Larry Kramer and Vito Russo

Larry Kramer and Vito Russo, 1990. Michael Abramson, Getty Images
Larry Kramer and Vito Russo, 1990. Michael Abramson, Getty Images

Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. And when that day comes, there’ll be people alive on this earth … who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.

- Vito Russo


Larry Kramer

1935 - 

An Oscar-nominated playwright and screenwriter, Larry Kramer is an outspoken LGBTQ activist whose commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness spans decades. 

Kramer organized protests and demonstrations to demand that the government, health officials, and the LGBTQ community respond to the plague that became a leading cause of death for young men in New York City during the 1980s. During this time, he founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). 

Kramer continues to criticize indifference to LGBTQ causes and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a 2018 New York Times opinion piece, he wrote, “Where are the millions of gay people being angry and vocal and visibly fighting back? Are we prepared to fight the many fights piling up against us?”

Kramer’s works include The Normal Heart (1985), a Broadway play adapted into a 2014 HBO film, and The Destiny of Me (1992), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.


Vito Russo

1946 - 1990

Author, activist, and film scholar Vito Russo, a founding member of GLAAD and co-founder of ACT UP, ushered in an era of awareness around LGBTQ portrayals in media. 

Russo, an East Harlem native who made his home in Chelsea, was inspired to get politically active after witnessing persistent police raids in New York City gay bars, including Stonewall. 

He studied the ways in which sexual identity was depicted throughout film history and examined the influence of the Hays Code – a ban on "immoral" subject matter in motion pictures – on American society during its enforcement in the mid-twentieth century. His findings were published in The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (1981), a breakthrough text in the fields of media literacy and LGBTQ studies that was adapted into an HBO documentary.

Russo died of AIDS-related complications at 44 years old.