Michael Callen



Michael Callen (April 11, 1955 - December 27, 1993) - was an AIDS activist, singer, songwriter, composer and author. He was a significant architect of the response to the AIDS crisis in the United States.First diagnosed with "Gay related immune deficiency" (GRID) in 1982, Callen quickly became a leader in the response to the epidemic. He was a founding member of the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement among other organizations, and he testified before the President's Commission on AIDS and both houses of the United States Congress.

In 1983, Callen co-authored the book How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach, in collaboration with Richard Berkowitz and Dr. Joseph Sonnebend outlining safe sex. In 1990, he wrote Surviving AIDS, which received an Honorable Mention from the American Medical Writers Association. He was frequently seen on television talking about AIDS. Appearances included ,Nightline Good Morning America, 20/20, and The Phil Donahue Show. He wrote for several newspapers and magazines, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek; some of his articles are collected in Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the People with AIDS Coalition in 1988.Callen openly denied the HIV theory of AIDS and was especially critical of monotherapy using AZT when it was first introduced: "The HIV paradigm has produced nothing of value for my life and I actually believe that treatments based on the arrogant belief that HIV has proven to be the sole and sufficient cause of AIDS has hastened the deaths of many of my friends. In the early 1980s, Callen was in a gay and lesbian four-piece band called “Lowlife”, playing piano and keyboards, singing, yodeling, and twirling a baton.

He was a founding member of the gay male singing group, The Flirtations, with whom he recorded two albums. He also had a solo album, Purple Heart, which a review in The Advocate called "the most remarkable gay independent release of the past decade." During the last year of his life, Callen recorded over 40 songs; Legacy, a 2-CD album of 29 of them, was posthumously released by Significant Other Records in 1996.

In partnership with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Melamet, he wrote his most famous song, "Love Don't Need a Reason", which he sang frequently at gay pride and AIDS-related events around the country. In 1993 he appeared in the films Philadelphia (as part of The Flirtations) and Zero Patience (appearing in drag as "Miss HIV", a singing virus). He died at the age of 38 in Los Angeles California of AIDS related complications.