Dr. Robert Wisler was a native of Milwaukee and attended medical school at the Medical School of Wisconsin. He was a highly regarded anesthesiologist in Milwaukee.
Robert learned of his HIV infection in 1990 after developing an AIDS-related pneumonia. Shortly thereafter, Robert met his partner, Clark Williams, during the Christmas holidays at the YP (Your Place bar). As Williams recalls: "I will never forget when Robert first set eyes on me as I wandered past his bar stool with a pack of my friends. That night, after Robert bought me a beer and began his courtship, I leaned over to my young friends and told them that 'something amazing was about to happen to my life.' During our courtship and throughout our valiant effort to save Robert's life from HIV disease, YP's was always that special place where we would go and reminisce about when we first fell in love."
As a physician practicing in Brookfield, Wisler was terrified of the public disclosure of his disease. In fact, after he died, his partner found several news articles tucked away in his bookshelf that exposed the public's fear of health professionals living with HIV while caring for their patients. Robert was tormented by the societal stigma associated with this disease.
Toward the end of his life, Robert did begin to overcome his fear. He eventually did "come out" as a gay man and as a physician living with HIV/AIDS. As a native of Milwaukee and having attended medical school at the Medical School of Wisconsin, he courageously chose to share his experiences with medical students. Together, Robert and his partner Clark participated in multiple public speaking engagements intended to educate health professionals about HIV/AIDS and to reduce the stigma that isolated so many gay men battling this disease.
One of Williams' fondest memories of Robert's activism was seeing him at the 1993 March on Washington: "Bill Clinton had just been elected President and our community was so very hopeful about the possibility of greater inclusion of LGBT Americans in our society. A large contigent of people from Milwaukee attended this national LGBT march. Our group made their mark by "mooing" as they passed through the crowd of nearly a million people! Robert was so sick and frail that day but pulled it together to walk with his fellow LGBT Americans. Though medical advancements in HIV/AIDS treatment came too late for Robert, I hope that our community never forgets that those advancements came about because of the tireless advocacy work done by so many who were never able to benefit from the life-saving treatments."
With a low CD4 count and after fighting off numerous opportunistic infections, Robert died in the spring of 1994 at the age of 36 (and ironically, the YP closed their doors later that same year). Robert's partner of 3 years, then 26-year-old Clark Williams, pledged to do whatever he could to prevent other gay and bisexual men from losing the ones they love.
Clark Williams did fulfill his pledge to dedicate his life to reduce the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. However, "in spite all of my dear friends in Milwaukee, it was just too painful to remain (in Milwaukee). Every corner turned, every trip to the grocery store, every Saturday night at the bars- filled me with too many painful memories of my dear Robert and of the amazing life we had together." Clark left Milwaukee in 1995 to attend graduate school in social work at New York University. (See the Clark Williams page on this site for more about Clark's career fulfilling that pledge.)
Credits: information from Clark Williams.
Last updated: September-2007.