WATCH: The Trailblazer Who Made Sure AIDS Patients Would Be Cared For

25 May 2018

Back in 1996, the newly developed “cocktail” for treating AIDS was saving millions of lives worldwide, but in Israel the Ministry of Health was refusing to make it available and affordable for HIV patients. Avinof Frumer stepped in to help found and lead the NIF-supported Israel AIDS Task Force. “Because of the high-costs the government decision sentenced Israeli AIDS patients to death. We stepped in to see that the life-saving cocktail was included in the list of medicines [that Israeli government insurance would cover].”

This week, Frumer appears in the second installation of Trailblazers, a series of video shorts produced by NIF in partnership with Yedioth Ahronoth to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary. For nearly 40 years, NIF has teamed up with trailblazers from communities including Mizrahi Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, Ethiopians, Russian-speaking immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people to create change. These are communities who blazed trails for inclusion, for equality, and for social change. NIF is telling the stories of those trailblazers who acted on their values and came together to fight for their rights and impact the lives of all Israelis.

During a stormy 70-day campaign that happened in the spring and summer of 1998, exactly 20 years ago, Frumer led the Israel AIDS Task Force to victory. He saved dozens of lives including his own, having been diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.

He recalled, “There was a strong feeling among gays worldwide that resources were not being allocated to the disease because it was seen as kind of ‘homosexual cancer.’ All our work was oriented towards changing awareness about the illness.”

“In 1998 a gay Wigstock festival in Tel Aviv was halted and broken up by police because Shabbat had come in. They suddenly turned off the microphones. More than 10,000 had come to the event and they got angry and blocked HaYarkon Street in a stormy demonstration. It was the first time in Israel that the LGBTQ community had demonstrated its strength.”

Saar Maoz, Coordinator of the AIDS Task Force said, “This year we are marking 20 years since the Wigstock festival was broken up by police and it is with great pride we continue this long tradition with Tel Aviv Municipality’s LGBTQ Center – an event dedicated to contributing to awareness to the war on AIDS.”

Today, Frumer, 49, still devotes his life to helping and raising awareness for Israel’s estimated 11,000 AIDS carriers. He has set up a hotline and is campaigning to give access to medical treatment to those among Israel’s refugee community who have AIDS.

NIF continues to support Israel’s LGBTQ community. From civil marriage, to the right to adopt children, NIF provides grants to many organizations supporting LGBTQ rights.