San Francisco

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports

Pneumocystis Pneumonia --- Los Angeles

In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died. All 5 patients had laboratory-confirmed previous or current cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and candidal mucosal infection. Case reports of these patients follow. Read the complete article on the website of the CDC

Reggie and his new partner Tim Isbell (1948 -1998) had moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco and became members of the National Association of Black and White Men Together (NABWMT) in 1981.

Tim Isbell, 1948-1998

1987, Photo by Barbi Schreiber

1985, April - Ward Open House Party

December 1985

Reggie (on the left) at a Gay Pride March in San Francisco, 1980s

Reggie became involved in BWMT's AIDS Task Force, being their co-chair since 1984.

He tested HIV-positive in 1986, at the age of 35.

The same year the San Francisco AIDS Foundation launches a campaign: AIDS, It's What You Do, Not Who You Are.

Reggie on the left of the poster!

10 Moments that Changed History

Reggie takes part in AIDS information films: AIDS at the Workplace

In 1987 Barbi Schreiber took a series of photos at Reggie's and Tim's home on Fillmore. Reggie said at that time:

“I have had a wonderful life – I can’t say that enough; if I had to die tomorrow it would be just fine, as I have lived – you have to have lived to be able to accept your own death. I’ve had a lot of love and support from my family, my lovers, my friends. I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by wonderful people and have tried to circumvent those who have not been.

I am not afraid of death and maybe it’s because I don’t think of it as the end; when I walk through that tunnel into the light, I really believe there is something beyond – that this is just the end of existence as we know it and we move into something else.

I have known many people who are diagnosed with this disease, and other terminally ill people through my profession, who hang onto this little piece of paper they call “hope” in their hand. A lot of them die with it still clutched in their hand. My hope lies in the future. I don’t believe there will be a cure for me. I can take AZT or whatever drugs are developed to prolong my life for a time, but my hope is for finding a vaccine to prevent children of the future from getting HIV.

There is so much work to do. I am not as strong as I once was and I have to tell myself to realize that I cannot do everything, even though my head is always racing with things to take care of. My body sometimes can no longer keep up with my mind. I will continue to do as much as I can for as long as I have the strength to keep going.

I only hope that I know when the moment comes that it is my time to die; it would make things so much easier! I could hold my lover and kiss good-night and then go to sleep.

I truly have had such a wonderful life!”

Reggie Williams, San Francisco, 1987

Barbi's photos were part of an exhibition in 2001

Dressing Up History - Gay stories come alive at historical society

... One poignant photograph at the exhibit -- of activist Reggie Williams (1951-1999) -- speaks volumes. Behind his handsome portrait is the story of a hero, one of the few who dared to be publicly recognized as a person with AIDS in a time when the HIV infection was still considered a "gay plague" that could get you evicted or fired. ...

> Read the SF Gate article

In 1988 Reggie was one of the co-founders of the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, the first nationwide organization targeting Black Gay men. Reggie served as the Task Force's Executive Director until his retirement in February 1994.

Please read the Mission Statement and their History and AIDS Prevention Goals.

The NTFAP existed until 1998.

Photo by Isa Massa, 1989

In 1989 Reggie and Tim were quoted in an article by Marilyn Chase, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal:

Proving Positive: Many Who Risk AIDS Now Weigh Carefully Whether to Be Tested

Early Treatment of Infection May Stave Off Disease, But Decision Is Perilous

How to Treat a Time Bomb

By Marilyn Chase, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

(...) One effect of testing can be to put couples in a delicate and sometimes unexpected bind. Such was the experience of Reggie Williams and Tim Isbell of San Francisco. Mr. Williams is a 38-year-old AIDS activist with Black and White Men Together, an interracial support group for gay men. Mr. Isbell, 40, is a minister's son and the director of a church choir. Partners for seven years, they had disparate test results that took them by surprise.

Mr. Williams resisted being tested until crushing fatigue and weight loss drove him to the doctor and a tentative diagnosis of AIDS-related complex (ARC), a precursor of AIDS that itself can be debilitating, even fatal. Still, he recalls, "I was holding out. In my denial and inability to accept what was happening, I took the test to prove my physician wrong. I wanted to wave the paper in his face. That didn't happen. I shut down emotionally."

Still untested, Mr. Isbell just assumed that he too must be infected. A musician with an unreliable income and no insurance, he wanted to apply for coverage. So, protected by California law forbidding insurers to require an AIDS-antibody test, Mr. Isbell enrolled in a medical plan.

Then, in February, wanting to know for sure, he rolled up his sleeve at one of San Francisco's anonymous test sites.

"It took two weeks to get the results," Mr. Isbell recalls. "When they told me I didn't have it, I said 'Oh come on, there must be some mistake.'"

Learning that his companion had tested negative, Mr. Williams admits he was shocked. "I remember feeling almost hurt, and a little angry. I thought, why? Why me? I was silent for 10 seconds and then said, 'Oh, good for you.'. I wanted to be supportive. I don't know if I wanted him to be sick too, but I felt alone. It was a strange experience."

Mr. Isbell, like many others who test negative, greeted his news not with glee but with quiet relief, tinged with what might be called survivor's guilt. Now, having been spared the infection, he affirms, "I plan to (stay strong) and be there when (Reggie) needs me most." Mr. Williams acknowledges that for Mr. Isbell to shoulder the caretaker's role "taxes a relationship." Says Tim Isbell: "We've seen some (couples) break up." (...)

Date: Published: 6/6/89

Source: Wall Street Journal. Copyright Dow Jones & Co. Inc.

Tim Isbell, Reggie's partner for many years, later became infected, too, and died from AIDS in San Francisco on September, 12, 1998.

The website artistswithaids.org expired on 03/21/2021 and is pending renewal or deletion

In another Wall Street Journal article by Marilyn Chase, published 6/14/90: "Black Gay Men Found to Continue AIDS-Risk Activity " she cites Reggie Williams:

(...) "While they've heard the message of AIDS, it hasn't translated into safe-sex behavior all the time," said study director Reggie Williams, executive director of the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention of the National Association of Black and White Men Together. Mr. Williams said he hoped the study would serve as a spur to fund more aggressive programs of outreach and education, designed to reach minority populations. Few of the survey respondents were aware, for example, that Blacks die of AIDS at a five times faster rate than do whites, he said.

"Education programs need to be targeted to the black gay and bisexual communities," he said. "We hope that will help them to do what they need to do to save their lives." (...)

Read the article