amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Larry Kramer: The Most Powerful Voice on AIDS

The board and staff of amfAR mourn the passing of legendary AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer, who has died at the age of 84.

Larry Kramer and Dr. KrimamfAR Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim presents Larry Kramer with amfAR’s Award of Courage in 2000.Throughout the 1980s, Larry Kramer was the single best-known public advocate of individual, community-based, and governmental responses to the national emergency posed by the AIDS epidemic. He voiced the urgency of this need with passion, and he led the way in creating organizational superstructures of unprecedented importance, enabling the justifiable anger felt by so many to take specific form: In 1981, he organized the founding of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and in 1987, he catalyzed the creation of ACT UP—the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power—where he remained a leader for several years.

“I still vividly remember meeting Larry for the first time at Tower Records shortly after I had moved to New York in the early 90s,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “It was at his urging that I joined ACT UP. In that instant, he set me on a path and on a quest that consumes me to this day.”

Larry Kramer began his writing career with a screen adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love (1969), which received a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Oscar. His novel Faggots (1978) remains in print and he is the author of several dramas about AIDS, notably the "The Normal Heart" (1985), which returned to Broadway in 2011 and won the Tony Award for best revival of a play. All told, “The Normal Heart” has been seen in close to 1,000 productions worldwide. Kramer also received an OBIE Award for his 1992 play "The Destiny of Me.” Many of his essays and speeches have been published in Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist (1994). 

amfAR honored Larry Kramer with an Award of Courage at its Honoring with Pride event on Ellis Island in 2000. In an essay he penned for the event journal, Kramer wrote: “Fighting AIDS has been my life. It will be this way until I no longer have a life, or until AIDS goes away.” He concluded by saying: “I’m proud of my lover, David Webster, and I’m proud of my brother, Arthur, who has in essence been my patron. I am very proud to be a gay man, and I am very proud to be a continuing part of this fight.”

amfAR extends its deepest sympathy to Larry Kramer’s husband David Webster and to the rest of his family. The greatest tribute we can pay to Larry is to persevere in the fight against AIDS and to finish the work he started.