Larry Kramer has never been one to keep his mouth shut. Thank God. Without his anger-fueled voice, we wouldn’t have activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) or Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC, the nation’s first AIDS agency), both of which he cofounded, or The Normal Heart, the 1985 AIDS play (and 2014 HBO movie) that he wrote.
Below is a Q&A with Kramer after a screening of The Normal Heart in October 2017. Also included are POZ founder Sean Strub, activist Peter Staley and blogger Mark S. King.
Today, Kramer is 83 and as fired-up as ever. He recently gave an interview to the online science magazine STAT, in which he discussed the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences (which manufactures Truvada and other HIV blockbuster meds), Trump and the general state of the world. The outlook is not good, at least in Kramer’s eyes.
“AIDS is worse than ever,” Kramer told STAT, despite today’s very effective HIV meds. “Most of the world remains untested for HIV. What we only hear about are the small pockets of success which lead to far too much self-congratulation.’’ By those “pockets of success” Kramer was referring to stories involving white gay men who can afford insurance and who live in urban cities.
He added that HIV is “exploding in countries like Russia, which denies it, Southeast Asia, huge swaths of Africa, South America, Mexico, even in parts of America, Texas, the South, West Virginia. It goes unattended to in these places for the same reasons it’s not been properly attended to here: it’s happening to populations of people that other people hate.’’
Kramer had no kind words for NIH director Francis Collins or Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. STAT reached out to both, as well as to Gilead, and received responses from all three regarding Kramer’s accusations.
Regarding Trump, Kramer said the president is similar to Reagan in that he doesn’t have any concern for public health. “The dismantling of the system started under Reagan,” Kramer told STAT. “Trump’s just the latest in a long line of its executioners. Most of us don’t know what to do. He is successfully barricading every avenue of help and progress.”
When he’s not penning op-eds and speeches, Kramer is busy working on what he calls his “farewell achievement”: the second volume of his “history of homosexuality” titled The American People. (Volume One: Search for My Heart was published in April 2015).
Last month, he wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times, titled in typical Kramer fashion: “For Gays, the Worst Is Yet to Come. Again.”
And here’s a snippet of Kramer from the AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague:
For related POZ news, read our feature from May 2017 titled “Finding Larry Kramer: How the legendary AIDS activist made his way back to GMHC.”