03/07/1994 at 01:00 AM EST
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A FACE MAKES, WHEN ROCK HUDSON TOLD THE WORLD HE HAD AIDS THE DISEASE WAS STILL A WHIS PERED FEAR, A GROWING EPIDEMIC SO STIGMATIZED THAT AMERICA'S PRESIDENT HADN'T PUBLICLY UTTERED THE WORD BUT HUDSON COULDN'T BE DISMISSED AS "THEM": HE WAS US, AND HE WAS DYING. HIS REVELATION HELPED TURN SILENCE INTO ACTION. THE FACES HAVE MULTIPLIED SINCE THEN, AND PEOPLE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE, IN 16 COVERS AND DOZENS OF INSIDE STORIES, WE'VE FEATURED YOUNG AND OLD, BLACK AND WHITE, GAY AND STRAIGHT—THE MOSAIC OF A MODERN PALGUE. THE FACES JUST KEEP COMING. AND EVERY ONE OF THEM IS US.
Rock Hudson went public—and Hollywood went crazy, "We all have reasons to be worried," said actor Dack Rambo, whose AIDS was diagnosed six years later.
A TV movie starring Aidan Quinn dramatized an increasingly common family tragedy. Quinn said he hoped the film "helps overcome the hysterical paranoia about AIDS."
"I'm going to fight this," said Hudson after his diagnosis. He lost his battle, but he died knowing his disclosure had proved invaluable in the ongoing struggle.
Like others in show business, Liberace hid his illness for fear of losing fans. His manager claimed his gaunt physique was the happy consequence of a "watermelon diet."
Chronicling a day in the life of a plague, PEOPLE visited Ryan White, a hospice, a brothel and an AIDS researcher, who wearily predicted: "We can outfox this virus."
The threat to heterosexuals remained unclear, but fear was breeding caution. "I don't think guys like condoms much," said one woman. "I hope they get over it."
He was dying, but he dreamed of getting his driver's license. By being his exuberant self, 16-year-old Ryan White personified a life force even AIDS couldn't touch.
In fashion as in the arts, AIDS was taking its toll. Halston died after Perry Ellis and Willi Smith. Said designer Carolyne Roehm: "I shudder to think how many more we may lose."
After living with AIDS for six years, Ryan White died at age 18. PEOPLE'S account of his final hours brought in more mail from readers than almost any story in our history.
She wasn't typical—most female AIDS victims are black or Hispanic. But Ali Gertz, who died in 1992, helped remind us that being straight doesn't equal being safe.
Kimberly Bergalis, who died in 1991 at age 23, was infected by her dentist, David Acer. To date, five other Acer patients have tested positive; two have died.
Teens weren't getting the message—seven of 10 were having sex by age 18. Today, the rate of HIV infection among American adolescents is doubling every year.
HIV-positive Elizabeth Glaser watched her daughter die and worried about her infected son. "I never imagined," she said, "that this is what my life would be about."
"What I've really learned is that life doesn't stop," said Magic Johnson, a year after discovering he was HIV positive. He went on to coach and play on his own All-Star team.
Like many of the afflicted, Arthur Ashe bore his fate with dignity. "If I ask 'Why me?' about my troubles," he said, "I would have to ask, 'Why me?' about my blessings."