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In 1987, activists John Cunningham and Heshie Zinman founded the AIDS Library of Philadelphia to provide health information to its community. This volunteer-run organization was the nation's first public lending library dedicated to HIV/AIDS, and sought to inform the public, address social fears and stigmas about the disease, support research, and advocate for social services and policy changes. The AIDS Library is now part of the Critical Path Learning Center, a program of Philadelphia FIGHT's Community Health Centers.

AIDS Library Historic Marker by Cosmos Mariner on (reproduced under Fair Use)

Black sign with gold lettering, reading "Begun in 1987, the AIDS Library of Philadelphia was the nation's first library to provide HIV/AIDS information and to help combat society's fears about the epidemic. In stark contrast to government's negligible response, LGBT communities nationwide provided information and rallied to develop social services, support research and demand action. This advocacy changed the course of the epidemic and societal attitudes toward gays and other people affected by HIV. While it propelled the early LGBT civil rights movement, it came with the loss of nearly a generation of gay men."

The AIDS pandemic struck Philadelphia with a particular severity. John Cunningham and Heshie Zinman led activists and volunteers in operating the AIDS Library from its founding in 1987. The library was the first of its kind -- a public lending library dedicated to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The library sought to provide health resources to people living with HIV/AIDS, caregivers, and the general public, and in doing so combated stigma surrounding the disease and advocated for social change and services.

In 1993, the library changed its name to the AIDS Information Network, and in 1999 merged with Philadelphia FIGHT. In 2017-2018, Philadelphia erected a series of LGBT historical markers, including the one outside the library to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

Equality Forum. AIDS Library of Philadelphia Historic Marker, LGBT Historic Markers. Accessed March 20th 2021.

Mariner, Cosmos. AIDS Library of Philadelphia, Historical Marker Database. June 27th 2019. Accessed March 20th 2021.

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