In June of 1983, at the Fifth Annual Gay and Lesbian Health Conference in Denver, Colorado, a group of about a dozen gay men with AIDS from around the U.S. gathered to share their experiences combating stigma and advocating on behalf of people with AIDS. Until that point, “AIDS activism” was mostly a local, even neighborhood, affair in the West Village and Chelsea in New York, in the Castro district in San Francisco, West Hollywood and a handful of other places around the country. The men meeting at the Denver conference were meeting for the first time, comparing notes and strategizing how to move forward to ensure their voices were heard and expertise, as individuals living with the disease, respected.
They wrote out a manifesto, now known as The Denver Principles, outlining a series of rights and responsibilities for healthcare professionals, people with AIDS and all who are concerned about the epidemic. It was the first time in the history of humanity that people who shared a disease organized to assert their right to a political voice in the decision-making that would so profoundly affect their lives.
In the months and years that followed, the Denver Principles spawned a self-empowerment movement that launched thousands of organizations and became a lifeline for people with HIV around the world.
Aspects of the Denver Principles are dated, like the second point for Health Care Professionals, advising them to “identify and discuss the theory they favor as to the cause of AIDS”, which was written before HIV was discovered.
In 1994, the ideals represented in the Denver Principles were reflected in the GIPA Principles (Greater Involvement of People with AIDS), later amended to become GIPA/MIPA (Greater and Meaningful Involvement of People with AIDS).
Below is the original Denver Principles document, a few words, written with passion and vision, that launched a global movement.