Bobbi Campbell

Bobbi Campbell

Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia, USA
Death 15 Aug 1984 (aged 32)
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA
Burial University Place, Pierce County, Washington, USA
Plot Catholic Garden
Memorial ID 108441074 · View Source
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Born Robert Boyle Campbell, Jr.

AIDS Activist. An openly gay public health nurse, Bobbi Campbell was the first person in The United States to come out publicly as having AIDS. A self described "AIDS Poster Boy", he advocated for people living with AIDS to empower themselves and was instrumental in the founding and organizing of the People With AIDS Movement. Bobbi was born in Columbus, Georgia and raised in Tacoma, Washington. He came out to his parents when he was 18 and they were supportive of him. He graduated with a degree in nursing from The University of Washington, Seattle. While living in San Francisco, he was a registered nurse in graduate school studying to become an adult health nurse practitioner at The University of California, San Francisco. Beginning in February 1981 with a case of shingles, he experienced a number of strange illnesses including anemia. After a hiking trip with his boyfriend in Pinnacles National Monument in September, he noticed purple lesions about the size of a quarter on the heel of each of his feet. Initially believing that the lesions were blood blisters, he became more concerned when the purple spots did not heal after three weeks. Upon visiting his primary care physician, she referred him to a specialist with the Kaposi's Sarcoma Task Force. During this time in San Francisco within the gay community, there were a large number of diagnosed cases of Kaposi's Sarcoma, a very rare cancer which most often afflicted elderly Jewish men. Today, Kaposi's Sarcoma is an hallmark illness associated with AIDS, however in a time predating the invention of the term AIDS, the disease was referred to as gay cancer. He was diagnosed with gay cancer in the Fall of 1981, the 16th case in San Francisco at the time. Inspired by his concentration in gay health nursing in school and a personal interest in educational outreach, he began writing a weekly column for The San Francisco Sentinel, a local gay newspaper, to chronicle the disease and to discuss health issues relevant to gay men. On December 10, 1981 in his first article for The Sentinel, Bobbi became the first person in The United States to publicly disclose that he was suffering from Kaposi's Sarcoma and that he had gay cancer when he proclaimed himself to be the "KS Poster Boy". He wrote, "The purpose of the poster boy is to raise interest and money in a particular cause, and I do have aspirations of doing that regarding gay cancer. I'm writing because I have a determination to live. You do, too--Don't you?" Encouraging others to survive AIDS became a personal conviction for him and he began wearing a pin in public appearances with the slogan "I will Survive". A few weeks later, he placed pictures of his KS lesions in the window of The Castro's Star Pharmacy to educate others in the area as to the appearance of gay cancer. As a member of the drag troupe The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as Sr Florence Nightmare, R.N., he coauthored "Play Fair", a safer-sex manual. In 1982 along with several other persons diagnosed with the new disease, Bobbi helped found People With AIDS San Francisco, the first support organization in the country at the time founded by people living with AIDS. He joined the National Board of the KS/AIDS Foundation and began traveling around the country engaging in media appearances, speeches, and marches to support and encourage people living with AIDS as well as advocate for funding. In footage from June 1982, he appeared in the earliest nationally broadcast news reports by NBC and CBS as a person living with AIDS. He also appeared on The Phil Donahue Show and ABC's Nightline. In May 1983 along with Bobby Reynolds, Mark Feldman, Dan Turner and Gary Walsh, he organized the first candlelight vigil to honor victims of AIDS in San Francisco. The men, appearing behind a banner entitled "Fighting For Our Lives", marched from Castro Street to City Hall in the inaugural memorial which drew around 10,000 people. This event is now known as The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and is celebrated around the world annually in various cities on the third Sunday in May. The following June in Denver, Colorado, he along with twelve men living with AIDS primarily from New York City and San Francisco, voted to form the National Association of People With AIDS which began the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement in The United States. In the group's Denver Principles, they eschewed being referred to as victims and insisted on being called PWAs. The three points of the organization's charter focused on recommendations for the general public toward PWAs, recommendations for people with the disease, and a list of rights for PWAs. In August 1983, he appeared on the cover of Newsweek with his partner, Bobby Hilliard, in a story entitled Gay America. Shortly thereafter, he met personally with Reagan Administration HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler. In June 1984, The National Association of People With AIDS finally opened in New York City. In San Francisco, the annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival was dedicated to PWAs and Bobbi attended, changing his title to "AIDS Poster Boy". The following July shortly before the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, he gave one of his last speeches at the National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights. While critical of the way the Reagan Administration had handled the beginning of the AIDS crisis, he urged all political candidates in the upcoming election to meet with PWAs and discussed the need for funding for AIDS research and support. On August 15 1984 surrounded by his parents and partner, Bobbi Campbell died of complications from AIDS at San Francisco General Hospital. At a time when life expectancy for AIDS patients was dramatically shorter than it is today, he had lived for over three and a half years with the disease.Bobbi Campbell (January 28, 1952 – August 15, 1984),
New Tacoma Cemeteries & Funeral Home, 9212 Chambers Creek Rd W, University Place, WA 98467

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  • Created by: Spanky
  • Added: 13 Apr 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 108441074
  • Pat McArron
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Bobbi Campbell (28 Jan 1952–15 Aug 1984), Find A Grave Memorial no. 108441074, citing New Tacoma Cemetery, University Place, Pierce County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by Spanky (contributor 47039966) .