August of 1985 found members of the local gay community banding together in response to the growing devastation of AIDS. First reported in 1981 in larger cities, 1984 found a small and growing number of cases appearing locally. A small group of concerned and affected citizens took action as a means of coping.
By November those first few members of The Gay Community AIDS Project had written their articles of incorporation with five goals:
- Ascertain and express gay community concerns related to HIV/AIDS
- Keep ourselves informed to educate persons of ALL orientations about HIV
- Provide direct support services to Persons With AIDS and their loved ones
- Collaborate in these tasks with social service agencies and healthcare providers
- Raise funds (at first with donations and memorials) and later with grant writing
The founding board felt it imperative to include the word ‘gay’ in the title to let the larger community know the efforts were home-grown. GCAP was at the forefront of educating people of East Central Illinois about HIV/AIDS. The passage of time revealed that the disease affected all, not just gay white men, and the board felt it important to broaden the title. That controversial decision fostered our current name: The Greater Community AIDS Project.
Over 36 years later we are deeply indebted to these community leaders who had the foresight and energy to realize that sweeping HIV/AIDS under the table was not the answer. There is now a generation of people who learned about the disease from the efforts of GCAP.
Today, GCAP is as committed as ever and has expanded its original purpose. While some of the demographics of the disease have changed, we are still all brothers and sisters.