Abstract: Drawing from interviews with individuals diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, service providers, and community activists in 1988, elements leading to the formation of an AIDS community in San Francisco are examined. Persons with AIDS are seen to be conversant with medical discourse about HIV disease, as required by their interactions with service providers. When reflecting upon the significance of their diagnoses, other forms of symbolic expression are employed, focusing on the realities of personal loss, grief and anticipated mortality. Many report episodes of personal transformation through religious involvement and a deepening of their practice of spirituality. AIDS is investigated as a threat to the moral order established by the decade of gay liberation activity following the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. The symbolic expression of moral commitment, identity and moral agency before and after AIDS shifted from gay liberation to care, compassion and presence as moral ideals; the self as sexual actor gave way to an emphasis on the self as distinct from physical debility and suffering; individuals sought to balance anticipation of illness and death as inevitable realities with feelings of empowerment in taking responsibility for their own health care. Site visits to three organizations show the role of community-based understandings of HIV and AIDS as elements in the San Francisco model of AIDS care and its ethic of service. The Shanti Project trains volunteers for emotional and practical support required by diagnosed individuals. Coming Home Hospice provides palliative care for the dying, acknowledging the spiritual needs of patients and families. The Names Project and its emblematic AIDS Quilt serve a community need to publicly express grief and to memorialize the dead. The study concludes that the dual histories of gay liberation and AIDS can be accounted for in gay experience by the articulation of an erotics developed from the work of Georges Bataille. The function of eros is seen in enabling intimate communication of the realities of the inner life like sexual experience and death, in providing for the formation of a sacred nucleus at the heart of community life.