Columbia-based Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services began in near secret in 1985.
Some of its founding members:
A mother who kept vigil in the hospital, caring for her son when health care workers would not
Lawyer Harriet Hancock, who describes herself as “a proud mother of a gay son”
Advocate Tony Price, who answered the organization’s help line from his own home
Executive director Bill Edens Jr. kept PALSS files at his apartment in Cornell Arms.
The organization relied on contributions from gay and gay-friendly business owners; the PALATHON, a 1986 benefit among the state’s gay bars, raised an additional $10,000.
PALSS opened offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg and established an annual AIDS conference that became the state’s premier HIV/AIDS meeting. This year’s conference begins Wednesday.
When the organization “came out from undercover” in later years, response from part of the public was swift and nasty. People threw cement blocks and hefted telephone poles through the doors of the group’s office in the old Midlands Shopping Center off Two Notch Road.
Now, community groups approach the organization to offer assistance. “That’s a new thing,” said Carmen Julious, current executive director.