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posed that people who tested positive for HIV be sent to the former leper colony on Penikese Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. US Representative Bill Dannemeyer (R-CA) called for quarantining all gay men on a South Pacific island and arresting those who transmitted the disease. Here in Boston, terrified young men (and others) streamed into the gay-friendly Fenway Community Health Center, then housed in a basement warren on Haviland Street. Patients fidgeted on worn, red satin movie seats rescued from the closed Fenway Theater one block away. Though Boston was proud of its world-class hospitals, queer people often did not feel welcome in them, especially during the early stages of the AIDS crisis. Even though the Fenway was a small neighborhood health center, its non-judgmental, caring treatment attracted a loyal following of LGBT people from across the city. Because of AIDS, a tidal wave of patients came through its doors in the early 1980s. It was a place where people felt welcome and safe, which itself was a kind of treatment. The Fenway staff met weekly to discuss the stress of dealing with a large influx of young, very sick patients. Jerry Feuer, a retired physician’s assistant who saw thousands of AIDS patients at the Fenway, recalls a book containing the names of deceased patients. “If you didn’t see someone for a while, you’d check the book. In the beginning, all we could do was help them cope with anxiety and sleep issues.”

Bound in bureaucratic red tape, Act Up volunteers demonstrate at the Department of Public Health and Sanitation (January 29, 1989). Credit: Laura Wulf.

Visit After A Boston Pride Event & Receive 10% Off Your Meal!

Nearby Gennaro’s 5 North Square Restaurant welcomes members of the LGBTQ+ community to dine after Pride Day @ Faneuil Hall and the Boston Pride Festival and enjoy Chef Marisa Iocco’s Italian cuisine. And...Gennaro’s 5 North Square Bar is a fun place to meet anytime!

617-720-1020 | 5 North Square in the North End |

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