Larry Kramer in 2015 Photograph: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
US news

Larry Kramer, groundbreaking author and Aids activist, dies aged 84


The groundbreaking American writer and tireless activist for gay rights and a national effort to tackle the HIV/Aids crisis, Larry Kramer, has died in New York.

Kramer, 84, died on Wednesday morning in Manhattan, the New York Times reported, citing his husband, David Webster, who said Kramer died of pneumonia.

Kramer was a founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the pioneering organization to assist those with HIV, and also a founder of the direct action group Act Up that demanded an end to the sluggish response to HIV treatment and research in the US as the Aids crisis worsened in the 1980s.

He wrote The Normal Heart, a largely autobiographical play that looked at the rise of the Aids crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

It became an Emmy award-winning television drama in 2014, starring Mark Ruffalo as the central character, and had been produced on Broadway in 2011, where it won three awards.

Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (Act Up) became an international organization aiming to end the Aids pandemic but retaining its grassroots style and Act Up New York tweeted on Wednesday: “Rest in power to our fighter Larry Kramer.”

Lambda Legal, the civil rights organization focused on LGBTQ rights and legal needs of those living with HIV/Aids, said: “He was a noted fierce gay activist whose confrontational advocacy with Act Up NY helped shock our nation into confronting the Aids crisis in the 80s and 90s.”

The late Susan Sontag called him “one of America’s most valuable troublemakers”.

Sex advice columnist Dan Savage tweeted a poignant tribute:

Julia Roberts, who starred in the TV adaptation of The Normal Heart also gave a statement to Variety. “He was ferocious and tireless in his beliefs,” she said. “A true hero that so many people owe their lives to today.I was honored to spend time in his orbit.”

An interview piece by the Guardian in 2015 explained that Kramer came of age in an era when being gay was still illegal, “when that counterculture wasn’t just rebellious but in serious peril”.

He was a firsthand witness to the deadly costs of that taboo, because when Aids came and swept the city, it took a long time to get American health authorities to pay attention.

Kramer was there, in the front row, to catalogue and object to every moment of that neglect and he became a driving force behind loud direct action protests that drove American health authorities to take Aids seriously.