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Long-term Survivors

Janet Weinberg, HIV And Disability Activist, Dies

Janet Weinberg

The former interim CEO of GMHC's work and legacy continue to shape the work of HIV activists. 

The world lost an incredibly staunch and compassionate advocate. Janet Weinberg, an activist for people with disabilities and a top executive at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, died on September 1 from a chronic heart condition. She was 63. 

Weinberg started her career as an occupational therapist, where she made a name for herself as an activist for those living with HIV as well as disabilities. In the mid-1990s, she received a job offer to join the board of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Manhattan (renamed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in 2001). It was a decision that would solidify her respected destiny in LGBT activism, according to the NY Times. She also served as vice president of VTA Management Services, a rehabilitation company, during these years. 

As co-chairwomen of the center, Weinberg helped lead the $14 million fundraising effort to renovate the headquarters in Greenwich Village. Being disabled herself, which required her to use a wheelchair, she used her own experiences to inspire change not only within the center’s renovation, but also in its targeted focus.

As former executive director Richard Burns said to the NY Times, Weinberg “could talk to a lot of different kinds of elected officials, even those who didn’t agree with us. And she knew how to use her wheelchair with them — she would body-block them until they heard her message about policy, LGBT issues, disability access, or drug reform.”

In 2005, Weinberg joined GMHC and eventually became COO of the organization. As an organizer, her work included the 2008 AIDS walk that pulled in 45,000 people and raised $7.4 million. Through the years, she spearheaded programs that helped clients obtain their high school equivalency diplomas, manage financial planning, and deal with immigrant issues. 

In 2013, she became the interim CEO of GMHC at a time where it was running a deficit, reports the NY Times. She left the organization in 2014, still believing in the mission of the organization and it’s continued focus on “high-impact prevention.” 

In a video posted by GMHC in 2010 (see below), Weinberg spoke of a 1985 incident while working in a nursing home in Rockaway Beach, Queens, when people were up in arms about a city proposal to bring people dying from AIDS-related conditions there from other hospitals: “They were never allowed to enter the nursing home,” she reflected in the video. “The community blocked it. It was all about homophobia and hatred.”

In later years, Weinberg was part of significant projects commemorating LGBT history, including lobbying for the designation of the Stonewall Inn as a national monument, which proved successful under Obama’s presidency in 2016.

She also served on the board of the New York City AIDS Memorial, an 18-foot-high steel canopy erected at 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue in 2016 to honor the 100,000 New Yorkers who have died of AIDS.

Rest in piece, Janet. 

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