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Hero Of the Plague Years Remembered

Hero Of the Plague Years Remembered

In 1986, LIFE magazine ran a series of pictures by Alon Reininger depicting the AIDS epidemic. He met Ken Meeks, a friend of Larry Kramer’s in 1985, at his wedding. Reininger later recalled: "I did not want to do just a story about Ken Meeks. Ken was a character in a bigger story. He knew that I was taking his picture in a broader context. It just happened that I took a picture of him in one particular situation that struck a raw nerve with a lot of people.” 

Meeks, a graduate of Kean University, received a doctorate in social sciences from Ball State University. He was an assistant professor of economics at George Williams College from 1975 until 1982.

Meeks was 44 years-old when he died from AIDS-complications in 1986. 

Meeks whose skin lesions were the result of Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS defining illness, died three days after the picture was taken. The picture — ‘Ken Meeks, Patient with AIDS, Being Cared for by a Friend, San Francisco, California’ — was subsequently named World Press Photo of the Year. 

The image is copyright Alon Reininger/Contact Press Images.  Thanks to the AIDS Memorial Project for the hat tip. 


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