. People With AIDS Coalition records, 1987-1993. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf People With AIDS Coalition records, 1986-1993 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Group Material (Firm : New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Testing the Limits (Firm). corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
Subject
Self-help groups--New York (State)--New York
AIDS (Disease)--Information services
Self-help groups
AIDS (Disease)--Patients--Services for
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1987

Active 1995

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