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November 14, 2012



Gerard Koskovich



World AIDS Day Brings Third Anniversary of
Website Commemorating Bay Area Losses


San Francisco -- Launched by the World Health Organization in 1988, World AIDS Day is held annually on December 1. This year, the date coincides with the third anniversary of a unique website commemorating losses to the disease in Northern California. The site offers an online database of every obituary from the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly newspaper for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Cosponsored by the BAR and the GLBT Historical Society, the site includes 10,344 notices published from 1979 to the present.   

"The majority of the obituaries -- and especially those from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s -- reflect the devastation of AIDS in San Francisco," says Tom Burtch, a volunteer at the GLBT Historical Society who conceived the project. "Nearly 20,000 people in our city alone have died of the disease. As one of the first places where AIDS was recognized, we feel a special responsibility to ensure that the toll taken by the epidemic is never forgotten. This website gives us a way to honor those we have lost."

Each listing on the site includes a scan of the full obituary from the BAR and offers a guestbook where visitors can contribute their memories and sentiments. The site receives an average of 3,000 visits a month, and guestbook comments have been submitted from across the United States and from Canada, England, The Netherlands and Sweden. The listings are updated regularly to include new obituaries published by the newspaper.

The obituaries database of the GLBT Historical Society and the Bay Area Reporter is free of charge. Visit


The GLBT Historical Society is a research center and archives that collects, preserves and interprets the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the communities that support them. Founded in 1985, it maintains one of the world's largest collections of GLBT historical materials. Professors, students, filmmakers, journalists, curators and a wide variety of other researchers regularly use the collection.    


The Historical Society also operates The GLBT History Museum, the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. Currently featured are two major exhibitions: "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating San Francisco's GLBT History" and "For Love and Community: Asian Pacific Islander Queers Take Action, 1960s-1990s," plus a special temporary display, "Play Fair! The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Make Sex Safer."  


For more information, visit



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EDITOR'S NOTE: The current issue of the Bay Area Reporter and the newspaper's archives since 2005 are available online at 


The following photos may be reproduced at no fee. Required credit: Courtesy Bay Area Reporter and GLBT Historical Society.  


Full page from the November 11, 1989, issue of the BAR showing photos of people who died of AIDS.
On Nov. 11, 1989, the Bay Area Reporter published an eight-page section of photographs of individuals who had died of AIDS in the preceding year.

A sampling of obituaries from the Bay Area Reporter.
Obituaries from the Bay Area Reporter.

Logos of the GLBT Historical Society and the Bay Area Reporter.
Home page banner of the searchable database of obituaries
from the Bay Area Reporter.