AIDS Support Group, 1987-1995

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In 1987, two Watauga County physicians and the wife of one began a community-based HIV/AIDS support group. An Appalachian State University student from abroad had gotten sick and ASU doctor Pat Geiger transferred the student from her care to that of Dr. Jack Taylor. According to Dr. Taylor’s wife Terry, “My husband asked me one night if I would go visit him, the patient, in the hospital. Because he felt like he was very lonely and people were very frightened of the fact that he had AIDS. And so I went and visited him in the hospital. And that was the beginning of my involvement with AIDS in Boone, because I visited him like a mother would visit a son.” [1]

The health department referred a transplanted HIV+ couple to the Taylors and shortly afterwards, the Taylors and Dr. Geiger began meeting with several HIV+ individuals. Terry says, “We decided to continue to have our AIDS support group meet in my home, which is a little bit out in the country and away from town, and it was a very well-kept secret.” Keeping the location private was extremely important because no one wanted to be identified as HIV+. Attending in a location that was publically advertized was out of the question.

For the six year that the support group operated out of the Taylors’ house, a wide variety of individuals attended, gay men, IV drug users, hemophiliacs, and some women. The support group also knew of some HIV+ children whose family never attended. The majority were non-symptomatic HIV+ gay ASU students. Many traveled 2 hours away to Winston-Salem to receive medical treatment due to the lack of infectious disease doctors in Watauga County. However, Drs. Taylor and Geiger would examine the support group members to help them decide whether or not to visit the doctor. According to Terry, the number of members fluctuated and eighteen members died over the years.

Several support group members were gay ASU students who were not out to their families and as a result, Terry Taylor sought PFLAG materials about coming out to parents and AIDS. This was the beginning of the Boone chapter of PFLAG.

Upon receiving Ryan White funds, the AIDS support group’s location and facilitators changed to a public setting in the First Baptist Church of Boone. Membership gradually dwindled and within a few years, was no more. Since the 1990s, Watauga County has lacked an AIDS support group. [2]


Abbreviated Timeline

  • 1976: Appalachian State University (ASU) Women’s Studies Program founds and Counseling Center homosexual support group begins
  • 1979: ASU official recognizes Appalachian Gay Awareness Association (AGAA) after much controversy (disbands by 1986)
  • 1987: Watauga County’s first reported AIDS case soon followed by first reported HIV+ ASU student
  • 1988: Community-based AIDS support group begins (disbands in 1995)
  • 1989: PFLAG chapter begins
  • 1990: Sexual Awareness Group of Appalachian (SAGA) begins meeting at ASU
  • March, 1991: Gays and Lesbians of Watauga (GLOW) organizes, receives a bomb threat, and ceases meeting
  • Fall, 1991: ASU's first Gay Studies course is offered
  • December, 1992: Mountain AIDS Support Committee set up in Boone (disbands in 2001)
  • January, 1993: ASU student reports a gay-related assault
  • 1993: Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of the High Country opens
  • 1993: ASU adds “sexual orientation” to its Equal Employment Opportunity statement
  • 1995: Delta Love Delta sponsors first Miss Gay Boone World pageant
  • 1997: Boone Gay Pride march
  • October, 2000: First annual “Queer Film Series” at ASU
  • 2003-2004: Watauga High School students attempt to organize a gay-straight alliance; Watauga County School Board says no
  • 2005: First annual Boone Pride
  • Fall 2007: ASU student organization transACTION begins
  • October, 2008: ASU's LGBT Center opens
  • Spring, 2008: ASU adds “gender identity and expression” Equal Employment Opportunity policy
  • October, 2008: Watauga High School principal approves Gay-Straight Alliance
  • March, 2009: Town of Boone votes unanimously to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to its Equal Employment Opportunity Statement, to oppose NC Senate Bill 272, which calls for a state-wide vote for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman, and to support NC House Bill 207, “The Safer Communities Act.”


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  1. Terry Taylor, Appalachian Memory Project, Special Collections Belk Library and Information Commons, Appalachian State University
  2. Terry Taylor, Appalachian Memory Project, Special Collections Belk Library and Information Commons, Appalachian State University