A Queer History

by J. Tobias Beard

In early 1986, Hospice of the Piedmont needed help with a patient who had less than a month to live. The organization’s purpose, then and now, is to care for terminal patients, but this patient had AIDS, and AIDS patients were different.

By the end of 1984, there were 10 reported AIDS cases in Charlottesville, 42 in Virginia. A year later, the total number in the state had jumped to 102, and Hospice board member Jim Heilman began pondering the idea of a group devoted solely to their treatment. Given the hysteria and fear surrounding the disease, as well as how quickly and miserably the patients died, AIDS cases required a special kind of care. When a particularly horrific case came to the door in 1986, Heilman called Blaise Spinelli, a 36-year-old med tech at UVA, and asked him if he wanted to help.

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