Editor's note: This post was originally posted on the Smithsonian Collections Blog. December 1st is World AIDS Day.
Recently, the Helping People with AIDS (HPA) records were donated to the Archives Center by the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, Rochester, New York. HPA was a volunteer organization founded in August 1986 to raise money for uninsured Rochester-area AIDS patients and to hire a full-time nurse-practitioner for the HIV and AIDS clinic at Strong Memorial Hospital. Over the course of the next 17 years, HPA held numerous fundraisers and assisted in paying for medications, medical treatment, and expensive prescriptions.
By 1991, HPA had created a Wish List Fund. This fund was dedicated to helping fulfill the "wishes" of people with AIDS. Wishes were granted for travel to family and friends, television sets, veterinary care for a sufferer’s pet, and many other diverse requests. The fund was supported with ten percent of the proceeds from HPA fundraisers. The fund could be accessed once a year for up to $100.
A quarter of a million dollars had been raised by 1992. Prior to 1992, all of the donations collected were given to the AIDS Clinic at Strong Memorial Hospital for direct treatment and distribution. As of 1992, HPA handled funds distribution, disseminating them to as many HIV and AIDS assistance organizations as possible.
By 2003, funding for AIDS organizations was available and there was less need in the community for financial support for people with HIV. In November 2003, the HPA Board voted to dissolve the corporation and donate the remaining funds to AIDS Rochester. After 17 years, HPA's fundraising total was close to $1,000,000.
The HPA Records at the Archives Center document the final years of its life and its administration of The Wish Fund. They provide a window into a locally-based charitable organization with a long involvement in fighting HIV and AIDS. The records complement a range of collections centered on the HIV and AIDS epidemic and are reflective of the grassroots efforts growing out of the LGBT community in the 1980s in response to the HIV and AIDS crisis.
Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., is an archives specialist.