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Larry Kramer, legendary playwright and Aids activist, dies aged 84

The founder of ACT UP and author of 'Faggots' died on Wednesday (27 May), his husband has confirmed.

By Will Stroude

Legendary playwright, author and Aids activist Larry Kramer has died at the age of 87.

The Tony and Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) died from pneumonia on Wednesday (27 May), according to his husband David Webster.

Kramer, who was born in Connecticut in 1935, was already an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter when he penned 1978’s seminal – and then-controversial – gay novel, Faggots.

As the full scale of the Aids Crisis began to emerge in the 1980s, he founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) to support those living with the disease, as well as ACT UP to encourage direct action protests designed to force politicians into action.

His 1985 play The Normal Heart focused on the early days of the Aids crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, and in 2014 was turned into an Emmy-winning HBO adaptation starring Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer, and directed by Ryan Murphy.

Karmer, who lived with HIV, was renowned for his forthright and outspoken approach to LGBTQ activism, writing in The Los Angeles Times in 2007: “Our own country’s democratic process declares us to be unequal, which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you.

“You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.” 

Veteran human rights campaign Peter Tatchell, who knew Kramer, said in a statement: “Larry Kramer was an inspiring playwright, author and pioneering campaigner on LGBT+ and HIV issues.

“He helped galvanise the formation of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, which successfully challenged US government inaction and forced pharmaceutical companies to speed their efforts to research and trial treatments.

“He also helped establish the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which did so much to support people living with HIV/Aids.”
He continued: “ACT UP’s efforts helped save the lives of millions of people worldwide and Larry was part of that achievement. His often angry tirades against President Reagan, the New York Times, drug corporations and the medical establishment were searing and effective.

“I counted him as a friend and comrade. He will be missed and remembered for decades to come.”