I remember gay sex in the 1970s.  I came out in 1972 at age 17. Rich arrives NYC 1979 tvguideNew York City, 1979

When I moved to NYC in 1978, I became immersed in gay men’s political and sexual subculture.  It radicalized me and propelled my efforts at writing and activism. 

.Rich solo at 83 Vigil w picket signs

1st Natl. AIDS Vigil, Oct. 1983,Washington, D,C.

This website contains some of my key writings and collaborations from that era, including the invention of safe sex guidelines and the Denver Principles, which launched a global movement for medical patient empowerment. The original text of How To Have Sex in an epidemic is here.  

In May 1983, How to Have Sex... gave gay men the tools to remain sexually active AND stop the sexual transmission of AIDS, but while safe sex made sense to ordinary gay men, and later, women and people in general, community leaders failed us. In their quest for mainstream respectability, they were more concerned with how promoting gay safe sex would appear, than with confronting what was.

When safe sex was invented in 1983, we could talk about being victims of a virus but not behavioral changes that could have ended the sexual transmission of AIDS when it began

Luckily, common sense prevailed.  Safe sex went on to define the era.

 I created this website (see post below) to focus on safe sex issues and keep a radical history of safe sex alive. New technologies keep changing what safe sex issues are.  They will probably continue to do so.  Still, as a resource and archive into the past, this website remains useful to writers, researchers and filmmakers. I thank them for their support and encouragement.



Richard Berkowitz is an activist and author based in NYC. In 1983, Berkowitz co-authored How to Have Sex in an Epidemic, a 40-page pamphlet which went beyond condom use to demonstrate how many forms of sexual expression could be made safe or safer. It’s widely regarded as the invention of safe sex guidelines. His 2003 book, Stayin’ Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex inspired the 2008 documentary, SEX POSITIVE which won the Grand Jury prize for Best Documentary at OUTFEST L.A. He is the last surviving co-author of the “Denver Principles”, an historic 1983 document that redefined the doctor/patient relationship and has been celebrated by the United Nations, the World Health Organization and governments around the world that treat healthcare as a basic human right. 

Birth: October 6, 1955, Newark, New Jersey

Education: Rutgers University, B.A. 1977

                  New York University, Grad. Institute of Film & TV, 1977-78

Author: Co-Author, How to Have Sex in an Epidemic, (1983)

              Co-Author, The Denver Principles (1983)

              Author, Stayin’ Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex, (2003)

Organizations: Co-Founder, Gay Men with AIDS (1982)

                         Founding Member, Amfar (Internal Review Board, 1983)

                         Member, New York Coalition for Sexual Safety (1985)


Documentary Appearances:


Sex in an Epidemic


The Battle of Amfar

Killing Patient Zero


Recent Interviews/Press:

PBS: EXTRA LIFE series, Part 4 “Behavior” (VIDEO)  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Dq92OpLOOstfwRoLy_wqgTsJPWvAfGk3/view?usp=share_link

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real. Shaming People Won’t Help. – The Atlantic

How To Fight Quarantine Fatigue | On Point (NPR AUDIO)

Joseph Sonnabend, pioneering HIV/AIDS physician, dies at 88 – The Washington Post

Where to Have Sex in an Epidemic | Urban Omnibus (TEXT/AUDIO CLIPS)

The Founding Principles Of AIDS Activism Were Created Not In New York Or San Francisco, But Denver | Colorado Public Radio (AUDIO)

World AIDS Day – reflecting back on an epidemic – PinkPlayMags

This Exhibition Celebrates the Role of Queer Sex Work in Art | them.

You can easily have sex during a pandemic. Here is the man who wrote the book on how | Information


Press Highlights & Interviews:

Part 1:The Invention of Safe Sex – 2,571  (VIDE0)

Sex Positive ReelGay.com Part 2 Richard Berkowitz Intvw.flv – YouTube

(17) Sex Positive Official Trailer – YouTube

Shout Out: Sex Positive

Mr. Safe Sex

The City’s Tattooed Virus Expert Has Some Group Sex Advice 

   *     *      *

Richard Berkowitz

New York City

For more information: RichBerkowitzNYC@gmail.com


ROW 1 with banner: Phil Lanzarratta, Rich Berkowitz, Tom Nasrallah, Mathew Sarner, Bobby Reynolds, Artie Felson.  ROW 2: Bill Burke, Dan Turner, Mike Callen, Bobbi Campbell, Bob Checci.

   The co-founders of the People with AIDS Self-empowerment movement and authors of the Denver Principles

        *                     *                      *

Welcome. ¡Bienvenido! Bienvenu. Willkommen. 欢迎.  שׁלום. Приветствовать. 歓迎. Dobrodošli. ترحيب. .  רצוי.   *[Puede leer este pagina en español al final.]

Since SEX POSITIVE began making the film festival rounds in 2008, I’ve traveled to 16 cities and many universities to answer questions following screenings.  Now that SEX POSITIVE is available on DVD, I’ve been receiving fascinating emails from people around the world.  Safe sex education has gone awry in many places, but what I learned on my travels is that there’s hope in the wisdom of ordinary people who’ve figured out on their own what they need to do to stay safe.

Many questions people have could be answered best by posting my safe sex archives here online.  That way, people can draw their own conclusions.  In addition to providing a front-line look at what happened when safe sex began, I hope that, in time, this archive/blog will be a useful research resource and help inform sexually active people to navigate their own journeys.

Since this is about sex, beware of graphic content. I’ve posted the booklet HOW TO HAVE SEX IN AN EPIDEMIC; feel free to read it.  It’s guidelines stand the test of time, even though it was written specifically for gay men at risk and before HIV was discovered.

In these difficult economic times, more people are discovering what many poor people have always known:  Sex is not only one of life’s greatest joys—it’s one almost everyone can afford.  That makes the history of the invention of safe sex as timely as ever.  Sexuality in America has been a battleground since the Puritans arrived.  Sadly, that spirit is alive and well today in the ongoing efforts to undermine sex education in America.

I’m interested in public speaking related to the history of safe sex and SEX POSITIVE. Please let me know if you have an idea.  Here’s one video clip of me speaking primarily to gay men at a screening/fundraiser.

For more information, contact me at: RichBerkowitzNYC@gmail.com

Richard Berkowitz
June 17, 2010

Logo designed by Kim Doria

En español: (traducción por Cecilia Lapellegrina)

Desde que Sex Positive (Sexo Positivo) salió en DVD este mes, estuve recibiendo correos fascinantes de gente de todo el mundo que lo ha visto. He viajando a 16 ciudades y un número creciente de universidades desde que Sex Positive (Sexo Positivo) empezó a ser promocionado en los festivales de cine en 2007. Me he dado cuenta de que las preguntas que la gente tiene pueden ser mejor respondidas si publico mis archivos de sexo seguro online. De esta manera, la gente puede sacar sus propias conclusiones.

Porque me parece una manera organizada de comenzar, empezaré este archivo con mi trabajo e historia personal. Cuando eso este hecho, iré agregando el trabajo de otros. Ya que esto se trata de sexo, sean precavidos del contenido.

Además de proporcionar una mirada de primera línea a lo que pasó cuando comenzó el sexo seguro, espero que con el tiempo, este archivo / blog sea un recurso valioso para la investigación. Si tienes algún comentario, puedes enviarme un correo electrónico o publicarlos al final de “ SEXO POSITIVO (SEX POSITIVE): el filme de Daryl Wein”: https://richardberkowitz.wordpress.com/?cat=38085386

Para mayor información contactarme a: RichBerkowitzNYC@gmail.com

6 Responses to “HOME & BIO:”

  1. Dear Richard Berkowitz,

    Thank you thank you thank you. I just watched your documentary SEX POSITIVE and I am very moved by all that you have done and are doing for our community. I am a dance theater artist based in Miami, Florida, cuban american, that has recently in the past 5 years become by default a gay performance actionist…whatever that means….I contracted the HIV virus late and decided to do a work based on the gay lifestyle/ viral russian roulette for a piece I called the BugChasers. The piece I did was really hated by my community and for years I too was shunned and pushed through and made the following work, 1,000 Homosexuals which buried me even deeper in the hole. I feel you Mr. Richard Berkowitz and am happy to know there are fighters like you that believe in their guts that life is there to live in and to fight for.

    I applaud you and hope to some day come in contact with you personally.


  2. I miss the good old days, Richard. You were the best master a slave could ask for. I still masturbate about my sessions with you. Love ya!

  3. I have to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site.

    I really hope tto see the same high-grade content by you in the future as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to gget my very ownn site now 😉

  4. Absolutely one of the bravest person in the USA. You got a lot of balls! Literally too!

    That passion of yours is amazing! Thank you for the love that you have for our communities!!

    Thank you!!! Many many kisses!!!

  5. I just wanted to say that you have done an amazing job promoting safe sex Richard. Well done and thank you.

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