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Remembering influential AIDS activist Larry Kramer

Playwright and pioneering AIDS activist Larry Kramer has died of pneumonia at age 84. He fought for greater resources and awareness of HIV, as well as for gay rights, during the 1980s and 1990s. Kramer was also a novelist and nonfiction writer who was taking on the topic of the coronavirus pandemic at the time of his death. Jeffrey Brown looks back at Kramer’s life.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And playwright and pioneering AIDS activist Larry Kramer has died in New York, of pneumonia. He fought for bold action against HIV and for gay rights in the 1980s and '90s.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at his life.

  • Actor:

    Have you told the man there's an epidemic going on?

  • Actor:

    Oh, says who?

  • Actor:

    The government.

  • Actor:

    Which government? What, our government? An epidemic?

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    In "The Normal Heart," his 1985 play and later an HBO film, Larry Kramer wrote of love, agony and anger in the early years of AIDS.

    It was the subject of much of his work as writer and activist. He was a founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and later the group ACT UP, whose public confrontations demanded attention and urgent action to address the growing AIDS crisis.

  • Larry Kramer:

    Plague! Forty million infected people is a plague! We are in the worst shape we have ever, ever been in.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    He was passionate, often loud, but he was heard, including when he took on then-prominent AIDS researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci. Kramer labeled Fauci an incompetent idiot.

    The two would later come to mutual respect and even friendship. Today, Fauci, one of the leaders of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, spoke to Judy about Kramer.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    I'm very sad that we have lost him. He was just an extraordinary man.

    He changed totally — by his extraordinary iconoclastic and theatrical ways of doing things, he changed the relationship between the afflicted community with a given disease and the scientific and regulatory community that has such a great impact on them.

    He said, you can't be separate. You have got to keep us in the tent. We have got to be in there with you.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Kramer dealt with illness for much of his adult life. He was infected with HIV and, separately, liver disease. A novelist, a nonfiction writer as well, at his death, he was working on a new play centered on the current pandemic.

    Larry Kramer was 84 years old.

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