Following almost a decade of AIDS, gay communities began to focus on activism and civic duty. But TIME’s cover story took an inward look to see the mental toll, and the prognosis at the time was not good.
Yet however ruthless they may be on the surface about isolating themselves, uninfected men are widely burdened with what scholars of war call survivor guilt. These gay survivors see no moral reason, no legitimate distinction, that accounts for why they are alive and their friends and acquaintances are dead. Perhaps they simply preferred acts that proved to be less risky. Many did all the same things as their friends, just as frequently, and have somehow escaped — so far.