Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Grass Roots 1980's Organizer Stuart Holland - Founder Minnesota AIDS Massage Network

Early in my visit....Stuart unrolled this poster developed through Perry Tilleraas MN author and gay activist in the early 1980's  Perry from Blooming Prairie MN, designed this for early prevention, and features Stuart on the left (moustache), the blond whom his partner Doug, ID'd as a friend of Perry's named Carlton, and not knowing the man in front.  

Stuart Holland - Pioneer Founder of Minnesota AIDS Message Network 
Yesterday,  Presidents Day, 2016, I visited with, Stuart, a man whom I knew was a key person during the growing epidemic among gay men in the early 1980's,  organizing local folks to deal with the crisis.  My vision for the 40th year of the Men’s Center is to interview key actors during each decade of TCMC's 40 Year ARC.. and learn how we supported men in a good way.  I am so grateful for Stuart’s warm welcome to his south Minneapolis home that he shares with his partner Doug. He is a man of many stories…and according to his vision, has at least 2 books to write, being knowledgeable about German earthenware, and other topics . Thanks Stuart!

           Addressing the Health Crisis Among Gay Men - Minnesota Early 1980's
 New to Minnesota in 1974, and coming out as gay in 1979,  Stuart moved from St Paul to Minneapolis in 1980 settling into a home at 2507 Blaisdell  Ave S.  Here he had a part time massage practice. It was here he recalls the first meeting of men, including Bruce Brockway and Eric Stoltz  who shared  concerns about gay related immune deficiency disorder, around 1981-2  that was a mystery to medical science then.  There was a lot of paranoia at the time. and Stuart admitted he did  not know how it was transmitted, and even used disposable cups for this meeting.  :-)

                       Minnesota AIDS Message Network mid and late 1980's

Stuart said that a friend of his, Norman Strizek, saw an article from San Francisco about Irene Smith   a  pioneer massage educator.  She was giving massages to men with AIDS . She came to Minnesota around 1985-6, to support starting a volunteer network locally.   Stuart was then, the  president of the Minnesota  Therapeutic Massage network and the Minnesota Chapter of the American Massage Association, and it seemed natural for him to step up to lead the movement here .  "It  started with 20- 25 volunteers, and later we trained over 150 people."    "After we started seeing people in their homes, the idea spread through word of mouth. At the time, the people using the AIDS Massage Project were mostly gay men, mostly white. That  changed when the cocktail came out in the early 1990's."

                 Spreading the Word:  Informational  talks, including events at the Men's Center   
In what would have been the first decade of the Men's Center (1976-86), Stuart recalls giving talks at the Men's Center, with massages done chiefly at the Aliveness Project.  Stuart took the calls, during the peak of the crisis in 1988-89, he attended one funeral a week.

One of the special victories, included being allowed to come into hospitals.  While nurses and doctors would wear gloves and mask up, massage volunteers did not.  The training provided up to date facts including information that the disease is not communicable without open sores and/or direct contact with body fluids.

 By  1987-88 Stuart was involved with starting  a National Aids Massage Network.  Many of the training events were held at Mary Hill Center and Totino Grace Renewal Center. 
A training  took an entire weekend, with attendees coming from as far away as Hawai’i. Scott Strickland, MD, a local internist trained in HIV management, and Irene Smith, coming from San Francisco, were both trainers, as well as Howard Bell, then director of Pathways, who spoke on death and dying."   

The network formally ended in 1992. More minorities were contracting HIV, many of whom thought that massage was something only for white folks, and people were living longer due to the newer medications. The numbers of calls for volunteers dwindled."

New Readers ---Thanks for considering Following the TCMC Blog to Share the ARC of our Path, from Oct 1976 to 2016 and Beyond.  More interviews and Photos to Follow.  
contact Tom Weaver,  to share ideas and suggestions


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