Famed “No Obits” Headline Turns 20 Years Old

Twenty years ago today San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter published its now-famous “No Obits” headline, marking the first time in many years that the paper had no AIDS-related deaths to report.

The accompanying article’s author, Timothy Rodriques, who at the time had himself recently tested HIV+, reflects this week in the same paper:

That the article had such an impact at the time was testimony to the exceptional fatigue permeating a community swamped by the unrelenting assault of the virus. Just about two years after the announcement of protease inhibitors as a treatment option and the promise they had shown in their short history, there was still an overwhelming sense of dread, apprehension, and incertitude.

There wasn’t much information on the long-term effectiveness or side effects of these new drugs which, given experience with other treatments that weren’t sustainable, caused reasonable worry about their enduring success.

So, it seemed to mean something that August 20 years ago to have reached the “No obits” milestone when, after years of relentless obituaries of people stolen by the virus, none were submitted to the B.A.R. that week. Or, at the least, it felt reasonable to lay down a marker of hopefulness, a stepping-stone that might give the community a foothold above the seeming incessant surging of grief.

Read his full essay.