Forty Years Since the Denver Principles, Their Demands Remain as Pertinent as Ever


The Denver Principles asserted the rights of people living with HIV to be treated with dignity, fairness, and respect

NEW YORK, June 15, 2023 — Forty years ago this week, a group of gay men identifying themselves as people with AIDS stormed the stage at the Second National AIDS Forum in Denver, Colorado to present a manifesto asserting their rights, humanity, and autonomy. Their recommendations for “all people” and for “people with AIDS,” and assertions of “the rights of people with AIDS” came to be known as the Denver Principles.

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, commemorates the 40th anniversary of this seminal document, which changed the way people living with HIV and AIDS are viewed and helped revolutionize the field of healthcare advocacy.

The group began with: “We condemn attempts to label us as ‘victims,’ which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally ‘patients,’ which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are ‘people with AIDS.’” The group’s use of person-first language has since become standard practice not just in HIV care, but across a broad spectrum of healthcare fields and disciplines.

Ideas a modern audience could take for granted such as doctors consulting patients about changes in ongoing care, the right to access healthcare services without discrimination, and the privacy of medical records all were introduced in the Denver Principles.

Among the “advisory committee of the People with AIDS” who co-authored the Denver Principles was AIDS activist Michael Callen. In that same month—June 1983—Mr. Callen was among a small group including Drs. Mathilde Krim and Joseph Sonnabend who founded amfAR’s predecessor, the AIDS Medical Foundation, in New York City.

“The Denver Principles are unfortunately as relevant now as they’ve ever been,” amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Greg Millett said. “Legislative and judicial attacks on gender-affirming care and HIV preventive services are exactly the sort of discriminatory action the Principles’ co-authors were fighting.”

Read the group’s declaration in full here.

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has raised nearly $900 million in support of its programs and has awarded more than 3,800 grants to research teams worldwide.

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