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Reggie Williams
(April 29, 1951 - February 7, 1999) U.S.A.

Reggie Williams

Gay AIDS-Activist


Reggie was proud of his roots in the Washington Terrace public housing in Cincinnati, where he was the second oldest of nine children his mother Jean raised on the wages of a domestic worker. His mother's hard work was not lost on him and following graduation from Withrow High School in 1969 he enrolled at Cincinnati's General Hospital (now University of Cincinnati Medical Center) to train to become a hospital radiology technician.

He met Alphonzo Freeman, with whom he began his first long-term relationship, later moving together to Los Angeles following the completion of his medical training. Arriving in Los Angeles in the 70s, Reggie landed a job at famed Cedars Sinai Hospital.

In Los Angeles he met his second partner, Tim Isbell, with whom he relocated to San Francisco in the early 1980s. It was as an x-ray technician and supervisor at the University of California San Francisco's Moffitt Hospital that he began serving men critically ill with what was initially termed GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). This name eventually gave way to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Remembering those early days of the pandemic, Reggie maintained that from the beginning, the patients he saw were ethnically diverse, including African American and Latino men, two groups largely ignored at the outset and today the most at-risk.

Responding to an array of issues marginalizing HIV/AIDS prevention and education for African American and other men of color, Reggie called a meeting at his home to take action. From that meeting, the AIDS Task Force of the San Francisco chapter of Black and White Men Together (NABWMT) emerged in 1980, (founded together with his partner Tim Isbell (1948-1998).

The groundbreaking work of NTFAP's early years included the first national HIV prevention and education training meetings of ethnically diverse gay men; the first national knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors survey of more than 900 African American men who had sex with men; and the development and dissemination of "Hot, Horny and Healthy," the first African American-specific HIV/AIDS safer sex "playshop."

While the increasingly disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on gay African American and other men of color was already being statistically documented, these populations were still ignored, or marginalized as "hard to reach." "We know where we are!" Reggie often said in frustration.

Within a few years of NTFAP's establishment, Reggie was invited to address national conferences of the Urban League and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to testify at the first hearings on HIV/AIDS in the African American community sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus in 1991.

Forced by a draconian U.S. law forbidding the immigration of his HIV-positive partner Wolfgang Schreiber to the U.S., Reggie moved to Amsterdam, where his relationship with Wolfgang entitled him to the benefits of Dutch citizenship. In Amsterdam, his activism continued through Amnesty International and a local gay men of color organization, Strange Fruit.

In spite of a near-constant barrage of illness in Holland, Reggie and Wolfgang travelled extensively throughout Europe, returned occasionally to the U.S., and even rode camels at the Great Pyramids in Egypt.

When same-gender domestic registration was approved in Holland, the couple, who had "married" in a mass ceremony at the April, 1993 "March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights," decided to register, in part to protest the lack of similar legal options in their respective home countries of the U.S. and Germany. The ceremony and reception, followed by a meal with friends and a party, took place October 20, 1998.

In an effort to escape the harsh Dutch winter, Reggie and Wolfgang spent a month in California for the Christmas holidays in December, 1998. Frail and often requiring a wheelchair, Reggie visited with friends and family in the San Francisco Bay area before continuing to southern California in early 1999. Growing steadily weaker, he was hospitalized for several days in Encinitas, California and only released in order to make his scheduled return to Holland.

Within days of his arrival in Amsterdam in mid-January, he was hospitalized for the last time. Williams died peacefully in the Algemeen Medische Centrum (AMC hospital), of AIDS-related complications.


Source: http://www.q.co.za/news/1999/9902/990209-reggie.htm - et alii

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