https://www.glbthistory.org/aids-treatment-activism Check out this online exhibition "AIDS Treatment Activism A Bay Area Story" curated and written by Brenda Lein for the GLBT Historical Society. Made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. (thanks Brenda) Part of my oral history interview clip is on our AIDSWalk profile page.
Michael Bongiorni & Matt Sharp
On behalf of HIV/AIDS survivors everywhere, Michael Bongiorni and Matt Sharp ask you to please donate on our page during the 2021 SF AIDS Walk
Good times and bum times, and my dear, WE ARE STILL HERE!
Together Michael and Matt have logged in 78 years in AIDS advocacy, or as we know it, “AIDS ACTIVISM.” Beginning in the 1980s, our AIDS activism paths have been mostly parallel, but other times we’ve gone down very different roads, crisscrossing, working together or apart. After so many years have passed, the often spunky and sometimes cranky “senior” AIDS Activists are together again.
Lo and behold the stars aligned and various consequences in our lives created a unique opportunity to share a cottage in Piedmont, California, along with Betty-Matt’s cantankerous fox terrier dog,
How we met
On a humid Oklahoma day in 1989, the AIDS Quilt truck pulled onto the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. Rarely would two more unlikely forces have met.
Michael Bongiorni, originally from the coal country near Pittsburgh. Matt from West Texas was a principal dancer with Ballet Oklahoma. Michael never could stick with a real profession and he worked as a special-ed teacher, a caterer, a New Orleans cooking school teacher, and even created a Key West natural cosmetic line.
Michael and his crew of volunteers facilitated the setup of the Quilt display in Oklahoma. For 3 days, Oklahomans came to remember those they lost to AIDS. In Oklahoma, the AIDS Quilt opened minds and healed wounds in a community entrenched in fear, homophobia, and blind hatred.
The epidemic became a reality in the heartland.
Over the next few years, we both lost most of our chosen families to AIDS. Matt moved to San Francisco and became a committed member of ACT UP Golden Gate, arrested many times in civil disobedience protests. Meanwhile, he dove into learning the science behind HIV, entered into dozens of clinical trials. Matt became nationally known for his HIV treatment and research expertise.
Michael honed his talents as a community organizer and not-for-profit leader. He traveled across the country teaching Americans how to organize Quilt displays in their communities using grassroots advocacy. We were surrounded by a whirlwind of phenomenal community mobilizations in what most certainly built the foundation of our resilience. Resilence is one of the reasons we are alive in 2021.
Surviving in 2021
Despite the discovery and rollout of effective anti-HIV treatments, we began to experience new challenges as the epidemic aged: layers of physical and mental co-morbidities, survivors' guilt, complex grief and loss, and isolation. The reality of making ends meet in an expensive city and fragile economy created food and housing shortages for many. And then COVID 19 added more stress and hardship.
We both made difficult choices to take convoluted career paths so we continue to fight AIDS. We recognize our privilege and social status have helped to make our pathways a bit easier than many other survivors. But we continue to fight for social justice, advocate for better health care for all, and tear down political barriers to equality.
AIDS is still here! No matter which pathway or road survivors take, we all must remain vigilant and work collectively to honor the fight for survival and usher in hope for the future.
We support the National AIDS Memorial and the SF AIDS Walk because the legacy of each long-term survivor is at stake, right here! right now!
Please help by making a contribution here sf.aidswalk.net/MattMichael
In this ACT UP Oral History Project video clip I go into a few anecdotes about the Healing Alternatives Fdn. Yet another activist path I took to fight AIDS in the early 90's..
1990 - Michael Bongiorni, Pete Martinez & Bart Loeser at a Houston Texas Latinx fundraiser
Early AIDS San Francisco march Jan 1984 Photo credit: SF Chronicle
SFAF Town Hall on Long Term Survivors and HIV and Aging guest panelist
ACT UP Golden Gate Political Funeral. mid 90's photo by: Rick Gerharterr
2021- Matt Sharp, Michael Bongiorni and Betty at our home in Piedmont, CA. Between the two of us we have logged in 78 years of AIDS activism...and my dear, WE ARE STILL HERE!
1990 - DISEASED PARIAH NEWS - Yes, we were bitter, hurt and angry but they made us laugh!
1988- Michael co-founded the Houston Texas Chapter.