- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Charlotte LGBTQ+ oral histories
- Leslie E. Kooyman oral history interview, 2015 September 19
Leslie E. Kooyman oral history interview, 2015 September 19
Leslie Kooyman, founder and two time executive director (1985-1990 and 1997-2004) of the Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP) the major AIDS service organization (ASO) in Mecklenburg County in operation between 1985 and 2009, discusses the history of the organization and the role that it played medically, socially, and culturally in Charlotte. Dr. Kooyman describes his formative years in Northern California, and his short but significant time in San Francisco after leaving Santa Clara University, noting that his long term connections there sensitized him to the impending threat of the AIDS epidemic. Arriving in Charlotte in 1981, Dr. Kooyman reached out to others interested in starting an AIDS service organization at an LGBT social group called Acceptance that met at Park Road Baptist Church. After initial planning, which drew on experiences of other ASO's, the group of five gay men, most of whom were closeted at the time, formed MAP in 1985 as a 501c3 nonprofit. Dr. Kooyman describes how MAP initially operated out of his partner's house before moving into an office in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte close to Presbyterian Hospital and from there to other sites as the organization grew. He relates their initial operation, which included an evening hotline, a buddy program where people with AIDS were partnered with a "buddy" to support them, and hospital visits. Dr. Kooyman notes in particular the assistance given MAP by infectious disease prevention nurses, who were sympathetic to the mostly young men suffering from AIDS who were often abandoned by their families in the early years of the disease in Charlotte. Continuing chronologically Dr. Kooyman recollects the evolution of MAP as it reflected the changing face of AIDS, the evolution of his own career and his work with other organizations including the United Way of the Carolinas, and the challenge of working within a politically and religiously conservative milieu. Topics he discusses include the sometimes contentious relationships between MAP and other local entities, including the County Health Department and the County Commission; the mutual support of local hospitals and health care providers; the significance of MAP for the gay community; fundraising activities and their impact on the visibility and acceptance of LGBT people in Charlotte; the influence of Charlotte's corporate culture on the character of MAP as an organization; and various individuals who contributed time and talent to the organization.